T.I.C. transitions

Jew on the Waves of Fate

Archive for the tag “Shabbat”

Shabbos Retreat

Directional Sign post at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center

I took a chance this weekend, one I probably would not have had the nerve to do a couple of years ago.  I took part in the annual Eshel Shabbaton at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut.  A few of my new friends in the Gay Jewish community of NYC suggested I attend as I am supposedly a default member of this community and yet have only very recently started to become connected to it.

According to their Facebook page Eshel is “a place of SHELTER for Orthodox, frum, and other traditional gay and lesbian Jews seeking to maintain their Jewish observance” while welcoming those who are “formerly Orthodox, “Orthodox-curious,” or otherwise interested in maintaining a connection to traditional Judaism as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Jews.”

Why was attending this event such a big deal for me?  I can be somewhat shy and stepping into a decent size established community and only being sure that I’ll know two or three people makes me nervous.  On top of that, though the fact that I wear a kippah on a daily basis convinces non-Jews, secular Jews, and “not as traditional” Jews that I must be Orthodox or “Conservative at the very least,” I am none of these things.  Upon examining my upbringing, my lifestyle and my practice one would realize that I am far from frum (great title for a future blog post where I could delve more into my Jewish identity).  And while many would believe, based on the explicit way I often deal with topics of sexuality, mine in particular, that I am comfortably gay, I have never been very comfortable with that label.

ImageBeing at this retreat reaffirmed my contradicting feelings of being “apart” and “a part” (again, future blog post I hope).  Being around large numbers of Jews is always a novel experience for me after having grown up as one of the only if not the only Jew in all of my schools.  It feels great to share a cultural and religious identity with those around me but isolating as many of these individuals attended Jewish Day Schools and Yeshiva and have a deeper and certainly more thorough understanding of Jewish concepts than I do.  Being around large numbers of LGBTQ individuals is also a novel experience because though I have struggled with my sexuality, I have been very lucky and I am very grateful that I have had an open and accepting family throughout the whole process.  But being around others who do not identify as heterosexual is an odd experience for me as I have continually struggled to feel comfortable in the “LGBTQ Community.” It is not as easy as one would think to develop friendships with those who share the same or similar labels as you.

Mainly I came away from this Shabbos retreat with a lot of hope mixed with anxiety.  I witnessed a focus on Judaism I often miss and I hope to learn and put effort into deepening my connection, knowledge and practice.  However, I am anxious that my discipline and motivation will fail me.  I experienced the desire to find myself in a similar community in the future and the hope that I can make that happen for myself.  Yet I am anxious that it will never be that simple.  And perhaps most importantly, I made and developed some very promising, fun, and exciting friendships.  Connections that I hope will continue and grow but I am anxious that I will not be able to maintain them.

Overall I enjoyed the opportunity to escape the city for a weekend, interact with new people, daven, dance, flirt, study, and observe a new community and new situations.  Anxieties aside these may be crucial elements for finding positive change:

  • Daven to build stronger spiritual connections;
  • Dance to express myself, my desires, and shed insecurities;
  • Flirt to have fun, play, take risks and gain new experiences; and
  • Study and Observe to strengthen my knowledge and fuel my desire to grow and to learn.

Resources for LGBTQ and Judaism

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3…2…1 ATONE!

The Day of Atonement is at hand!  Yikes, ominous phrase.  I prefer my father’s version, the Day of At-ONE-Ment.

The Honey Cake I made for Rosh Hashanah baking

Over time I have begun to feel that Yom Kippur is a day I must get ready for, a day that requires preparation beforehand.  It is always something I was aware of in Judaism but I have felt that need to prepare intensify over time.  This year however (and by year I mean 5772) the preparations have been difficult…as in non-existent.  Unfortunately my school and the High Holy Days do not mesh well (even though I now live in New York City AKA the other Jewish homeland).  I find that as Yom Kippur approaches my mind floods with the actions, inactions, thoughts and conversations that I have come to regret over the year.  Yet before I can open the valve to release them I remember the paper I have not started, the meeting that needs an agenda, the article that I have yet to finish reading or the inboxes (yes multiple) that continue to grow.  On certain Jewish holidays and on Shabbat (Sabbath) it is ideal to eschew all such stressful issues and allow yourself to breathe…but breathing is just too far down on my Google Tasks list.

Perhaps that is the purpose of Yom Kippur; the Day of AtOneMent is the day to release the valve.  As we daven (pray) in our starved and occasionally smelly stupor (I am sorry HaShem [God] but this is how it feels sometimes) perhaps our body and soul’s reaction to this state of being, which includes an excessive amount of standing for those with low to no blood sugar, is that release.  As we allow our bodies to do what they do (otherwise known as bodily functions) we release the regrets we have been holding in.  As our brains lose some of their cognitive force (as a result of starvation, have you picked up on that yet?) so go the grudges that we have been overanalyzing.  As our bodies sway struggling to determine whether they are following the rhythm of the prayers or simply losing their balance perhaps the aches and pains of the year settle.  Yom Kippur is a time to reboot.

Yamim Noraim | Days of Awe

This year I have found myself feeling especially spiritually vulnerable as I truck through the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe, which fill the time between eating apples and honey and salivating when you see dust).  Finding balance is always difficult but for the past couple of weeks it has been an especially elusive goal.  I choose to view these difficulties as a call to embrace the reason HaShem (or whomever you believe did so) granted us this day.

I suppose it may not be appropriate to make ALL of my apologies in this public setting.  However I would like to say that there is a great deal that I know I need to improve on in myself and as I have been on that journey some people are left neglected or hurt.  In the midst of this mildly ‘quippy’ post I would like to offer a sincere sentiment.  I have hurt others, some I know of and some I do not.  I have held on to grudges, which are in fact nasty things that produce nothing positive.  I have hidden and allowed myself to lose sight of what is important.  It is time to strive to keep my eyes open and my awareness sharp.

I hope that this year is what it needs to be for everyone and that we find our footing, achieve our dreams and add some new ones.

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