Below you will find our version of the traditional wise, rebellious, simple, and silent child framed in the context of real JQ Helpline callers we have had this year. The names will be kept anonymous, but these four archetypes exist in our everyday service work and shed light on the struggles Queer Jews continue to face on the journey toward full freedom.
The Wise One who has the answer:
"People tell us that Jewish law forbids homosexuality but I know that’s not true. The verse in the Torah, Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie down with a male, as with a woman: this is a to’evah.” By now everyone knows that verse, even people who don’t know anything else about the Bible. And they all think that to’evah means abomination. I kept wondering how God could have made me an abomination. But then I studied what Judaism says about same sex relationships in the ancient world. To’evah is used whenever a pagan practice is described. It really means “taboo.” Of course it’s a taboo to act like the pagans. That’s not what I want either. I want a truly equal relationship to another man who loves and respects me. I just wish other people understood what that verse really means so I won’t have to deal with their fear and hatred of me."
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The Challenging One who makes us pay attention:
"I was in Jewish day schools, went on trips to Israel, did the March of the Living to Poland and Israel, and was a leader at my campus Hillel. But all of that meant I had to hide that I am queer. In all that time I never learned about any queer Jewish role models. I never met anyone who lived a queer Jewish life. When I decided I couldn’t stay in the closet any longer, I knew I had to stop being Jewish. I couldn’t tell anyone why I was leaving. I just stopped showing up. I thought someone would miss me but no one ever reached out to me and asked me why I wasn’t coming to events anymore. It was as though I had never been there. I have lots queer friends now, but I miss my Jewish community. I miss the holidays and Shabbat. But I can’t pretend to be straight just to have a Jewish life. I’ll just have to learn to live without it."
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The One who asks a simple question: Why do Jews reject other Jews?
"I was raised going to synagogue every Friday night. I kept up that tradition after I graduated college. I stopped when I met my partner and we created our own lives together. I missed it but didn’t know where I could go that would accept two men in their synagogue. My partner suggested we go last Friday night and see what happened. Everyone just stared at us when we walked in and no one said hello. We even stayed for the oneg, but not one person talked to us. Someone greeted every other person who walked in but not us. I looked to see if we were wearing a sign that said, “Gay Couple.” We weren’t. How can Jews who have been treated so horribly throughout history treat other people that way too? My partner wants to try another synagogue. I’m not sure I can stand being rejected by another group of Jews."
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The One who doesn’t know how to come out in her synagogue:
"I have been a volunteer at my synagogue for the last 10 years, much of the time on the ritual committee. People have told me how much they appreciate what I do but they don't really know me. Everyone talks about their husbands and wives, their children, what they do outside the synagogue. I don’t say anything. They try to set me up with all the single men they know. I'm afraid to talk about my partner or to bring her with me. I don't even know how to start the conversation with my Rabbi. She gives sermons about people with disabilities, Jews by choice, interfaith families, saying how much they are welcomed in our community but never talks about welcoming LGBTQ people, about welcoming ME. I'm about to quit the synagogue and look for a place that wants me not in spite of being a lesbian, but because I am a lesbian."
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