You know the old saying ‘When you’re in love, the whole world is Jewish‘? When I recently picked up my copy of Queer Jews for a second read, that’s exactly how I felt.
Even though Queer Jews was first published in 2002 this bold anthology of 21 essays, written by Hebrew school teachers, principals, rabbis and Jews in the pews who identify as LGBT, is still relevant 12 years later because it shows a fascinating insight into the challenges Jewish LGBT people face within a community that are still divided on the topic of sexual diversity and sexual identity.
Written with humour, tenderness, sadness and a healthy measure of chutzpah, the 21 authors beautifully wrestle with the juxtaposition of fearing exclusion from their Faith and community, and the prevailing hope that the Jewish community (often divided) will move towards greater inclusion and acceptance of all… Now, who can’t relate with that?
Between those who leave the faith, those rediscovering their faith, and those who refused to give up and instead fought for their equal seat at the table, this book shows the complexities of life as a queer Jewish person and the struggles that come both from within the Jewish community, but also from other communities who sometimes don’t understand the culture and motivations of those with Faith.
From Pride in Israel to a little film, Trembling Before G-d, which shook the foundations of the Orthodox belief, queer Jews are more and more demanding their equal rights as both queer and Jewish, and they are increasingly finding it… Queer Jews is proof of this fact.
The book not only pays homage to its predecessors like Evelyn Torton-Beck’s Nice Jewish Girls (1982) and Christi Balka and Andy Rose’s Twice Blessed: On Being Lesbian or Gay and Jewish (1989), it also honours them by reflecting on some of the changes that have occurred since they were published. It’s no wonder Queer Jews has almost reached a cult status among the thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning Jews who gather at family and communal tables across the Jewish world: it crosses geographical boundaries by including essays about queer Jews in the US, Israel, Canada and Australia. It’s emotionally rich and complex, and historically informative and educational. Among its greatest triumphs may just well be its power to spark more queer Jews to tell their stories.
Even though Queer Jews is written primarily for a Jewish audience (I guess the clue is in the title), the wider LGBT community will almost certainly benefit from reading it, especially those who have Jewish partners or friends. The glossary makes the Yiddish references and other potentially unfamiliar terminology easily accessible… and serves as a brilliant education for those not so well-versed in the Jewish culture.
Definitely worth a read.
Queer Jews, was curated and edited by David Shneer and Caryn Aviv. It was first published in 2002 and is available on Amazon.