a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

God Makes No Mistakes

Posted on: February 22, 2011


On Yom Kippur Mirs and I, accompanied by some friends, attended service with hundreds of LGBTQ or LGBTQ-friendly Jews at the Javits center.  Being my first Yom Kippur there were a lot of emotions swirling about my head; hunger, confusion, awe…  Mostly I was delighted to see so many queer Jews seriously praying and repenting before Hashem.  It’s a wonder that we were even there, given the fact that God hates fags (and dykes).

What?  You’ve never seen those signs ’cause I have.  Thing is, I don’t think that God hates anyone.  If you read the Torah or Bible and want to quote certain parts, say specific lines in Leviticus, then you can’t keep out other ones like the fact that God made us in his own image.  If we’re made in the image of God, and therefore godly, God wouldn’t hate him/her/itself.  It just doesn’t make sense.

Lots of right-winged Bible thumping Christians and well-intended Christians and Orthodox Jews and Muslims alike will tell you that what we are doing, who we are as LGBTQ believers is an “abomination before God”  That line is in Leviticus, by the way.  Leviticus also says that you cannot eat shrimp or scallops, lobster or pork but that’s not a line folks like to dwell on.  In fact, they skip over that woman as property part as well as the proper treatment of slaves part siting that we don’t live in those times.  Yet, we live in the times where LGBTQ people who love Hashem aren’t  willing to put up with that shit any longer.

For decades LGBTQ synagogues and churches have been popping up as not only houses of worship but places of refuge for people who love God but feared his demented followers.  Fed up with an inability to be both queer and devout they carved out their own spaces and praised God with the song and joy and feather boas.  All joking aside, LGBTQ people needed a place to call their own just as blacks in America created their own places of worship when they were ousted from white congregations.

I hate to play devil’s advocate but, what has this separate but equal style of worship done for us, in the long run?  Growing up in Ohio we rented our ballroom out to a sweet couple from Alabama; Gina and Dan.  Gina was a skinny, chain-smoking Baptist raised woman who fell in love with Dan, a Jew from New Jersey.  Some how they ended up in Ohio and I babysat their boy, Ethan, on Friday nights when they went to shul.  Gina loved Dan and while I cannot confirm that she converted they raised Ethan as Jewishly as possibly.  Every once in a while, though, Gina would get dressed up in her Sunday best and find herself at our side door waiting to get in the car with me and my “Mama” to Friendship Baptist Church.  Gina was the only white woman in the church and you would not have guessed it by how she raised her hands towards the heavens, jumped out and shouted, “Halleluia!”  and clapped and sang with the best of the church ladies.  It felt odd, to be quite honest, to have this skinny white woman in church with me and why should it?  She’s just there, praising her God.

Something Rabbi L said to me last week when we had our one on one conversation stuck with me and it is perhaps why I decided against choosing a shul based on race or sexual orientation.  I’m paraphrasing what she said and instead have been thinking, what’s the point in 2011 to have exclusive worship spaces?  Can they do more harm than good?  If I only attended a black shul would they accept me as a gay Jew.  If I attended a gay shul would the be able to see past my race.  And if I got to just a regular old shul shouldn’t the see my gay blackness and identify it as Jewishness.  The same question can be asked of Christians and Muslims.  For instance, when I pass the mosque at the end of my block the majority of the people are black…what would happen, I wonder, if a white Muslim came to pray-would he feel welcomed?  I understand why separate prayer spaces were created in the first place but now, with a black man sitting in the seat of the President of the United States is it too much to ask that we learn to accept one another for who we are.  I will admit that there is something amazing about walking into a Be’chol Lashon meeting (as long as it has been) because for one day a month I’m surrounded by Jews of Color.  I love hanging out with my queer friends, even more points when they’re queer Jewish friends but I learn so much from both groups.  And while I truly do understand the need for safe spaces, I’m concerned that they’re not allowing us to experience the other.

There is still a bit of trepidation about going into shul on Friday.  More often or not I am the only person of color there but I feel like I need to be that person of color.  A few months back I attended a service where we learned about Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the rabbi, a straight married man, insinuated Joseph’s homosexuality.  Apparently, the Talmud makes note of his obsession with his reflection.  It notes that Joseph would spend hours looking at himself in the mirror, that he wore woman’s clothes, that he painted his eyes and that is the reason his brothers hated him so.  Because he was different.  In the end, as you know, it is Joseph that his brothers need.  Joseph becomes the King’s right-hand-man and distributer of food.

So what do you think?  Do we still need gay places of worship, black places of worship or can’t we all just worship as one?

P.S-that little girl is singing the shit out of Lady Gaga

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