Last week I went to Nehirim, the queer shabbaton up at Camp Isabella Freedman in Connecticut, after mixed reviews from friends who had attended last year. Despite going in with reservations, I had a fabulous time; many attendees were there for the first time and open to new experiences, I made several friends who I know will last, and even the damp, cool weather wasn’t as much of a downer as I thought it was going to be.

But after living in New York and coming to think of myself as a pretty progressive kind of yiddishe maidel, I found myself in the odd position of being one of the more “traditional” Jews at Nehirim. Over the last few years I’ve learned to be comfortable at services with piano or guitar accompaniment, but the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat drumming sent my brain into “audience” mode, and even though the drumming was great, I couldn’t think of it as a service.

Then came Shabbat morning. The previous evening, we had been alerted over dinner to the fact that the “traditional egalitarian” Saturday morning service would have separate seating for those who had expressed a strong desire for it. More »

Parsha Naso

24 May 2007 In: JVoices

YHWH demands that women suspected of adultery be brought before Her. It’s surprising, since last week’s parsha condemned any non-priest approaching YHWH to death. We have a theory of what was up. Practically speaking, we imagine the woman standing in the courtyard before the curtain of the Tent of the meeting. YHWH would dwell behind the curtain and pass judgment from there. This is also the Rastafarian parsha. It describes the rules for Nazirs, people vowing to dedicate themselves to YHWH for a specific period of time. The bible’s most famous Nazir was probably Samson, who was also the world’s first suicide terrorist.

Also in this parsha (but not our comic) is the priestly blessing, the finger arrangement of which was popularized by intergalactically famous Heeb, Leonard Nimoy.


Check out this job call for working with the fabulous Sandi DuBowski, director of Trembling Before God–I absolute LOVE this idea. Sandi is really wonderful, incredibly generous, such an amazing spirit and heart–this will be a great position for the right person:

I am seeking a Digital/Online Marketing and Outreach Director for our 5th Anniversary Celebration of Trembling on the Road. Trembling Before G-d has touched and transformed lives across the globe. Trembling on the Road is a 40-minute featurette – a dramatic document of dialogues, protests, reactions, screenings, and events from this worldwide tour. It includes poignant, funny, interesting, and angry reactions and reflections on Trembling and updates on all the character’s lives. It is featured on the Trembling Before G-d DVD. Many people who saw the film in theatrical release, in festivals and on TV have never seen it. For some, Trembling Before G-d was “dare to despair? – Trembling on the Road is uplifting and hopeful.

During the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year – September 12th) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement – September 21st), we launch this international campaign to organize 250 house, workplace and house of worship parties of Trembling on the Road around the world.

The Ten Days is an amazing ritual time to reflect on our year: where we have come from, where we are and where we wish to go.

The 5th Anniversary Celebration of Trembling on the Road celebrates the power to make change and asks: Where would you like to make a change in your life? In your family? In your community? In the world?

This is especially true this year where Trembling helped catalyze the Conservative Movement to address the questions of homosexuality and for the first time ever, Conservative seminaries will openly ordain gay and lesbian rabbis. We ask: are we still Trembling?

We have over 1000 pages of emails people have sent us sharing how Trembling impacted their lives, their friends, families, religious leaders, schools, communities etc.– we will begin to upload stories and invite you and others to do the same.

The DVD will be available for sale directly from our website and we will have discussion guides for download.

# # #

The Digital/Online Marketing & Outreach Director will work closely with director/producer Sandi DuBowski to develop and implement online PR, advocacy, and sales strategies.

More »

Parsha Bamidbar

17 May 2007 In: African-American, Bisexual, JVoices, Spirituality, Torah, Yiddishkeit

This week, YHWH (which we’re told can be pronounced, “Yoo Hoo Woo Hoo”) and her band of Hebrew homies begin their adventures “In the Wilderness.” Despite being about the business of raising an army, the parsha itself is REALLY DRY. You can see why it’s called the book of “Numbers.” They might also call it, “boilerplate text.”

We asked ourselves “whassup wid this?” She defeated all the gods of Egypt singlehandedly yet She needs an army to overcome Molech’s followers? Sez us, what YHWH really wants is an army to win over the Land. And of course, who can blame Her?


I swear–this was just too much. I often like JTA’s feature pieces, but their latest piece on Falwell, stating that he left mixed feelings amongst Jews is just TOO MUCH!

Yes, I’m using caps.

I’m not interested in engaging in the awful discussion I’m seeing all around me in which folks are celebrating Falwell’s death. Did I like the man or what he did–no. Absolutely not, but I’m also not going to celebrate his death. I am just not OK with that.

But the JTA did a HORRENDOUS job in covering this story–horrendous. And not just because of the queer angle of this story, although that is enough, but because of the uncritical description and discussion of the Moral Majority as pro-Israel. The classic line of saying he was an ally to Jewish folks because of Israel, yet “contentious” because of his domestic political agenda. OK, folks, we need to stop this attempted political framing. There is/was/and continues to be nothing promising about the ties of folks like Jerry Falwell to Israeli state politics. So, supporting the maintenance of a physical body of land, while denouncing people who live in that land through anti-semitic remarks, homophobia and the like, is pro-Israel? I’m going to file that away under not cute. And absolutely politically ineffective.


Because if you need another reason, how about the lack of critical engagement around this fine point in the article: Foxman recalled long dialogues with Falwell, saying he was a man who was willing to listen and change his mind. Foxman recalled a meeting in the mid-1990s with a group of Jewish leaders, including himself, when Falwell agreed to stop using “Christian nation” to describe the United States and instead switched to “Judeo-Christian nation.” More »

So I moved across the country and started a new gig–it’s been a minute since I’ve had time to turn to the site, but I wanted to drop in this interview I listened to on Nextbook of Jen Bleyer talking about the founding of Heeb, and her changing relationship to the magazine.

I’ll be up front–I never liked Heeb. I consistently found it offensive, and not in a funny way, and I didn’t think they succeeded in trying to create satire out of highlighting stereotypes. So while some might follow their new blog, it won’t be me.

But, I do appreciate many of the people that have been on staff at Heeb, which is also why it was so interesting reading and listening to Jennifer’s take on the magazine, the branding of the term of hipster Jew and cool Jew, and how it was something she never connected with, nor wanted to really create.

It begs the question then, what do we make of it when the cultural “products” we help create become something we don’t recognize, nor appreciate, and become something else in the public eye–something we actually weren’t interested in producing?

I don’t think Jennifer is alone–not by any stretch of the imagination–in having this experience.

Increasing numbers of communities and politicians are calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. At the same time, in the race toward the presidential primaries, the candidates are oh-so-carefully detailing the ways that they plan to redirect our government’s priorities from Iraq and Iran towards healthcare, education and global warming. A number of apparently excellent candidates are gaining masses of support, but I’m noticing a trend that worries me – no matter who they support, many people want to believe that their chosen candidate is going to “save” the nation.

I understand the impulse, after 8 years of Bush, to want a “hero,” someone who will swoop down with a red cape and make everything better. But there’s a danger in placing too much faith in an individual, fallible human – even when we think that human is “one of the good guys.”

Dorothy Thompson saw this danger in 1935 as well. More »

A Torah Queeries essay by Marisa James
Shabbat Behar-Behukotai
Leviticus 25:1 – 27:34
22 Iyyar 5767

The teachings in this week’s paired parshiyot, Behar and Behukotai, are meant to prevent us from becoming greedy. At the beginning of Behar, literally “in the mountain? at Sinai, the first thing God tells Moses is “When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of the Lord. Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the yield. But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the Lord? (Leviticus 25:2-4).

Why do we give the earth a shabbat every seventh year? The lifespan of the earth is much longer than ours, so maybe every seven years is enough! But we must give the earth a rest, and acknowledge that it does not belong to us. We are meant to be equal partners with the earth, and treat it with the same kindness we hope it will show us.

Later in the chapter, we come to the rules for the Jubilee year, which is to occur every 50th year, when “each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family? (25:10). This Jubilee year works in two ways: first, every person returns to the land that they lived on 50 years before, so that no individual gains all of the communal property and no individual is bereft. Secondly, this ensures that anyone who has fallen on hard times gets a fresh start, and if they have become indentured servants or slaves, “then he and his children with him shall be free of your authority; he shall go back to his family and return to his ancestral holding? (25:41).

Giving both people and land a fresh start is imperative and ensures that we are all refreshed and protected, and able to move forward after our rest. We are not the owners of the land, but the protectors. In turn, we expect the land to shelter and protect us. We do not belong to the people who we work for; our employers are supposed to ensure that our pay and benefits give us access to a comfortable life. More »

Parsha Behar-Bechukotai

10 May 2007 In: JVoices

This week YHWH lays down the law concerning Her “friend,” arguably the most desireable character in the Torah, Koran and Christian bible, with whom She shares a mysterious relationship. We are instructed concerning, among other things, some of the Torahs’s most radical ideas, including the impossibility of permanent land ownership and the wildly idealistic Jubilee year, which some scholars insist was actually practiced.

We are now more than half way through the Torah and this double portion ends the book of Vayikra/Leviticus. – Mazel Tov!

Chazak, Chazak, V ’nitchazeik! – SHABBAT SHALOM! – a & s

In brief…

Jen Sorensen is brilliant. So is LanguageLog’s Arnold Zwicky. The furor has mostly died down over Imus’ remarks about the Rutgers womens’ basketball players, as he has lost nearly every public forum. Over the last few weeks I read the outrage expressed everywhere and felt no need to comment on it myself. But Zwicky provides some of the best (and most concise) commentary I’ve seen, and it’s worth sharing, even now that the storm has passed.

Please note: since August 2010, JVoices has ceased publishing new work. We hope you enjoy the articles that remain live as an archive and trusted resource of bold Jewish writing of our time.


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