Being Holy and gay

This past week’s parashat (Torah portion) was all about the Holiness commandments, love your neighbor as yourself, honor your parents, leaving the corners of your field untouched so they may be harvested by the poor and the visitor, and then the 12 forbidden sexual relations. These verses get twisted and turned and used by the right wing to show how homosexuality is an abomination. As someone who is converting and gay, let me say that Reform shul I go to is very accepting as a whole but especially the Rabbi. The reform movement’s newest initiative is reaching out to the gay Jewish community as well as the broader gay community. I’m going to take a very liberal stance on the verses, because a) times have changed and b) I can. Homosexuality has been redefined, even since I have been born, it has been shown that being gay is not a choice, nor can it be reversed. The Torah and the mitzvoth that we follow have been changed as well, over the millennia and some are not even followed because we do not have a Temple in Jerusalem.

The following is a response I made to a comment on my Rabbi’s Facebook page regarding his sermon on Parshat Kedoshim (5774)
Have you seen any Romans or Babylonians walking on the street today? No I didn’t think so, think about where those societies are, GONE, all except Judaism. The Torah is a living document that changes with society’s needs. Do you follow every commandment that’s outlined in the Torah? I know I don’t but I try my hardest to follow the ones that pertain to my life in the 21st century. Societies change, new discoveries are made in the sciences and the humanities, perceptions have changed as well. The 12 forbidden sexual relations with exception of one are all choices, the one that isn’t is Homosexuality. It has been proven by academics and society that it is not a choice and that one is born gay. Yes I am gay, no I didn’t choose to be gay, you are straight and you didn’t choose that either. The Torah does not speak about sexual acts it only speaks of how one shall lie with another man. I have yet to hear or meet a man that was born with a vagina, therefore I cannot lie with a man in the same way as with a woman. One can choose to have sex with a beast, or with one’s fathers’ wife or one’s uncles’ wife. You asked who makes the decisions on which commandments are valid and which ones aren’t, here’s my answer to that question; SOCIETY. Not to long ago people owned slaves the Torah has a commandment about paying your slave his earning on the day he earned them and not to hold them back, do you own a slave? I don’t think so because society says it’s illegal.
As Jews we are still a light upon the nations even though some of us are converts, some born into it, some are black, some are Asian, some are gay and some are straight, we are that light by being accepting, understanding, different from the world around us.

I think that what goes on behind the closed doors of my bedroom is for myself, My partner, and Hashem to know about and I don’t try flaunt or push my sexuality on others, just like I don’t care what goes on in a straight couples bedroom.

Marry me and fly for free! (Well almost free)

One of the perks of my job is the generous discounts I receive on other airlines. At the Passover Seder we say “Next year in Jerusalem” for me that can be a reality every year, any time of year. I went to Israel for a second time, last minute, and when I say last minute I booked it at 10:30 am and the flight left JFK at 11:00 pm the same day. I went by myself, I needed to get away and I had vacation again and we were supposed to get snow again in Atlanta, where I live, and well I had a week off, and why not. El Al was nice enough to give me a seat, after many questions and stare downs with security, I was on my way to the Holy Land. I needed to be in a place where a) everything is kosher, b) I can wear a kippah at any time of the day and not feel like I’m being stared at or laughed at, c) I needed to go to the Kotel (Western Wall), d) I needed warm weather. I said in an earlier post that I wanted to convert years ago, and I didn’t go into detail, nor did I pursue it, but watching the news during the second intifada, and watching kids my age being killed for riding on a bus or sitting in a Sbarro, or dancing in a club, hit home with me and even at a young-ish age I wanted to be Jewish. I listened to a podcast, when iPods were still huge, about a family living in a settlement after they had just made aliyah, and dealing with the new environment they were thrown into. I felt sorrow, sadness and disbelief that it was happening.
I had the chance to visit some of those places hit by suicide bombers, that I saw on tv back in the day, in Tel Aviv and afterwards I went to the beach and let my feelings float away.
I also spiritually needed to go to the Kotel. I needed to go to the holiest site in Judaism and pray, that I was going down the right path. I felt a sense of peace come over me the first time I went there and I wanted and got that feeling again. I was questioning everything I was doing and needed to be reassured by Hashem that I was doing the right thing. It was on a bar mitzvah day and people where excited in one corner and in another people were praying and somber and quite. It was even more “emotional” this time because in my heart I feel that I am jewish, it is my holiest site, these are my people I’m praying with. It was surreal to say the least to look at the Kotel and think I’m part of this history.

More about me

As I’ve already said I’m 32, I’m a Flight Attendant and I’m gay and single. That’s just a little part of me, I grew up on and love the beach, although I don’t get to one too often. Water and the beach recharge my emotional batteries, wether it’s a beach in Los Angeles, Tel Aviv or the Jersey Shore, it doesn’t matter, although being in Tel Aviv is something special. The jersey shore is were I’m from so it’s “home” even after being away for 7 years living in the south. I live with a girl, she is also a flight attendant, we’ve lived together for 7 years we’re like brother and sister (yes I do have a real sister, but we don’t talk) I have also lived in what the airline industry calls “crash pads”. This was a 3 bedroom town house that had 10 beds in it, but only sometimes was everyone there at once, I could go a week without seeing another person in the house. Being a flight attendant is my dream job and the saying, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in you life,” it’s true, however the road to get where I am, career-wise, is a pothole filled, construction ridden, single Lane, traffic jammed road that not many make it, but once you do you don’t ever want to leave. During months that I have vacation I can work as few as 3 days in the entire month and if done correctly, like this past October and November, I had a total of 45 consecutive days off. During that vacation I was actually ready to get back to work.
Once a year we have a recurrent or refresher course. It involves many hours online watching videos, taking tests and then an entire day in class doing hands on exercises. I just did this, this past week and it’s the one time of year every flight attendant and pilot stresses about. Yep even pilots have to yearly training and theirs is a lot longer. As flight attendants when we come to work, we are on edge and looking for things that are out of the ordinary. But I still wouldn’t trade in my wings for anything. I couldn’t work a desk job anymore. Adding in religion to my career is easy, in an “invisible” way, I don’t me that no one sees me being Jewish, because people do, it’s just added in small concealed ways. Like a Shma prayer ring I bought, in the old city of Jerusalem on my first visit, or the prayers I say before I eat, or drink, and the way I eat which is mostly just seen by my fellow flight attendants. I also show it when I have jewish passengers on board, by being shomer negiah (not touching the opposite sex) if it’s a woman I may be serving, letting them know the pretzels are the only kosher snack, they’re parve, but not kosher for passover obviously, letting them know what kosher drinks we have, ginger ale, oj, cran-apple and apple for some reason, or enlightening my fellow crew members about t’fillin and jewish prayer, my company has sent out emails to every flight attendant about what the t’fillin are and what to expect during the prayer, but like us, Jews that is, flight attendants are very inquisitive and want to know everything. Even El Al has to deal with minyan’s forming in the galleys and aisles and that isn’t allowed and they disperse those passengers that want to congregate. I also answer a lot of questions from my fellow flight attendant have and dispel misconception’s of what being Jewish is.

My own way

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS MY VIEW, ALWAYS CONSULT your Rabbi on halachah.

Some people are probably not going to agree with me and some may say I’m not doing it right, but thia is all about how I do Judaism my way.

I’m not becoming orthodox or conservative or reconstrutionist or independent, I am unreformadox! Because I am a Flight Attendant and airport food and most hotels I stay in are not kosher I don’t keep kosher. I do however follow kashrut and do not mix dairy and meat, I don’t eat pork, or shell fish anymore, but I do search for and normally only buy food that has a hechsher on it. Also my roommate who is not becoming Jewish with me cooks in the same kitchen, kashering it would be impossible.
I say the Shma when I wake up and before I fall asleep, I don’t lay t’fillin, at least not yet, and I’m working on saying the Amidah. But I do wear a kippah for the most part, daily, I don’t wear one at work. I read in some book about Judaism that most jews will answer a question about not doing a mitzvah by saying “not yet,” and I find that it is the perfect answer. Because something may not resonate with that person at this time but maybe tomorrow or the next month it will. I started out only wearing the kippah that was in the box at the door of the shul, but now I look at it as part of me, when I don’t wear it, I feel like I’m missing something. I went from owning none to now owning 5 different colored suede ones, plus several small blue and white ones, and a green and yellow big-ish one, and also one that a girl in my conversion class hand knitted for me, using organic cotton.
Maybe one day in the future I will lay t’fillin or wear tzit-tzit, but not right now.
Since I am the only one in my house that is becoming Jewish, I light the candles on Shabbat and yontif’s. It makes me slow down for a few minutes each week and helps me get into the Shabbat spirit, if you haven’t done it because you think only women do it, try it. I also make challah on friday. Although my roommate isnt becoming Jewish she sure does love the challah. I have to give a lot of credit to Jewish women who work full time, have kids and are shabbat observant. I tried it one shabbat, in the winter. I cleaned the house, cooked dinner, made challah, did laundry and ironed clothes for services, lit the candles all before the sun went down. Man, I needed, no deserved a few extra glasses of wine. I try to do shabbat as much in the sanctity of the day of rest as I can, but old habits die hard. I don’t spend any money from friday at sundown til saturday at sundown. I try and refrain from things I normally do during the week, like working out, I wont go to the gym but I’ll take a walk through the neighborhood or park and walk slowly so I have time to think about things. I do use electricity but very sparingly, and if I use my iPad or phone I only read Jewish things. I try not to look at email’s and try to limit my Facebook time to 30 minute for all 25 hours of Shabbat. I don’t typically work on shabbat, I have had to and let me tell you I felt different and depressed and it just put me in a bad mood. I typically end my work week on thursday and have the whole weekend off. But not every one can do that I am just lucky and blessed to have a job that allows me to be this flexible, which brings me to my next topic.
Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, it is a huge part of Judaism and I am only just getting involved in doing it. With winter finally coming to end although yesterday and today would’t say that, more outdoor programs and volunteer opportunities become available, I will certainly be doing some of them.

My First Seder

As the title suggests, it’s Pesach! And I just went to my first Seder, Passover is the holiday of the Exodus from Egypt and seeing as I’ve only just started the process of becoming Jewish, I have never been to a Seder. I went to the second night Seder at the synagogue I always go to and it was fun. The Seder is a meal that’s normally held with your family and friends and can go on for hours on end and can be somewhat boring, so I’m told, I was quite entertained at this one.
I’ll let you in on the exodus I will be doing this week, I’ll be “coming out” again, to my family. I came out as being gay almost 13 years ago, and I was scared, emotional and pretty much a nervous wreck for the whole weekend before it all went down. I smoked (I’ve since quit) probably 5 packs of cigarettes in 2 days and didn’t eat anything for those 2 days. This time around I’m nervous and I don’t know what to say unlike the last time. Pesach is also the time of not eating or owning or having any leavened products, but since I’m still sorta new at jewish holidays and what’s involved, I haven’t done most of the cleaning that’s normally done. Like most reform jews, I do things in my own way, so I don’t have any bread this week but I’ve eaten rice and beans and cereal. I’ll get into what else I do differently than what is done by most orthodox or Torah observant jews in another post probably tomorrow.

The Beginning

I’ll start at the beginning, I’m a 32, I’m a flight attendant for a major carrier and I’m converting to Judaism.  I grew up near a huge Orthodox Jewish community, in a semi religious (Christian) house, but i was always interested in Judaism. I went on to live with out much religion in my life because I’m gay and well most western religions frown upon that. It wasn’t until I went away on vacation with 3 friends to Israel. All the curiosity came rushing back. I again went on living life just as I always had, but something a Haredi woman said to us as she was helping us find our way back to the sherut in Jerusalem would always pop into my head every few months, “In Judaism we do what’s right even if its hard.” On that visit I gave myself time to think about pursuing becoming Jewish. I did some web searches right after I returned but, then forgot about it because life happened. But almost a year after that vacation, out of the blue I started looking at some websites about Judaism, and one thing led to another I was on Amazon, downloading some book about Judaism, and next thing ya know I’m going into a synagogue, nervous as hell, and sweating bullets. I found a reform shul near my house, did some more research on protocols and etiquette and what to expect during the service, I enjoyed it a lot and felt like I had “come home.” Although I was still sweating bullets I felt a sense of peace come over me. Well since that first visit right before Thanksgivakkah, I’ve missed maybe one or 2 friday night services, saturday mornings well, I’m still working on that. I liked this shul (synagogue) so much that this is where I’ve decided to do my conversion class. Even after getting “called out” by one of the rabbi’s for being new and being there by myself in front of everyone on a friday night, and being “told” to sit with
some older women in the front row, I still went back and still continue to go back.
Thats enough for now, hope you enjoy this blog, following me on my journey, and feel free to ask me any questions.