Like all my posts recently, its been a while. I want to hear from y’all, How you Doin’? Its been a busy time since I have written last, I’ll catch y’all up, I’m still single, still gay and still flying. In one month from tomorrow I’ll be based back in my home city and I wont have to fly across the country for work, I couldn’t be happier.
I finished my Orthodox conversion in May, it was supposed to be in April but Hashem and a very personal demand was posed to me and I couldn’t honestly answer the question. Because if we have only one thing in this world it should be honesty, and I had up to that point been completely honest with my rabbi and community. Sure it would’ve been nice to have everything done then but at what price, since that point I’ve seriously contemplated my future relationships with a significant other and what our relationship would look like. I’ve come to conclusion that things in my relationship with my future partner are between me, them and Hashem and everyone else can keep their opinions to them self, and stay in their own lane. In the end since my conversion didn’t happen when it was supposed to I had a more respected rabbi on my Beit Din a few weeks later, and we had many things in common, including working with the same Orthodox group for support. I count him now as a friend and look forward to learning from him more. I also spoke it into the universe that I wanted to help LGBT people who were converting or thinking about converting to Orthodoxy and be a sort of mentor, sounding board, and confidant. While I haven’t shared the whole first experience with many people, it was definitely a rude awakening about the issue Shortly after my dunking, I went to Israel again, this time as a Jew, since the last visit was during my Reform conversion. I observed Shavuot, aka the Convert’s Holiday, in Israel and man what an experience, staying up all night learning, eating dinner at a religious lesbian couples house, who have become friends, going to a mikva on holiday in Israel (being attracted to men I had to just look down and get out), but most importantly GOING TO THE KOTEL before sunrise and being surrounded by thousands of people. It was such a surreal experience, and to add to that a friend (who’s straight) was in Israel for his brother’s wedding, which I went to but more on that later, and I was staying with him in this nice apartment.
I did this Israel trip at the last minute, and left straight from Denver where I work, I landed on Friday morning with really no plans, except being in contact with a friend who moved to Israel a few months before. No plans for meals, lodging on shabbat or where to even daven, my friend found me a place to stay and meals, in fact they were with other people from my community in Atlanta that I wasn’t really close with but have since become friendlier with. It ended up being a really cool and somewhat surreal shabbat. I was originally only supposed to stay for a week and a half, but with my job flexibility is the main perk and I ended up staying 3 weeks. It was such an amazing experience and I met amazing people I can’t wait to go back and I’m always looking at my schedule to see when I can go back, but so far it hasn’t happened, soon though. I celebrated, not only Shavuot in Israel, but my birthday as well, I was packing to come back to the States on my birthday and I broke down, like that ugly cry you don’t want anyone to see EVER. I’ve had an attachment to Israel even before I went there and way before I even thought about converting and to spend this much time there as a Jew was surreal for me.
My Shavuot experience was amazing, everything. I was in contact with the LGBT Orthodox group in Jerusalem, looking for meals and learning opportunities and while they didn’t have much going on learning-wise they did put me in contact with this amazing couple, who had me over for dinner. The conversations….. jeez were so in depth, it made me think hard, the welcomeness was amazing and just being able to meet them was so awesome. One is an LGBT activist, who communicates so eloquently I wish I could articulate as well as she does. Her activism comes from the heart too, she started a weekly discussion in the middle of the busiest squares in Jerusalem shortly after the Terror Attack on the Jerusalem Pride Parade that killed Shira Banki, and not just to put being LGBT out there but to change the conversation of being religious and LGBT in the religious and secular worlds in Israel and the Jewish World as a whole. While I didn’t participate in the gathering while I was in Israel this past time, I look forward to doing so on my next visit. Her wife is a therapist who deals with LGBT people in the religious and ultra religious worlds, who again articulates so well I could only wish to one day speak that well. They are pioneers in their own rights and I can not wait to get to know them better through trips to Israel and social media.
I almost forgot my first Mizrahi (Egyptian/Middle Eastern) shul experience, I was planning on going to this other shul in Nachlaot, near where I was staying for the last week of my visit, as I was walking there I got pulled into this other shul to make a minyan, not know what it was I went in and we started davening. Well it was quite the experience and since I helped make the minyan they gave me an aaliya (reciting a blessing before and after a Torah portion) and since I’m used to the brachot being transliterated and being nervous was all hell I completely fudged the bracha and got a little reprimand from the gabbai. He ended up saying the bracha and I repeated him. I was sweating so much and embarrassed I just wanted to slink out the back door and disappear. But it was a small shul and only one doorway and I couldn’t just leave, so I sat there after my time was up on the bimah and tried to cool myself down. Shuls in Israel for the most part are not like American shuls where there is a kiddish and people hang out afterwards and socialize, when shul’s done everyone goes home and eats lunch or takes a nap or whatever, there are really no invites to meals and you kind of have to have everything set up beforehand. Luckily I had made plans to go to someone’s place for both meals that Shabbat. Both meals I went to the same place and have found out that they do it weekly and people just show up, I think at one point there was like 40 people in this 2 bedroom apartment and patio. It wasn’t a big place but they made it work and both the food and company and singing was great! When I finally left from dinner it was about 2 in the mornings do everyone else was still going strong singing and chatting. Lunch was a little bit more subdued but the liquor came out to ease the hangovers from dinner and there wasn’t much singing just hanging out and talking about the week and the issues that were going on at the time.
I keep saying how surreal my trip to Israel was and I tried to use the best descriptors possible but it doesn’t do the experience justice. It really was at some point in the trip almost an out of body experience, like is this really real, am I really here after everything involved in my process as a Jew and I actually know people here 7,000 miles away from home. By the way there are also happened to be other friends mostly Jewish but one non Jewish friend who was in Israel for her boyfriend’s niece’s bat mitzvah at the same time as me. There is a saying (paraphrasing here) that you always see someone you know in Jerusalem, and while I didn’t get to see her or any of the others visiting it’s kinda weird that we all happened to be there at the same time.
In the end it was an amazing trip and a great way to celebrate my accomplishments and birthday. Maybe I’ll see you in Yerushalayim on my next visit.