The Hectic Swirl

Adar 7, Year 5778: Here is a short update, a little less than a year later.

Needless to say, I forgot about this blog. Things have changed drastically since my last post, and for the better, Baruch Hashem. I have moved into my new house in Philadelphia, started two new jobs, and have gotten further in my medical transition. I am enrolled in a class at synagogue and am in frequent contact with rabbis about how I want my conversion to go. This weekend, I am in charge of running sound at this years Purim party.

Currently, my life is hectic, but as I integrate Jewish ritual into my life, I find myself in spaces of freedom and peace.


Joy In The Blessings To Come

Iyyar 18, year 5777: Wow, has it been a while or what? So many things have happened in the past month that I am very thankful for. One of which being my graduation from college with a Bachelor’s of Science. Preparation for this has evidently kept me very busy.

Perhaps more importantly though, I’ve signed the lease to my own place! This is a step that I never thought I would get to in the past, due to my extremely difficult family dynamic and my struggles with mental illness. However, I got here, baruch Hashem. I am so excited to observe Shabbat and other holidays freely, and distinguish my home as a Jewish home.

Finally, my Rabbi has put me on the official conversion path. I will soon be taking four classes, writing eleven papers, going to numerous events, and living out Judaism in my daily life. Though I’ve just spent the past four years of my life at university, I’m excited to get to work on this rigorous study, and so honored to be a part of a tradition engulfed in intellectualism.

Anyway, because I’ve been absent on this platform for a while, I’d like to give a short rundown of how my first Pesach went. In short – wonderful. A friend and I were invited to a Anarcho-Communist queer Seder held by the Chaverut Shabbat Collective. There were over 20 people there of varying genders, leftist political views, and backgrounds in Judaism. The Haggadah, compiled by the collective itself, contained modern tales of revolution and revolt that related back to the original content of the Haggadah. An orange was also included on the Seder plate to represent queerness and femininity as a valid presence in Judaism.

During the four hour Seder, I learned an immense amount about the value of a passionate Jewish community and how the struggle for justice has been at the core of Jewish identity since the beginning. To know this makes me feel like I am meant to be part of the this people, as many aspects of my identity are the targets of oppression and the value of repairing the world is ingrained in me.

In addition to that, I learned three other very important things: one, singing the Dayenu is unexpectedly exciting, especially when you speed up at every verse. Two, it’s still pretty fun to drink grape juice the whole time and watch everyone else get drunk. Three, I hate horseradish.

Today, it’s Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day after the first day of Pesach. This day is a break from mourning and a day to celebrate. It is also a day that I will be spending with my hyper-conservative Christian family at a church that I feel very uncomfortable in.

However, I will attempt to focus on the joy of my own path with Hashem and the beauty of the weather outside.

Spirit of the Universe

Adar 24, year 5777: Yesterday morning, the admin of a Jewish-anarchist collective on Facebook posted the kabbalat shabbat siddur for our group, in which the blessings began with “Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Ruach ha’olam”. Where the word Melech (King) would have been, Ruach (Spirit) was there in it’s place. Instead of implying that Hashem is a gendered and hierarchical power, they are rather a unifying force in the universe and completely non-gendered in this wording. It really brightened my day to see the blessing modified in that way.

In addition, I have great news. I will finally meet one-on-one with my rabbi next week! We don’t know each other very well, and I’m not sure what to say other than, ‘I want to be a Jew’. Of course, he will ask me why, and in some ways, I don’t have an answer to that question. In other ways, I could talk about why for hours. I’m hoping that I will find a way to condense my feelings into a few choices sentences before next Wednesday.

I also obtained a copy of Essential Judaism by George Robinson today. The updated version, which was released in 2016, contains information about LGBTQ issues and other contemporary issues, which is of special importance to me. I read the sections on transgender Jews and Jewish converts while still in the bookstore and was delighted to see that the explanations were thorough and respectful. I’m very excited to read more.

Anyway, I’m off to bed now. May Hashem bless you with security and rest.

Chag Sameach!

Adar 15, 5777: Last night I went to my synagogue’s Purim celebration. After arriving early and trouble-shooting with the sound equipment, I finally got into my Age of Adz-era Sufjan Stevens costume and started noshing on Hamantashen.

My friends arrived in drag, formal wear, and costume; we watched the spiel together. To conclude, the rabbi led us in a chant of solidarity. He shouted, “When they come for the Muslims, we say not this time motherfuckers!”

“When they come for the refugees, we say not this time motherfuckers!”

“When they come for the black people, we say not this time motherfuckers!”

“When they come for the earth, the water, the oil, we say not this time motherfuckers!”

“When they come for the Jews, we say not this time motherfuckers!”

I nearly cried then, thinking of the oppressions so many communities face and the resulting courage we’ve held onto to protect each other. But it was time to celebrate, even in the glowing orange face of danger.

My friends and I then made our way to large gymnasium where the Klezmer band was playing, and I learned how to dance for the first time – holding hands, spinning, and twirling. My friends were downing beers and cocktails, fulfilling the mitzvah of getting smashed. However, I had nursed a terrible hangover for the majority of the day, so I stuck to water and ginger ale.

Later, we all got down to the DJs playing Beyoncé in the black box, illuminated by strobes. I danced with the rabbi and friends, watching everyone slowly getting more tipsy. It was a great time.

This was my first time celebrating Purim and definitely not my last. Although I know that the rest of the holidays are unlike Purim in the way they’re celebrated, I’m looking forward to the rest of my Jewish journey. 

Hashem has blessed my friends and I in great and beautiful ways.

Bathed In The Golden Glow

Shabbat shalom!

This morning, I went to Torah study at the synagogue. We read a Chassidic commentary on Purim, and how it is important to get so drunk that one blurs the lines between blessed/cursed, good/bad, spiritual/physical, etc. To avoid idolizing or demonize someone, we humanize them instead. To wrestle with our pain and our happiness, we find contentment in realizing that they are the same. To feel close or far from Hashem is to be in Their presence at all times anyway.

Then, we did kiddush and motzi, and I introduced myself to a lot of new people. The camaraderie was excellent. I’m not sure what to wear yet to the Purim party on Saturday night, but I’m very excited.

Even though going to synagogue alone makes me feel young, the congregation is like a calm river, passing me from wave to wave, helping me further along my journey. It’s been a good day.

What Is The Heart But Another Thing To Change My Mind With?

Adar 5, year 5777: A little while ago, I’ve made the decision to work toward converting to Reconstructionist Judaism. I’ve thought a lot about it and I’ve realized that this is one of the biggest decisions of my life, comparable to my decision to transition. At the same time, both of these decisions were easy to make in the way that I couldn’t truly live if I were to remain my birth gender or to stay a Christian-raised agnostic.

I don’t know much about Kabbalah, nor should I at this point. Yet I’ve read that it says some Jewish souls that have been created are stored in heaven and distributed to the nations, thus resulting in a Jewish soul residing in a non-Jewish body. This is the metaphysical explanation for Jewish converts. Though I have no authority to speak on the Kabbalah, I would like to think that I feel this.

From the time I was young, I had a fascination with the Jewish people. This may have been due to my fundamentalist Christian upbringing, despite it being simultaneously anti-semitic. I grew interested in learning hebrew and would research the significance of the kippah and tallit, gleaning as much surface knowledge as a ten year old could. The passion for understanding Judaism as a child came as naturally to me as the way I felt dysphoric in dresses and confident whenever I could tuck my long hair into a baseball cap.

It wasn’t until I went to the local Recon shul with a friend that I realized that Judaism was and has been important to me for many years. To use a terrible computer analogy, if judaism.exe was running in the background for the duration of my life, the day I went to shul was when it had popped up at the forefront of my desktop. There, I stumbled over the Hebrew in the siddur, working my best to keep my eyes locked on the transliteration while harmonizing with tunes I didn’t know. I watched in awe as people were called to aliyah and took special note of the leader’s avoidance of referring to G-d in gendered terms.

Since then, I’ve been gorging myself on knowledge and asking the internet all the questions that I have. What is kashrut? How do I keep Shabbat? Does Hashem love me, and how should I talk to Them? Along with asking other questions, ranging from practical to metaphysical, I’ve also been using smartphone apps to learn Hebrew and to memorize blessings.

Although I feel a little unsteady in my learning and understand that I need a teacher, I feel as though I’m well on my way to being who I am and coming back to a place that perhaps I’ve never been, but am returning to.