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The World Congress: Keshet Ga'avah
Purim Newsletter February 2020
Purim Spiel, Sydney 2019

Join us for our Annual Board meeting via ZOOM on March 29, 2020, from 1:00 - 3:00 pm EDT.
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Officer's message

 

Doing the Daf by Jacq Carver, Board Member at Large - Eastern Hemisphere, The Netherlands

The new Daf Yomi cycle started on the 5th of January 2020, and I decided that I would join in and spend the next seven-and-a-half years reading a page of Talmud per day.  It was a big decision as it’s a huge commitment and my Hebrew is poor and my Aramaic is pretty much nonexistent.  However, thanks to the internet, there are numerous resources in English that make it seem less daunting. 

The deciding factor in my decision was a Judaism Unbound interview with Rabbi Benay Lappe, where she talks about ‘Robin Hooding the Talmud’ or taking the text from the one-percent and making it available to the 99 percent who traditionally have not had access.  As I believe that educating ourselves; making the study of these texts available and accessible to LGBTIQ+ people, is an essential component of our continued emancipation, I decided to do the Daf.


Sefaria

The abundance of online resources make doing the Daf much easier; until quite recently, doing the Daf Yomi meant physically joining a daily study group and/or purchasing the Talmud.  Buying the Talmud is way beyond my budget as the 73 volumes cost about €2,200.  So, I downloaded the Sefaria app and got started. It was a massive learning curve.  I spent ages looking for page one but it starts on page two, as it has no real beginning and no end.  I joined two Facebook groups (Interleaved and Daf Yomi for Beginners) for additional help and comments. 

I also looked for a podcast and decided I would listen to the Hadran podcast as I couldn't find a queer Daf Yomi.  Hadran aims “to make Talmud study accessible to Jewish women at all levels…by providing a wide range of resources in the voice of women teachers.”  It’s a good podcast and fits in very nicely with the Robin Hooding concept. 

 

SVARA

The next step in my Talmud learning is going to Queer Talmud Camp at Svara, a traditionally radical yeshiva “dedicated to the serious study of Talmud through the lens of queer experiences.  SVARA’s unique pedagogy makes Talmud study in the original accessible—for the first time in Jewish history—to all who want to learn.  At SVARA, everyone—queer, straight, trans, aleph-bet beginners, experienced Talmudists, secular, religious, Jews, non-Jews—everyone learns together in a mixed-level bet midrash that recognizes as crucial the insights of all those on the margins.”

It’s been a little over a month since I started the Daf Yomi and so far, it’s been  fascinating, frustrating, enlightening, informative, and surprisingly funny.  I learned a lot about when, how, and where to pray - one cannot pray in the vicinity of faeces [feces], unless it has a hard crust, though one can pray in the vicinity of a dung heap that does not contain faeces - as well what constitutes an interruption.  The Sages bicker and argue and sometimes come off as petty and egotistical. I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey.
 

 



D'var

Purim by Rabbi Dr. Levi Ethan Alter

Purim is a celebration of masks within masks, a maze of questions that lead to more questions.


The Book of Esther

Why is the book called the Book of Esther rather than the Book of Mordecai or the Book of Hadassah?  Why is there a mitzvah to read it?  Why is there a book in the TaNaKh about an intermarried Jewish beauty queen at all?  Why is there a Fast of Esther?  Why do we wear masks and dress as the opposite sex on Purim?  And why is Purim a religious holiday at all?


The Festival of Purim

The holiest day of the year, Yom HaKippurim, is only a day “like” Purim, for in the future, the holiday of Purim will continue to be observed.  Like Stonewall has been transformed to Pride, and Transgender and Intersex Days of Remembrance have been joined by Transgender and Intersex Days of Visibility, Purim will continue to resonate for us.


The Star

Hadassah lost her family, like so many LGBT people do today, rejected from unsafe homes, schools, camps, youth groups, yeshivahs and synagogues.  "Her father died when she was conceived and her mother died when she was born."  (Talmud Bavli Megilla 13a).  Like many Jews today who do not go by Jewish names but instead are called assimilated names or dead names, Hadassah is not called by her Jewish name but by her assimilated Persian name of Esther.  "Estahar" means star in Persian (Yalkut Shimoni Esther 1053) and she was like a movie star, the star of the beauty pageant where she was crowned queen.  Overcome with revulsion and terror, she was not crowned a beauty queen but rather, she was trafficked.  "She was put up to auction, one said, I will give a hundred coins to go in with her, and another said, I will give two hundred to go in with her,"  (Midrash Rabbah Esther VI:10).  Meanwhile, her name also means something in Hebrew: “hidden” and is hinted at in the verse (Devarim/Deuteronomy 31:18) "I will surely hide My face on that day." (Talmud Bavli Chullin 139b).  The degradation of women in general at the highest levels of society, when Vashti is removed as Memuchan advises (Memuchan is identified as Haman in Talmud Bavli Megillah 12b.) and letters affirming men’s complete domination over women are distributed throughout the empire, impacts women at the bottom the most. Even being married offered no protection to the downtrodden lower classes. "Both married and unmarried women were brought" (Midrash Rabbah Esther VI:11).  Some sources indicate that Mordecai married Hadassah, making her not only an intermarried woman ("How is it possible that this righteous maiden should be married to an uncircumcised man?" (Midrash Rabbah Esther VI:6, Pesikta Rabbati 15:111) when she was wed by force to the hateful emperor, but an adulteress publicly committing one of the three sins which we are to die rather than to commit as well.  But a double deliverance comes from Esther's heroism: we were saved from genocide AND we experienced a renewal of our national culture and religion when the Temple was rebuilt by the Persian emperor Darius, the son of Esther! 


About Those Fabulous Costumes

In the Rema’s (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) gloss on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 696:8, he explains that in celebrating Purim men wore women’s clothing and women donned male garb.  Just in case someone ever quotes a clobber passage at you like "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment" (Devarim/Deuteronomy 22:5) for being fabulous, you've got the example of celebrating Purim!

 

Let's Raise a Glass to Our Heroic LGBT Youth

In the Midrash Rabbah on Esther, our youth, our young children who learn Torah, are marked for suffering and death by our enemy Haman, and it is their plight that stirs HaShem to have mercy upon our community.  Today's bills targeting doctors and parents who provide life-saving gender affirmation services for trans youth, preventing suicides, bullying and unsafe risks from denial of treatment, are the same attacks against our children in our day.  Just as Amalek, and the descendant of Amalek, Haman, targeted our children, so do our enemies today target our LGBT children.  And yet, the merit of our children saved our nation then and it does now as well.  As we witness their courage in being their authentic selves, we are inspired to do likewise, and put aside our masks, and live out of the closet and into the light as proud LGBT Jews.  "If one sees the scroll of Esther in his dream, it is a signal that a miracle will be done for him!" (Talmud Bavli Berachos 57)  Happy Purim!

Rabbi Dr. Levi Ethan Alter is the President of Female-To-Male International, the fourth of five generations of inter-sex individuals in his family, and an Orthodox Jewish rabbi.

 

Save the Date
Berlin April 17th - 19th April, 2020

World Congress of GLBT Jews – Keshet Ga’Avah

European Regional Conference, Berlin, Germany.

Gather with us in solidarity to discuss a common strategy in relation to Jewish communities, national LGBTQ+ movements and the current political situation in Europe. Email Marco Fiammelli, marcofiammelli@yahoo.it or Keshet Deutschland, info@keshetdeutschland.de to register. Registration is free.

The World Congress: Keshet Ga'avah - Rainbow Pride

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My name is Steven Joachim, stevenj3@yahoo.com.   I'm a Texan living in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  
 I volunteer as the Communications Coordinator and Interim Officer-at-Large, Western Hemisphere  for the World Congress: Keshet Ga'avah [rainbow pride]
The Steering Committee
  • Goldy Goldberg (she/her), President, USA
  • Gustavo Michanie (he/him/his), Vice President, Argentina
  • Oded Katzman (he/him/his), Treasurer, Israel
  • Branden Johnson (he/him/his), Interim Secretary, Israel
  • Jacq Carver (they/them/theirs), At Large - Eastern Hemisphere, Netherlands
  • Marco Fiammelli (he/him/his), Interim At Large - Eastern Hemisphere, Italy
  • Michael Chertok (he/him/his), At Large - Western Hemisphere, USA
  • Steven Joachim (he/him/his), Interim At Large - Western Hemisphere & Communications Coordinator, Argentina
  • Shep Wahnon (he/him/his), Advisor, Cultural Inclusion and Diversity, USA
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