Include Me Out of This Jewish Community

Great That LGBT People Are Allowed To Join — But Join What?

All In the Family: The Jewish community has largely embraced the new strides made in gay rights.
Getty Images
All In the Family: The Jewish community has largely embraced the new strides made in gay rights.

By Jay Michaelson

Published June 10, 2014, issue of June 13, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Let me start with gratitude. As a gay Jewish man, I am profoundly humbled by the strides the Jewish community has taken over the last several years. Among almost all denominations, in all geographical areas, Jewish institutions have become more inclusive of LGBT people, and, I think, have been enriched as a result.

But “inclusion” has also become a cul-de-sac. I wonder if it was the right thing to be fighting for in the past — and I’m pretty sure it isn’t now.

Large federations and Jewish organizations — the ones with familiar acronyms — now have “inclusion” initiatives within them. In part, these are motivated by the sincere desire to make Jewish spaces “houses for all people.” In part, though, they are motivated by the prospect of gay dollars swelling federation and organizational coffers.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; both my partner and I have long worked for not-for-profits. Development is part of the job. And if there’s a hitherto-overlooked demographic to tap, then by all means, development teams should stop overlooking.

But this kind of inclusion is really rather limited — and limiting. Here’s who doesn’t get included: Jews who support BDS (or perhaps even J Street); people with multiple religious traditions; Jews with strong critiques of the 1%-fueled, $30 billion Jewish establishment, especially the federation system; Jews with more radical critiques of Jewish culture or tradition; Jews who don’t “pass” as middle or upper class; queer Jews who don’t pass as “normal” because of their gender presentation, or tattoos, or clothing.

Once again, none of this is LGBT-specific, necessarily; all communities have standards, explicit and implicit, for belonging. Only, my own queer identity has something to do with solidarity with those who are marginalized, Other, different, weird — not just people who happen to be gay. And because it does, I’m unlikely to be interested in a community that constitutes itself in part by adherence to conventional, often conservative, norms of how to live and what to think.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.