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!
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • 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.