For Ari Lev Fornari, Gender and Palestinian Liberation Are Linked

“I am one of those people who have wanted to be a rabbi since I was a little kid,” said Ari Lev Fornari, a fifth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew College, a pluralistic college of Jewish studies in Newton Centre, Mass. His professional ambitions were “not disconnected from my own queer inclination.” The only out gay person he knew as a child was his rabbi, Karen Bender, at Temple Beth El of Great Neck. (She is now a rabbi at Temple Judea, in Tarzana, Calif.)

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First Generation of Transgender Rabbis Claims Place at Bimah

When it comes to transgender Jews, the community is in a moment of transition. Some are pushing the envelope by becoming the first transgender rabbis.

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Reuben Zellman's Rabbinical Classmates Were 'Unfailingly Supportive'

As the first out transgender student accepted at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in 2003, Reuben Zellman recalled reading about his historic admission in a local newspaper. “I realized I was the first transgender person I had ever seen in the media who was still alive,” he said.

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For Elliot Kukla, Gender Transition and Ordination Went Hand in Hand

“I don’t think it was an accident that I found myself coming out as trans at the same time that I found myself becoming ordained,” said Rabbi Elliot Kukla, the first out transgender rabbi to be ordained in 2006 at HUC-JIR’s Los Angeles campus. “There is a certain identity transition in becoming a rabbi that, for me, surfaced feelings of, ‘Who am I in the deepest sense, and how do people see me?’”

Emily Aviva Kapor: Creating a Jewish Community for Trans Women

The fact that she’s the only out transgender female rabbi doesn’t surprise 28-year-old Emily Aviva Kapor. It’s a reflection of sexism in the broader society, she said, paired with the fact that the Jewish feminist movement largely has overlooked trans women. “If I want to have an affirmative Judaism for all women, including trans women,” she said, “I have to make it myself.”

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