The Deal with the Spiel, Creating LGBTQ Inclusive Purim Programming


All right, I’m gonna get started! Hi
everyone, it’s so good to see many of you, or at least see your names. Thank you so
much for joining us for this webinar called “The Deal with the Spiel:
Creating LGBTQ Inclusive Purim Programming”, put on by Keshet, Mishkan, Kelhear, and SVARA. I’m really excited, the folks who are from those various organizations are on this call and we’ll be introducing ourselves in a few
minutes. And first I’m just going to talk a little bit about Zoom, in case you’re
unfamiliar, and how to use that. So I hope that you can all hear me. Can you give me
a thumbs up if you can hear me? Great, okay, people can hear me. There is a mute and
unmute button. I set it so that you are all muted when
you came in, but if you want to say something you can unmute yourself. On the bottom left hand corner is a mute/unmute button. If you can keep yourself muted if
you’re not talking that would be great and that will really help cut down on
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says Essie, they/them, those are my pronouns. And I’ll also just show that throughout
this presentation there are little definitions in boxes, and so if you don’t
know what I’m talking about when I say pronouns I’m talking about the part of
speech that refers to people in the third person. So we’ll have a question
period at the end but if you have a really burning question that you want to
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couldn’t make it. But do know that it’s being recorded. I know some of you have
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Great, so now we’ll just introduce ourselves. We’ll just go in the order of
who’s listed on this slide in no particular order. So my name is Essie Shachar-Hill. I use they/them/theirs pronouns.
I am the Chicago Education and Training Manager for Keshet. Hi, I’m Moncia Gomery. I use she/her pronouns and I’m the Associate Director of National Learning at SVARA. Hi, I’m Ari Moffic. I launched a program
called Cohere a couple of years ago and I’m here with the lens towards raising a
transgender child and what I can add to the conversation from that point of view.
Hi, can people see me okay and hear me? No, maybe not. We can see you, yeah. You can see me. Can you hear me also? Yes. Okay, great. I’m on my phone temporarily so I can’t
actually see myself and/or any of you, but I’m gonna get there in a second. I’m
Lizzi Heydemann, Rabbi, founder of Mishkan Cicago, she/her pronouns. I’m so
happy to like be in virtual space with all of you. Awesome, thank you so much. I’m also going to add that Daniel Boehner is on this call, he’s the one who is sharing
his screen with this presentation. He is the National Director of Education and
Training with Keshet, so thank you Daniel behind the scenes. Great, so these are our
goals for today. We will be understanding the context of Purim celebrations,
understanding why we do what we do, thinking about and understanding why and
how Purim celebrations can be unsafe for LGBTQ people, especially trans and
non-binary and gender non-conforming people. Again I’ll draw your attention to
some definitions on the bottom if you don’t know what those terms mean, and
I’ll just go over those briefly. So when we say “trans” it’s an abbreviation for
“transgender”, which is an umbrella term referring to people whose gender
identity is not the same as the one they were assigned at birth. Non-binary is a
gender identity that rejects the idea that there are two genders — it’s a gender
that’s not man or woman. And gender nonconforming
describes a person whose gender identity or expression doesn’t conform to the
cultural or societal expectations. So you will probably hear those terms a lot
today as we talk about those populations. And our last goal is to
learn the best practices, tips, and tangible things you can do to maximize fun and
safety while minimizing harm. And I got a note in the chat that
potentially audio doesn’t work so great on Safari, but it works on Chrome, so if
you’re having issues you may want to try logging back in on Chrome. Thanks for
that suggestion. Great, so we are going to start with a tech study from Rabbi Monica. Thanks Essie. Hi everyone, so we’re gonna look at two texts together
throughout the course of this call, the first one being now and the second a
little later, and I just wanna say by way of introduction that I’m a faculty
member at SVARA. And if you’re not familiar with SVARA, we are a yeshiva, we call ourselves a traditionally radical yeshiva and we specifically are
a home for the study of ancient Jewish texts through the lens of queer
experiences, queer perspectives, and queer lives. So this is a good fit to get to
study some text together in the context of this call, and I know that after this
text study we’re gonna get to hear from Lizzi about the how’s and why’s of Purim
observance, and so we’re kind of zooming out first to look at some of the kind of
meta messaging in the Talmud in some of our ancient earliest foundational Jewish
texts that relate to the practices of Purim. And I’m sharing these texts both
for us to get into the content of the call today and also as texts that you
all can use and teach and share in your communities as you contextualize what
you learn from this call with the people you work with. So with that we’re gonna
check out this first block of text that you should see on your screen share here,
which is from the Babylonian Talmud from a second Magilla, which is all about
tractate Nagila, which is about observing Purim. So we’re going to divide the text up into the first paragraph and the second, and I’d love for someone to
volunteer to just read us in English the first block of text, that first paragraph
so we can hear it. Any brave volunteers? I’ll volunteer just to see if my
speaker is working. It’s working, thank you. Okay. “Rava said: A person is obligated to
become intoxicated with wine on Purim until he does not know how to
distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai.” Thank you. Actually, great, so let’s pause there because that’s quite a bit of
information. Thank you so much. So I just want to open up to you all — let’s make
sure we understand what this text says. The text is telling us that we have an obligation in practice, a mitzvah, to become intoxicated, to drink
enough wine or alcohol on Purim, and then this next part is pretty intriguing — to
not know the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai.
So I’d love to hear a couple thoughts from you all. I’m not sure if
you can see it on this screen share, but there are some questions at the bottom
if you if you open up the doc that sent out ahead of time, and so the first
question is just “What does it mean to not know how to distinguish between
Hammond and Mordecai?” What do you think that actually, concretely, means? And I’ll just say that there’s
definitely no wrong answer to this question, it’s a pretty obscure concept
so this is a very open to interpretation statement. So just jump in with any
thoughts or associations And a reminder that you’ll need to unmute yourself. I would just say you get so drunk that
you’re very confused. I think – it doesn’t state that you can’t
differentiate between Haman and Mordecai, but specifically cursed is Haman and
blessed is Mordecai, so the differentiation between blessings and
curses being turned upside down I think is significant. Great, thank you so and
sort of going a level deeper I’m curious because I’m assuming that for some of
us we might be encountering this idea for the first time, and for others of us
this is a familiar, a very familiar frame for approaching Purim, so I just want to
take us a level deeper and ask what opportunities for growth or for learning
for liberation or transformation might this kind of a mental state, this
confusion or the sort of turning around of categories of the villain and the
hero of this story, what opportunities might it allow for, might
it create? In other words like why would this be important to the rabbis
who are sort of constructing the practices of observing Purim? Perhaps because they believe that the
ability to distinguish between sacred and profane is at the core of your
connection to, or one of the aspects of, your understandings of your connection
to holiness. I love that, thank you. Great. So that’s something about that line
between sacred and profane actually gets us closer to an elevated or a
transformed or a sacred state on Purim. Any other interpretations of this
practice? Just to either go with what Jeff said, or go the opposite direction, I’m not sure, is that that line between sacred and profane, it seems
like maybe every single week we may come down where we talk
about how blessed are you, who distinguishes these things — like
distinguishing is this very important thing that we’re constantly doing and
that somehow on Purim we’re deliberately supposed to make it so that we have a
harder time doing that and so that what we think is good could be bad and what
we think is bad could be good and what we think is a blessing might be a curse
but the thing that we think is a curse might actually be a blessing, you know?
And that’s part of, you know, the process of coming closer to
liberation, is actually sort of taking down the preconceptions that we might
have had about ourselves or other people, and they’re being blessed or cursed in
our minds and being like questioning that. At which like I’m thinking of the
last scene of “Super Bad”, that movie with Jonah Hill. Do you remember that movie with Jonah Hill and Michael? Do you know what I’m talking about? Whatever. It’s just these high
school kids who are trying to be macho and cool and whatever, and in the
last scene, like one of the last scenes, they’re like they’re so wasted and
they’re in sleeping bags and they’re like “I love you, I mean I love you” and
they’re like saying “I love you” to each other, because they’re friends, but like they
couldn’t say that when they weren’t drunk. And I feel like there’s
something about Purim that’s like, get from that place where you can actually
say the thing or know the thing that you might not have been able to access when
you were sober or in a different frame of mind. Great and I — oh sorry please go
ahead — I’m just gonna say it I think, too, it gives you the opportunity to explore
these characters in different ways if you can sort of flip the script on how
they’ve been defined, you know, to say like you’re not pigeonholing these
characters in the same way if you’re able to see those different
characteristics. And what I just want to ask a little more from you Sarah, if
you’re willing to share, like, so what? Sort of what becomes possible when
you don’t pigeonhole? Well, you get to see a whole person. You know, I think about
this with my own children and the children that I work with so much, that
once you’ve defined someone as good or bad or smart or whatever the
characteristic is, you’re not seeing the whole person. And if you’re able to
assign, you know, different qualities to someone even just to play with it, even
just for a moment, you get to see them differently. You get to see yourself
differently, too — like how can you redefine yourself if you, you know, sort of strip
away how you’ve been defined and spoken about, and how liberating that is for us,
and for, you know, the people that we work with. Great, and I just want to highlight
what both you and Lizzi I think are getting at, which is that there’s a personal,
there’s a personally liberatory opportunity there to re-understand and
to sort of open up the space to redefine how we understand ourselves and how we
see others refracted in a new way, and that blurring these categories might
actually shed more light, not less, on the people in our lives, on the ways that we
frame who we are, who they are. Great, so there’s a lot more to say about this
idea, but we’re opening up, like, what is the opportunity of — what is the
liberatory opportunity of Purim, and I want to also just
briefly touch on what are the risks, which is the second paragraph. So I’m
going to read it and then I’m going to similarly open it up for some discussion.
So this is the immediate next passage in the Talmud, which is a story about two
rabbis who are friends or colleagues observing Purim together. “Rabbah and Rebbe Zeira got together for the Purim Seudah feast on the afternoon of Purim. They got
very drunk, and Rabbah got up and cut Rebbe Zeira’s throat. The Aramaic
literally says Rabbah butchered him. It’s very graphic. The next day Rabbah prayed on Rebbe Zeira’s behalf, and brought him back to life.
A year later Rabbah asked: “Would you like to have Purim Seudah with me again this year?” Rebbe Zeira replied, “One cannot count on a miracle every time.” End of story. So a lovely Purim was had by all, some lessons were learned. So this is a
pretty extreme story and I’m curious to hear some thoughts on why you think the
Rabbis told this story about Rabbah murdering Rebbe Zeira on Purim, and what
lessons does this story foreground that they might be trying to teach us about
this holiday? Well in juxtaposition, the two stories, you know the first story that says you’re actually obligated to lose touch with reality and
have some kind of cathartic experience at least once a year, so you rethink your —
it’s almost like a high holidays of drunkenness, like you have to have this —
you need a moment of deep catharsis once a year, even if you have to get to some
type of substance to get you there. And then the next one says: “But don’t get
there so far that you lose track with your responsibility to be. You can’t
murder people, like you can’t go all the way. You can’t lose so much
reality that you think it’s okay to kill someone. I think they were really
kind and using this story to not just leave the story as it was, like someone
got so drunk on Purim that they killed someone else, the end. This one got in because there was a spiritual nature to it, like there wasn’t —
he did kill his brother, you know, his fellow rabbi, but God brought him
back. But otherwise I don’t know if it would have gotten in, if it would have made
it into into the Megillah if — I mean it’s a, yeah — into the Talmud if, if there
wasn’t the miracle. Great, and there’s that sort of lesson at the
end, lest we think this is just a tragic cautionary tale, which we actually could
still learn a lot from, but there was actually explicitly a moral being given to us
from Rebbe Zeira’s perspective. He’s learned some foresight and he’s cautious in a different way. This might actually have ruined Purim for him, and he is not trusting of Rabbah in the same way that he was the
year before, but I love what you were saying, Scott, about there has to be a
check on the cathartic experience; on the one hand, go deep, mix things up,
sort of lose yourself in the liberatory potential of Purim, and beware of some
very very serious — that there can be some very serious consequences, and that this
kind of comes as a check on the first piece. Any other thoughts on that or did
any other readings of this paragraph? Yeah, I had a thought about the
consequences piece. Like not only does it say there can be consequences but
also you’re responsible for those consequences, so you’re still responsible
for your actions even though you’re getting so drunk that you can’t tell the
difference. Because like you said, he has a different idea of this rabbi now, like he sees him differently, he’s like “I’m not going to your Purim
party because I see you differently now” and so we have to remember what we do
tonight or on Purim is going to follow us in some ways tomorrow. Right — I’m sorry, I was just gonna say lest, you know, lest one read the Talmud and just think
like “Oh it looked like an interesting deconstruction of a story in the Talmud”,
I can think of specific real-world examples in which people who were
inebriated did and said things on Purim that for them were embracing their Purim
truth that almost got them fired, did get them fired from jobs, that hurt
people deeply, insulting people in ways that like will stay with them long after
the holiday is over, and so you know there’s this — you know, Jews celebrate
things in community, so anything that we are exploring on our own — our sort of
shadow side, our distinct, you know, we’re blurring the line between good and bad,
but the second it threatens or hurts somebody else we’ve crossed the line, is I think what maybe the Talmud is suggesting. What were you going to say, Scott? I was — yeah, it’s okay to lose the difference — it’s like they say, you’re obligated to
lose — to lose the understanding or be able to have the ability to discern between
curse and blessing, but she was blessing, you know, even in
the ad you might lean towards blessing. Yeah, yeah. So in a lot of
ways it’s the tension and the sort of harmony between these two texts that is
the basis of this webinar, which you all are lifting up, which is that the
opportunity of Purim is to break down boundaries and to really see that even
to the extent of not being able to distinguish between like the greatest
villain and the greatest hero, that our traditions foregrounds in the in the
Megillah, in the story of Purim, and there are so many liberatory opportunities
there, and we’re really encouraged to go for it and even obligate it, even
command it to do so, and that that is not without ethical responsibility and
actually that part of what we’re talking about today is to make explicit
something that’s often invisible, which is that power dynamics are at play in
our observance of Purim and that the stakes are really high. The stakes can be
life or death, you know, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, socially, and
physically and that actually that tension is built directly into how we
come to even conceive of Purim at its origins in Jewish tradition, so — and it’s
my experience to echo what Lizzi said that I’m often in communities where we
don’t have a shared language around those ethical boundaries and
responsibilities, and that we haven’t really done enough of the work to think
about how our liberatory experiences of Purim don’t, you know, butcher someone
else’s liberatory experiences of Purim, to use the language of the Talmud. So any
other closing, final thoughts on these two texts before we hear more? Okay, thank you all for your learning, I look forward to learning a text with you again in a little while. Great, Daniel, could you go forward one more slide? Great — um, you want me to pick it up after you? Yes, please, and you can just say
next when you’d like the next slide. Great.
Hi everybody. If and when you jump into conversation or are noticing anything, just say your name, because a lot of you are not on the video, so I can like scroll down
and see who’s talking if you’re talking on video, but if you’re talking on just
your speaker it helps to just announce who you are so that I can refer back to that thing that thing that Sara said or that thing that Scott said that was really interesting. Thanks. Okay, thank you Rabbi Monica. That text — I should say it’s so
good. So for a lot of people, I think, especially adults, Purim becomes this
holiday of “Oh, it’s the day we like dress up and get drunk”, and a lot of the rest
of the context of what the holiday is like really about or sort of other ways
to access Purim in addition to getting wasted, get lost, like people don’t even
know them. And so I wanted to just take a few minutes to like get back down to
ground level of where does what we do come from, like who fixed the rules in the
first place, and then how might we adapt or live them now? So next window, Daniel.
Great. We don’t have to read this in Hebrew, I just wanted you to see that in
a moment when we go to the English it was a lot of text to put on one page, but
I want to highlight a few words here before you go onto the next one. For
people who are following me in the bold on that second line, I just want you to
see some words here, this is from Megillah Esther, from the Megillah that is named for Esther, one of the main
characters in the Megillah, the character who begins as an orphan, is adopted by
Mordechai, her uncle, and basically put into King Achashverosh’s harem, when the
opportunity arises to them to maybe become a new queen when he disposes
his old queen for not following instructions and probably dancing
naked for his friend, and she rises to power. And I may be telling you a story
you know already, or I may be telling you a story it’s been a while since you heard, but she rises to power, she learns that her people are threatened and that the King
actually is supporting a policy of ethnic cleansing for her whole people
and has to work up the courage to confront him and then to to change the
policy somehow or allow her people to fight back.
So this is — after all that happens in the 9th chapter of the Megillah — is
sort of like an epilogue, like at the end of the movie when they put the the words
on the screen of like — and here’s what happened to these characters after the
story was over, because the people save themselves, they’re
allowed to fight back. It’s actually pretty brutal the way that they save
themselves — they’re not just doing defense, it also kind of looks like
they’re doing offense, but at the end of the day, you know, as the story goes, they
came to kill us — we’re still here, let’s eat! So it’s — the text describes, I’m just
gonna give you some words in Hebrew that we’re gonna see in a moment in
English on that second line where it’s bolded. Quodash Adar — so this is
from the Megillah, the reminder that we’re going to be in the month of Adar —
Quodash Adar, the 14th day of the month of Adar, which is still the
day we celebrate Purim now. Simcha umishtei [joy and drinking] — joy and — anybody know what umishtei is? — It’s the same word in modern Hebrew for a beverage, imbibing, drinking, so joy and drinking. Yom tov [holy day/holiday] maybe that looks familiar, like holiday —
um — mishloach manot eesh l’r’ehoo [sending of gifts from one person to another] Have people heard of this
thing, mishloach manot [sending of gifts]? Anybody want to venture
a translation? Scott, you’re muted, we can’t hear you can hear. Can’t hear you, Scott. You’re muted. Sorry, I’m still trying to negotiate — There you go, now we can hear
you — I am zooming for the first time here so I’m just trying to get my settings worked out, sorry. So sending of gifts — Yeah, eesh l’r’ehoo, each person to a friend, and so you already get the sense of this being a
holiday celebrated on a particular day which we still observe before teens of
Adar — it’s joyful, there’s drinking, it’s a holiday, and also mishloach manot eesh l’r’ehoo [sending of gifts from one person to another], this isn’t just about you having a good time, this is also
about you taking care of people and giving gifts, mishloach manot, people to their friends, and then that’s made even more clear down below — again, look at the
Hebrew in the bolded, mishloach manot eesh l’r’ehoo — now we’re like — I don’t
know — nine lines down from the top in the bold — and then something else is added —
matanot l’eviyonim, which means “gift to the poor.” And these — now go to the
next slide, please, Daniel, thank you — now you can see it in the English:
“Therefore the Jews of the villages, who lived in the unwalled towns, make the
fourteenth day of the month of Adar [name of Hebrew month] a day of joy and feasting.” Adar is sort of
drinking, but it’s also just — you know, sort of the whole atmosphere, a
party, a holiday, a Yom Tov, and sending gifts or portions to one another. And
Mordecai wrote these things, so when we say — when we get up and say at the
beginning of the Megillah, “asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vetsivanu”, like “Blessed are You, God, who commanded us to do these things.” God is actually not mentioned in the Megillah anywhere as having direct
responsibility for any of these things, and we actually hear that Mordecai is
the one who wrote these things down and sent letters to the Jews in all the
provinces of the King of Achashverosh to establish this among them, that they
should keep the fourteenth day of Adar and the the fifteenth day of the same to
remember when the Jews could relax from fearing destruction from their enemies,
and the month was turned for them v’nahafochu, which is, again, that
same sort of state of mind of switching things up so profoundly that, you know,
bad becomes good and good becomes bad. V’nahafochu, it was turned for them.
Can anybody actually just like finish the English? From there and down to the
bottom? Maybe somebody who hasn’t volunteered yet? Come on people, you’ve got this! Come on. English. Someone who has read already
spoken — we’re trying to make this not too much of a one-way conversation. We’re
like basically where the arrow is, if you move about four lines from
where the arrow is, “the month which was turned for them”. Okay, great I’ll just
keep reading. I can do it. Thank you, Liz. “And the month which was turned for them from sorrow to joy and from warning to a holiday,
simcha umishtei v’yom tov [joy and drinking and holiday], that they should make them days of feasting and joy and of sending portions to one another. Mishloach manot [sending of gifts] eesh l’r’ehoo [one person to another] matanot l’eviyonim [gifts to the poor]. The Jews confirmed and took upon themselves and upon their seed and
upon all who join themselves to them, so as it should not fail that they would keep
these two days according to their writing and according to their appointed
time every year, and that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, and that these
days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them
perished from their seed.” Thank you. Great, so my one question I have is based
on reading just these two paragraphs from the Megillah which seem to outline
what this holiday is, like how the holiday is observed, what are the main
mitzvots [commandments] of Purim, and on whose authority do we do them? So, question one, what is the mitzvot [commandments] in the first place? Well, so we have the mishloach manot, the gifts to each other, we have gifts to the poor also. Okay, cool, got two. Uh, the simcha umishtei, the joyous celebration and drinking. Yep, yep, yep. Well then, there’s a hearing of the Megillah. Where do you get hearing of the
Megillah as its own Mitzvah? I know, I’m trying to figure that out! According to — “keep these two days” —
according to their writing or their point in time every year, these should be remembered and kept read every generation, so in that remembering it’s
the reading of the — Yeah, something like that for sure.
Because at the end of all of this, what we come out with is four basic mitzvots [commandments], and then what’s sort of like the dubious or ambiguous fifth, which is what we just read about, what the rabbi’s saying “one is obligated to get
totally, you know, but like completely wasted.” Is it a fifth Mitzvah or is that sort of where one could take simcha umishtei, you know, eating and drinking. And there’s actually a whole — it’s not a very — it’s
not huge literature, but there is a small literature of alternatives to drinking
to get into a state of mind that allows one to blur lines or be in an altered
state so you don’t need to get trashed, you just need to drink a little more
than you might on a regular night to be a little looser. You get another rabbi
who’s like “Hey, I know a time when you can’t, you know, distinguish from reality —
when you’re sleeping!” So maybe, you know, what we all need to do is basically, like,
have a glass of wine and fall asleep, or you know, any other — like spin in a
circle 25 times or something that essentially allows you to see the world
differently. In any case, the idea that there is an actual commandment to get
drunk, I think is — I think that’s sort of a fallacy, and I think that’s important
to say because one doesn’t need to — for sure anybody who’s in recovery or for
whom it’s actually dangerous to drink shouldn’t do that pikuach nefesh, you
know, the saving of a life, like preserving of life, that’s like, you know,
that remains top category of Jewish legal priority no matter what or when.
But also, like, you don’t need to have that as an excuse. Maybe there’s just a
different way that you’re going to access an altered state of mind or the
ability to think more expansively than we usually think, for the purpose of what
exactly? Well, yeah — am I on? Yeah, you are. I was — I was thinking about feasting and
gladness, and maybe I should have an end point before I started talking, but
maybe you’ll all help me. The beginning of the Megillah starts with the
description of the Kings feasting, you know — that he’s throwing this party that lasts for 120 days, so you’ve
got that as a bookend in the story itself, but now we go to a point that
you’re — I was wondering if maybe this isn’t a comment on, or trying to help us
understand insane gratitude, like being grateful for being saved to the point
where you lose all self-control. Do you know what I mean? Does that make sense? That this response that Mordecai writes, and that we should all party and
celebrate to the point of losing your grip on reality, is also a response to
being saved and to being — to having gratitude for that, and I think there’s
other ways we can extrapolate that into appreciating and understanding other
people’s sense of being saved and finding themselves and who they are and
being ecstatically grateful, for that — is that — Any other — thank you, Scott. Any other thoughts that just came out of seeing this or remembering this? Something that I can give, something that
I think is really interesting is this line the Jews confirmed and took upon
themselves. In Hebrew, the kymu v’kiblu [confirmed and took upon themselves] is basically what the rabbi’s of
the Talmud used as the explanation for how we can justify that
we practice Judaism at all, and the reason is, like, two weeks ago we
celebrated the giving of Torah at Sinai, but the rabbi’s — they particularly look
at that moment as this coercive moment where a powerful God with a booming
voice said to the people “You will accept the Torah” and they were like “Okay, sure”,
and so the rabbi’s of the Talmud say “Well, wait a second. When somebody is
coerced into doing something that not if — that’s not consent, that’s not freely willed acceptance of anything, and the legitimacy of that
moment then is completely called into question, in which case why are we
practicing Judaism at all? And the rabbi’s say “Good point.” Here in the time
of achashverosh, Mordecai and Esther and the people essentially confirmed and
retook upon themselves the heritage of Judaism, and decided from that point
forward it would be written, like, on their terms, in a sense, and and so it was,
and again, this is like the big booming patriarchal character of God in this
story is completely absent, which I think gives a lot more creative license to the
people, and by extension to us, to think about “How do we want to put into
practice these really — I think well-intended mitzvots [commandments] that are very human, that were created, conceptualized by, as the text says,
people, and to celebrate out of a sense of gratitude as Scott describes, not just
celebrating for ourselves (although, yes, definitely celebrating for
ourselves, for a sense of survival and gratitude), and then also sharing that. And
how do we share that? We give food away, we give money away — the texts
actually say, like, if you’re a person who tends to be scrupulous and exacting in
your giving, like, don’t on Purim. Just like, you know, go to the cash machine and
get out a stack of twenties and like give them out to people you would
probably any other day wonder, like, “But like, what are they really going to do with
this?”, you know what? Like life deals hands differently to people and if you’re on —
if you’re in the position to share and see how that feels, maybe that will
alter your consciousness and be able to put yourself in the position of someone
else, which I think then gets into what the — where I believe our conversation is
going to go, which is, you know, as we’re thinking about dressing up and creating
communal spaces where people are going to be experimenting — excuse me —
experimenting with what you’re wearing and how you’re speaking and how you are,
like, embodying this alternative reality in which we both care for each
other and also in which things are turned on their heads. How do we hold
both? How do we hold both? Shall we — let’s go to the next slide. I kind of can’t — I
can’t really talk about prayer without making reference to this great — it’s a
super short piece that I want to recommend to everybody. This is from my
teacher Sharon Braus and I would say, like, after this call if you find
this interesting you should just like go read the essay at the page and a half.
But is there somebody who could read this in English? I think this will take us into our next
chapter. I’m happy to read it. “The reversibility of fortune, the
capriciousness of life, is a message Purim shares with Yom Kippur. Known in
the Talmud as yom k’purim, ‘a day like Purim’, Yom Kippur compels us to reflect on the unavoidable uncertainty of our lives. But on Yom
Kippur we dive into this terrifying reality with austerity, reflection, and
spiritual wakefulness, whereas on Purim we respond by
celebrating, imbibing, and masquerading. Our rabbis teach that on Purim we are to
ply ourselves with wine, drinking ad d’lo yada until we can no longer tell the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai.’ We wear
costumes that simultaneously mask who we are and reveal the part of ourselves we
work all year to hide. We eat, drink, dance, and laugh in the face of our darkest
fears — the possibility that human life and human history can change on a dime,
that everything we know to be true could be a farce, that everything we love
might disappear in an instant, that there is more chaos than order in the world. It
is an exercise in radical spiritual destabilization. And the response is the
closest Jews come to carpe diem — one day a year when our otherwise exacting
tradition understands that sometimes drunken revelry is the only reasonable
response to desperate vulnerability.” Thank you. Take a moment to just, like,
look over that, and then any comments? Is a theme resonant? Does it seem like the holiday you recognized? It — it just really makes me think that
every year I say, like, “Gosh, this year we really need Purim”, like, and again “This
year like we really need Purim”, sort of that continual sense of relevancy, you
know. No matter what’s happening in the world, like, something wacky is happening
and whatever is happening in our own lives, like, there’s been some shift, some
need for release to, you know, get that pressure valve released, and I think this piece just encapsulates that idea so
perfectly. I was gonna say maybe the opposite of what you just said, Sarah,
which is every year I think to myself “I really — Purim is my least favorite holiday”,
and I I just feel so, like, resentful of being mandated to be joyful, and there’s
so much excess and it’s, you know, I’m an introvert so it’s like terrifying to
take on all this over-stimulation of celebration and costumes and all the
fanfare, but I really appreciate the reframe in this text — that actually it’s
not about excess, it’s about precarity, and it’s not about irresponsibility, it’s
actually about human vulnerability, and the opportunity to experience that from
a different angle is a really helpful way to think about “What’s the point of
Purim?” We’ve studied this today in our staff meeting and somebody
remarked that we spend so much of our lives trying to protect ourselves from
being vulnerable and feeling vulnerable, and this piece actually begins with with
Rabbi Brows describing being in New York on the day of 9/11 and just seeing
people pouring out of bars and music something, and people responding to this
completely out-of-nowhere sense of precariousness and unpredictability with
celebration, you know, with like carpe diem, and that sometimes that can feel like this
very dissonant thing, but also, you know, as she says here, sometimes drunken
revelry is the only meaning — it’s the only reasonable response to desperate
vulnerability, which we know is present all the time, everywhere, and somehow Purim — we create like a microcosm where we actually, like, we create those conditions
intentionally, and I think the spiritual challenge for us and then — I’m talking — is
to allow ourselves to actually be vulnerable and to take care of ourselves
and each other in that state of vulnerability which we’re agreeing to
create together. Those are part of the — kind of the conditions of the holiday, of
creating a sense of vulnerability, of actually doing it, but then that places
an incredible sense of responsibility on us also to take care of one another’s
feelings and bodies in order for it to really be this Yom Tov, this holiday a
good day. Thank you. Awesome, thank you. Can I just add to that? I mean, I think
it’s interesting because I’m write here in the suburbs, you know, out here
Purim is often just centered around the — it’s on Sunday school, it’s during
Sunday school. That’s the time families, you know, observe it, and
it’s based on a carnival, a Purim carnival, and so we are focused on how
many prizes there are and what teenagers are staffing which booth and, you know,
are there enough tickets for the pizza, and it’s really interesting, and it’s
hard to bring in these deeper themes, I find, of Purim in that context. So it’s
a challenge. Yeah, thank you so much. The vulnerability piece — we just avoid
that and so focus on — Totally, yeah, I mean I guess it’s also possible and probable that
like many Jewish ideas and holidays, there’s kind of a way that we celebrate it
with kids to make it interesting and accessible for kids, and then there is a
deeper, more philosophical, even darker way of understanding it as we become
adults we have to lean into, otherwise the holiday feels really meaningless and
stupid and like it’s just about presents and maps and, you know, silly carnival
games, and then adults rightly say, like, “this is a dumb holiday in a dumb
religion”, you know, so I feel like there’s an important invitation, as you say, to
both like keep it exciting and interesting for kids, and try if there are
some ways to connect — and also, you know, that the ideas we’re talking about might
be ideas that one comes to understand more deeply as an adult. Great, I’m going to keep us moving, that was an awesome framing to kind of get us thinking about
the intentions and the themes and the point of Purim, and now we’re gonna focus
more on some of these tangible things that you can do when you’re planning
your Purim programming. A lot of this section is about costumes, because that’s
a common way that we celebrate Purim and it can be super liberating, and we will
talk about the positives and the empowering possibilities in a few
minutes, and costumes can also cause a lot of harm, which is what we’re going to
sort of address now, so if you can go forward Daniel — thank you. So this is a
quote to get us started from Rabbi Emily Aviva Kapoor, who is a trans woman rabbi,
and I will just read it aloud. There are definitions on the right hand side for
some words that might not be known. “When I see cis men on Purim dressing up for comedic
effect as women, I do not see myself. The comedy hinges on the fact that men
‘trading down’ by dressing up as women are funny, because being a woman is funny and men being women is even funnier. This kind of
humor is rooted in the intersection of transphobia and misogyny.” So we see a lot
of, like, cross-dressing on Purim so that’s what this is referring to. This is
referring to cis men — so men who are not transgender — men whose gender
identity aligns with the one they were assigned at birth, dressing up as women kind of as a
joke, to be funny on Purim because it gets a laugh, because in a lot of parts
of society it’s seen as funny, and this is a reflection on that and how harmful
that can be for people who experience their gender and the world differently.
Next, please. Okay, so some “do’s” for keeping in mind when you’re planning your Purim programming. So do talk to young people,
and adults, about the power of costumes, good and bad, so kind of the conversation
that we’re having here today. Don’t just leave it in this webinar, please take it
to your communities, have these conversations with your staff, with
people who will be at the celebrations, about how Purim costumes can be really
liberating and harmful, as we saw in that quote. So just a note on why that’s hard — why it can be harmful, for example, for a cis man to dress up as a
woman as a joke — first of all, it sort of — it often — it often relies on the fact
that, like, as that quote showed, men dressing up as women is funny, which can
be really transphobic, meaning, like, it’s really offensive and hurtful for trans
people, because for trans folk that this is an identity that they have
always; they cannot just put it on for one day a year as somebody dressing up
as a woman for Purim might. So one great thing about Purim is we do kind of
create this safe space for people to try on different things and have different
expressions in a safe space, which is awesome, and it’s really important to
remember that that safe space for many folks, like trans people and non-binary
people, doesn’t exist outside of that room, so that’s just something to keep in
mind. So encourage people to consider the intent versus the impact of their
costumes and choices. So intention is what somebody personally might mean by
dressing up as something or wearing a certain costume, and impact is how that’s
actually affecting other people, and sometimes those can be
mismatched, so it’s important even though I’m not trying to hurt anybody with my
costume, it might be hurtful, and thinking about that impact is really important.
Thinking about heteronormativity and cisnormativity — So heteronormativity is sort
of the belief that being straight is normal and natural and the best way of
being. We are raised in a heteronormative and cisnormative society, so if you have
these attitudes it’s just how we’re socialized, but it’s really important to
be aware of them, so don’t assume everyone is straight, don’t assume
everyone is cisgender, try putting on these — like this different lens, this new
lens and thinking about how things might be different at your celebration or in
your space or in your community without heteronormativity and cisnormativity. And
the final point on this slide is about alcohol. So we’ve talked a lot about
alcohol and getting drunk, and as Rabbi Lizzi mentions, that’s not a viable
option for everyone — some people are in recovery, choose to live a sober
lifestyle, particularly in the LGBTQ community 20 to 30 percent of people are
in recovery from some sort of substance use, so it that’s a lot higher than in
the non-LGBTQ community, so keep that in mind and have alternatives, and don’t
pressure people to drink. Great, so do make sure you have gender
inclusive bathrooms available. That might mean converting one of your bathrooms
into an all-gender bathroom. Keshet has really awesome signs that you can put on
bathrooms that I will send out after this webinar in our resources page, and
that’s a good practice to always have, but particularly you might just — might be
the first time you’re thinking about implementing that, think about
incentivizing sort of non-harmful costumes, or like creative and authentic
expression. So I have been to Purim parties where there’s been a themed
costume contest and that is a really great way to get people thinking
creatively, not reverting to harmful and easy costumes; for example last year
Michigan had a really fabulous Purim party and there was — um, it was — I can’t
remember. It was a conceptual costume contest, so people sort of dressed up as
puns. It was really fun and a good way to kind of steer people in a more
creative and less harmful direction, and also look beyond Purim. So as we said,
it’s one night, it’s one day in our Jewish calendar, but think about your
culture on a larger scale and in that vein you could consider giving [Hebrew] or
these [Hebrew] that we talked about — giving food, giving care packages,
and think about who you’re giving those to you. Could make a bigger statement? You could do some outreach and you could even donate to like an LGBTQ youth
center or a homeless shelter, which could be a really cool opportunity. Ari, do you
want to talk about this next point? What’s the next point? Talking to young kids ahead of time. Okay, yes — one thing about being explicit, I think,
about costumes when you’re planning, when there’s going to be families and
kids there, I — at our public elementary school here in the suburbs of Chicago
there was a tradition, a long-standing tradition that the fifth graders, which
is the oldest class in the elementary school, the fifth graders on Halloween —
the boys dresses as cheerleaders and the girls dress as football players. And this
is how it was year after year on Halloween, and — and after some
conversations with the principal about how when the boys dressed as the
cheerleaders they were mocking girls, they were — it was sexualizing young
children, it was misogynistic and transphobic, he sent a letter to the
school — and if anyone wants to see a copy of the letter, I’m happy to share it
because I think it has really good wording for religious school directors
or anyone who has families and children coming — and his letter was about costumes and intent and I think it got to why — it got to something that I’ve seen happen with my own child, when my little one was gender-nonconforming, was a gender
non-conforming toddler and young child. You would see a — you would see what
looked like a boy in a princess costume, let’s say, and we may — picture scenes
where we’ve had, you’ve seen little boys in princess costumes, and a
little boy in a princess costume, what happens often is that the adults have a
big reaction to that. It makes people laugh, it makes grownups nervous, and it
makes grownups often have to, like, defend it or explain it, like, “Oh, well he has a
big sister,” or “All little kids love sparkles” or something, but if you see a
little girl in a Spider-Man costume it often has the reaction of “You’re so
strong, what a cool costume, that’s so brave,” and so it’s a very radically
different reaction — of course not always, but a lot of the times, and so I think
it’s worthy of just seeing how teachers react and what we can do around that and
sending a letter about costumes, you know, when we think about it for Halloween or
for Purim and that children should experiment on these days,
and it’s a great day to be creative and try all different things and feel safe
to do really fun costumes and, you know, the — our intentions have to be not
hurting anyone else, so that — that’s, I think that’s really important, and I
think it goes even further for, like, not just Purim, but if you’ve seen, you know,
young teenage cisgender boys wearing tutus for capture the flag or for other
games in Jewish settings, and it’s to be funny or to have a high-pitched voice or
to be like fluttering around, and what messages that sends and why we, you know, why that sometimes happens, so I just wanted to share that perspective. And the
other thing I would — I just wanted to share is that, like, for my child and for
a lot of transgender youth we know, they go through the world stealth, meaning —
that’s a term that they use in meaning that they — that this is a private part of their identity. So yes, people may know, but it’s not something they talk about
or discuss with friends, and so, you know, sometimes it’s just another reminder
that sometimes some of this stuff has to happen behind the scenes and it’s not
always a great thing to go up to gender non-conforming or transgender students
and ask them how they’re gonna feel if something happens or another, you know, if
those comfort — if that’s not conversations that they have with
everybody. Great, thank you, Ari. And something I
wanted to pull out from what you said — I realize that might — there might have been
sort of what sounded like a contradiction in what we just said of —
Ari just mentioned, like, your child might have sort of looked like a boy in a
princess costume and that was really important for your child and a wonderful
expression for them to be able to do this in this safe space, and earlier I
said this man shouldn’t be dressing up as women, right, so that might sound like
a contradiction, and the point to be mindful up there is — is this sort of — is
this person using this opportunity to experiment and kind of explore maybe a
part of themselves or expand their own boundaries and comfort zone? That is
a different scenario than somebody thinking “This will be funny, I’ll put on
a dress and lipstick because it will be funny and it will get attention”, and a
joke, so that’s sort of the difference there. And I wanted to make
that explicit because I recognized that on the surface those two things might
look similar. Great, so the last point on this slide is if you’re incorporating
a drag show, which lots of parties do, which is really fun, know your drag
etiquette. So as I mentioned, I’m going to send out a resource page after this and
it will have drag etiquette for you to know and to share. So we can do the
next slide. Great. So a couple “don’ts” — so don’t appropriate other cultures or
races. So what I mean when I say “appropriate” is to take on certain
features or costumes or mannerisms of a different race or culture again for
comedic effects. It’s just — it’s not cool because those other cultures and
people of those cultures and races can’t just take that off at the end of the day,
that’s their identity, it’s not a costume to be stereotyped or again for attention
or comedic effects. As we just mentioned, so don’t shame young people for
experimenting with expression — it could actually be harmful, like Ari just
mentioned, like for Ari’s kid it might have been harmful. They’d been shamed for wearing that tutu or that princess costume. Do not
tolerate transphobic costumes, jokes, or behaviors — just really nailing that point
home. Yeah, just don’t — if somebody is telling jokes you can challenge them, you
can ask them, like, “What do you think is funny about that? Can you tell me the
intention behind that?” You can approach it from a place of curiosity and get
that person thinking and just let them know it’s not actually funny.
Don’t use misogyny or transmisogyny as a punchline — again, to remind you
transmisogyny is the fear and hatred of transgender women. And don’t assume all
adults will be drinking, because some people choose not to drink for various
reasons. Before we move on, was there anything, Ari
you wanted to add to that section? I don’t think so. Okay, great and just a
reminder, we are gonna have time for questions at the end.
Great, so we just talked about a lot of things not to do and, like, how harmful
costumes can be, which is kind of a bummer, so now I want to switch gears and
think about the amazing liberatory and empowering potential, and Monique and I
are gonna talk about that next. Great, so as I mentioned earlier, Purim is awesome
in that it provides a safe space where people can express parts of themselves
that they otherwise can’t, so that’s fantastic. A lot of trans Jews have
reflected on the fact that Purim was actually the first time that they were
able to express their true selves — I read a couple really great first-person
essays of trans Jews who look back and think about how Purim was really
liberating for them, and those are on the resource sheet that I’ll send out in
case you’re interested in reading. And also if you just think about the
characters in the Purim story, it’s really about breaking gender stereotypes
and norms, like Vashti, who refused to as Rabbi Lizzi said, probably dance naked,
and was banished. She stood up for what she believed in, she wasn’t going to be
sexualized in that way. Esther uses her position of power and her own sexuality
to save her entire people which is amazing, and we don’t have a lot of
examples of, sort of, empowered women in that way. And Mordecai, who is this
nourishing parental figure who maybe even nursed
Esther, which is what we’re going to talk about next —
oh, not next, just kidding, in one slide. So as I said, a note on drag — drag is
great, it’s really fun, just to remember that drag is different from transgender
identities. So drag is like an exaggerated gendered performance and
transgender people — being trans is an
identity that can’t be taken off at the end of the night. And this is a picture
of Lady Synagaga, who is a Jewish drag queen — just thought
that was super fun to include. And now we’re gonna do another little bit of
tech study with Monica. Thank you, great, so Essie mentioned Mordecai as this nourishing parental figure, and I just wanted to showcase where we
see that in text, so — and what I want to say about this is, as we’re exploring the
question of what are the liberatory opportunities in Purim practice in
general is huge and the possibilities are sort of endless, and we can look at
them through the lens of gender and find a lot there for us, and you can zoom into
many stories from Torah and see — see Hazael, see the sages, the early rabbis
exploring the characters and their genders. You can see it with Abraham, you
can see it with Joseph, just to name a couple other, like, core characters whose
genders are really up for exploration according to the rabbi’s, so this is one
little window into that as relevant to Purim for us to look at. So I’ll read
this text and open it up for discussion. So this is a Midrash, this is a
rabbinic — someone said to me the other day that Midrash was the original
fanfic, which I think is true, like the the rabbi’s are cracking open Torah and
saying “Oh yeah, and also this happened, and also that happened”, and sort of
loving the text and adding their own agenda and elaborating on it. So we’re
seeing that in this Midrash — so the, the idea comes up that Mordecai
feeds and sustains, and then the text sort of incredulously asks whether
that’s true, and then we have an interpretation. So Rabbi Yudan says: “One
time –” — oh that was fanfiction, Rabbi Lizzi. More say on Midrash’s fanfiction another time. But, um, so Rabbi Yudan says: “One time he went out to — he being Mordecai — went out to seek all the wet nurses but he could not find one
immediately for Esther, whose mother, Mordecai’s sister, had died, and thus he
nursed her. So he’s looking for someone to take over as this sustainer for baby
Esther and in the absence of a wet nurse he himself becomes her wet-nurse. Rabbi Baraha and Rabbi Abraham, in Rabbi Eleazar’s name, said ‘Milk came
to him and he nursed her always’ — the implication being that he nursed her
continually. So this is a sort of elaboration on that
story, and then Rabbi Abajo teaches this publicly. It says when Rabbi Abajo
expounded this publicly the congregation laughed, and he said to them “Is this not
in a Midrash?” Rabbi Shimon Ben Eleazar said, and now he’s quoting the Midrash,
“The milk of a male is clean” — so just to sort of talk through the steps, we first
are given this image of Mordechai as someone capable of producing breast milk
and exploring his sex, his gender, his role in this story. And I think what’s
important there to note is that the rabbi’s aren’t asking “Was Mordecai
trans or not, what was Mordecai’s anatomy like?” — they’re not asking those
kind of questions. What they’re doing is is opening up infinite possibilities for
gender, for what Mordecai’s gender might be and what who he is as an archetype
of masculinity, of femininity, of a non-binary gender, and they’re opening
that up for a reason. And I’m not going to tell you what the reason is, you’re
gonna tell me what you think, and then the community responds to this teaching
with degradation and discomfort. They make fun of him, and I think we can see a
lot of analogies to what’s been shared already on this call about responding to
explorations of non-binary gender or of queerness or of transness in a
transphobic or homophobic way. So they sort of incredulously laugh at the possibility that Mordechai had a non-normative gender, and then Rabbi Abajo
does two things. One is, he says “Wait a minute, this is in our tradition, this —
there’s something about this this idea that a male can produce milk, breast milk,
can nurse a child, that has precedent in our tradition”, and he reaches back for
this precedent from the Mishnah, from an earlier rabbinic text, and he — it’s interesting because he is — he’s quoting a Mishnah that’s not
talking about a human male, it’s talking about an animal, and so I just want to
just foreground Rabbi Abajo — he’s doing this really
interesting thing, where at face value this Mishnah that he quotes to say our
tradition actually has precedent for a wide range of experiences and
expressions of gender and gender roles, he — this Mishnah he’s quoting doesn’t at
face value have anything to do with queer gender expression, but he takes the
statement and he reclaims it as a liberatory affirmation about Mordecai’s
gender, and I think that that is sort of the invitation of this text and the
opportunity to go back to our traditions and use them to lift up lived human
experiences in an inclusive way, in an affirming way, and in a liberatory way
that’s relevant to the people in our own communities. So that’s my on one foot,
just walking you all through what’s going on, each step in this text, and
I’d love to open it up just for a couple minutes for other observations, things
you’re noticing, things that surprise you, or lessons from this text. Any questions or burning thoughts or shy
thoughts that you’re not sure if you want to share, but maybe you’ll go for it? I think, like, as with all text when I read it I’m always thinking about either
what’s missing or what comes next, so I’m I’m curious, you know, he says, you
know, he pulls this piece of text and you know brings it to them and says “Here”, like “I have this justification for this” and just ends there. I’m curious to know
like how might the congregation react after that. Like if this person is
enough of an authority figure to say, like, this is it, end it, do they
take that at face value or — or where does that conversation then lead, and how are
people maybe pushing up against that in in the future? Yeah, we don’t — it’s a great question, we don’t know in this text but I think it’s a really good
question to ask, and I also appreciate Sarah, that you’re highlighting
that this is a — this is a role modeling of the role of a leader at Purim also, to
sort of use authority, to use a leadership role, to be able to highlight
the lived experiences of so many different kinds of people, and to
highlight that this is that like — queerness isn’t new in our world, it’s
actually very ancient and we see it as some of the earliest stages of Jewish
history. So we don’t know how the congregation responded to him, but you’re
right to also point out that he takes a risk as a leader and that that really
matters. Yeah, I think also this is such a good model, as you were sort of alluding
to, of like — this might happen in our current celebrations, like somebody might
laugh at some sort of gender-bending that’s going on and their response can
be like “No, actually like I’m really serious” like he does here, like he says
in the Mishnah, like it’s there — and to your point, Sarah, of where did this go, I
hope that it leads to a really fruitful conversation and maybe like an
educational moment of like “Well, why do you find that funny?” Like let’s kind of
break this down and let’s — let’s think about our assumptions about gender, and I
love this text because I think it is a great model for us. I also love that this
is the direction the rabbi’s took the conversation, so if this is fanfiction it
could have gone any which way, and instead of going the direction of he
went, found a wet nurse, she’s unnamed, she’s not an important
part of the story, you know, but like he figured out how to deal with the problem
in the normal biological way. They take it in this direction of “Okay, (a), let’s
affirm that, like, Mordecai was, as far as we can tell, a single guy raising a
daughter, like raising a kid on his own, and you know, his like — sort of things
that defy things — that defy our usual sense of the order of things is exactly
what happened in order to make that possible.
Why? So that you should know that this kind of thing is possible. It happens in the
world, and didn’t just like rest on — they could have invented a different story,
there was a lot more traditional and cohered with, you know, things that we
would expect to happen, but instead they give us this, and I have to ask, like, “Wow, cool, why?”, you know? So that we could have this conversation. Great, I’m so sorry to cut off this
amazing conversation, but I am going to keep us going because we only have seven
minutes left and I want to address questions, so Daniel if you could go to
the next slide and I will make sure to send out that second text in a follow-up
email. So to just kick it off we got a great question from Tori. The young leadership
division at JUF is throwing a Purim party with [Hebrew] for 50-plus people, how do
you suggest we encourage attendees to dress appropriately? So it’s a great
question because you can’t necessarily control what people are doing, but I do
think that you can include part of in an email or the invitation or whatever
that’s going out with the details, a note about being mindful of costumes. There’s
tons of great resources, some of which I’ll send out about cultural
appropriation and drag and cross-dressing and being mindful of that,
and I think if you have any kind of correspondence beforehand it would be
really prudent and proactive of you to include that, and maybe offer yourself or
somebody else as a resource if people have questions. I think you can — people
may say like “Oh, you’re being too politically correct” or “we can’t have fun”
or “just lighten up” or something, but I don’t know — in my humble opinion I think
that this can be kind of — I think it’s really important to stop — to stop the
dressing as women as to not offend or to be funny. I think it’s hurtful. Yeah, I think you can emphasize that
we’re creating a safer space, or a comfortable space, and that would kind of
address that. What other questions do you folks have — you can either put them in
the chat or just pipe up, remember to unmute yourself. How do you — does Keshet have
guidelines or resources for how to advise people to, like, apologize or make
t’shuvah [repentance] when they have screwed this up, you know, either as community leaders or
as people in a community, you know, who are like well-meaning but, you know, like
screwed up? That’s an awesome question — um, we, as far as I know, we don’t have a
resource on t’shuvah [repentance], on how to apologize for this — specifically we do talk a lot about
if we misgender someone or use the wrong pronouns or the wrong name, how to
address that which is a slightly different question, but it would be a
great resource for us to work on of t’shuvah [repentance]. Can I jump in here actually? Hi everyone, I’m Daniel. I’ve been on — I haven’t had my video on. But no, that’s a really great question. Something that we have suggested around this topic
is especially with the crossdresser — “cross-dressing”, quote-unquote, like the
gender play that could be going on is to include some kind of educational
component to your Purim celebration, either have something on the table like
Essie had mentioned, of perhaps donating to an LGBTQ homeless shelter, maybe having
some other type of educational component that it’s — that talks about trans
community, non-binary community, what we can do to support this community that
faces discrimination on a daily basis for gender play — not gender play, but for
living their lives in a way that a larger society does not
always reflect back in the most affirming way, so perhaps offering some
kind of further resources to explore, so perhaps
some movies, some books, maybe have some books from trans, non-binary Jews that
you could have put out on the table, or in the same kind of spirit of — if
something were to happen, perhaps learning more about — not forcing the
person who was harmed to kind of then educate the person who did the harming,
but rather have some resources on hand to say “This is an issue that happened, it
is not the burden of another person that has been offended to kind of continuously
educate the rest of the world, but here are some resources that I would
encourage you — may be in partnership together with the rabbi or other
spiritual leader or other religious school director — to kind of go through
and that learning together, just to kind of — because I would imagine that part of
this is out of ignorance, of not being exposed in this conversation and not
being exposed to how this could be offensive to some people. That would — that would just be what I would add to that. Thank you. Final questions / clarifications? Okay, Daniel, could you go to the next
slide? Great, well thank you all so much. This was really wonderful — I learned a
lot, I hope you did as well. Thank you to Rabbi Ari and Rabbi Monica and Rabbi
Lizzi. I will be sending out a follow-up email with, as I mentioned, a resource
page, some of the texts we didn’t get to today, as well as a survey, and this is
being recorded so soon we’ll have a recording which will send to you, which
you can feel free to share widely. It would be fabulous, we want lots of people
to have this information, and I am available via phone, via email if you do
think of questions or any concerns or anything you want to chat about. I am
happy to chat, so thank you so much. Any final words from the rabbi’s before we
go? All right, well thank you everybody for
your time, and when it comes I hope everyone has wonderful Purim
celebrations, you can let us know how it goes. That would be wonderful, and have a great rest of your day. Bye everyone, thank you all!

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