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Showing posts from April, 2012

On 40,000 hits and my upcoming 23rd brithday

While my blog has been somewhat silent over the past couple of weeks, the numbers and comments have been speaking for themselves. I'm fairly confident that within an hour after this post will be up, my blog will pass the 40,000 number, a monumental moment for me since I started this blog just a few short months ago.

I've been undergoing some very personal things and therefore have not been able to write as much as I'd like to, but I am working on some things that will hopefully give my dear readers something to talk about :).

My 23rd birthday is coming up on May 13th, this year in particular my birthday is significant for many reasons, most importantly, the incredible success that I've seen and felt over the past 12 months.

As I reflect on these events, both past and future, I am thankful to you, my dear readers, for giving me the ability and believing in my potential to go from "strength to strength" and take Harvey Milk's quote on giving people hope and…

Huffington Post: Jewish Queer Youth Speak Out at Yale

April 23rd, 2012 Jewish LGBT activist The academic world, especially a campus as elaborate as Yale's, fills me with awe -- the libraries, buildings devoted to different subject areas and, above all, the energy of the thousands of students studying day and night toward various degrees that offer a brighter future. That world is something I had once thought I would never have the opportunity to experience. This past weekend, I had the great pleasure to get another glimpse of it as part of the warmly received Orthodox Jewish LGBT panel hosted by the Slifka center at Yale. Two years earlier, I had spoken on a similar panel at the University of Pennsylvania; that was the first time I had spoken in front of an audience about my experience with issues of orientation and Orthodox Judaism. It was also the first time I had set foot on a college campus. Until then, the only thing I had known about college campuses was through TV and movies. I resolved that day that I would experi…

Haven't gone AWOL - I'm still here :)

Hey Dear Readers,

I know it's been a while since my last post, but I just wanted to reassure everyone that I'm still alive and kicking (as you might have seen in other places) and hope to have a new post up soon.

We are on the brink of hitting 40,000 views, which is astounding to me, so let's just keep talking about how much you gottagivemhope and I promise to do my part and post something very soon.

With much love,

Chaim Levin

Sharing Stories With Deborah Feldman

Discussing plans for our futures, finding the humor in our similar and traumatic pasts and enjoying uncommon empathy, Deborah Feldman and I had coffee on the Upper East Side on a bright Friday morning. My time with her was a refreshing pleasure and an honor. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots. Deborah helped me with something that I’ve been trying to navigate lately. Deborah reminded that I’m not an ex gay survivor, an ex Chabad, a gay man, a Jew, an activist, etc.; she told me that who I am is just Chaim Levin — who just also happens to have an interesting story to share and an opportunity to inspire change. She insisted that we all have our own lives and personalities that we must care for, cultivate and celebrate.

Deborah had entered mainstream media a few months ago with her fascinating memoir. I haven’t had a chance to finish reading her book yet; in fact, I just started the other day. But with every page, I…

Huffington Post: The Education I Never Had, and Why No One Is Doing a Thing About It

April 10th, 2012 Jewish LGBT activist The school I attended while growing up as a Chabad Orthodox Jew in Crown Heights, Brooklyn did not teach any formal, academic subjects -- no reading, writing, literature, math, science or history. I cannot say that I was all too surprised by the many people trying to defend this broken system or even by the criticism of me. Still, it is painful to realize that my peers and fellow victims of the same system are so willing to defend handicapping thousands of young people by not teaching kids fundamental, academic subjects. Some chose to interpret my article as attack on the Chabad movement: "While it is true that secular studies aren't taught at Oholei Torah, the same can be said of almost all ultra-Orthodox schools around the world, so bashing Chabad alone isn't fair," as if the educational failings of Chabad -- the only aspect of Chabad I criticized -- are minimized by those other communities around the world. The same…

Passover, Freedom and Triumph

Betweencelebrating the new babies in my family, attending a delightfulNehirim retreat and preparing myself for Passover and lending a hand to my parents for Pesach, I haven’t had much time to sit at my computer. In meantime, Gotta Give ‘em Hope received over 30,000 views the Friday before last — in just under two months! I continue to be amazed and humbled by the response, and I am thankful to all the readers and supporters.

The weekend before last, I had the great pleasure of attending a retreat hosted by Nehirim. Nehirim is an organization that fosters environments that allow for LGBT Jewish people to enjoy and explore spiritual and social community. The retreat was in the very comfortable setting of the mountains of Connecticut at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center. I spent a lot of time talking to the many interesting and beautiful souls who are part of the wonder LGBT Jewish community, and I also  spent time on my own just relaxing and reflecting over my life.

When I was still d…

An Anthem for LGBT Youth - The Jewish Daily Forward

An Anthem for LGBT Youth Putting 'It Gets Better' in Jewish Context
COURTESY OF CHAIM LEVIN Making ‘It Get Better: After a rash of LGBT suicides galvanized the nation, the ‘It Gets Better’ project and book are letting vulnerable youth know they’re not alone.
By Jay Michaelson Published April 08, 2012, issue of April 13, 2012.
A New Jersey jury recently convicted 20-year-old Dharun Ravi of hate crimes for using a webcam to watch as his college roommate kissed another man. Days after the incident, the subject of the video stream, Tyler Clementi, jumped off the George Washington Bridge. Clementi’s tragic death was one of a recent spate of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender suicides that drew attention to the consequences of homophobia and bullying. In response to the events, sex advice columnist and journalist Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, founded the “It Gets Better” project, a series of videos designed to remind vulnerable kids — especially LGBT ones — tha…

Huffington Post: National Education Day and the Education I Never Had

The focus of my blog is to give hope to people, particularly those who suffered because they were different, were raised in an environment that made the future of their lives more difficult or survived of abuse — people who may feel like they have no voice. 
I hope that this website can spread awareness, spur discussion and motivate real change on issues that are hardly discussed at this time in many communities, particularly more insular ones. My personal story involves my journey growing up an Orthodox gay Jew. Thankfully, dialogue on LGBT issues is taking place even within Orthodox communities.
Personally, the issue of education is profoundly important to me. I wasn't raised with any formal, academic education at all. I believe it necessary that we acknowledge other equally important issues facing youth today, including education, which is so fundamental to our lives and livelihoods. I recently wrote about education in theHuffington Post:

April 4th, 2012 Jewish LGBT …