Skip to main content

Passover, Freedom and Triumph

Between celebrating the new babies in my family, attending a delightful Nehirim 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 deeply in the closet and undergoing “reparative therapy” to become straight, I attended a few weekend retreats that also involved meeting other gay people, but in a very different context. We weren’t celebrating our identities; we wanted to change who we are. Those weekends were 48 hours of non-stop, planned programing. While I won’t delve into those details of those weekends, which ripe for movies on their own, I will say here that they definitely left a traumatic impression on me of “weekends” and “retreats”. On any weekend retreat now, part of me is always a little nervous of being reminded me of those 48 hour periods of absolute hell and false hopes that I had desperately wanted to be true.

After the Nehirim retreat however, I am happy to remember those two blissful days full of hope and acceptance. I was left with a strong sense of peace, joy and contentment for having been able to meet such incredible people celebrating who we are as gay Jews and our beautiful and thriving community, which is growing stronger and more vibrant and radiant through the work of Nehirim. I feel absolutely blessed and proud to be a part of it.

The Nehirim retreat served as a great reminder to me of the importance of community and great preparation for Passover, the holiday that celebrates Jewish freedom and justice. For me, it’s also an opportunity to celebrate personal freedom. This Passover has been going really well. I had spent large parts of last week and the previous helping my parents with various tasks in hard work of preparing for this holiday. I think I had a lot more preparing to do while growing up as Orthodox in my parents’ home. Now the preparation is over, and I am able to celebrate freedom with my friends and family.

I have enjoyed the wonderful company of my growing family, as well as two wonderful seders with my dear friends, the Balkany Family. I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on the meaningful things I’ve done in the past few months, the cathartic experience they’ve taken me on and the wonderful, touching feedback, emails, facebook messages and acknowledgments I have received from many people. I could have never dreamed that I would get this far in such a short time.

While I feel grateful for many things, this Passover particularly I also feel free. I have enjoyed the freedom to tell the truth to those who will listen and to offer hope to those who may feel there is none and to live freely and contentedly with who I am a feeling that many of us are lucky have and celebrate in our lives. Diversity is what makes this world vibrant and beautiful.

I hope that everyone reading this can embrace the freedom that is our right. It might be just one click away a phone call, or a community or family event that can change your lives; wherever your freedom is, it is most certainly there waiting for you. And, when you find it, you will feel the sweetness of nothing but acceptance, appreciation and love.


  1. This post is beautiful. I almost feel like it was written specifically for me. I am sure others will feel the same. It truly resonates. Even though my recent blog post on "Freedom" has a markedly different perspective, you hav accomplished what your goal in "Gotta Give em Hope" is. You have given me hope this morning.
    Thank you.

  2. My cousin sent me this video in honor of the Passover season:

    "Matzo Man" is a parody of the disco tune "Macho Man" and first appeared on Saturday Night Live a few years ago. The original song was sung by the Village People in the late 1970's, along with their other popular tune "YMCA".

    Lorne Michaels (born Lipowitz), the creator and producer of SNL, grew up in the heavily Jewish Forest Hill neighborhood of Toronto.

    Sometimes laughing helps.


Post a Comment

Feel free to post any comment or questions. Negative commentary that does not serve a useful purpose will be deleted.

Popular posts from this blog

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…


I am publishing this letter today to notify the public of an individual named Tuvia Perlman and the immediate threat he poses to the safety of any and all children in his vicinity. I first met Mr. Perlman when I was 18 while attending an organization called JONAH (a Jewish conversion therapy organization that was shut down in 2015 after losing a lawsuit). When I met Mr. Perlman, we were on a retreat together called Journey Into Manhood, this retreat was facilitated by an organization called People Can Change. After this retreat, Mr. Perlman, who lived in Baltimore used to call me often, to the point where even at that time I felt extremely uncomfortable by his calls and long voicemails. Mr. Perlman as far as I knew at that time, had recently stopped being a teacher at a cheder (Hebrew word for elementary school). In a group setting that was facilitated on by JONAH on their premises in 2007, Mr. Perlman admitted to the entire group that he molested at least 2 of his 12/13-year-old stu…

Update on Tuvia Perlman

On Tuesday, I published a Facebook post about a man named Tuvia Perlman, who worked as a teacher and a choir director in Milwaukee after moving there from Baltimore. Mr. Perlman admitted to molesting multiple minors; he made this admission in a room full of people that included myself, this was in 2007. Mr. Perlman made these admissions to multiple people on multiple occasions. It was just 4 days prior to writing and publishing said post that I found out he had relocated to Milwaukee from Baltimore a few years ago and had been working with children in Milwaukee both as a teacher, choir director, and private tutor up until this past summer. What I said in that post and what I will say again here, is that it isn't something like god (or whatever higher power you'd like to refer to), that enables such a dangerous situation to happen. It's the silence of community leaders like Rabbi Bentzion Twerski who was warned by someone in Baltimore that Mr. Perlman posed a danger to chi…