Monday, February 27, 2012
Saturday, February 25, 2012
I chose to share these personal and painful memories, not to send a negative message that discourages other people or makes them loose hope, but rather to send a positive message of perseverance that encourages and gives hope through the truth. I survived, and I am here to talk about my experiences, to tell the truth about what happened and that I am living happily as an open, honest gay man. I don't regret coming out. It is the best thing ever to happened me; those dear people in my life who saw the change in me have seen how much better off I have been after I stopped trying to be something I am not.
Please always remember that there is hope and, despite what some might falsely believe — that you aren't good enough because you're different — they are the ones who need to be changed, not you.
Posted February 20th, 2012 by Wayne Besen
Friday, February 24, 2012
All I need now is a good bowl of kugel, maybe even some cholent, and I'm good to go.
I hope you can kvell over my adorable dog. He keeps me sane while driving me crazy at the same time, and he's such a character.
If you haven't gotten it by now, my plans are: resting, playing with my dog, and maybe blog a little bit ;)
Have a great weekend, and thank you for making all this possible!
Chaim Levin (and) Benji Puggleface
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Of the many interesting and intelligent questions, I received the following message on Facebook from someone whom, out of respect for his privacy, I will not name. Although his questions are straightforward and rather personal, I think these are important to address. In doing so, I hope to broaden people's knowledge on the apparently new hot topic: homosexuality and Judaism.
I'm a straight yeshiva student who is involved in dialogue with many issues. I've heard a lot about you, read your blog, etc. I came across all your stuff in the course of me exploring and attempting to deal with, the issues of bigotry, stereotypes and other issues in the orthodox community. Let me just first say I'm a big fan of your unprecedented work which one would not even conceive in his mind five years ago would be happening today.
First of all, I would like to thank you for reaching out, as well as your kind words about my blog and the work that I've been doing. I'm glad that you're thinking about these issues. As I and others have said, all we hope to accomplish is the dialogue pertaining to these issues; the lack of discussion regarding these, along with the deafening silence, pushes people into a very unfortunate, uncomfortable and difficult position that I and other people have faced while growing up orthodox (frum) and gay.
With all that said and done, I had a few questions I figured a person like yourself would be able to answer most insightfully. First off, what would you advise a person who grew up in an orthodox home, strongly values God, but is gay? Should he follow his desires for what makes him truly happy (having a boyfriend and homosexual intercourse) or follow Halacha? What words of encouragement would you give him?
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
Today, I am gonna continue and try to answer the people who keep questioning my motives and what my real intentions are with talking about my experience and what it was like to grow up orthodox and gay.
The "it gets better" video that I was part of, the one entitled. It gets better - gay orthodox Jews, was inspired by Dan Savage's it gets project, that served to send a message to lost and confused souls who felt alone and hopeless because they were gay or just different, in a response to the growing number of suicides across the country. The video originally came under criticism by Elliot Resnick of the Jewish Press, but thankfully the Jewish Press allowed me to publish my response to the critics of Resnick and other people in the orthodox community that want the gay "issue" silenced at any cost.
These faces are only a few, the well known cases of people that took their own lives. Do you see their faces? Can you look right into their eyes and say that you don't care about gay people, bullying, or suicide on the back's of that because your god tells you that there's something wrong with us?
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
Thursday, February 16, 2012
I wanted to just shout out to all of you and say thank you for all your amazing and unwavering support throughout this journey that I'm going on. Your support only proves how powerful we as a group of people can be when we come together for the sake of social justice and ensuring that all people are treated with dignity and respect. And it reminds us how important support is for people, all people, in any situation.
To the people who have chosen not to support me, friends (call it what you'd like), family members and haters, thank you also. It's your lack of support and ignorance that only proves how important my work actually is. I wanna let you know that it's because of all the crap that you've thrown at me throughout my life that has made me feel unbreakable and strong, and the more you condemn me and my work, the stronger I get.
I spent 19 years of my life living as a half person, living in fear and shame because of the negative things the the non-supporters have done to me, but I found my peace the day that I accepted myself and stopped caring about what people assumed and believed about me. I know that my work and my voice will save lives, and that's a lot more than I can say for your actions committed against me because you thought you would be the one to put me "in my place".
I can't wait to write more about the aforementioned non supporters and what I've experienced on their behest, not because I like writing about it or thinking about it, but because I know that every time I tell a story of an action that was taken against me for who I was, there's someone reading it that experienced the same injustice in their own respective lives. This isn't a threat or a warning, it's a wake up call and a reality check for you to realize that people don't forget bad things done to them, especially not me. And although I might have been helpless to defend myself back then, I sure as hell am not helpless anymore and my voice is getting louder and clearer.
With lots of love for everyone :)
My first conclusion about his statement is that it's so vague and it doesn't really give Agudah any real standpoint other then what we already know: the halachic prohibitions of homosexual acts. For whatever reason, Rabbi Shafran felt compelled to remind us in almost every paragraph of his statement about the halachic problems with homosexuality. The reason all this dialogue, controversy and back and forth is happening is because of that verse in Vayikara (Leviticus), and the insistent reminders of how wrong homosexual acts are according to halacha is only being used as a weapon to ignore people like me and the many other brave souls that were subject to condemnation by so many rabbinic authorities because of our choice NOT to engage in potentially life threatening "therapy" to change ourselves. Rabbi Shafran, don't you get it? This isn't a halachic debate, it never was for me, I know what it says in the Torah about homosexual acts, but I also know that you and many other rabbinic authorities have ignored the harrowing experiences that face LGBT people inside orthodox communities. I'll leave the scholarly ones to debate halacha, I've never disclosed any of my private affairs that are between me and god to anyone, I've only talked about the treatment I faced by my community.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I write this from up in the air on the way to Atlanta, I have so much work to catch up on, so much more to write about, but had to share this amazing moment with you all.
Joan Rivers @Joan_Rivers Close
“@chaim89: @Joan_Rivers you're so fabulous! Thank you! Gottagivemhope.com pic.twitter.com/ALJOpYQ8” he's cute, Jewish and single, guys!!
Many have asked me: "why don't you leave the community behind? Why is your head still in this bad place, this negative seemingly closed minded homophobic community? Why wouldn't you just find another congregation or shul or community that would accept you and live there without this controversy? And then come the even sharper questions from people who continue to, and have in the past criticized me for the work that I'm doing now: "Why do you need to talk about this issue/problem publicly?" "Why can't you just keep it to yourself and not cause this pain and aggravation to your family by "flaunting" your gayness in everyone'es face?" The last two questions are very charged and have a lot of weight to them but I think they give you a picture of what these people are asking of me.They're asking me to "keep it to myself", they're saying they're ok with gay people as long as they don't act gay or talk about it in public. As is the history within religious communities like Crown Heights, based on my own personal experiences as well as many stories that I've heard from people who live in Crown Heights and are part of the Chabad orthodox community, subjects like homosexuality and sexual abuse have been avoided by the "leaders" of the community ever since I can remember. Yes it's true that lately people have become more aware of the serious issue facing hundreds of children in Crown Heights who were molested and continue to be until this day, but because of the silence and stigma associated with sexual abuse in this community, most victims never get to bring their abuser to justice and see them be accountable for their actions. It's the silence that allows people who are a danger to children walk freely in the streets of Crown Heights today, that silence that has caused immense pain to people like myself who are gay and were and clearly still are heavily criticized by members of our own community simply for speaking up.
The support that I have received over the past month since the Jewish Press article has been amazing, and compared to the backlash I've been receiving, the support outweighs the backlash by far. However, many of my critics are from the Chabad community themselves and from other frum communities communities (I know the word frum is loaded and doesn't really represent any group of people, but let's just say that the people who wrote these comments were self identified as frum (orthodox)); many people have left anonymous comments on the Jewish Press article claiming to know me and attempted to destroy my character and bring shame to my family, others have simply asked the aforementioned questions, but I think it's clear that although having a dialogue is the best thing that can happen, even if it's not all positive, those questions and that tone of "keeping it quiet" only serve to continue this dangerous silence that ignores the serious plight of so many people that suffer just because they are gay, not because they commit "homosexual acts"
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Thank you all for your love and support.
Tonight you aired your second segment of interviews with people in the hasidic community, and you asked four mothers what they would do if they had a gay child. It's clear that you didn't get a serious response from them but I want you to know that I grew up in this community (Crown Heights) as a hasidic Jew and I am openly gay today.
My journey since being thrown out of yeshiva for being gay and attempting reaparative "change" therapy to become straight and then coming out proudly about who I am is quite an interesting one, and it would be a shame if the world wouldn't get to see the real answer to this question, my answer, and the answer about the hundreds of other gay jews that come from these communities.
My stories are already documented in multiple news publication and throughout my blog, but here is the article that was published in the Jewish Press recently chronicling my experience while growing up frum (religious orthodox) and gay.
Monday, February 13, 2012
An email user who identifies by the name "hashem echad" email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org has been sending hateful, threatening and disturbing email content to myself and many other people that I know including minors under the age of 18.
This type of harassment is particularly disturbing to me because it threatens the safety net of support that so many people derive from the work that we do online.
Our next step is to contact authorities, but before doing so we'd like to hear from everyone that has had contact with this individual so that it can be taken care of quickly and easily.
I, along with the people I work with to create a more supportive and welcoming environment for LGBT people have a zero tolerance for this kind of bullying being masked by the anonymity of the internet. This person is causing real harm and tension to many people who are looking for support and love, cyberbullying won't be tolerated and we will do everything we can to stop this individual from continuing these disgusting actions.
This picture is a screenshot of the first message that I got from this individual, there are hundreds more where it came from:
If you have anymore information regarding this individual, including emails that he sent you, please forward them to email@example.com
I care for you very much, and looking forward to the day when I can consider you a trustworthy friend again. And I mean this whole-heartedly.
But if you start a tirade against JONAH for the sole purpose of bringing it to the ground, you will face a lot of serious opposition from me. I have a lot of data, evidence, and support to rally together to go against many of your claims that will make you look way more "shaky" than you are claiming JONAH to be. I don't want to start a war with you. But for my safety and the safety of men I deeply care about, I will do so if I have to.
Think about it. I really hope you choose a more peaceful route.
This person begged me not to go public with the sexual abuse that I and others faced by the hand of Alan Downing who works at JONAH. His comment once again ignores what happened to me at the hands of JONAH and only accuses me of "taking people's rights away", people who don't want to be gay, people who have the right to change if they want to. He doesn't answer the biggest question of them all: How can you help others on the backs of hurting others? You say JONAH has helped some people but how about the people it DIDN'T help and people that it caused HARM to? How can you claim to do something that science, and my own experience, tells me is impossible? and how can you give people false hope, when that hope hurts?
Ps, this video is a small insight into reparative therapy by one of it's leaders Richard Cohen, someone who was very praised and glorified at JONAH.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
It was around December 15th, 2006, a chabad holiday was being celebrated. In chabad circles, especially on such “auspicious” occasions, many fargrengens (gatherings) were happening where much alcohol was consumed by both the students and the staff. I don’t remember how it happened exactly, but, during all these gatherings around the school premises, I was confronted by the rabbi who was in charge of me, my mashgiach. He said that there are rumors spreading around the school that I had done something sexually with another boy in the school. I felt my world crashing down as he said those words to me; I knew that I was up shit’s creek, and there was a 95 percent chance that I’d be shipped home the next day. Right after this rabbi confronted me, I was approached by four different students my age who were in "shock and horror" about the stories, unable understand how I was able to do “such a disgusting, low and immoral thing”.
The next morning, I was told that the whole school knew and that many people wanted to hurt me because they were so disgusted by me. I remember walking into the grand study hall while everyone was sitting at their respective tables. Suddenly, all the attention in the room shifted towards me as I walked past the glaring eyes of about 400 people. Over the next six months, I was subject to harassment by many of my schoolmates, both in private and in public. I was called "faggot", "disease" and "heretic", in Hebrew, French and English. As I write this today, I can’t imagine how I survived those dreadful, seemingly endless months, an ocean away from home in a foreign country with no money at the age of 16 in a strict religious school, surrounded by people who hated me for who I was.
I chose to write about this today because I know that many others have experienced similar treatment by their schools and peers inside Orthodox communities because they are gay. It scares me that some rabbis like Rabbi Cowen from Australia and Rabbi Levin can simply ignore the endless pain being caused to their own students, relatives and friends inside the orthodox community. Rabbi Cowen claims in his "research" that raising awareness against bullying of gay people is part of an “agenda” to “teach” homosexuality in our schools to young children. He claims that the real problem is anti-aemitism, and the gay agenda is covering it up with the great conspiracy that gay teens are bullied to the point of suicide. I’m sure many of my readers are familiar with Rabbi Levin at this point. In response to my article in the Jewish Press, he compared gay youth to amalek (the enemy of the Jewish people) and said homosexuality is like a cancer that must be cured with chemicals. I don't’ understand how self-proclaimed Orthodox Jews can be so ignorant not to realize that gay people exist everywhere and that, by making such harsh, insensitive generalizations about gay people, they are waging a silent holocaust upon thousands of gay youth in EVERY community, especially our very own Orthodox ones.
While I’m somewhat content with the fact that dialogue is finally happening inside these communities, the people who make such statements made in the name of “god” and the “torah” are reckless and dangerous. Every time gay teens or even adults hear such harsh words about themselves — statements that lead to the kind of taunting and torment I endured throughout an entire year in yeshiva — those who are suffering in this great plight are pushed farther away. These reckless leaders are sending a message to those who already feel lost and without hope that their well being as people, as Jews and as Orthodox Jews is not only unimportant but a fabricated “conspiracy” by gay activists. It is time people wake up and realize how serious this problem is and that, by simply ignoring these people and their hateful messages, we do only more damage to the innocent people that hear these awful things about themselves from the very people who claim to love and care for them.
Although some people have apologized for the way that they treated me that year in yeshiva, their actions were not right or tolerable to me or the rest of the world. That is why I wrote this, and that is why I will continue to write my experiences while growing up frum and gay. I would consider it a success, if my story helps just one person, gives them comfort or even strength in knowing that they are not alone.
We wanna hear from YOU, your stories on hope and survival. If more of us start talking about how it really did get better we can send an even more powerful message to young gay teens who might be struggling or feeling hopeless. Feel free to email anything to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. No expectations, it doesn't have to be long or short, as long as it's to the point.
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen claims gay kids are expendable, divert funds to needy Jewish schools
Australia’s leading expert on bullying, Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, son of the late governor-general Sir Zelman Cowen, has just published the findings of his latest research. He’s found that an effective way to counter the problem of anti-semitic bullying is to divert funding away from anti-homophobia bullying programs.
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen says he’s sorry for the little gay boys and girls who are bashed on a daily basis at school, enduring routine taunts of “poof” and “dyke”. However he knows that it’s more important that little Jewish boys and girls are protected and has cleared his conscience for suggesting that programs like the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria be disbanded, with the funding diverted to the needy Jewish community, with poor funding options and barely adequate safety at their schools.
Cowen’s pièce de résistance from his research is the finding that the problem of homosexual bullying will eventually go away because, he says, if the gay boys and girls are bullied sufficently, they’ll eventually kill themselves due to self-loathing and depression. He sees this as a win-win situation.
Friday, February 10, 2012
By Andrew Belonsky 27 mins ago
How many awful things can one person say about gay people in a single statement? If you’re hideous New York City rabbi Yehuda Levin, a lot.
Speaking out about gay Jewish activist Chaim Levin’s recent criticism of “gay cure” therapies, therapies that made him suicidal — “I had experienced so much pain coming out, and at the time felt like no one will ever get it. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m getting rejected again and again,” he told me in an interview last year– Rabbi Levin, no relation, insisted gay people should be chemically castrated, just like child molesters in Europe. According to him, the process will stop the gays from “act[ing] in a forbidden manner,” just as it would prevent adultery and incest. Because, you know, same-sex love is just like a brother having sex with his sister.
“Chaim Levin’s recent article and appearances on video and Jewish radio provide ample evidence of an agenda far more wide-ranging than merely opposing bullying and reparative therapy,” said Rabbi Levin. “Urging youth to join in a group that identifies itself with Amalek-type behavior reinforces negative self-identification and more often than not results in sinful misbehavior.” In the Talmud, the Amalek people are adversaries of the Hebrew tribes who try to thwart Judaism’s rise.
Rabbi Levin then went on to compare homosexuality with cancer. Via Pink News UK:
I have tremendous sympathy for those challenged by temptations and unkosher desires. As you do with cancer, you never stop trying to find a better treatment to cure yourself. If all therapies fail, as a last resort you use chemicals to stop the urge to act in a forbidden manner. (This resolution is ordered by European courts for offenders and it works.) Unpleasant, surely; but better than committing adultery, homosexuality or incest.
So, Levin, best known perhaps for writing a speech for former New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino in which gays were tacitly compared to child molesters, thinks gays are cancerous sex offenders akin to practicers of incest who want to recruit the young into our dangerous “militant” army of homosexuality. Nice.
Does he not realize that Adolf Hitler once used similar language in describing gay people as agents of “immorality.” “We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press – in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past [few years],” he said in a speech in the 1930s, just as he was prepping concentration camps for gay inmates, some of whom would in turn castrated.