If I could speak with Abby Stein

Abby Stein was born Yisroel Stein in New York City. She was a boy her first twenty years of her ultra-Orthodox Jewish life living among the Haredi community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She will be visiting Australia and speaking at the Jewish LGBT+ World Conference to be held in Sydney from 21-24 March next week. I would like to sit with her. I would like to hear more of her story. I would like to share with her some of my journey as well. If I could speak with her, here are some of the topics which might come up.

I like your perspective on tolerance and celebration. You are quoted in the Australian Jewish News (15 March 2019, page 11) "My motto over the past year has been about moving from tolerance to celebration... I think tolerance is great when it comes to dairy. Lactose intolerant, that's what tolerance is for. But tolerance is not for people; people you celebrate!" I've never liked using tolerance in how we relate to one another. Sometimes we tolerate misbehaving children when they visit our house, but we would never tolerate their parents behaving in the same out-of-bounds manner. Tolerance needs to be replaced with acceptance, and in that, Abby we agree!

Your Wikipedia page calls you an activist. The AJN calls you an activist. I think anyone who knows you, and you are only 27-years-old would certainly agree with that nomenclature. You are active and trying to bring your representation of trans into a black and white world where transgender behavior is out-of-bounds. Certainly, the Haredim of Williamsburg would have no time for you. And the pain you describe concerning your own father is palpable. I feel sorrow for you and for him. When I was 19, back in the US, I came to believe something different than my Orthodox father, and he told me to exit the house. And I did, never to live there again. We did return to civility in the years that followed, but he would drop the trump card of un-welcome and disowning me again and again. So I know your pain. And I wish the pain would ease. One day it might for you. I'll hope so.

You had a baby with your arranged wife, from whom you have now been divorced since 2013. I wonder if you still see David. And I wonder what his perspective on life and LGBT+ and on Judaism is. Of course, he's not even 10 yet, so he has plenty of time to develop and grow as a little boy, then as a man. The world in which you grew up is not his world, and that's probably ok with both you and Fraidy Horowitz. What happened to her? Is she understood in the Haredi community? Shunning can be painful for the shunned, but what about others who have no reason to be shunned. I hope she is doing well in life, today.

Gender fluidity is the rage in these days, and whether you are dating a man or a woman (the article wasn't clear) or your voice will ever catch up to your new female appearance, your sense of belonging seems to be a major factor that drives you. Maybe I'm wrong, but you belong to a new community with all those initials L,G,B,T,Q, and more! The media has certainly given you a wide berth and lots of air time to express your views on a wide range of topics. And you are articulate in expressing those views. What will happen if you amend your views again, say in 3 years? I'm not even hinting that you might, but what I'm saying is that your manner of life was strict in your youth, you became an ordained rabbi at 20, maintained Jewish life and practice devotedly, even siring a baby with Fraidy. And now your views are changed. What will happen if they change again? Will your new community allow that? In other words, what would happen if you and others "off the derech" find a new derech? What if you take on board a more traditional Jewish view about marriage or about gender? I'm imagining your becoming a believer in Yeshua, like so many of us have, and finding a new community of faith. What would happen to you then? Just wondering.

Finally, I hope you have some good read of great scholars of our people like Amy-Jill Levine of Nashville (originally NYC: die-hard Yankee fan) in her book The Misunderstood Jew. You may find in A-J's writings about Yeshua, about whom she writes with great sympathy (albeit not with personal faith), a man who swam upstream like you are doing. And maybe in the person of Yeshua, you will find a deep personal connection. He certainly had his own people upset at him. He was often misunderstood. He took it on the chin, and brow, and hands and feet and in his kishkes, and he had deep sorrow for our people. If we meet up next week (my book shop is in Bondi Junction), I'll give you a copy of A-J's book. And we can have a cup of coffee. I'd like that. Maybe you will also.

Shabbat shalom.


Anonymous said…
Are you sure you want to take on this rabbi/ gay woman?

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