This episode is deeply moving and hopeful, as Rabbi Mike Moskowitz walks Tanna and Paris through the ins and outs of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, whilst also being ultra orthodox.Pride in the Ultra Orthodox Community, With Rabbi Mike Moskowitz – The AUJS Pod (Sep 19 2022)
Initially, they briefly discuss Rabbi Moskowitz’ personal journey to becoming the Scholar in Residence at the Beit Simchat Torah Congregation, before diving into the attitudes held by so many in conservative, orthodox communities.
From discussing specific verses often used to justify transphobia, to an analysis of conversion therapy, to predictions about same sex marriage, Rabbi Moskowitz covers a wide range of questions that many onlookers have wondered about over the years.
Rabbi Moskowitz also touches on the recent negative media attention that his community has been receiving, and demonstrates that despite several significant imperfections, the ultra orthodox community is full of beauty, charity, and love.
‘A STRONG ALLY TO LGBTIQ+ PEOPLE’
He maintains his religious practices while simultaneously attending Pride Parades and protest rallies for queer rights and inclusion.
By MIA GARDINER
September 12, 2022, 7:35 pm
From left: Rabbi Mike Moskowitz and Michael Barnett. Photo: Gregory Storer.
The Victorian Pride Centre on Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, provided the perfect location to hear New York’s ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Mike Moskowitz discuss how Judaism can provide a welcoming and inclusive place for people of all genders and sexual orientations, free from judgement and discrimination.
On his tour of Australia and New Zealand last month, the US based rabbi made time in his schedule to address an intimate gathering, as guest of Aleph Melbourne and the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council.
Talking about how having a transgender family member challenged and changed his worldview, Rabbi Moskowitz spoke about how he devotes much of his time to making Judaism a safer and more welcoming place for LGBTIQ+ Jews, free from judgement and hostility.
Rabbi Moskowitz told those gathered that he maintains his religious practices while simultaneously attending Pride Parades and protest rallies for queer rights and inclusion.
He also stressed that the fundamental understanding that a person cannot change their sexual orientation or gender identity is of particular importance to him, and shared that he actively combats damaging practices that seek to change or convert LGBTIQ+ people to being heterosexual and/or cisgender.
Aleph Melbourne co-convenor Michael Barnett said, “It was a total joy meeting Rabbi Moskowitz. His passion for LGBTIQ+ people and issues rivals that of any ally I have ever met and sets a very high bar when it comes to advocacy and inclusion.”
He also told The AJN that “Many of those in attendance spoke of how they found it unexpectedly refreshing to meet an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who was proud to be a strong ally to LGBTIQ+ people and advocate for our full inclusion in the Jewish community.”
Barnett added, “What I took from meeting Rabbi Mike Moskowitz is that being decent to LGBTIQ+ people and other vulnerable minorities takes minimal effort, and goes a long way to mend the harms that ill-informed rabbis and others perpetrate in the name of their faith.”
Aleph Melbourne and the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council hosted a conversation with Rabbi Mike Moskowitz at the Victorian Pride Centre on Sunday August 14, 2022.
Rabbi Mike Moskowitz is the Scholar-in-Residence for Trans and Queer Jewish Studies at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the world’s largest LGBT synagogue. He is a deeply traditional and radically progressive advocate for trans rights and a vocal ally for LGBTQ inclusivity. Rabbi Moskowitz received three Ultra-Orthodox ordinations while learning in the Mir in Jerusalem and in Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ.www.rabbimikemoskowitz.com
From Purim to the Pride March.
By DASSI HERSZBERG
March 17, 2022, 11:16 am
ON Purim – a day when it is customary to hide your true identity – I found mine. As the fifth child in a family of eight, I struggled with my own identity both within my family and our closed ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel community.
Conforming to the strict dress codes expected by my family and surrounding community did not agree with my core perception of self.
Back then, I was considered what you’d call a “tomboy”. I loved to be active. I loved running. I loved climbing trees. I felt absolute discomfort in skirts, stockings (no matter the weather) and “girlie things”.
Riding a bike for girls was not allowed due to modesty codes, but I still managed to get some time on my brother’s bicycle every now and then and I loved it.
George was my favourite character in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novels. With her short black cropped hair, her competency and her sense of adventure. I loved how everyone accepted her. She was “one of the boys”. I wanted to be George.
As a child, I didn’t have the language nor did I understand that my resistance to wearing skirts wasn’t only about the sense of feeling stifled from a religious perspective. It was also taking away my capacity to understand and explore my identity. My visceral rejection to the clothing wasn’t only because I didn’t understand the religious expectations. It wasn’t that I was a rebel. It just didn’t feel like I was a girl like the other girls around me.
After age three, I could no longer wear pants. That’s the age girls begin adhering to dress codes. Compulsory long sleeves and high-necked tops. I felt discomfort and suffocated. My ability to understand my identity was stifled.
Looking back at my childhood, Purim was the only day I could dress to match the way I felt. To be able to wear a pair of my brother’s pants for the day and dress up as a “boy” dresses, was always the highlight of the year for me.
It felt like a sin yet gave me a sense of liberation. Just for the day.
I now understand that my younger self’s sense of freedom in wearing boys’ clothing had a lot to do with my identity as non-binary.
I believe it was actually a positive saving grace that sexuality and the concept of gender non-conformity was non-existent. There was no language around for such expressions or conversations. That kind of subject matter was never discussed.
Nobody in my family or community could accuse me of being “evil” – at least that part hadn’t been tainted for me.
All of us wear masks at times, to hide ourselves away. Masks protect us. We are forced to wear masks to fit in with society.
But my experience was feeling forced to be dishonest. It’s a strange contradiction, not revealing who I was, was the mask I needed to wear – for self-preservation and protection.
Clothing is not just clothing. It tells a story. Clothing can be used as a “mask”. Clothing can be used to enhance. Clothing can be used as a statement of self-expression. Wearing a skirt feels so incongruous with who I am. Then again, there are days when I feel more feminine. And on those days, I feel a lot more comfortable wearing a skirt, wearing a pretty top and sometimes even putting make up on.
But on those days, when it is my choice to wear more typically feminine clothing, I am wearing them because I am being true to the essence of myself. Not because it’s being forced upon me by religious values.
Every Purim, I personally celebrate the recognition of finding my identity. It falls on my birthday and as such is my true “anniversary”. Purim is also a day when I celebrate my younger self’s sense of exhilaration, striding out of my childhood family home, dressed as a boy.
In a similar way, I felt absolutely elated when I marched under the banner of Pathways Melbourne with the Jews of Pride parade for the first time, wearing the clothes I wanted to wear.
Being surrounded by a diverse group of Jewish and non-Jewish people, each with their own senses of identity – all of us accepting of one another as a colourful member of our broad community. Each with our own story and history of how we “arrived” together.
Dassi Herszberg is a member of the Pathways Melbourne advisory panel and a qualified art therapist and counsellor. For further information, visit pathwaysmelbourne.org
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry responds to misleading claims involving the Vishnitz Jewish Girls School and marriage equality.
In the continuing debate concerning the legal recognition of same sex marriages, verbal abuse should be condemned and factual inaccuracies corrected.
One claim relating to the Jewish community is that the ultra-Orthodox Vishnitz Girls School in north London in the UK lost its accreditation as a school because it would not cease teaching its version of sexuality and marriage after same-sex marriages became legal in March 2014.
In point of fact the school found itself in difficulties with Ofsted (the UK school regulatory authority) well before March 2014 because it was said to have failed various other legal standards arising under earlier legislation. For example, the school was found to have failed to have policies in place that would require it to report incidents of abuse and neglect.
Provisions of the UK Equality Act 2010, under which sexual orientation became a protected characteristic, and which predates the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, explicitly provide that the school has the right to teach its own beliefs about sexuality and marriage in a way that does not disrespect LGBTQI people.
Aleph Melbourne has detailed this situation in our post Lyle Shelton exposed for falsely blaming marriage equality for the failings of a London Jewish school.