Tuesday, 16 December 2014


I first met Goldie Goldbloom when I was in fourth grade. She was sitting behind me in synagogue and touched the sleeve of my sweater, saying, “What a beautiful cardigan!” It baffled me at the time; I didn’t know what the word “cardigan” meant.
I started this interview by asking Goldie if she remembered the first time she met me, and she had a different memory. It was during Sukkot and both my family and her family were eating a festival meal at a neighbor’s sukkah. I was just a baby, but Goldie said she remembered looking into my eyes and making some gesture about the food being terrible and the world being corrupt, and she says I looked at her from my mother’s shoulder in a way that suggested, “Well, at least there’s a shoulder to lean on.”
Though she was a fixture in the Chassidic community I grew up in, I didn’t have another conversation with Goldie until I was well into my teens. I was beginning to stray from the Chassidic traditions, and Goldie had just come out as queer, something our community could not tolerate. I found Goldie’s home to be a sanctuary where I was always welcomed into a loving family of writers, big hearts, and outcasts.
Over the past few years, Goldie has worked hard to create safe spaces where queer Jews can connect, share their stories, and exist outside of a community that wants to ignore them.
Read the whole article here:


Monday, 24 March 2014


This article originally appeared in Tri-Quarterly: Tri-Quarterly
I am twenty-three. I’m only out of college for a couple of years. I used to be frum (observant) but now I am off-the-derech (irreligious; literally, “off the road”). 
 In college, I was an observant Jew. I wanted to be part of Chabad, so right at the beginning of my college experience, I moved to a frum neighborhood and became integrated into the Chabad community. I boarded in a Chassidic rabbi’s home, and I worked for a frum family and for a Jewish educational organization. Basically, my life was the Chabad community. But then, over the past year, I became unhappy with how fake I had to be, to be a part of Chabad. It wasn’t just the queer thing—I’m gay, and that had to stay under wraps—but  also I was questioning how I wanted to relate to Judaism.
Accepting the fact of being gay has always been a challenge for me, but it’s even more so for me as a religious person. In college, I realized I probably wasn’t going to be straight, although I really hoped I could be bisexual and get married and go about having a normal Jewish life. But that didn’t happen.
In the last few months when I was staying in the basement of the rabbi’s house, I came to the decision that I didn’t want to be shomer shabbos [observant of the strict Sabbatical laws] anymore, but my roommate found out and called her rov [rabbi]. Her rov told her to tell my rebbetzin [rabbi’s wife], who called me. She was like, “Call me!” That’s never a good thing to hear from your rebbetzin!
She said she knew I wasn’t keeping shabbos, and she wanted to let me know what that would entail. She explained that it meant I couldn’t cook in anyone’s kitchen, and that consequence was the natural outcome of my decision to be less observant. She said people would not be able to trust me to keep their standard of kashrus [kosher]. I decided it would be simpler to keep things as they were. Even after I left the rabbi’s basement and moved to my next home, I kept everything [shomer shabbos] for the sake of the children I took care of. I didn’t want to have my relationship with them compromised in any way. I am their caregiver, and I feel I need to stay frum for them, because they have gone through a lot of trauma already.
Unfortunately, last week I had to go to another state to take care of my sister, but those kids all call me and I read them bedtime stories over the phone—kosher stories from kosher publishers. Hopefully, I will be back soon and be able to work with them again. I definitely want to keep a connection with them, because their mother passed away almost five years ago, and their father is very sick, too. Two of the kids have special needs, and there are a lot of challenges in their home. Mostly, though, there is the trauma of losing their mother.
I was originally hired because they needed a female presence in the house. It was funny to me that I, of all people, was that person. It was a natural thing for those five little kids to see me in the role of Mommy. It was really important work. I was terribly important in their lives, and so, after a while, I couldn’t come out to them, not as gay and not as not-so-frum anymore, either. It would change our interactions. It would be another huge loss for them, and I just can’t do it to them. It would be cruel.
They still don’t know I am queer. No one knows. I hope not, anyway. It would have a very negative impact on the way I am perceived and the way people decide to interact with me. Orthodox Jews view being gay as a challenge you are meant to overcome. That view is so pervasive. I haven’t seen any gay frum people interacting with regular frum people, but I do know it happens. Just not in front of me.
I’m horribly afraid of rejection. Those people in the community mean a lot to me. I would be devastated if I lost the love of my rebbetzin’s family, and I don’t care if they are homophobic. I know if they knew I was gay, they wouldn’t receive me the same way, but they are like parents to me! I don’t want to lose them. And I really love the children who lost their mother. I want to be a part of their lives, and I would really hate for that to be taken away from me or for me to be taken away from them. We have formed a really significant bond, and it would be horrible for all of us if that were severed.
Even if the families were accepting, and they didn’t give me the whole “Overcome this challenge” speech, they wouldn’t want me around their kids because, in their minds, being gay is contagious, and it sets a bad example for the kids. People have hidden beliefs when they are Chassidic. There’s a ton of esoteric concepts, and it wouldn’t just be as obvious as “Your actions are influencing my kids.” It would be “Your neshomah [soul] is influencing my family, your soul is flawed. You are full of klipah [spiritual impurity], and it would drag down my home.” I don’t want people to be disgusted by me like that. I don’t want to be different. I don’t want to be judged.
In the frum community there is always a lot of pressure to get married and have a large family. To me, it felt very bad. I was seeing someone, a woman, but I couldn’t bring my partner to a shabbos table and have the same happy and enthusiastic reception. If I had brought a gay girlfriend to my rebbetzin, if I had been out about it, she would probably have taken me aside and given me a big talk about halacha [Jewish law] and challenges, and my needing to make sane decisions about my future, and since she has daughters, she would have been freaked out that I’d stayed in the same bedroom as her girls. She would have been horrified.
It was weird having a girlfriend while I lived in the frum community. I was very closeted, but half an hour away, in [the local gay area], I was super out. I certainly wasn’t very smart about it. I had my girlfriend come over for visits as my “friend,” and then, one shabbos, when my roommate was out of town, it was different. I had her sleep over. After the meal, we were just out walking, but my girlfriend had a tiny pride button on her coat. I made her hide it. And then, after shabbos, we were hanging out late at night, when everyone was sleeping. We were just sitting in my car, and she leaned over and kissed me, and I had a fit! It was 3:00 a.m., but I was so afraid we would get caught. She laughed at me. Who would see? I was so paranoid, I started coming up with a list. “A jogger!” I said. “Someone who works in a bakery!” Who knows? That’s how it is when you could lose everything. I was very clear about it. I knew I could lose my job, my finances, my housing, my friends, my community, my adopted family. And I couldn’t afford to lose all that.
Anyway, when I had already been part of the Chabad community for a while, my rebbetzin sent me away to a religious seminary. The seminary rabbi gave an explanation for why people are gay. That was so uncomfortable! It was the worst explanation ever! He said, “If either the husband or the wife in a marriage is repulsed by their spouse, it can cause the child born from them to be gay.”” If the husband isn’t into his wife, then the son is going to be attracted to men. Wow! I kept on hearing these dumb explanations: “It’s a choice!”” “H-shem [G-d] doesn’t give you challenges you can’t handle.” I davened [prayed] so long and so hard to have this problem go away, but nothing changed. I couldn’t handle it, but I still had the challenge!
Also, in the seminary, trans people and sexuality in general were always made fun of and looked down on. They were discussed as disgusting things to be shunned. One person asked, “Which side of the mechitza does a trans woman sit on?” and Rabbi B [an internationally known rabbi] said, “That’s like a person who wants to be an elephant.” He turned it into a joke. It was so upsetting. Anyone who happened to be part of the queer spectrum would have been pushed far away from Yiddishkeit by Rabbi B’s response.
Even then, I knew Jewish trans people. All queer people have so many struggles, and trying to fit into the frum community is difficult for them, but it’s infinitely more challenging for trans people. As a result of the seminary rabbi, I became alienated and distanced. I felt like I wasn’t going to fit into the Chabad community, no matter how I behaved, or that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Eventually, I felt suicidal and ended up in hospital for a while, trying to work through my feelings about queerness and Judaism. The rabbi in whose house I lived at that time wasn’t too excited about my being sick, and his family barely spoke to me after that. It was part of the reason I had to move out of that house. And afterward, I was different, not as involved in Chabad life, but still connected.
So many people in [the local gay area] have had bad experiences with religion and want nothing to do with it. So, in that area, I can’t be out about being Orthodox! I don’t fit in anywhere. All I want is to fit in and be normal . . . frum and gay. And not stigmatized. I still don’t know how to reconcile these two parts of myself. Before I had to leave to take care of my sister, I hung out with people who used to be frum. We got together on Friday night. We made kiddush, we made a seuda [meal] on shabbos day, but we went out on dates right afterward.
Even now that I don’t eat kosher, I’m completely unwilling to eat treif [nonkosher] meat. I don’t keep shabbos, but I wouldn’t ever light after licht bentshen [the time to light candles on Friday evening]. I still daven shacharis and mincha [pray the morning and afternoon services, about an hour’s worth of prayer] every day. My partner is upset at how religious I am, and at me being shomer shabbos. It feels like I can never satisfy both parts of myself.
My partner and some of my non-frum friends ask me why I don’t just do all the mitzvos, or do none and trick the people I work for. I couldn’t do that. My rebbetzin is very honest herself. Most frum Jews are very careful about that, but she is special. She asks me to be honest about my level of observance, to understand what I could lose by not being frum. She innocently trusts me to say the truth about whether or not I am shomer shabbos. I can’t betray that trust. Now that I am living with my sister, my rebbetzin calls me up and asks me to keep shabbos and go to shul [synagogue].
I wish I could come out to her, but once, my roommate was at a shabbos meal with me, at my rebbetzin’s house. One of her little girls was playing with my roommate’s ring. The girl took it off my roommate’s finger and then put it back on again and said, “Harei at mekudeshes li [“Behold! You are consecrated to me,” the traditional words at a Jewish wedding ceremony]. We are married now!” My rebbetzin laughed and then frowned and said, “How would that even work with two girls? It’s impossible!” My rebbetzin made being a lesbian into a joke! It’s crazy, because she knows women who are lesbians, even women who are lesbians in the frum community. She had a very close friend who turned out to be a frum lesbian.
I know two lesbians in the local Chassidic community. One of them is the head of an organization for gay frum Jews. When I didn’t know anyone frum and gay, I somehow found the book Keep Your Wives Away from Them. I looked at all the contributors’ info, and then I searched the names until I found a phone number for one of them. I called her up, and she was really understanding. I was in seminary at the time, so we met clandestinely. I met her wife, too, and we had a whole conversation about being queer and frum. She gave me the contact information for a frum lesbian in my community. It was all word of mouth.
When I went to the frum lesbian’s house for a shabbos meal, it was the most authentic meal I’d ever been to. It was beautiful! Then, when I returned to my rebbetzin’s house, I realized how closed down I had to be in her house, and how much I didn’t want to be like that. My rebbetzin’s home is open and inviting, as long as you fit their picture.
In my experience, there has only been one rabbi who was compassionate to my whole situation. Because of his accepting attitude, I came out to him. I wanted to ask him what I should do. I told him I struggled with attractions that are inappropriate, and he said, “To women?” He said it’s not the most important thing to get married and have a family. He said there are other things you can do as a Jewish woman. He also referenced a gay man who got married and had a kid. He didn’t freak out at me, but he still had this idea that if I really wanted to, I could change. He was a baal teshuva [returnee to Judaism], and he was supposedly a hippie before he became frum, so that might have affected his worldview.
Maybe hippies really have it right. I’m a big fan of Ve’ahavta lerei’echa kamoicha [Love your neighbor as yourself]. There aren’t any strings attached to that. There’s no “so long as your fellow Jew is . . . ” It’s not, Love these Jews but not those Jews. That’s the whole point. My rebbetzin really stressed the idea of the community waiting for everybody to be back from the Bais Hamikdash [Temple] before davening for rain. We wait for everyone, and everyone is important, no matter who they are or what their level of observance is, no matter what their challenges are. That was inclusive instead of exclusive. I want the community to be like that. You can’t be afraid of other people, and exclude them, and have this negative view, and really be holy. 

NB. These photos are only used for illustrative (or humourous) purposes and do not represent the people described in this article.

Monday, 20 January 2014


 I am aware that this shul is my favourite shul in the whole world, much as I am aware that I am the most comfortable in my skin in this place, year after year.
The huge windows next to me look out over a frozen lake and up towards a mountain of fir trees. Snow falls in huge fat spiraling flakes, mesmerizing, exquisite. The singing swells, luscious, many harmonies rippling through the room. Snow light pours in through the windows above the aron kodesh.
Yes. I am at another Eshel at the Isabella Freedman Center, the fourth one I have attended. The people who fill this room are my friends and my extended family. Some wear zaidener bekishes and black hats. Some wear pressed jeans and designer shirts. Some have wigs and some have scarves and some do not cover their hair at all. But we are all family, whether we look the same or practice the same or speak the same or believe the same things or are the same age or come from the same parts of the world because, for once, we are in a room that is filled, exclusively, with Jews who are connected with Orthodoxy and identify as Lesbian or Gay or Bisexual or Transgender or Queer.
There’s nothing like it.

The sense of unity alone is something to live on for months.
The sense of delight and pleasure and exhilaration and discovery…
The sense of belonging…

There is a session on LGBT blogging and I sit next to the writers of Frum Gay Married and the Jewish Pink Elephant. We talk about why we write our blogs and what have been some of the outcomes. We cry. We laugh. We talk and talk and talk some more and at the end, there are questions and comments. Many of the people say thank you. Thank you for letting our voices be heard. Thank you for being there when I needed to know I wasn't the only person frum gay person in the world. Thank you for validating my experience. For reducing the loneliness.
This year, there are a larger number of Chassidic women, and for that, I am grateful. I am feeling like this blog is worth the effort and time it takes. I am feeling like slowly, slowly, people within Chassidic and yeshivish communities are finding Eshel and beginning to connect. Cousins discover each other. Neither knew the other was part of this community. 
Old friends from yeshiva see each other across the room, and their eyes widen. You too? 
A young couple sit in a hidden corner, holding hands, smiling shyly at one another. families carry their children through the admiring crowds of adopted aunties and uncles.
Eshel. Community for those who have none. Family for those who might have lost theirs. 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

GITTEL'S DAUGHTER: The child of an Orthodox transwoman

 NB. The author of this interview is not related to the author of the previous post. It is purely coincidental that they are appearing around the same time.

M: My birth father is a lesbian. Her name is Gittel (names have been changed to protect the privacy of all of the individuals in this interview). I don’t see myself telling just anyone this story.  Usually people have a harder time hearing I am not religious than that my birth father is transgender. They’ve heard of Off-The-Derech but they haven’t heard of transgender. But I should start the story at the beginning.

I grew up Orthodox in a large city in the United States. I have an awesome family. I’m nineteen and the oldest of seven. Even though my step-dad is not my biological father, he feels like my father. My mom remarried when I was three years old and I had a very normal childhood. I didn’t think there was anything different about me. I went to religious school and youth group and I was very social.
 Growing up, we always referred to my birth father as “Daddy”. My brother and I never asked where Daddy was, but in 5th grade, I wanted to send my daddy a letter. I showed my mother that I had a letter but my mother said she had to discuss it with a psychologist first. Afterwards, I never brought it up anymore. It wasn’t an issue. That year was hard for my parents. I used to yell at my dad, “You’re not my real dad.”

Later, in 10th grade, I had an advisor, because I had a tough time in school. There were a lot of talks with my parents. My dad was really pushing me to go to classes, and at some point, the advisor said, “You don’t have to listen to him. He’s not your real father,” and I responded, “YES HE IS.”  He treats me like his daughter, no questions asked. I was three when my mother married him, and they had another five kids together. He treats me the same as the other kids.

When I was younger, and also when I was in high school, my mom always said my birth-father wasn’t ready to be a father. I honestly thought he was mentally ill. I thought he was locked up somewhere. So I didn’t think too much about him. When I was about fourteen, or maybe fifteen, I found pictures of my dad, because my mom had cut up pictures of me and him (baby pictures) and removed them from the album. I put these pictures in my purse and carried them around with me. I don’t know why. I wasn’t missing anything. I was always told that I looked like my daddy, so there was that. I would prefer not to look so similar. I would prefer that there wasn’t such an obvious relationship. It’s funny, because my brother was told that he looked a lot like my step-father. But he’s also Gittel’s son.
 Not long after I opened my first Facebook account when I was sixteen, I got a message from someone saying, “I know your birth father. I know he hurts.” A whole lot of stuff, giving me information that I clearly didn’t want to know! I showed it to my mom, and I asked her if I should read it or delete it, and she said she would prefer that I delete it. I messaged this lady saying please don’t message me again. But then she messaged me again with even more details that I didn’t read.  Who does that to a sixteen year old? It’s not something you message someone about on Facebook! I thought, for a little bit, that maybe it was my birth father, using a fake account, trying to get to me.  Then I figured out it wasn’t.

Just before I turned seventeen, when I had gone out with my friends, my parents called and said they wanted to talk with me. I was freaking out. I thought I did something wrong!  Then, when I came home, they told me that my grandfather wants to fly me to the Belgium to spend a month with him. I said, “You scared me! I thought something serious happened! You called me to come home!?” But then they told me they wanted to tell me why my original parents got divorced.
 My parents were worried that when I traveled to Belgium, my birth father would find out that I was in Europe and try to contact me and they wanted to be the ones who told me the story. Until then, all my life, my mom always told my brother and me that the reason she got divorced was because my birth father wasn’t fit or ready to be a father.

That night, when she started talking, first she brought up an article about Joy Ladin, an Orthodox transgender woman, that we’d read a year or so earlier. I don’t remember exactly what my mom said when she began to tell me about my birth father, though I know she never said anything negative to me. That was difficult, too! My mom hates keeping secrets. We are extremely open and talk about everything so I am sure it was even harder. Afterwards, my parents told me that if I had any questions I could ask, but I didn’t have any. My mom wanted to know how I felt. How should I feel? She just told me that my birth father is now a transgender woman and a lesbian!
 When they told my younger brother [who is the son of my birth father], the only thing he wanted to know was “What happened to the tallis and tefillin?” I love him.

Hearing this story resolved some mysteries for me. When I was about twelve years old, I guess, I found an old cassette tape that my mom had recorded ten years earlier, to send to a friend. On it, she mentioned that she had seen my birth father walking around London with lipstick and she thought she might have to get a divorce. When I heard that, I thought my birth father must be a gay man, so I never talked about finding the tape or hearing what it said with anyone. And then, when my mother told me about Gittel, my birth-father, it clicked in my mind.
 That night when I learned about Gittel, I needed to get out of the house, to talk and share with my friends. My mom told me not to tell my younger siblings. She told me I could talk about it with a friend, so I went out in my friend’s car, running errands. It was already night, and I told her, “My birth father, he’s a woman.” She said, “You don’t tell me that when I’m driving, M! What’s wrong with you?!” 

In general, things don’t bother me. Things flow over me. It took me a long time to tell most of my friends. I had thoughts about what it meant about me, about the way they would view me, but part of my reluctance was sheltering them, for sure. One of my closest friends still doesn’t know because I know she wouldn’t be able to deal with it.

Apparently, there had been a court order that Gittel couldn’t contact me until I was eighteen. My mom didn’t think the court order was a good choice. But for me, I do feel like it was the right choice. Where I grew up, the schools I went to, the friends I had…my life would have been very different if I had known about my birth father being a transgender woman. If I knew when I was younger, I would have dealt with it, but I feel it was very healthy finding out when I was older and had an open mind. As a younger person, I went to a very religious school and I am sure a transgender parent wouldn’t have been accepted.

When I turned eighteen, Gittel [not her actual name] messaged me on Facebook. When she messaged me first, she had opened up a fake Facebook account in her previous name that was obviously not real because it had no pictures or messages or friends or anything. I think after that first contact, she just friended me with her real Facebook, but there was no conversation. No chat. Still, that was the beginning. Just after that, Gittel and Zahava (her partner) invited me to their son’s bar mitzvah on Facebook, though the event was a year away. I didn’t think I would go, but I was trying to figure out if I wanted to go or not. If it’s something I would be interested in being at. So I didn’t respond right away. I just left it.

 Then, a few months before the bar mitzvah, they contacted me again, asking if I wanted to come to the simcha (happy event), so all of a sudden it was real. They offered to fly me in to Belgium! I thought a lot about it, for such a long time, discussing it with my mom and my friends, and then I decided that it’s important for me to go and get to know them and decide if I want a relationship with them or not.  And I decided to come to Europe, but it was clear to me that if I was coming to the Europe, I would have to go see my grandfather, because he wasn’t doing so well at that point. And also, I didn’t want to spend too much time with my birth-father’s family. I wanted it to be short. I wanted it to be manageable. I had a lot of people telling me, you can come stay with me, take all these telephone numbers, find somewhere else. People were surprised that I would stay at their house. Zahava (Gittel’s partner) actually offered for me to stay elsewhere but it seemed silly to me.
When I was planning the trip, everyone asked me, “What does your mom think?” But she didn’t speak. At some point, I confronted my mother and she told me, “I have two worries. 1. You might become not religious. 2. That you might stay there and not come home.” That was never in my plans. I know myself. I knew I wouldn’t stay in Europe. I don't even speak French! My mom still has very positive feelings towards Gittel’s family. She had a relationship with them. My mom tried never to say anything negative to me about Gittel or about them. My mom is awesome. She’s really cool.

I can’t put my finger on what ended up turning me off to religion. I never really connected with it.  Then, about a year and a half ago, I came to terms with not being religious. It is still very difficult for my mom though, since she doesn’t like the influence I have on my siblings. We fought. But at one point, she asked me if I no longer keep shabbos and kosher, and I said I don’t. Then the fights calmed down, after it was all out there. It’s good to get everything out in the open and not keep secrets.

Anyway, since I had been friends with Gittel on Facebook for almost a year, I knew what to expect when I finally met her. It was a good ease into it. I had no expectations for anything so I wasn’t surprised. I think I try to avoid expectations, I don’t know if it comes from a healthy place or not. I know Gittel was very surprised to see me in pants, not because she told me. She’s frum and the pants bothered her.

She says a lot. She says she feels like I was raised well. And that I lucked out not to grow up with her. I know that she tried to follow us as much as possible online to find out about us. But there aren’t any pictures of me or my brother around the house. I was always told that it’s painful for her not to be part of my life and that she would like to have a relationship with me and my brother. I was in touch with Gittel’s cousins, and her family used to tell me that “my father” loves me, or that “there’s someone out there that’s in pain and would like to have more of a relationship with you.” But the fact is, there aren’t any pictures of us in Gittel’s house. We aren’t Zahavah’s kids. I wish (there is a long pause while M cries) she kept one picture of us from when we were little kids on her desk, something.
Gittel doesn’t exactly feel like a parent to me. But if people ask me about “my mother”, I don’t correct them. I’m nineteen, though, and I don’t feel like I need a new parent. I already have two parents. Gittel is a relative of mine who I know cares about me. I do care about her too, but I don’t have words to describe what kind of relation she is to me.

I think that the frum community, where they live, people mostly accept them. I don’t see how they could live in New York or Israel or in some of the other really frum places. I wish it were different. Here, where they live, there is more acceptance than in other places. The hardest thing for me is actually that Gittel and Zahava and their children are frum, more so than any other thing. I don’t know why.
I’ve said this and I believe it: Gittel made a choice that affected her relationship with us [her children], but I’m happy about the choice she made. It’s better than growing up with a miserable father. It enabled me to have a normal childhood. I did luck out.

I wouldn’t change my life. I am happy with who I am and what I am, even though there is this corner of my life that doesn’t fit into my world. If I could erase this part of my life, I would. Not Gittel but the challenge of her. But really, I am at peace with everything I have gone through in my life.

Now, I relate to Gittel as Gittel. I have a mother and a father and a Gittel. To someone who doesn’t know, I refer to her as my biological father or my birth father. But I, myself, I don’t know how to refer to her. She’s just Gittel to me.

Monday, 16 December 2013

THE ROV'S LESBIAN DAUGHTER: Forbidden Love at the Bungalow Colony

I am a chassidish woman, in my thirties. I grew up in a very careful house, the kind where stockings are important, hairstyles are important. My father is a rov. I am married. I have a family of my own but sometimes, it feels like I have two families.
Before I was married, there was a girl I liked. She lived on the same street as me. We were best friends. I didn't like her.  I loved her. When I looked at her, it was if there was a silvery cloud around her. She shone in the face, like the biggest tzideikis. We were in the same class, all through school and she loved me too. She said she did and I know she did.
I didn't know that when I got married I wouldn't feel the same way for my husband.
Then, when this friend and I had both been married for quite a few years, we began going to the same bungalow, in the country. We had bungalows very close, one to the other, and we had pitzelach, the same.
In the summer, when our husbands were not with us, we sat on the screen porch and we sewed clothing, dresses, things for the children, and we moved the machines onto the same porch so we could work together and schmooze and watch the kids.
It started, we made lunch together for the kids, and then it just seemed easier to have the supper together too. It was like we were a family, her and me, even though her mother and some of her sisters were in that same bungalow.
The worst time is shabbos because that is when the hubbies come back and we have to be very careful then. It's not like she can come over and say we are sewing together! Usually, shabbos is my favorite time of the week, but not in the summer. Then it is the worst.
My little girl asked me when I was lighting candles, ""Mommy, did something bad happen to you?" I told her no, no, of course not, but you can't fool the children. She knew.
One day, my friend and I were talking about this other woman we both knew, someone who was maybe doing something she shouldn't with another man, not her husband. I said to my friend, "That's not my problem! I'm not interested in going off with another man. One man is more than enough for me." She looked at me so long and strong, but we didn't say anything, just looked.
The next day and for a few more days, we sewed and cooked and watched the kids just like before, but then, one day, as I was sewing, my friend came up behind me and she leaned down very close to me and asked, "What do you think of this s'choirah (fabric)?" She held it out to me and ran it across my palm, very slow and gentle, and I caught in my breath. I looked out of the window to make sure no one could see, because there were many women and children all over there, even her mother in that bungalow, but it was towards the middle of the day and no one was there because they were giving lunch.
Then, I looked to see what my children were doing, and they were busy in the next room with playdough.
"So what do you think?" she said again, and this time, she put her hand on the back of my neck and all the hairs there went up, and I felt myself blushing all over and very very hot.
She touched me on the shoulder of my chalat (house dress) and then she put her finger on my lip and I thought I was going to die from her touch, like my whole body suddenly jumped to life and then stopped. "You have beautiful lips," she said. "I can't stop looking at them." Her voice was scratching, like she was scared and I was scared too. But that's what she said!  I also couldn't stop looking at her lips. First her eyes, then her lips. I thought there was something wrong with me and then she said it's the same with her.
You know what happens to people like us if you get caught? If people saw us there in the bungalow, or if they thought something, they would talk about us, they would talk about our families, all on the sudden no one would let their children play with our children and when the husbands came up, they would hear about it and, to save face, they would have to throw us out, because otherwise they are as bad as we are. If it was her mother or her sisters who found us out, I don't know what would happen but it would be very hard.
I am not going to say it was all my friend, because it wasn't. I wanted her too. She's all I can think about sometimes. I make stupid excuses to leave the house to call her, when I should be at home. Sometimes, I can't believe my husband doesn't know something is going on, and sometimes, a lot of the time, I think he doesn't want to know. Once, I said to my friend, "Gevalt. You know we are going to burn in H-ll." And she said "I don't care."
But now I don't know where I am in life, what exactly I am. I don't know what I should do. It's not like my life with my husband is bad, like some ladies have. It's just that I miss my friend, the way we are when we are together is not the same when it is a man with a woman.
 In between, in the winter, it feels like a long time to wait to see her again and I get the depression in the winter from not seeing her and not having that. A woman understands a woman, can talk with her and touch her in the ways that feel the best. A woman feels peaceful and easy and comfortable in the house, not like a man who comes in and is full of expecting things to be done for him. Where's my laundry? Bring me coffee! We are going to my mother's house for shabbos and I don't care what you say!
Every summer, when I go to the bungalow, I wait on shpilkes for that first knock, when she comes to my screen door, and there she is, still standing there, smiling her smile, the way she does, and with her face all shining, the way it always does. That's what I live for.