Monday, 28 October 2013


I've been a mikva lady for sixteen years. I like it. When my kids grew up and were no longer needing as much attention in the house, I found I had the time to do work outside the home and the work I ended up doing was supervising tevilos (immersions). The mikva.
The mikva is a mitzva that I really appreciate. It's very holy in there. The women say the most intense prayers of their lives and I am a witness to that. There is also a lot of crying, because many of the women have special things they ask for, in the merit of the mitzva. Maybe children. Maybe good shidduchim (matches) for their kids. Parnossah (income). Sholom bayis (marital harmony). Whatever. I think that intention changes the nature of things.
For me, when I used the mikva, the thing I wished for is not to be gay. Because I'm gay. it gave me a lot of worries, being the mikva lady, you better believe it! Imagine if the women found out! They would think I was a very bad person. Instead, I was obsessed with making sure that no one could ever say I had looked at them in that way. I am always very careful to hold up a robe or a towel when the woman is coming out of the mikva and to keep her covered and tznius otherwise. I think the only way they might be able to tell that I am gay is because of how respectful I am of women.
Sometimes there are arguments or discussions in the mikva (not that people talk in there very much, but sometimes) about what is right for women, and I always say that women should be treated well, that we deserve good things, that no one has the right to treat a woman badly. I tell women whose husbands aren't treating them right to go to the Rov. Maybe they could tell I am gay from that? I don't know, but it's always worried me. It makes me crazy! I just want to do a good job for the ladies and not ever have someone point the finger and say I was doing my job for a bad reason, because I am perverted, evil etc. I'm not! I love my work and I love the mitzva and that's all there is to it!
My special favorite is when new brides come in and they are very nervous, but usually excited too and their mother is there, often secretly crying, and I think about how this is the beginning of a new Jewish home, a beginning in holiness and tahara (purity). I don't think every bride feels like she is in love. That's ridiculous. I don't think that's as important as the feeling of commitment and excitement to be starting a Jewish home.
You asked me how I knew I am gay and that's a good question. I didn't know until I saw how some women feel about their husbands. They feel so connected! You can see how excited they are and happy and whatever when they come in to the mikva and I knew, absolutely knew, that that was not the case with me. I knew I liked spending time with my best friend, a woman, far more than I enjoyed spending time with my husband. It's not that he's not a good guy. He's nice. But, you know how it is when you are with a friend, someone you are really comfortable with, and the words just flow, and you feel so at ease and that's how it is with me and other women. But not with men. I'm just not interested in their company. So, when I figured that out, it was a hallelu-kah moment! And not in a good way, if you know what I mean.
But I figured I don't have to do anything about it. It's just information for me to hang onto and know about myself. It's not like I'm going to break my family up over it or anything. My husband is a decent man. Part of that is because then, all these women who have been coming to my mikva, are going to start rethinking themselves and me and wondering if all these years they've been kosher. And they have! They really have! I couldn't bear to think how much hurt there would be to all these people if I came out or somehow got found out. That would be the most terrible thing ever. And there's no point to it.
I don't want to find a female partner. I don't think I could be part of the chassidish world if I did that, and this is where I have work, friends, my whole family! I do sometimes imagine what it would be like. Uh...warm...friendly...more talking. But that's all. Just imagining.
I've recently been talking to a friend about this, someone who actually is frum and gay, or as much like that as someone can be. She keeps everything, but I wouldn't say she's an active part of the community. People stare at her and they for sure talk behind her back. But there's a lot of people who admire her too, for being who she is and not bowing to pressure. Still, I wouldn't want to be her. I think my job makes it that I can never come out.
It's a good question, if gay women should be able to use the mikva. I think they should. Because they are still building a Jewish home and if they want to do the mitzva of mikva and it's important to them, why shouldn't they be able to do it? It's a beautiful mitzva. Are the frum police going to come into their homes and tell them they can't light shabbos candles because it's only for straight couples? No! So we shouldn't do that with the mikva either. Mitzvos are for everyone.

Sunday, 27 October 2013


I’m not out in the community where I live in England. I’m Israeli. I grew up in a religious family and we are Ashkenazim. I was married for a very short time to a man, but I had no children. We didn’t get divorced because I was gay but for different reasons. I was about thirty-eight when I realized I was gay. I was reading a book and only halfway into the book, I realized it was about more than “friendship” between two women. One of the heroines in the book had a life much like mine, and I started to look back on my own life and learn a bit about what it means to be a lesbian. It was a revelation. This is who I am!
In a way, it was a relief. It was hard, too, because at that time I was the only Orthodox woman who was gay that I knew. Besides, you know the stories about the woman who has so many cats and lives all by herself on the other side of the community? I didn’t see myself like that, a crazy cat lady. I’m allergic to cats! I’d never met a lesbian in my life. I thought I’ll probably live by myself for the rest of my life. I thought that’s okay. I still think so.

Back then, in the 90’s, I thought I am different from everyone else in the Orthodox world.  I had this feeling that I don’t want to get married to a man. Now what? Where do I go from here? I found out a very important detail about myself and then there’s nowhere to go!

Well, I got older and nothing happened. I kept it to myself. I got my masters in Jewish Studies and I started to do research. I didn’t even know how to get on the internet at that time, the web was in diapers, but I still started to look for a forum within the Jewish world. I knew I wasn’t going to become non-frum because of being gay. My question really was: How will I live now? I even thought about doing my dissertation about it. I did research, and I realized I can live by myself. It’s not such a big deal in halacha, and worse comes to worst, someone will slap me! Someone will try to shame me! But if someone hits me, I will hit them back! (I’m a tough Israeli).
Ultimately, I knew I’d have to go back to Israel to find out more about being gay. I returned to Israel and I started to look around and I started learning about LGBT life, mainly through the internet. The first time I went out to do something with my knowledge, there had been an ad in paper, The Pink Times. Someone put an ad in there, that they were looking for educators to help youth. I thought, ‘I am an educator and a counselor, so maybe I could help youth.’ I went to the first meeting and there was a famous woman there, and some other people, all gay, all looking gay. I told them I was frum. And they said, “We do not want of your sort. Because you try to make us frum.”
I left that meeting thinking I was definitely the only person like me. I felt I had to leave, but the next time I wanted to explore, I went online, and there was IOL, (Israel on Line) and I found a forum, and on the forum was the first openly gay, young frum lesbian, and she said to me, “You’re frum!” I was so shocked! I realized I wasn’t by myself! There was more than just me.

The community was very very small at that time, but a year later, a group of women started a frum lesbian forum and slowly, it grew. Then I left again for England, and that group created Bat Kol. I kept in touch with everyone through that group, and I was as supportive as I could be. I couldn’t always get to the meetings, because I worked overseas.
I am in my sixties now. I live as a single person in a Noah’s ark of people, because everyone surrounding me is coupled, all heterosexual. I have no gay friends in this town. I don’t know any one. Plus, my gaydar is bad.
                                Gay or just very very happy?
I met my last girlfriend thirteen years ago, online. We were together for seven years. I had one other girlfriend, but she was my first girlfriend and it didn’t last. With a same gender partner, there is warmth and wit and intelligence.  You don’t have to say too much to be understood.
One member of my community is a shadchanit [matchmaker], and she tried once to set me up, and I asked her not to anymore. I told her that where I am, please don’t bother. And at my age, it’s a little more complicated anyway. So then, the shadchanit got off my back. I’m closeted, but on the other hand, sometimes people do understand things without needing to be told. I don’t need to have a sign on my nose.

My family don’t know I am gay, but I did come out to my niece. She told me her mother (my sister) thinks that I am gay. And my cousin called me one day, after looking at my Facebook page and asked me if I’m gay, and I said yes! I won’t lie. I’m not a liar. But as long as I don’t have a partner, there’s no reason for me to come out.
    But, if you don't look at Facebook, you won't know I'm gay...
My mother, I think, A”H, did not like my ex-girlfriend. Maybe she knew but didn’t ask. Just like in the American army. My father is in his 90’s and I don’t feel the need to come out to him. If he asks me, I would not lie, but there’s no reason for me to come out. I don’t ask myself a question like that, what would happen if I came out to my family, because I would be completely utterly alone and lonely if they rejected me.

I do not have close friends in the community where I live now. I do have close friends but they don’t live here. They live in Israel and I am out to them. It doesn’t work that easily to meet people here. I can’t always be running back to Israel. I work here now. 

I used to work in Jewish education for the Jewish Agency but now I am the head of the Hebrew department at an English university. There are a lot of gay people in academia. At university, I have no problem if someone knows I am gay. I’m me. That’s all.

There are two sides of me and they live very peacefully together. I don’t see any problem. The only thing that is hard is that I am by myself. I don’t even wish for a partner, but just someone that I can be completely me with. And she should live nearby! I do have a non-Jewish friend who I met through my ex. She’s not gay but we are good friends. One of the things I like to do is go to estate sales, and she knows the area very well, and I get to see unusual places. There’s wonderful things to see and find in these old houses in England. Her husband sleeps in on Sunday and she is happy to go out with me. And I can talk with her about everything, because she knows that I am gay. That loneliness is the hardest part of my life. I have no conflict with being frum and gay.
In Israel, I belong to a group, not Bat Kol, that are gay. Some are married to men, some are ultra-orthodox, and it’s a very eclectic group. We meet twice a year, at least one Shabbat a year, and it’s a wonderful group! Thank G-d for all these smart phone apps and skype, so we can talk as much as we want. That’s something that didn’t exist before. The people in my group don’t see any problem with being frum and gay and neither do I.

I don’t know what is the best part of being frum and gay! I have no idea how to answer. At least I know who I am and I am not confused. I don’t see the contradiction between these parts of myself. I have grey hair and blue-grey eyes. What’s hard about that? That’s who I am. No contradiction but different parts of myself.

I did all the confronting when I was eighteen, and I was a student. I had to ask myself then, ‘Why am I frum?’ and then, when I realized I was gay, I had to confront the gayness, and from that moment on I just live my life, as I am.

If a young woman would come to me and say I feel I am gay and I want to stay frum, then I would help her find a way to do it. I try to be the best D I can be and it’s not a conflict in my life. I try to do the best I can, combining all elements of my life, but it’s not a constant plaything for me. My mind gets to rest.
I don’t have the need to belong to a group but it’s nice to know there are other people beating with the same feelings and expressions. At some point, my group did talk about what’s okay, what’s not okay. We all read the same books and articles and the gemarah. We had many talks on the subject of lesbian women. I wonder if anyone can get to the pages where we did that discussion online? Maybe that information is buried after all these years? Well, it was nice to be able to talk with people about these subjects. I was really really closeted back then, and during those online chats, it was like being able to be all the parts of myself, and yet still a bit secretly because we used screen names. And then, when we finally met the actual people in the group, not under a screen name, that was very nice. It was suddenly true that we had known each other secretly for 15 years, but under nicknames!
I think the integration of frum gay people is happening already. In many communities. I would still like to see that if two women walk down the street and go to shul and they are a couple, it would be exactly like a man and wife going to shul for holidays and Shabbat and no one would think it is a strange thing. They would see them as a family. Here in England, once in a while, there’s a gay minyan, but it’s not in walking distance, so I can’t go. I wish that whoever wants to live openly, can live openly just like anyone else. If they think they need to break a glass to live together, then so be it. Anyway, that’s what I am seeing - in some communities, gay couples are accepted just like any other family.
There’s an Israeli group on Facebook called (translated) “I’m a Frum Feminist and I Have No Sense of Humour.” It’s not even a year old, but in the last seven months, almost five thousand women and men have joined. In the last few months, the changes they have brought on have been incredible! Even fully Orthodox shuls have allowed women to dance with Torah, and many other things too, and suddenly it’s become, why not? That’s the attitude I want to see towards the frum gay community. Normalcy. If two women in Satmar want to go into the shul with their little boy or girl, it should be normal. My grandparents were Satmar.
Yehuda Meshi Zahav, he is the head of Zaka. Twenty years ago, he was the leader of all the anti-zionist guys that gave the Israeli police the worst time ever. They demonstrated all over Yerushalayim. He was horrible. But suddenly, after a terrorist attack that happened right in front of him, he realized that Israel was not such a bad country. He was completely anti-zionist, but he changed his perspective and now helps the country.
It should be just okay to be yourself. Young girls who suffer from their families because they are gay, should just find acceptance. I can feel the change. I can see change in the frum community. In less than a generation, the change will be there.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


It turns out that there are lots of people reading a blog for the first time who are coming to this site for information. And then, they can't figure out how to get to it. If that sounds like you, here's help:

1. There are a lot of interviews. You can see (and click on) some of the popular ones on the right hand (your right hand) side bar (where there are titles and little pictures).

2. You can find interviews about things you are interested in by looking at the "Cloud" called Labels, which is also on the side bar. It's a lot of words in decreasing size order. If you click on one of those words, you will be taken to a group of interviews that have that word as a subject.

3. If you keep on scrolling down, still on the right hand side, your right hand side, you will see something called Blog Archive. In there, you can see all of the recent articles, but if you click on (let's say) September, it will show you the titles of all of the interviews from September.

4. At the bottom of the right hand side, you will see a list of resources for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Jews who are also frum. you can get to these resources by clicking on them. Many of those sites have other contacts and information for you.

5. Within the interviews, anytime you see coloured (usually blue) text, if you click on it, it will take you to a helpful link, usually organizations or articles having to do with frum gay Jews.

6. My email address is hiddenjews@gmail.com. it's listed at the top of the page, and if you click on it there, it will take you directly to email.

Happy reading!

 Now you are one of the cool Jews.


I'm old and I've been out for a long time. No one really bothers me too much anymore. They've gone on to other people. It's not like I'm fully accepted, though. It's like a sort of tolerance has grown up around me because I'm not going away. In a sense, I've worn them down.

Years ago, when my chassidic community found out I am gay, the Rabbi called me up and he told me I can't work for the Chevra Kaddisha anymore. I can't be the mikva lady. I can't cook for the school lunches. I can't have the high school students board at my home. They didn't trust me anymore.

I used to have the big annual women's events in my house, and they suddenly forgot my name and address. I was deleted from all the community lists and rosters. You might think that those things don't make such a big difference, but when you don't know about people's simchos, when you aren't told about your kids' parent teacher conferences, when you don't even know your own Rebbetzin has passed away because no one told you, that's when you start to feel really isolated and left out.
I still get invitations to chassunos and bar mitzvos, but when I do, I know that person is making a big effort to include me. The envelopes are hand addressed instead of just being pulled off the community list. Someone has gone to the bother of finding my address and then sending me the invitation specially to include me. That feels good. I make a point of attending those simchos, even though, in general, I do feel excluded.

I think you just have to go ahead and make your own community, because no one is going to make it easy for you. When they see that you are trying, when they see you still show up for the erev Yom Kippur mikva dip, when they see you are still buying the matza shmura and a good esrog and no, you haven't fallen THAT far away, they sort of perk up and reach out a bit more. But nervously.

These days, I find that the gay kids in the community, the ones who aren't out at all, they see me in the street and they make some kind of excuse to come and stand near me or ask me a simple question, and I know they just want to connect. I can see it in their eyes. Sometimes I want to tell these Rabbis and community leaders, be careful who you reject. Be careful how you speak about gay people. Because you are talking about your own family members.

Thursday, 17 October 2013


I’m twenty-six, married and I have one child. My parents got married when they were just seventeen and nineteen, and I'm the youngest of seven. I grew up in a Satmar family. My mother went to Satmar schools, but my father wasn’t the type who went to the tish every Friday night. His family davened in a little shtibel. We didn’t grow up with the Rebbe on our lips or in our head. 
                                            What about on your arms? (chas vesholom!)
My first year in a new high school, there was a choir, and one of the teachers in the school told my classmate who was heading the choir, give her a solo. It was weird! This teacher had a hunch I could sing. That teacher became the first love of my life.
[R] is crazy talented, she wrote beautifully and she was always involved in everything. She was a big macher. She wore the levush, two braids hanging down to there, grey tights, not the normal beige Palm ones.
She was very different than me. Her father wore the shiny bekeshe during the week. My father wore maybe a vest. Her father wore the biber hat, and my father wore the standard Satmar hat. We ended up becoming “more than friends”…(sighs)…though it started out very slowly and unconsciously.
One evening in early Fall, I came up to [R]'s house unannounced, and we were talking a bit. I felt drawn to her, there was something pulling me to her, but I don’t know what it was. I could tell her anything and she would understand. I never had that with anyone. MY family made fun of closeness, by saying things like: ”Are you getting chummy chummy with her? Why are you running after her?" It was looked down on to be such close friends. We talked into the night. And sometimes we would just sit and be quiet on the phone. And there were even times when there was so much going on inside me and she was just there, even though I couldn’t speak.
Sometime after that day, I got a note from [R] telling me to meet her in the basement of the school. We used to correspond through notes and letters, and since she was faculty, there was nothing weird about her instructing the office staff to give me a note. In the end, she was standing in a classroom. I walked in. She told me to shut the door and she shut the light. She was asking me to come to her, and I was dead afraid. I was terrified. I didn’t know about what. My heart was hammering and my body was shaking and I cried. I can’t! I can't! She said not to worry. That was the first time we touched. She hugged me. 
Growing up, I experienced very little touch in my life. No hugging. No kissing. A kind of default setting. I'd made a conscious decision when I was about ten that no one should touch me. I would sit at the edge of the bench, so no one could sit next to me, and I stopped getting or giving hugs and kisses to anyone. Anyway, one night, [R] and I had a sleep-over, which I think is an unusual thing. So we were having a sleep over in her place, we were both in bed and drowsing off. I was in the bed right next to hers, and the air changed. I wasn’t facing her, but my body tensed like I knew something was about to happen, but when it happens, you have the biggest shock of your life. She laid her hand on my wrist. Just that. But my world exploded. The hotness, the goosebumps, the shivers, my heart stopped. Nothing more. I was sixteen, she was eighteen maybe. It was an unexplainable thing. The chemistry between us…I didn’t have to work hard for it. it was just there. I didn’t have to do anything. I could just be me. It felt so fresh and safe. It was as if I was held all the time.
Soon after, the torment and the guilt and the confusion set in. I was always the one scratching my head and worrying, what are we doing? Is this normal. We always hid it. There was a secrecy. An added sense of shame and fear. It felt like love to me, but what did I know?
After a certain time, my father and my cousins said, "You’re going to vomit from her, one day." They said that because we were always together. They thought I was in love with her. It was true, but I also knew that it was illicit, and could never be owned up to. And I never wanted to get sick and tired of her.
[R] got married first and I was more baffled than ever. I don’t understand? How could she be with him AND me? Maybe she didn’t love me anymore. Was she with me from pity? I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. But she said it’s different…I hung out at their house all the time. I was there before the marriage, during and afterwards, shopping, talking. 
    The overly friendly friend at the wedding
Even after we were both married, people would ask us if we were sisters, though she wore the shpitzel and I wore a blond sheitel. Our handwriting was indistinguishable. Our singing was exactly the same. I couldn’t hear any difference between us.
The first time I met my husband, we talked for three hours, but I had no feelings afterwards. I was neutral. And then the second time, a week or so later, I was feeling, “This is stupid…what’s the point?"  I didn’t think I had the option of saying NO. I met this boy. It was okay. Now you get married. My mom asked if he was a nice person, but so what? What makes a person say yes to getting married? What is in it for them? Why should I say yes? But because I didn’t say NO, we got married.
The disconnect became even stronger after the tannaim. I didn’t want to look for an apartment, and I refused to think about what would happen after. I was busy making memories with my girlfriend. The day of the wedding was a horrible one for me, but  G-d made me look beautiful for the wedding. I was so terrified that I would hate my own wedding day.
Before heading out to the wedding hall, when we were still at home, my father began blessing me, and while he was doing that, I began to cry hysterically. To my shock and fear, my parents did too. My father said not to worry, that it would be good. But it wasn't.  It wasn’t okay. It never was. It was horrible.
After the chuppah, when we went into the yichud room, he kissed me on the lips, I was thrown back in a bad way. A lady came back to do my sheitel and my face, and she said don’t worry, it gets better. And then there was the mitzvah tanz…whoever invented that must have been very mean! I was literally freaking out. I sat awkwardly the entire time…it was one of the worst moments of my life. 
The day after the wedding I was so sick, I couldn’t look my husband in the eye. I couldn’t sit next to him. All I wanted to do was run away. It was terrible. And there was no one I could talk to. [R] didn’t understand why I felt that way. She was happily married. I didn’t know what was wrong. And my husband was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn’t know what to do with me. He didn’t know what to say. 
My mother kept on asking me what is wrong and I told her I don’t know. I couldn’t tell her that I don’t feel like when I am with my girlfriend. She asked me if he hates me, if he hits me. I didn’t have words for it. And then I got pregnant, and when I found out, I was crying so hard, I knew it was over. There was no way of getting out of it. This was it.
Around the same time, I told my husband I can’t go to the mikva. He was hysterical.  If I hadn’t taken a  stand then, I'd have six kids by now.
Everyone blamed the rocky start of my marriage on my tight relationship with [R], and then my father called her up ranting, and she called me up and cried and said she can’t be friends with me anymore.
I wanted to protect her, so we ended up breaking up. I was so torn, that my family wanted to wreck the one thing in my life that was good and that I had going for me.
I still have a lot of feelings for her, even after the upheaval, the wreckage we went through. I still sometimes think and wish that maybe things could turn out differently. I wanted us both to be married, raise our kids together, go shopping, plan dinners for our husbands and scheme about Purim costumes.
But that didn't happen. What happened instead was that I got married and instead of being beautiful, it was awful. I was thrown head first into freezing cold water and the shock was too great. Worst of all, I had no one to talk to about it.
Growing up, we could never talk about sexuality or "private stuff" or anything like that. I couldn’t talk about or hear any intimate words like sex, mikva, or period without cringing in embarrassment. My husband put a lot of pressure on me to go to the mikva. He said, "I won’t go to work if you don’t go to the mikva."
My husband doesn’t want to divorce me. I don’t know why. But maybe there’d be no one here to do his meals, his laundry, and his place in the community would be shattered. He still believes we can work on it and it will get better. He refuses to see the differences between the two of us. He won’t make any compromises.
I used to think I'm not gay. I can't be gay, because I'm FRUM! And if you're frum, it's either or. But I've since learned lots of things about the frum queer community (smiles).
I think that the biggest issue in the frum community is that children do not feel safe to ask questions and to talk about things and the reason is because we don’t encourage it. We aren’t comfy with broaching certain topics and because we project such discomfort, the children imbibe that and they don’t ask. Unanswered questions let a child’s mind go in strange directions. Why does a kid have to guess his way along when his mommy is having a baby or something like that? Kids aren’t dumb. They see. They understand. They are smart! They are unbiased and truthful and they take things for what they are. We give them no credit and we squish their growth by not allowing them to talk about whatever they need to ask. Why are you afraid of their questions?