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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

THE MORAH: Lesbian Chassidic Girls' School Teacher


I am in my late 40's. I am no longer a part of the chassidish community I grew up in, though I was a respected morah in the girls' high school until fairly recently. I am still chassidish, just a different kind of chassidish. I lost my job when I came out as a lesbian. Actually, that's not quite true. What happened was not that I lost my job. I wasn't rehired for the position I'd held for more than twenty years. No one said anything to me. But when it was time to hear about the new school year, there was a big fat silence.
I waited and waited, even past the beginning of the school year, because that was my income and I couldn't believe they wouldn't rehire me without at least saying something. When I didn't hear anything by the beginning of Tishrei [first month after school starts], I went in to see the principal, but she tried to avoid talking with me. Then, when she saw that I wasn't going to leave, she slipped out a side door and wouldn't talk with me later on the phone.
This was someone who had been my very good friend. I looked up to her like I looked up to no other Rebbetzin. I decided to try to speak with her again on a different day, so I came in unannounced and surprised her. 
She was not pleased. She folded her arms and pulled away from me. "I love you," she said. "We have been friends for many years. But I can't lie. I hate what you are doing to yourself. You can't deny that the Oibershter (G-d) would be very disappointed in you. Your soul is higher than this! The Rebbe would be very disappointed in you too. How can you allow yourself to behave in this way? You, who were a role model for the entire school in tznius and aidelkeit [modesty and refinement]!"
I felt tears coming into my eyes. I didn't want to cry in front of her. I wanted to be strong. I had been strong in the face of the many friends, family members and neighbours who had said hurtful things to me or even refused to have any contact with me after I came out, but in front of this one person, someone who had helped me through every crisis with my ex-husband, I couldn't be strong. I began to sob.

"I'm not going to deny it," I said. "I'm a frimmer yid (religious Jew) and I know that what I am doing isn't what G-d wants from me. But I also know that I am never going to get married to a man again. I also know I need companionship, friendship, help in my house with my kids, support and love. Will you condemn me to living my whole life alone?"
"You could have a girlfriend," said my principal. "But you could only be friends. Even if you lived in the same house. You couldn't ever be physical with her. That would be okay in the eyes of the Oibershter, even if other people in the community would look at you strangely and not allow their children to come to your house. And, even with that compromise, I could never have you teach in my school." I believe she thought she was making room for me, being accepting in her own way, but instead, it drove a stake through me. 
"Could you live like that?" I asked her, and she admitted that such a life would be a terrible nisoyon for her. "But my issues are not your issues," she said. "You have to battle this nisoyon [spiritual test of being gay] day and night, wth tooth and claw. Who knows - maybe this is why your soul is here on this earth? To have such a harsh nisoyon must mean that you have a very lofty soul."
I stared at her. I didn't know what to say. I felt completely crushed. To her, my life was not human and painful and challenging, but just some object lesson out of a story book, cut and dried, an easy thing to dissect, completely lacking real emotions and real human connections. "It's not a nisoyon for me," I replied. "My life is much better since I admitted that I am a lesbian. And I don't believe that H-shem created me the way I am and then cursed me to live alone. I don't understand what it all means. I do not deny the Torah, but neither do I know what everything means. I don't know why bad things happen to good people. I don't know why H-shem made me gay and also said that acting on my gay impulses is bad. I dont understand ANY of this."

"You made a choice. A choice which goes against all that Torah wants from us," she said. "Now you are stuck with it. You'll see. In time you'll have to come back, begging, because being gay isn't the life for you. You'll be empty. A shell." She turned away from me and didn't turn back. I got up slowly. I felt as if I had been run over with a steam roller.
"I did not make a choice," I said. "This life, this self, was given to me."

I cried the whole way home. Tears were streaming down my face. I was afraid that all the people walking past would see, so I pulled up the (never before worn) hood of my coat, to cover my face. It was hard for me to get a breath, and then, it started raining. I've always thought that H-shem was crying with me, that even if the principal couldn't feel how painful this all was for me, He could.

When I came home, my children asked me what was wrong. I didn't know what to tell them. We needed the money I make from teaching, since my ex-husband does not support us at all. Inside, I was frantic, while outside, I had to stay calm, not to upset the kinderlach (children). "Something upsetting happened, but we will be alright," I said. "Der Oiberhster vet unz helfn" [G-d will help us]. My children gathered around me and hugged me and patted my face. "We love you, Mommy," they said. We lit the fire and sat down with hot cocoa and snuggled, reading books. My oldest daughter made cookies and served them to all of us. "Here Mommy," she said, serving me first. "Life is still sweet, no matter what happened."
Later, my girlfriend came over to see how I was, and she also comforted me. And later still, several friends from the small circle of frum gay people I knew came over and reminded me, again, that I had support, and that many people loved me and that even if my home community denied me, I still had another community to fall back on and that they would be there for me, however many times I needed them.