I hesitated to write this chapter because I just didn’t want to bring up the hurt again. I know it sounds strange because I have been writing about many things that have happened to us that were hurtful. I don’t know why this is different except that I had a personal attachment and love to it. Also, the last time a story was written about us in a local paper it sent a title wave of anger through our Jewish community. They were mad at us for “airing their dirty laundry.” And yet, I was only “airing” the truth about what happened to me and Carol when we came out in the Jewish community. Suddenly, it became about how I had hurt others (as a result of the story written) than about what some of them had done to us. In my mind it was, “Blaming the victim.” What is difficult is so much has passed since then. Some good, some bad. Carol and I know who our supporters are but there still is lingering hurt that is difficult to move beyond.
See, since 1992 I had been involved with our local Jewish community. I started teaching Hebrew and Sunday school. I was an advisor for a local Jewish youth group and I attended Synagogue every Shabbat. I loved this Jewish community. Many families took me in and treated me as part of their family. However, when Carol and I became a couple in 1997 things changed. While in Synagogue people would stare at us, point fingers at us and even talk about us right in front of us. We’d often sit in a pew all by ourselves while the pews in front of us (and behind) were tightly squeezed with people. I was devastated. A few of the families who opened their homes to me, no longer welcomed me. They even went as far to tell me why. Folks, I won’t even give them the recognition by repeating what they told me. But, it wasn’t nice.
OK, the constant overt homophobia made me walk away on several occasions. However, I couldn’t stay away from the place I loved. So, I’d return against Carol’s wishes. She hated seeing me hurt. One of those times I returned I was pregnant with our son. I was teaching Sunday school and several members accused me of being a pedifile simply because I was a lesbian. They wanted me fired from teaching and they certainly didn’t want me around the kids. On top of that I was even accused of discussing with my Sunday school classes how I got pregnant. By NO MEANS was any of that true. It was extremely hurtful and more than that it was damning to my reputation. All the damning things the select few were saying about me were total lies and said strictly out of their own hate. But, here was the thing. They were saying those things and given forum after forum to say them. Meetings were held for them to talk about it. Members wanted me “excommunicated”. Now, yes, it was a select few speaking so terribly about us but what was so difficult was I didn’t see where they were being stifled by the masses. The select few should have never been given the forum to discuss the lies they started about me. They should have been told to stop. But, there were some in positions of “power” who helped them facilitate their hate. And so once again, I walked away. I did not have the energy to fight them. And when I gave them the reason as to why I was resigning not one person came to us to apologize. Instead, there was silence and I was sent on my merry way.
Listen, I don’t know what happened at the Synagogue when I left. Only “they” know. But, what I do know was there were members harassing us and threatening to sue us for slander (with our attorney said could not happen since the information was true). There were those who I loved very deeply who felt betrayed and couldn’t understand from where we stood. The overwhelming negative response from even those in the (Jewish) community who we knew to be our supporters shocked us. The article was about us and what others had done to us. It was about the pain and the hardships we had to endure. Frankly, it wasn’t for me to protect what those other people did to us. Let’s face it folks. I am not one to shy away from telling the truth as to what happened to me especially in unjust situations. If the other side who did the wrong doings got angry then I thought it was their duty to look at themselves in the mirror. For G-d sake, we were the victims. And let me tell you something folks, I am never the one to play victim. I never sit down, give up and wallow in my victim- ness. Oh, no! Read my story about my abusive father and you’ll see that fact. I will never do that. However, I have no problem calling the kettle black when it needs to be pointed out. And yet, when I did, even many of our dearest supporters seemed to blame us for talking about it than to spend their energy stopping the behavior of those who caused it.
I will never understand hiding behind what is called etiquette so that other’s bad behavior can be kept a secret. Many religious communities do this regardless of those who are being hurt. It boggles my mind the rationale behind it. Meanwhile, let’s not forget. I am Jewish and I love my community. For me to point a finger to my people, to my community, I also expose myself and those people I love. It made us all vulnerable. But I didn’t feel that was enough of a reason to not share my story. It did need to be done and people needed to hear what was happening. I do not apologize for not “protecting” those who did hateful things to us even when it was those in my own community.
Soon, Carol and I were going to have a son. It was important for us to have him born in an environment where he was loved by those around him. And even more so, Carol and I wanted to be in a place where we too were loved, accepted and supported for who we were. We were tired of trying to show others we were like any other family. We were tired of justifying ourselves. Over time it became wearing and exhausting. And so, we broke away from “institutional side of the Jewish community” to get that much needed rest and security we so needed. Instead, we chose to surround ourselves with those individuals (Jewish and not Jewish) who we knew would only lift us up and never kick us down. Of course this was evident as you could see at our baby shower.