Keep Your Wives
Away From Them

Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires

An Anthology Edited by Miryam Kabakov

photo: Zohar Weiman Kelman by Marta Bogdańska

Keep your wives away from this book:
Keep Your Wives Away From Them Book Cover
Amazon
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(Ask for it at your favorite local book store)

Contributors include musician and writer Temim Fruchter, professor Joy Ladin, writer Leah Lax, nurse Tamar Prager and the pseudonymous Ex-Yeshiva Girl.

Brief Overview

Moving. Challenging. Frustrating. Exhilarating…

- Shaul Kelner

Reconciling queerness with religion has always been an enormous challenge. When the religion is Orthodox Judaism, the task is even more daunting. This anthology takes on that challenge by giving voice to genderqueer Jewish women who were once silenced — and effectively rendered invisible — by their faith. Keep Your Wives Away from Them tells the story of those who have come out, who are still closeted, living double lives, or struggling to maintain an integrated “single life” in relationship to traditional Judaism — personal stories that are both enlightening and edifying. While a number of films and books have explored the lives of queer people in Orthodox and observant Judaism, only this one explores in depth what happens after the struggle, when the real work of building integrated lives begins. The candor of these insightful stories in Keep Your Wives Away from Them makes the book appealing to a general audience and students of women’s, gender, and LGBTQ studies, as well as for anyone struggling personally with the same issue. Contributors include musician and writer Temim Fruchter, Professor Joy Ladin, writer Leah Lax, nurse Tamar Prager, and the pseudonymous Ex-Yeshiva Girl.

Awards

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Endorsements

Jews with unconventional identities should not have to wrestle alone at the intersection where their tradition seems to clash with their integrity as loving human beings. Like Moses responding to the travail of his brothers (Ex. 2:11), a caring halachic Jewish community should respond seriously to the heartfelt appeal of our contemporary sisters.

-Rabbi Dr. Tzvi C. Marx, author of Disability in Jewish Law

Moving. Challenging. Frustrating. Exhilarating. Important reading for all, indispensible for some. This book will save lives and heal souls, and it is sure to be banned in some circles because of that.

-Shaul Kelner, assistant professor of sociology and Jewish studies,Vanderbilt University, and author of Tours that Bind: Diaspora, Pilgrimage, and Israeli Birthright Tourism

Each powerful essay challenges my preconceptions about the nature of religious lives and communities, about gendered selves, and about the delights and constraints of Orthodox Judaism. Keep Your Wives Away from Them is a complex spirit journey that speaks of the longing for love and the search for comforting and comfortable identities.

-Vanessa L. Ochs, associate professor of religious studies University of
Virginia, and author of Inventing Jewish Ritual

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At last the Jewish feminist bookshelf will include the reflections of Orthodox LBTQ women, and what reflections they are! Lyrical, honest, painful, smart, triumphant, and powerful, this book invites all of us into the richness and complexity of Orthodox LBTQ life and should be read by anyone who cares about Judaism and Jewish life, as well as religion and sexuality.

-Riv-Ellen Prell, professor of American studies, University of Minnesota, and editor of Women Remaking American Judaism

[Keep Your Wives Away From Them] tells the stories of 14 women who were at one point in their lives silenced and made invisible by the conflict between their sexual, religious and cultural identities. [This book] presents a range of voices from people have come to terms with their identity as women-loving women and integrated this identity, in one way or another, with their identity as traditionally observant Jews.

-TCJewFolk.com

 

Keep your wives away from these contributors...

MARA BENJAMIN

is Assistant Professor of Religion and Jewish studies at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. She holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University and is the author of Rosenzweig’s Bible: Reinventing Scripture for Jewish Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 2009). Her articles have appeared in Jewish Social Studies, Prooftexts, and Sh’ma. She lives with her partner and two children in St. Paul, Minnesota.

GEO BLOOM

is married and the mother of eight children. She is a prize winning freelance writer and a teacher. She has had her work published in StoryQuarterly, Narrative Magazine and the Jerusalem Post, as well as a wide range of Jewish newspapers and magazines throughout the world. Geo won the Jerusalem Post’s “My Jerusalem” writing competition (the international section) and was a recent finalist in the short fiction competition at Glimmertrain. She lives in a large Chassidic community and often fantasizes about effecting the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Chassidic world. Geo Bloom is a pseudonym.

ELAINE CHAPNIK

is a former member of the New York City Orthodykes support group. As one of the group’s organizers, Elaine befriended several ultra- and modern- Orthodox lesbians, witnessing and supporting them in their coming out process. She previously published many articles as a contributing writer for Lesbian/Gay Law Notes, a New York Law School publication. She has taught on unconventional female sexual behavior in Jewish texts. Currently, she is a lawyer living in New York. In writing Hilchot Lesbiut, she follows in the path of an Orthodox woman living in Israel who compiled all the sources of lesbian behavior in the Torah and in classical Jewish texts and commentaries, but who must remain nameless to protect her identity.

EX-YESHIVA GIRL

lives with her partner on the East Coast (her piece was written before their shacking up). She regularly presents at professional conferences and publishes in academic journals about sexual health training for physicians. Her non-academic writing has appeared in Sh’ma, New Voices, and On Our Backs. Having quietly maintained much of her traditional practice alongside her radical queer politics, she was once jokingly described as an out queer and a closet observant Jew. She’s since learned to relish coming out as both.

CHARLOTTE ELISHEVA FONROBERT

is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University, where she is also the Co-Director of the Center for Jewish Studies. In her work she has focused on the study of gender and its importance for the study of the Talmud. Her first book, Menstrual Purity: Rabbinic and Early Reconstructions of Biblical Gender (Stanford University Press, 2000) presents a feminist reading of the talmudic discussions of women’s bodies. She also edited the Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, to which she contributed the chapter on gender. Charlotte is also a single mom who is quite skeptical of the heterosexist marriage contract ruling modern consumer society.

TEMIM FRUCHTER

is a musician and writer living in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Ze moved to New York in 2003, got involved in queer/trans and anti-Zionist Jewish communities, and has been involved in local activism and social justice work since then. When not playing drums in The Shondes (http://www.myspace.com/theshondes), Temim writes essays and poetry and the occasional article and is a sloppy but aspiring mixologist. Ze is thrilled to be contributing to this anthology, and wish it had existed back in hir yeshiva days.

SASHA T. GOLDBERG

is a masculinity enthusiast. She is also a believer in feminism, queer advocacy, and social justice. Accordingly, Sasha has spent many years organizing conferences, film festivals, fundraisers, workshops, and events, as well as having spoken extensively on sexuality, gender, and identity. In her professional life, Sasha is the Bay Area Director for Keshet, and holds a Masters in Judaism from the Graduate Theological Union, where she focused on issues of grief and loss. When not busy with such serious topics, Sasha can be found enoying strong coffee, various forms of analysis, second helpings of pie, Philip Roth, and spending time with her pack. Sasha hails from the good Midwestern stock of the United States, and has long since made her home in San Francisco.

MIRYAM KABAKOV

holds a master’s degree in Social Work from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work of Yeshiva University. She has worked in New York City at the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing and at AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. She founded and facilitated the New York Orthodykes, facilitated a support group for ex-Orthodox and Chassidic young people with Footsteps, and is the former director of GLBT programming at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. She is the Director of Izun/Mizan: A Film and Dialogue Series and a founding leader of Eshel. She lives with her partner and two children in St. Paul, Minnesota.

JOY LADIN

is David and Ruth Gottesman Professor of English at Stern College of Yeshiva University. Her contribution to this volume is drawn from Inside Out: Confessions of a Woman Caught in the Act of Becoming, a collection of autobiographical reflections on transsexual transition. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Joy has a Ph.D. in American Literature from Princeton University, and has been the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship that enabled her to teach at Tel Aviv University, among other awards. Her essays, criticism and poetry have been widely published, and she is the author of three books of poetry, Alternatives to History, The Book of Anna, and Transmigration, all published by Sheep Meadow Press. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

LEAH LAX

has been the recipient of awards and fellowships for her writing, including first place in the first Moment Magazine Short Story Contest, two residencies at Yaddo and several significant artist’s grants. In 2007, Leah’s libretto entitled “The Refuge,” with music by Christopher Theofanidis, was debuted by the Houston Grand Opera to much acclaim in the New York Times, Opera News, and Symphony Magazine, among many others. With artist Janice Rubin, she created The Mikvah Project, which has shown in twenty-four US cities. Forthcoming is the book Not From Here: new Americans and their journeys and her memoir (excerpted in this book), entitled Hassidic Love Story, about her thirty years among the Lubavitcher Chassidim, where she raised seven children. The memoir chronicles a spiritual/sexual/creative journey. Leah holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston and lives in Houston with partner Susan Baird and their dogs, Charlie and Magnolia.

DEVORAH MIRIAM

is the pseudonym of as observant lesbian mother residing in Israel who is active in promoting tolerance within the observant community toward homosexuality and within the gay community toward orthodoxy. She has appeared in documentary films on this subject and her published interviews are available upon request. Devorah Miriam can be contacted through her email address: jewishissues@hotmail.com.

JUDITH PLASKOW

is professor of religious studies at Manhattan College and a Jewish feminist theologian. Co-founder and for ten years co-editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, she is author or editor of several works in feminist theology, including Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective and The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics 1972-2003.

TAMAR PRAGER

received her Masters in Public Health in 2004, and has returned to Columbia University to pursue a Nurse Practitioner degree in adult and geriatric medicine. She is writing a memoir about coming out in the Jewish community and resides in New York City with her partner of 12 years

NAOMI SEIDMAN

is Koret Professor of Jewish Culture and Director of the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Her publications include: A Marriage Made in Heaven: The Sexual Politics of Hebrew and Yiddish (University of California Press, 1997) and Faithful Renderings: Jewish-Christian Difference and the Politics of Translation (University of Chicago Press, 2006). She is presently working on a book about the erotic transformation of Eastern European traditional culture in modernity.

NAOMI ZASLOW

is a visual artist and activist from Miami, Florida. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor’s School of Art and Design. “Unorthodox” was written when she was younger as part of a photographic thesis project. To see the accompanying images, check out www.whoiszaslow.net. In her free time Naomi enjoys singing karaoke, traveling and watching House with her friends.