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My Big, Gay, Jewish Family

My Big, Gay, Jewish Family

Colored pencils placed in a way such that their tips create negative space in the shape of a heart

As I skimmed headlines on the Israel new sites I check daily, I saw many of the same topics that have filled this space for the past few weeks. I ran through the list in my head: Kotel? Check. Conversion bill? Check. Blacklist of Diaspora rabbis? Check.

Opposition to gay adoption?! My stomach dropped.

I am immediately pulled back to the summer of 2015, tears streaming down my face as news returns of the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in the US. I think of close friends in same-sex relationships posting pictures of the day they brought new bundles of joy back from the hospital. I feel the blisters still on my feet from dancing last weekend at my mother’s wedding to her female partner.

The elation of those moments contrasts sharply with the pain I feel reading statements and opinion pieces about LGBTQ couples adopting in Israel. Many insist children need a mother and a father. Others chime in that kids with two mommies or daddies will be mocked in kindergarten, so they are better off staying in an orphanage. Just for good measure, someone pipes in with a misguided reading of Leviticus.

My pain mixes with suspicion. How many of these commentators have actually lived in a household with LGBTQ parents? I would venture a guess: absolutely none.

But I have. Not only did I live with lesbian mothers, I also grew up with a mom and a dad. Let me explain. My mother and father raised me together until I turned 12, then they divorced, and I lived with my mom and her female partner.

Critics out there assume my standard of living decreased dramatically. I must have been mocked mercilessly and tormented in school. I probably failed out of my classes and suffered intense emotional problems. To those worried about my religious identity, I likely lost all connection to Judaism. Sorry to disappoint the homophobes, but I was well cared for in a loving household. I always had support in middle and high school from both teachers and students, even in a politically diverse district. I earned straight A’s throughout secondary school, and maintained that average when I attended an Ivy League university. I majored in Judaic Studies, served as Hillel president, attended a summer yeshiva, lived in Israel for a year, and read the entire Tanach from cover to cover.

So take your false concerns for the children of LGBTQ parents elsewhere; we're doing just fine, thank you.

I have lived with a mother and father and with a mother and mother. I benefitted tremendously from seeing my mothers be true to themselves. What defines a good household is not the gender or sexual orientation of the people living in it, but the love shared within those walls. The idea that children in Israel, a country that so often prides itself on embracing the LGBTQ community, will remain in orphanages when there are same-sex couples that want to create a family together with them is heartbreaking.

And it is davka because this is happening in Israel that my stomach dropped. A ban against LGBTQ adoption is not just offensive and misguided, it is deeply anti-Jewish. Our first commandment is פְּר֥וּ וּרְב֛וּ, be fertile and increase. Adoption, in addition to medical advances and reproductive technologies, mean that LGBTQ folks can partake in this mitzvah if they choose. Taking that choice away, in a country that values and centralizes family life so much is cruel to parents and children.

Let’s expose the cynical handwringing of challengers to same-sex adoption for what it really is: another attempt to strip progressive Jews of rights in Israel. The opposition to gay adoption is not separate from my daily news checklist, it is fully integrated. As religious extremists seek to impose their rules at the Kotel, they also want exclusive control over questions of Jewish identity, so naturally they intend to barge into LGBTQ homes, too. These are all issues of religious freedom and civil rights.

If those of us who believe in equality, acceptance and democracy plan to stop these attacks, we must advocate for our values and share progressive Zionist vision for the Jewish State. 

Chelsea Feuchs is a rising second-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She previously served as the communications and social media associate for ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America.


Chelsea Feuchs
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