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Matt Adler

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A snapshot of two laughing men one Haredi Jewish with a long beard and the other with close cropped brown hair

My first Yiddish lesson in Israel did not go well.

I speak pretty good Yiddish, but I wanted to learn more and get accustomed to the distinct Hasidic accent – and I love visiting Bnei Brak, a Haredi community next to Tel Aviv.

My lesson was with Yosef, a Hasidic man in his twenties. The lesson started off great as we got to know each other, talking about our families and their histories. During the course of two hours, we spoke about 70% Yiddish, 20% Hebrew, and 10% English. Eventually, Yosef asked what kind of synagogue I go to, and I told him it was Reform.

Yosef’...

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Two smiling faces holding Jewish LGBTQ pride signs during a Pride Parade

I grew up in Potomac, MD, right outside of Washington, D.C. Like most young people in my area, growing up I had had little interaction with gay people, who were nearly invisible in suburbia. (Even though it was a liberal area, my public school taught “abstinence-only” education until as recently as 2004!)

I played soccer on my high school team, which had a designated “team fag,” who wasn’t actually gay but who the team would laugh at and deride. For years, my high school principal wouldn’t allow us to use the word “gay” in school club names because it was “too controversial,” so...

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