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Introduction... (The first blog post in 2011)...

I am a frum, gay & married male who feels compelled to share. Let me get this out of the way, when I say I am gay ,  I will qualify it...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Eshel Part 2; Unity

Like angels in the sky
in a garden full of glory
the galaxies so brilliantly related
ultimately high
on that first page of our story

The shabbaton started with davening on Friday night. I had been to support groups in the past, both for JQY or Jewish Queer Youth (An organization based in NYC who's primary objective is to give support to young men and woman struggling with issues related to being LGBT, please see www.jqyouth.org) and a non-religious (and non-agenda driven) support group for gay married men (If you would like information about this group, please email me). When I went to these groups which had about 10-20 people, I was scared and overwhelmed.

Fast forward to Eshel. Walking in on 120 or more people made me feel like a deer in headlights. At first I stood in the back of the shul and observed. I couldn’t bring myself to sit down. As davening continued with the singing of kabbalas Shabbos, I suddenly found myself feeling the warmth of the room rush through my body. There were opening remarks that further made me feel like I was finding a new family.

By the time Maariv came along I gathered the courage and decided to find my way to the middle of the shul. As I walked toward one of the few open seats I was greeted with wide and welcoming smiles. People vigorously shook my hand and said good Shabbos. I was part of something rich. A feeling of camaraderie took hold of me that I had never felt before.

So listen brother, listen friend
Just a little smile, a helping hand
And we all will find a loving kind humanity
We must teach our children to
Treat your fellow friends like they were you
And then we all find some peace of mind and unity

I found myself thinking, 'How can most of the world and specifically many in the Orthodox Jewish community shun us? This was more beautiful a davening than I had experienced in many years. Growing up ultra-orthodox I had davened in the frumest of yeshivos and shuls in the world. The achdus I felt here far surpassed other davening experiences.

How can the Rabbi's be judgmental of people? People who kept a secret and burden to themselves in pain and agony for most of their lives? People who come together in a show of love with struggles a heterosexual person can never even imagine or relate to? Where is their heart? They pity the agunah who can't get married (but potentially has the ability to). They pity the world's other sorrows. It is more comfortable to look away and be silent when it is something that can not be related to.

Ages rushing by
Writing chapters full of sorrow
Webs of self destruction, we are weaving
Because if we don’t even try
There’s no hope for our tomorrow
So what’s it all worth if we are not achieving?

There were workshops that educated and inspired. My favorite was the rebuttal of a recent Rosh Yeshiva's essay on homosexuality that was both factually wrong and hashkafically incorrect. I humbly suggest 'al tadin es chavercha ad shetagiya l'mkomo'. This translates to 'Do not judge a friend until you reach his place' commonly known as until you walk in his shoes.

There was a beautiful and intimate program led by Rabbi's, professionals and community leaders. This allowed small groups of people to talk about feelings that arose over the weekend on a very personal level. I was inspired and heart broken by things that came up in that group.

Lastly I wanted to talk about the closing sessions. Perhaps this was the most moving of the entire experience for me. As the attendees entered the auditorium, everyone was asked to create a circle. Everyone interlocked with the people on both sides of them. Either they put their arm around the next persons shoulder or they held their neighbors hand. This became a circle of love. A circle of intimate connection. A circle of a people, many struggling to fit in on some level having an electric burst of energy pass from soul to soul.

We sang songs as one. I imagined Hashem smiling down at us and accepting our songs up to the depth of his heavens.

One of the leaders then spoke and thanked various individuals who spearheaded the Shabbos event.

He then said something that moved me to tears and I cry as I write this. I paraphrase, but this was the idea. He first talked about the strength of the people who came to the event. He talked about how brave they are because many did it at risk to themselves on various levels. Here is where I choked up. He asked everyone to take a moment to think about the people that could not be there. People who are scared. People who suffer quietly and have no one to turn to. I added in my mind, people who fear their communities, families and friends reaction to their potential disclosure. People who end up conforming to societies norms. They live out their years in various stages of pain and denial, yearning for an intimacy they will never have. I hear from too many people who reach out to me through this blog. People who are married. People who are single and looking for love and guidance. Lastly, people who are single and dating (women). The married people talk about how their families feel their depression. They don't understand. Husbands or wives not understanding the lack of intimacy that is being shown them. They feel caged and frightened. Single men and woman that are confused and have many questions. These people are your brothers, sisters, parents, children and close friends. I do not judge. I can only speak from my experience and what people have shared.

One year ago that was me. I had lived 35+ years, married, frum and with a pain that pierced the depth of my heart. I was terrified to go to the Eshel shabbaton. This year I went. I went with the world knowing my secret. I went with a million pound burden lifted off my shoulder. I left exhilarated, knowing that I am loved for who I am, not for who the world wanted me to be.

When the leader asked people to step into the circle to share, I was scared. I knew what I wanted to share but I couldn't gather the strength. Finally as they were about done, I stepped in and shared the feelings I shared above. Before I could even finish, there was a beautiful and rousing sound of applause that gave me a final burst of emotion.

Children; teenagers, adults of any age, please know that there are many people who were in your shoes. Know that you are not alone. Reach out to people that can help you and love you. You can not learn to love others until you love yourself. Learn to love yourself. Release the burden.

I left the event hugging and kissing the new friends I made, feeling inspired, a sense of responsibility and for the first time in a while a surge of hope.

One thing makes me smile
now at last a happy ending
a universal union undivided
just a little while
we will join the angels singing
peace and love across the world united.

PS Lyrics are from Unity by Mordechai Ben David

An Open Letter to Yeshiva World News

This letter is so important. It was written by a friend Yitz Jordan otherwise known by his stage name Y-Love. Yitz became a Ger (Jewish convert) a number of years ago. He has been accused of becoming a ger to hide his homosexuality.

Here is his beautiful yet heart wrenching response to the accusation. While I did not go through Geirus (conversion) as I am a Jew from birth, I can relate in so many ways to his story and struggle with reconciling God, Torah and homosexuality.

Response from Yitz

Yitz; I love, support you and share your burden.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The power of words...

I had to share this.

I was just messaging with a friend.

Knowing that I have my ups and downs, he offered his phone number to me so that I can call him if I need to talk.

Me - Thanks. I think I will take you up on that. How much do you charge?

Him - You get a pro rate of nothing - All I ask for is friendship.

I was moved immediately when those words came up on my screen.

So elegant, yet so simple. A show of love but at the same time vulnerability. There is no better combination of emotions that speaks to me so intimately.

I can't think of a better response. Without any doubts, I offer him my friendship.

I thank him for making me smile.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Time out to give thanks

As I have mentioned in blog posts before, I have always had a struggle with my relationship with God.

That said; even in my struggles, every so often something in my life happens that I can't help but look away from my challenges and say thank you.

Now is one of those times.

Thank you God for the kindness you bestowed upon me this evening.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Feeling whole... Eshel part 1

I knew what it felt like to be alone. 

I now know what it feels like to be together.

A little more than a year ago when I was still 'in the closet', I had only 2 people that knew I was gay, my therapist and my best friend. What I would commonly do is search the web for all things Jewish and gay. I came across a website called Eshelonline.org. They were promoting a Shabbaton sponsored by a group called Eshel. They were presenting it as 'The Eshel Shabbaton; A Weekend of Community, Learning and Ruach for Frum LGBT Jews'. When I found out, I wrote about my feelings here. In summary, the worst feeling that I had was having a burden and not having anyone to share it with. Knowing that there was a whole Shabbos in which people challenged with the same secret as mine got together as a community, broke my heart. I couldn't go and it hurt.

For those who don't know; LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.

My gut tells me that there is a big group of people that just read that and became uncomfortable.

I have been there. Until this past year I had not met someone that I knew to be a Jewish, orthodox, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individual. I knew myself to be gay or maybe bisexual at the time. Other than that, I knew no one else.

Please read that again. "I knew myself to be gay or maybe bisexual at the time. Other than that I knew no one else." Please stop for a moment and see if you can find the power in that statement. Read it again if you must. I challenge you to contemplate your level of sensitivity if you don't feel for where I was at that time. The only person that I knew with this struggle was myself. Do you have any idea how lonely and painful that is? Do you realize that this could be your brother or sister suffering intensely? Your father or mother in unbearable pain? Your son or daughter who is doing horribly in school because this is all they focus on? Your spouse who you can't understand why they have such a hard time  experiencing intimacy with you? Your best friend?

If the stats are right that one in every 10 people are gay, every minyan that you go to, statistically one person is gay. In Mir Yeshiva, the biggest yeshiva in the world their are 7,000 students. Statistically 700 of them might be gay. If you want to say one in 20 people are gay than 350 of them are. If you have 9 siblings.... you get my point. The list goes on and on.

How many feel alone? Every single one.

Can I say that every one of them is suffering on the same level? No. I can share with you that I continue to receive emails both through my blog and from people that heard my story of which 99% of whom are thoroughly depressed. There are teenagers that want to hurt themselves. There are adults, mostly married,  that want to kill themselves. The words they use over and over are hurt, pain, depression and worst of all 'alone'.

A year later I found myself in Falls Village, CT at the 3rd annual Eshel Shabaton.

The first thing I noticed was the diversity of the crowd. It was like a Friday night davening at the kotel. There were Rabbi's, Chasidim, heimish and modern, frum and ex-frum men and woman. I would say that most of the ex-frum were those in their 20's and 30's. There were woman who wore sheitels and others with spiked and colored hair. There were boys as young as 17 to adults as old as in their 60's or even older. There were married individuals whose spouses did not know they were there. There were others whose families have no idea of their sexual orientation. There were doctors and lawyers, businessmen and students. People that came from Israel, Canada and places all over the USA.

There are those that plan on being celibate their whole lives. There were others who are completely frum and brought their partners and children.

It was an amazingly diverse crowd.

With all this diversity though, we were together. We were whole. We were one. We laughed together. We cried together. We sang and danced together. Mostly though, as we authentically shared our experiences and struggles together, we gently allowed ourselves to carry each others burdens. We were exhilarated, as through the togetherness, the burdens started to get lighter and looser.

To be continued....

Monday, January 21, 2013


I don't have a lot of time to write now but I wanted to share that I am doing really well.

My last 3 or 4 entries came from some deep, difficult and painful places. I am doing a lot better now.

I returned to a place I am staying for the first time since experiencing some deep pain and hurt. I still have ambiguity from the experience. I expected upon return to be in a difficult place. I have reached down deep and found strength. It has been a lot easier than I thought.

I went to the Eshel shabbaton this weekend. This is where Jewish people of all denominations and from all parts of the world who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender come to learn together, daven together and share of themselves. It was a wonderful experience. I will write about it more over the coming days. It was amazing meeting everyone and making new friends that share my struggle on various levels. It has reinvigorated me. 

I am amazed by the brave people who had the strength to attend. I am deeply saddened for all the people who carry this burden on their own and couldn't attend. They certainly outnumber the attendees by far. That is a commentary on society which I again will address in later posts.

(I will be respecting the rule of confidentiality that we agree to when going to this event.)

A few thousand people have read my blog over the last few weeks. Thank you to those who recently chose to reach out and give me the love and support that you had while I struggled deeply. Your kindness and sensitivity stands out in a world where most are silent.

Thank you again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Standards, ambiguity and (my lack of) Restraint....

I want to preface this by saying that overall I am doing pretty well. It's the nights that tend to get lonely. I pray that my next entry will be more upbeat.

I'd like to write about a problem I think many of us share but I think is a mistake. I will then share something personal (As if this blog otherwise is not personal :-).

The challenge is that we have an expectation that the rest of the world should live up to our personal standards.

If we have a high standard in an area of kindness we want others to meet that level. If we go out of the way to show love to someone in need, we think lesser of the world for not expressing that love to us when we need it. If there is something we don't say because we find it offensive, we can never understand how another person can talk that way to us.

I obviously know that one can never live with this attitude simply because it is unrealistic and they will always be let down. We are all different and have our own standards. That's what makes this world so interesting.

Here's where I drive myself mad though. I find myself lowering my own standards because I am trying to adapt to others. An example is; I want badly to share vulnerability with some friends but  I won't necessarily do it because I don't think they would be vulnerable to me. Another; I want badly to reach out to a friend to see how he is doing but I am thinking that he is holding back and would have a hard time doing the same for me. So I fight an incredibly hard battle within myself. Do I cave to my emotions or not.

I hate it because it is so unnatural to me. It is not in line with my core. I need to do what I feel is right. This is where I tend to let myself down. I usually end up giving in because I lose the battle of restraint. I don't play by my own rules. I can't control my need. Once I give in there is self loathing because I feel I've lost the inner battle again. I want to live true to myself. I can ultimately deal with the fact that people won't live up to my standards, but I loathe the fact that it seems so easy for them not to.

I may be a romantic but sometimes I wish others would break the rules. Break rules in ways that benefit me. Break rules that we set between each other. Break rules of conformity and meet a standard they may not typically allow for themselves. Show me that they care.

So I end up over thinking it. Do they care for me? Do they think I don't care for them? Do they even care if I care? Do they care for me enough that they are scared of hurting me? So I end up with the feeling I hate most, ambiguity. Lack of clarity.

Then I end up blogging about it in the wee hours of the morning because the thoughts fill my mind.

And then I ask yet again; why am I so damn hard on myself?

PS I don't know if some of these posts are helping people. I apologize if they don't seem to be. Sometimes I need to write to help myself. You ask why I don't just write it and then keep it personal. The answer is twofold; firstly that I allow myself to be selfish for me sometimes and second, I hope I am getting a message out and potentially helping someone, somewhere.

Friday, January 11, 2013


I hate loss. It encompasses my every thought. A minute feels like a day and a day like a week and so on. In the moment it seems like it will never end.

The recent weeks have been from the longest weeks of my life. I would say I'm glad this one is over but I know Shabbos will be one of the longest shabbosim of my life. Who knows what next week will bring? My guess is continued pain.

I am not privy to updated information that I am needing badly. The lack of knowledge is eating me up. I wonder if it's bad news that is being kept from me. Then I wonder if hearing bad news is better than not hearing anything at all.

What can I fill the emptiness with? I don't know. I just wish I wasn't consistently teased by God. I wish I could have the strength to avoid complete loss by finding within myself a way to maintain some of what I had. I need it very badly. Why do I go to extremes?

Some of you know what it is I am struggling with. The others that don't, please forgive me for the cryptic nature of this post. I needed to write about this the best I could.

I've cried enough tears this week for a year, maybe 5 or 10. Why do I torture myself so?

PS 01/12/13 11:30pm Shabbos has come and gone. It was actually really nice and relaxing. First time in a while. Went to all 3 tefillos which isn't common when I have the kids exclusively. I again focused and thought about what I was saying. I was expecting Motzei Shabbos to be rough because there is something I would wait for every Motzei Shabbos for the last number of months that I was confident I wouldn't get this week (and I was right). Some friends helped me through and I am doing really good. Have a great week everyone.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Making decisions...

I've been thinking things over. I wanted to share some things I am working on. Some of these are decisions I have made the last couple days and others I have been working on for a while.

1) Over the last few months I was testing the waters to see if I wanted to move. I know this isn't earth shattering news for anyone but I have decided for the foreseeable future to stay in the town I have lived in for the recent 13 years. I am putting the idea of moving on hold. I need the stability of friends, work and routine that I have out here even at the loss of ease of travel and potential friendships/social connections that I was hoping for in the other location. For the new friends that I made the last few months, I thank you and continue to admire and respect you. Keep in touch. Who knows what time will bring but for now I am staying put.

2) I am minimizing things in my life that I became dependent on. Smoking was an addiction. It's been over 3 months since I have had a cigarette.
Drinking was not at the point of addiction but I was overdoing it to sometimes mask my pain. I have not had a drink in a longer period of time than it's been for months and I intend to continue.
Eating; I am at my lowest weight since 1995. Unfortunately a lot of that has been because of a loss of appetite but at the same time I have been exercising and working hard to eat less and more healthy.

3) Facebook - Hard to realize while you are in it what an addiction it is. I am not saying that to everyone its an addiction but I am certainly saying it about me. In my most difficult times I found myself posting things a little too personal and a little too often only to remind myself the next day that it probably was not a very good idea. That said, it's only been two days since I have deactivated my account and I am going a little stir crazy. I find myself subconsciously clicking the link at work only for it to ask for my password. Than I remind myself that I don't have it. Same with my iPhone. Constantly clicking the app. My gut tells me this won't go on forever and I'll be back on Facebook at some point but I need to prove to myself I can stay off for a bit.

4) Impulsiveness - 2 areas I need to work on. First is making quick decisions that I sometimes regret. As I stated in my last post both my highs and lows are incredibly intense. When I am in either of those places I find myself making decisions that aren't the best for me. I than beat myself up really hard for making those decisions. It is an incredibly vicious cycle. I believe everyone in a state of vulnerability needs someone  to have accessible. Be it a friend, spiritual guide or a therapist to run the dilemma by before making a decision that can be regretted later. We are too subjective. That person in my life has been gracious enough to identify himself to me. To be continued on how that goes. 

Second is staying away from putting myself into situations that can cause me to make mistakes. Examples for some might be that a person struggling with alcohol, should not go to a bar under the guise of socializing. An ex-smoker shouldn't go out with his co-workers on cigarette breaks just to keep them company. Without going into detail I have made mistakes and have hurt people in ways because of this challenge.  Regret eats me on the inside and makes my whole body feel numb and empty. At times I hate myself for it. Bringing me to my next point.....

5) Lastly, I need to stop being so damn hard on myself. Even with all said here and in my previous post; when I make mistakes I need to give myself room. I have to stop judging myself. I am vulnerable. I feel intensely. I will stumble. I will fall. At times I have stumbled and I have fallen. Through the summer I was keen on saying "I am Titanium". I felt that way for a while. I have questioned myself a lot recently. How strong am I really? How much can I handle? I need to live for today and not beat myself up over yesterday. I need to live for today and not stress about tomorrow. 

I need my friends and family to remind me of these decisions but to also remind me that a lot is going on and I absolutely can not beat myself hard when I perceive myself as having messed up.

PS A message to my friends and family... The last few months have been very intense; it was wonderful at times, and well, lets just say quite complicated at times. I still love you (intensely). Thank you for being there. Even if I don't always show the appreciation, I still thank you and I need you in my life. Please continue to reach out. Please don't feel bad when I don't always respond. I know I make it difficult for you at times. Please continue to give me support and remind me that I am loved for my strengths and my faults alike.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Emotional intensity...

I am having some intense ups and downs right now. I have regrets that I know I can't do anything about. I have hurt from various people in my life. I am having a hard time controlling and coming to terms with them. My life is taking me to many different geographical locations on too frequent a basis. It is exhausting to say the least. I am trying to make decisions on where I should ultimately live. There are strong arguments for each location. Because I go to my family every other week for 4-5 days, dominating my mind is the ease of travel to and from one location over the other. One is a simple train, the other a flight.

There are social advantages and social disadvantages in each place. In the city I live in primarily, I can count on my fingers the amount of people I know that struggle with homosexuality in the face of Judaism There are no support groups. Even the few that I know exist, none have a similar upbringing to mine.  In one of the other places I am considering, there are tens, if not hundreds of people along the spectrum in this struggle.

There are real financial considerations that are heavily weighing on me day in and day out.

There are considerations as it relates to religion. I am trying to negotiate myself through understanding and being comfortable with who I am frum-wise. I must consider where I live to have the best chance to balance, soul search and 'find' myself in this area.
There are a number of other difficulties that are too personal to talk about here.

My challenge is that I am not finding that I have the emotional and practical smarts right now to know how to make these decisions. My therapist understandably is giving me tools to help me allow myself permission to be indecisive. He is not clearly helping me make decisions. I don't think that is his job though.

There are people in my life that have been there for me in the past. They have allowed me to show vulnerability and cry to them when I have needed to. Some of these people are not allowing me this privilege anymore. This has traumatized me as it relates to sharing with anyone. I feel so bad sharing anything with others at this point. I second guess if my friends and family care to hear about my challenges because I have others in my life that don't. So I keep it inside. I then allow myself to live in my head. When I think too much, nothing good happens. My mind and my stomach burn slowly. My appetite lowers and sleep is close to non-existent. I have been trying to keep myself busy by doing things that make me feel good. Exercising, working harder, learning with my chavrusa b'iyun so that I really can exercise my mind.

For the first time in a while I have found myself talking with Hashem when I daven. The conversation is not particularly friendly but it is a conversation nonetheless.

I sometimes want to scream. I many times want to cry. At select times (Those times that alcoholics call a moment of clarity) I am incredibly happy. I recently spent a few days on vacation with my oldest son. While it was only a few days, we took advantage of the time. It was a wonderful experience that brought me positive motivation and outlook. I spoke with him about some intimate feelings that I was experiencing. Him using his smarts way past his years, was more mature, sensitive and understanding than some people double and triple his age.

Either way, as it has always been; my highs are incredibly high and intense and my lows are intensely low. I feel like a lot of my challenges are situational but various obligations keep me from accomplishing in those areas. Even if I did not struggle with this and had the perfect marriage, the intensity of my job alone would make my life overwhelming. Throw in there all these other elements and it many (most) times seems unmanageable.

My choices brought me here. I don't know that my mind allowed me control in those decisions at the time. No difference. I take responsibility for the results of my actions. Unfortunately, that knowledge and acceptance doesn't practically make this any easier.

I hope and pray that I can find the tools I need to get past this period in my life. I am working on compartmentalizing the various hurdles that I have, so that it seems like life is under control. I have fought through so much for so long. My history tells me that at some point I will find the resolve to fight my way through this and sort it all out. Some peace of mind and clarity in my life would be so appreciated right now, even if just for a small extended period of time.

PS I feel good that I got this out. :-)

PPS To the many people that have reached out through email (and that know me and call) that are struggling with their sexuality and abuse (or both), I am sorry that I can't be the most supportive right now. I love you. I respect you for your challenges and support you deeply. I share your pain with you. I am sorry, but at times my own struggles don't allow me to be there for myself, let alone for others. Please keep on checking in though. At some point I will be there for you.