In my many years of blogging, I’ve learned that sometimes, it is better to leave some things unsaid. I know first hand how your best intentions, laid out in black & white, can be misconstrued, twisted and be read different ways by different people. Which is why I’m struggling here and now to even put this post together. But I will – because I feel that there is a precious soul out there that needs all the voices of support that are brave enough to be heard.
Who knows exactly when I first heard of Y-Love. I mean I began my interest and study of Orthodox Judaism back in 2005. When you are Black (or a “JOC” – “Jew of Color” as we like to refer to ourselves), you quickly begin to discover a lot of other Jews like to – whether if you try to or not. I do remember knowing about Y-Love for just as long as I’ve known about Matisyahu. And although I’ve never met him, I felt that he was a “kindred spirit” (like my Anne of Green Gables reference there? 😉 ). He was also of Caribbean heritage and knew from a young age that he wanted to be a Jew. He was very outspoken about racial issues in the Jewish community and also seemed to be very comfortable reconciling his own heritage together with the complex lifestyle that comes with living as an Orthodox Jew. He was a great role model for me, and probably many other Black Jews-to-Be in regards to seeing just how being Orthodox could “work” out for us.
Earlier this week, I started seeing comments on Facebook which led me to discover that Out Magazine ran a story announcing that Y-Love is gay. Unfortunately, the comments that led me to this were overwhelmingly negative. It was sort of a panic-mode among both JOCs and gerim (converts to Judaism). How would Y-Love’s decision reflect on us? But even more disturbing were the sentiments that publicly admonished Y-Love, and scolded him for ever opting to convert to Judaism in the first place.
Seeing the reactions made me feel like I was drowning. Drowning in a sea of outspoken Jews who could not see the forest for the trees if their life depended on it. They were quick to through out Talmudic quotes and state how halacha forbids homosexual relationships. Well how about the halacha of loving the ger? What about all of the halachos regarding ahavat Yisrael? Didn’t Hashem even hold the utmost love for his faithful servant David HaMelech, even though he created the heinous sin of sending a man off to be killed, simply so that he could steal his wife?
Who is without sin? The Torah is holy and our guide to the most ideal living, but who fulfills all of it, all of the time? I don’t write this to snub Orthodox Judaism. However the most beautiful thing about living an observant Jewish life is having the ability to be grateful and satisfied with your lot and putting trust in the fact that G-d just knows better than you do. So regardless of my own personal disagreements with homosexuality, who am I to judge?
Y-Love’s announcement comes at no big surprise to many of us; myself included. Although I hardly know him, I could see a very handsome, talented Black Jewish man that seemed to evade being matched in spite of countless Jewish women (of all races and persuasions) swooning over him. His marriage was very short and he always seemed to refer to it with an unhappy, unfortunate tone. Yet I’m not with the “I told you so” camp here. No. Instead I feel hurt for him…and sad. Sad that he has had to live with this privately, internalizing his true-self. It’s a shame that he even had to hesitate in regards to the implications of his honesty. But more than anything I am ashamed at the callous reactions that seem to be rampant regarding his decision. The public admonishment and scorn is something that one Jew should never do to another. And yes, Y-Love is a Jew. Those who talk of invalidating or annulling his conversion should bite their tongues — and quickly too.
Every religion has members who grow and wane in their religious tenacity. Everyone feels that and Orthodox Jew going off the derech (lessening in observance or becoming totally non-religious) is some sort of travesty. But how many of us see the travesty in the circumstances that lead a person to the unfortunate choices that they have to make. For sure the saddest part is that Y-Love is being shunned and has few places of refuge among the very people that he choose to join.
Well Y-Love, when you find that refuge, be sure to let me know. I’ll be quick to join you!