The ‘Children of Israel’–Sexually Perverted and Remaking Society in Their Image

Transgender? Judaism’s got a blessing for you

Orli Santo for Times of Israel

This is an era of gender revolutions, and the Jewish community is racing to keep up. Enter Yuval Topper. Topper, who comes from an Orthodox family, was born female, underwent a sex reassignment surgery to become male, discovered that he’s gay, married a gay man, and in 2011 became the first Israeli transgender man to conceive and give birth to a baby.

Last week, following nearly two years of struggles, Israel’s Interior Ministry begrudgingly recognized both men as the child’s biological parents ~ another big first.

Granted, it’s a lot to take in. But Rabbi Elliot Kukla, above, a leading Jewish educator on LGBT rights, says this is nothing new. Rabbi Elliot Kukla, is a female Jew who lives as a male.

‘There’s a growing number of trans-male Jews who are getting pregnant and having babies. Finding ways to sanctify and welcome men who are having babies into the community, which is something previous generations of Jews could never dream of, is increasingly becoming part of modern Jewish life,’ Kukla tells the Times of Israel.

The past decade has been hugely transformative for LGBT Jews. But while lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have become fairly well-integrated into most aspects of non-Orthodox Jewish life, inclusion of transgender Jews is still in its early stages.

The Reform and Reconstructionist movements have begun programs for transgender inclusion, the Conservative Movement is discussing creating more open policies, but transgender Jews are still struggling for acceptance and understanding.

‘People tend to like having things in nice, tidy boxes, of men do this, and women do that, and challenging these notions can create anxieties,’ explains Kukla. ‘To make room for transgender Jews round the table, we have to expand some of our notions around gender and sexuality. For starters, normalizing the fact that people can have different life-cycles and choices, ones that don’t necessarily conform to the binary reality of male/female, mother/father… to my understanding, gender is a lot more complex than that.’

In 2006, Kukla became the first openly transgender man to be ordained by the Reform movement. In 2007, he wrote the first blessing sanctifying the sex-change process to be included in Kulanu, the manual for LGBT inclusion. He is also the co-creator of Trans-Torah, a body of existing and new Jewish sources that speak to the experience of being a Trans-Jew, which includes texts for a Pre-Surgery Mikveh Ritual, Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Wedding Services, A Blessing for Chest Binding, and more.

As awareness grows, the rituals are being adopted by mainstream synagogues as well: Kukla says he was recently contacted by large temple in Los Angeles that wanted to hold a re-naming ceremony for a teenager coming out as a transgender man, two years after celebrating his bat mitzvah.

…Judaism remained a constant in Itai Gal’s life, even as nearly everything else changed. Gal, 28, a transgender man, was born in Israel and grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, in a Modern Orthodox community. He underwent sex reassignment therapy in his early twenties, and during his transformation congregations such as Bet Simchat Torah (New York’s LGBT synagogue) provided a welcoming space.

Gal, currently studying for a masters degree in Jewish education, is observant ‘but in a way that gives me freedom to make decisions based on my own life experience.’

Gal ~ whose stage name is Ricky Riot ~ is also a member of the all-transgender, all-Jewish, folk punk band called Schmekel.

‘Mixing traditional klezmer scales with punk sensibilities, Schmekel [which means ‘little penis’ in Yiddish] challenges listeners to think critically about Judaism, queerness, and the sounds that accompany both,’ states the band on its homepage.

The band’s four members were born female but now identify themselves on the masculine side of the gender spectrum: the band’s drummer, Simcha Halpert-Hanson, identifies as genderqueer and thus outside of a recognizable gender.

Instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ Halpert-Hanson is referred to as ‘they.’

Though Schmekel’s lyrics often relate to the painful and difficult experiences of transition, they keep their sense of humor.

‘Oy vey! If they find out that I’m trans/ They don’t recognize me with tzitzis and pants / Even though I have a beard and spectacles / They won’t hold my hand if I don’t have a schmekticle,’ goes a song from Schmekel’s new album, ‘The Whale That Ate Jonah,’ to be released this October.

While there’s growing awareness and understanding of transgender and gender variants on the liberal end of Judaism, says Gal, Orthodoxy remains a problem.

‘Not everybody is privileged enough to be in this liberal Jewish community, where they have to worry about things like people using the right pronouns. There are still young people whose families disown them, or tell them they are not who they say they are, and send them to correctional programs,’ says Gal.

For Topper, born as the only daughter to an Orthodox family of six in Jerusalem, Orthodoxy’s strict gender roles proved impossible.

‘From early on, he was always unhappy,’ his mother recalls in a TV interview with the Israeli channel Keshet.

Feeling chronically misplaced, at age 12 Topper convinced his parents to transfer him to a secular school ~ it was a relief, but something still felt wrong, he said. This nagging feeling persisted even after he came out of the closet as a lesbian at age 16.

‘This was hard to accept,’ continues his mother. ‘Being a religious family, we were worried about the community’s response; also, when a parent is happy with his own way of life, he wants the same for his kid.’

At age 18, Topper realized that what he wanted was to be a man. With his parents’ insistence, he began seeing a therapist, who explained the essentials of transgenderism. At the age of 20 he began hormonal treatment, and a few months later, in 2008, followed up with breast removal surgery.

‘When they took off the bandages… I saw my chest was entirely flat: it was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The first days I just wanted to jump for joy, that I really did it, that it was really over,’ he wrote in his blog.

With hormones, his sexual orientation changed, and he began taking an interest in men. The year of his operation he met Matan Topper-Erez, his future husband. In 2010, they married, twice — first in a private ceremony for the family and again in a civil ceremony in Toronto. Neither was acknowledged by the State of Israel.

Topper’s decision to get pregnant was one of simple practicality: In line with the rabbinical courts, the State of Israel does not officially allow same-sex couples to adopt….

December 28, 2011, Topper gave birth to his first-born son, Liri.

But that was just the beginning of the couple’s struggles: Israel’s Interior Ministry refused to register Matan as Liri’s biological father so long as Yuval Topper was also registered as a man.

Only last week, with the direct intervention of Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar and chairman of the Knesset Interior Committee MK Miri Regev, did the Ministry give in.

Though the decision to recognize both men as the biological parents is largely touted by the media as a groundbreaking precedent, the couple clarifies that it was more a bureaucratic sleight of hand.

‘Yuval has not been recognized simply as a second father as the [news] publications mentioned. Rather, his sex had been changed back to female, he was registered in the baby’s birth certificate as the mother, and then his sex was changed back to male,’ Matan Topper-Erez tells the Times of Israel. ‘This complex process was not what we would have wanted… We accepted that solution, however, because the baby was already over one and a half years-old, and I was not registered as a parent.’

* * *

Understanding Transgender Issues in Jewish Ethics

The dominant approach to gender in Western society has its origin in Christian thought that understands both sex and gender as binary. In that understanding, everyone is either male or female, and gender and sex are identical. While Jews gradually absorbed that perspective, classical rabbinic Judaism had a much more sophisticated understanding.

The Talmud contains hundreds of references to other categories. These include, for example, the androgynos (a hermaphrodite with male and female organs), the tumtum (someone with hidden or underdeveloped genitalia), the eylonit (a masculine woman) and the saris (a feminine man). It is clear from even this short list that the Talmud recognizes that sex organs do not necessarily make people purely male or purely female. The Talmud also recognizes that an individual’s gender orientation does not necessarily match his or her sex organs.

And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. (Genesis 1;27)

This perspective is underlined by the Mishna: ‘The androgynos is like a man in some ways and like a woman in some ways, like both a man and a woman in some ways, and like neither a man nor a woman in some ways.’ (Bikurim 4.1) While the talmudic rabbis did not know about chromosomes or hormones, they certainly understood that sex and gender are independent variables, and they made it licit for people to be true to themselves in regard to gender expression.

In reaching this stance, the rabbis had to deal with several aspects of the Torah’s teaching that seem to dictate a different position. One of these aspects is the Torah’s prohibition of cross-dressing (Deuteronomy 22:5). The Talmud says that what is prohibited is falsifying identity for the purpose of spying on the other sex. The great medieval commentator Rashi says that the prohibition is limited to concealing identity for the purpose of adultery. The Shulhan Arukh notes that cross-dressing is permitted on Purim because its purpose is simha (celebration, joy) and that it is forbidden if it is for the purpose of fraud. In limiting the prohibition to situations of fraud and deception, the talmudic and medieval rabbis indicated that cross-dressing in a way that is true to the cross-dresser’s identity is permitted.

The other biblical prohibition is of castration. Of course, this is irrelevant for female-to-male transgender people. Most male-to-female transgender people do not have ‘bottom surgery,’ in which case it is not an issue for them either. Contemporary Jewish bioethicists treat vasectomy as an equivalent of castration, so for those who would allow vasectomy, voluntary castration should be treated similarly.

In terms of contemporary Jewish ethics, several key values are relevant to this issue ~ inclusion, tzedek (justice), and briyut (health). People who wish to be included in our Jewish community should be warmly welcomed. In the spirit of every person being b’tzelem Elohim (in the image of God), their diversity should be understood as adding to the divine presence among us.

In a world where tzedek is often withheld from people for reasons of class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and family structure, among other reasons, it is incumbent upon Jews to fight injustice in all its forms. ‘We were slaves in Egypt.’ Transgender people, subject to many kinds of injustice, deserve our support.

Briyut is concerned with both physical and emotional health. Preventing individuals from expressing who they are clearly leads to psychological problems. The mitzvah of healing is not limited to health professionals; it is incumbent upon every Jew. Supporting transgender people in who they are is part of that mitzvah.

…Our current understanding differentiates among sex, sexual orientation and gender as three independent variables that can appear in individuals in any combination. Given that reality, it is important to allow individuals to name and describe themselves.

There are several basic measures that Jewish communities should take. They should include transgender people in their nondiscrimination policies, including employment policies. To avoid embarrassment for transgender people, buildings should have at least one single-stall restroom and notices near other restrooms giving the location of the single-stall restroom. Programming to help people come to terms with the issues raised above should be a regular part of Jewish communal life.

The mitzvah that takes precedence over virtually all others is saving a life. In a world where sexual minorities are subject to ridicule and suicide, we all need to stand up for the full diversity in our communities.

8 thoughts on “The ‘Children of Israel’–Sexually Perverted and Remaking Society in Their Image

  1. Thank you for this excellent article. Please understand- “Jew” is a ROTchild moniker. They ARE NOT ” Ibri” aka Hebrew. These demons-are not called-because they worship a demonic demon called “god” ( spells ‘dog’ backwards) . They love teeth-gnashing words like ‘jew’ and ‘jesus’. THE MOST HIGH WOULD NEVER NAME HIS SON WITH A TEETH GNASHING TERM. YaHWaH / Yahshua watch over you. Rememer this is all Rev 2:9 -synogogue if SATAN. Shalom- allen

    Sent from my iPhone


    “Genetically, Ashkenazi Jews are freaks. For most of Jewish history in Europe, cherem-wielding rabbis and an unwelcoming Gentile world made inbreeding a far more appealing option than intermarriage. As a result, Ashkenazim became what scientists call an “endogamous group,” which is another way of saying that they have been sleeping with their cousins for a thousand years.” …
    Yes, you still need to use condoms. But a significant proportion of Ashkenazi Jews have a mutation in a gene called CCR5, and the most common strain of HIV uses the protein produced by CCR5 to climb inside people’s cells. The mutation prevents HIV from exploiting that protein to gain access. If you get two copies of the mutant gene, then most strains of HIV will have little to no chance of getting into your cells. If you get one copy, you’re still less likely to contract HIV, and, if you do, your prognosis is better.
    The number of Ashkenazi Jews who have the mutation varies among different Jewish subgroups. According to a study conducted at the Center of Neurogenetics in Paris, a whopping 45 percent of Litvaks (Jews from Lithuania) have at least one copy of the mutation. Ethiopian Jews, on the other hand, don’t have it at all.
    Population geneticists aren’t sure why Jews have the mutation in such high numbers. Some of the microbes responsible for Europe’s plagues may have used the same protein, and, as one theory goes, the plagues hit Jews harder than most other European populations, leaving us with a genetic advantage today. Wearing the same heavy clothes every day and never bathing may have had its benefits.”
    JEWCY (tablet magazine, Joey Kurtzman 1 January 2007)

    Now we know the truth! When Pharaoh expelled the jews they went south into Africa, had sex with monkeys and became carriers of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus particle. Moses must have been the first jew born with the CCR5 mutation. He resisted AIDS, passed the mutation on to his off spring and thereby became a legend.

    Thousands of years of promiscuous homosexual sex under filthy conditions spread the mutation throughout the ashkenazi jew population. A jew passing this filthy disease onto his filthy sex partners is a perfect example of survival of the fittest (actually survival of the filthiest).

    Jews brought the black plague down onto the heads of the white northern European people in the middle ages. Jews are responsible for the AIDS epidemic in modern times. We must sue the jews for reparations! Make the jews pay for this evil curse! The AIDS epidemic is the real holocaust!

    THE LIFETIME COSTS OF AIDS $618,900.00 in 2004 dollars

    That finding comes from a Cornell/Johns Hopkins/Harvard/Boston University research team that analyzed the costs and benefits of modern HIV treatment. When first introduced in 1996, a combination of then-new HIV drugs increased life expectancy by four years. Now there are 24 HIV drugs on the market. The benefits are huge. So are the costs.

    “We have been very successful in HIV treatment, extending lives by at least 24 years,” Cornell researcher Bruce R. Schackman, PhD, tells WebMD. “As with many health care innovations, success is expensive. We have to make sure we have enough funds available so that everyone can get that life extension with the best care available.”

    Doctors don’t usually start HIV treatment right away. That’s because it takes time for the AIDS virus to wear down the immune system. Treatment usually starts when immune cells called CD4 T cells decline to a certain level — typically 350 cells per microliter of blood.

    When treatment does begin, the average monthly cost is about $2,100. The cost of drugs is nearly three-fourths of the lifetime expense. Unfortunately, one in four people with HIV don’t know they’re infected. They find out only when their immune system collapses.

    The cost of treatment started at this late stage averages $4,700 per month. That’s because hospital costs rise to almost half the lifetime expense. In the last 10 years, the U.S. has tripled its spending on HIV-related medical care. Yet it’s falling behind. Future costs, Schackman and colleagues estimate, will be $12.1 billion per year. Drugs will make up 70% of the cost.

    “Access to HIV care may become increasingly difficult unless more government funds become available or the cost of HIV care is reduced,” Johns Hopkins researcher Richard D. Moore says in a news release. Of course, the least expensive option would be to prevent the estimated 40,000 new HIV infections that occur each year in the U.S.

    “Successful prevention of HIV can prevent a lot of cost,” Schackman says. “There is a lot of value to programs that prevent HIV.” Schackman and colleagues report their findings in the November issue of Medical Care. //

  3. Caitlyn Jenner, 66, I Am Cait star (formerly known as Bruce Jenner) who won a Gold Medal at the 1976 Montreal Summer Games has decided to celebrate the 40th anniversary of her win the Jewish way. She will pose nude except with her gold medal and American flag on a summer cover of Sports Illustrated – for the first time since becoming a transgender.

    “Until now, I had stashed my most prized possession at the bottom of my make-up drawer,” she said.

    Jenner revealed her new name and identity on the July 2015 cover of Vanity Fair, and since has written in support of LGBT Rights.

    Last month, in order to prove his allegiance to his wife’s tribe, Donald Trump invited Jenner to use either of male or female bathroom at the Trump International Hotel, Las Vegas. There is a Trump International Hotel in downtown Toronto, Canada.

  4. All of you!!!??are stupid a he is a he and not to be call a she….and this band is dirty and are not Jewish in true.

  5. #8, Leah. What is your point? We all agree that the truth of gender lies in the DNA, not surgery or gender dysphoria and such claims. That band is fully Jewish and behave accordingly. Their Jewishness is part of their “schtick”.

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