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Celebrating Transgender Jews


In honor of Transgender Awareness Week, the Dorot Jewish Division celebrates transgender Jews with these inspiring stories and recommended reading.

Youth Leading the Way

The Forward recently honored 13-year-old Tom Sosnik, who came out as transgender to his Jewish day school class this year, while the Forverts and the New York Post interviewed Abby, a young Hasidic transwoman. Haaretz wrote about a young Moshe’s transition to Miriam, and Keshet shared parents’ stories of their children’s transitions and community reactions.

Transgender Jews in the Media

Writer and executive producer Jill Soloway (herself the daughter of a transgender parent) received accolades for her television series Transparent, about gender transition in a Jewish family. The Jewish Journal  wrote about gender identity issues among Jewish Los Angelenos, while the Huffington Post devoted a section to transgender Jews, as did the Forward. The Union for Reform Judaism officially welcomed transgender people with a resolution, and the New York Jewish Week wrote about reactions in the transgender Jewish community. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Times of Israel and Haaretz wrote about Mai Peleg’s life and her will. The Daily Mail and Tablet interviewed Yiscah Smith about her religious and gender journey.

Life Stories

Memoirs and autobiographical fiction are a powerful window into the lives of transgender Jews. Here are a few favorites.

Leslie Feinberg and Minnie Bruce Pratt
Minnie Bruce Pratt and Leslie Feinberg. Jersey City, NJ. Image ID: 1661109

The thrilling novel Stone Butch Blues and the pioneering Transgender Warriors are just two works by the late author and activist Leslie Feinberg (shown above with Minne Bruce Pratt). Feinberg also interviewed the late Sylvia Rivera (pictured below), a legendary transwoman, activist, and Stonewall veteran.

Sylvia Rivera
Sylvia Rivera of STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries) at Bellevue Hospital demonstration, Fall 1970. Image ID: 1602578

Joy Ladin, a poet, author, and Yeshiva University professor, is the first openly transgender person employed at an Orthodox Jewish institution. Her beautifully written memoir is called Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders.

"A Queer and Pleasant Danger: the true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today"  is an intimate and inspiring memoir by transgender icon, performer, and author, Kate Bornstein.

Resources on Transgender Issues in Judaism

Babylonian Talmud
Babylonian Talmud, Venice, 1528-1547 NYPL Image ID: 1946488

Did you know that the Talmud recognizes many different gender categories? Dr. David Teutsch of the Reconstructionist Jewish movement writes about transgender ethics with a nuanced understanding of gender identity in rabbinic texts.

Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community, edited by Noach Dzmura, is a groundbreaking collection on transgender and gender identity issues in Jewish law and community. Dzmura also directs Jewish Transitions, an organization that encourages Jewish communities to celebrate the sacred in every gender.

The organization Keshet works for the full equality and inclusion of LGBT Jews in Jewish life, with resources such as “TransTexts: Exploring Gender in Jewish Sacred Texts,” created by pioneering transgender rabbis Reuven Zellman and Elliot Kukla. The Union of Reform Judaism recently published its Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Non-Gender-Conforming People. The Berman Jewish Policy Archive has also compiled an annotated bibliography of transgender Jewish resources.

Want to learn more?

Find recommended reading, blog posts, and more on transgender issues at NYPL.

Keshet's site highlights Transgender Day of Remembrance with personal stories, video interviews, and tools for inclusion.

See also the NYPL blogpost “Celebrating Jewish LGBT Pride

"Do you know what causes the rainbow?"NYPL Image 1519451


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Very cool post, thanks Amanda!

NYPL: Bravo!

NYPL: Bravo!

Transgender jews

As a Transwoman living in Canada all I can say is Kudos to all who share their stories and to the Nypl for giving us a place to share our stories.

Great stuff!

Great stuff!

very nice article. thanks you

very nice article. thanks you

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