See?! I Told You!

What did I say? I’d announce, “Hey, no posting for a while,” and then within days I’d have something to talk about.

And sure enough, here we are. But, hey–you were warned.

The Forward‘s “Seesaw” feature, a frequent source of consternation for me, is back on my radar, with the same original consternation flavor I know so well! This week’s Seesaw column bears the title, “How can I show her that Judaism welcomes lesbians”? The three advice-givers on this one have all manner of suggestions: don’t make it about religion; don’t make it an obligation, make it a celebration; talk about how welcoming it is and make it a celebration, etc.

Video still of Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) from

Let Inigo Montoya explain. Or at least sum up.

I have a different answer: Judaism doesn’t welcome lesbians. Your Judaism welcomes lesbians. Mine, too. But not everyone’s.

Here, Inigo Montoya can help.

I don’t think there is one Judaism. There is a broad Jewish tradition–Jewish culture, if you will. Contributing to that is a religious component. Post-Exilic Judaism, Karaism, Sadduceeism, Essenic/Enochic Judaism, Pharasaism, Rabbinism, etc., all have contributed to Jewish culture. (So, too, has a non-Jewish offshoot of Judaism. You know the one.)

So, too, have Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Modern Orthodox, Haredi (Hasidic and non-Hasidic), secular, cultural, Secular Humanistic, and Renewal Judaism.

At least three of the varieties above–Modern Orthodox, Hasidic Haredi, and non-Hasidic Haredi–have largely said that lesbians are in fact not welcome, or at least they are not welcome with that identity.

Are they not Jewish? Are they not Judaisms? Of course they’re Jewish. And of course they’re Judaisms. But they are not Judaism. Nor is Reform Judaism. Or Conservative Judaism.

And so, the answer to the letter writer should, I think, have been: “Show how your Judaism welcomes lesbians–and show how your Judaism is different.” It borders on dishonesty to pretend that one’s own Judaism is Judaism, writ large; it is not–even, pace the Haredim, when you believe that your Judaism is the only Judaism.

We live in a world that can be, let’s say…less than nuanced. I’m not sure we help ourselves when we don’t add that nuance back in.

And we can be nuanced, even when we let Inigo sum up.

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