“Gay, Gray and Jewish” by Sandy Warshaw

Reference: My Jewish Learning with permission from JewishFamily.com

The following article is reprinted with permission from JewishFamily.com, published by Jewish Family & Life.

A Jewish-lesbian-grandmother-feminist-activist shares her story.

Born Jewish in 1933, I was a feminist activist at two. By 24 I had fulfilled society’s mandate: “get married, have children and live happily ever after,” except that I was divorced by 44. At 45 1 had my first lesbian relationship and at 59 discovered Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST), New York City’s synagogue for gay and lesbian Jews. I did not come out to my children until I was 60.

By 60, I’d had two lesbian relationships: the first, closeted, was almost as bad as my marriage; the second, also closeted but more fulfilling, lasted eight years. While recovering from that relationship, I read about the pending installation of Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, a lesbian feminist, as the first rabbi at CBST. I went. I was awed hearing “gay” and “lesbian” used in the same sentences as “Jewish,” and all said with pride. At the installation, I learned about a monthly Feminist Minyan and went the next week. Three months later, I went to the Minyan and asked to read a prayer I had written on the death of a friend. I have been writing prayers and developing services at CBST ever since.

I was “adopted” by young Minyan members, who dubbed me “baby dyke” and introduced me to lesbian literature, music, hangouts and PRIDE celebrations. At the same time, they immersed me in Judaism. One new friend, knowing of my closeted lifestyle, brought me a brochure for Elat Chayyim, the Jewish Renewal Retreat Center. They were having a week’s course, “Twice Blessed: Being Gay and Jewish.”

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Sandy Warshaw is a formerly heterosexual, lesbian, grandmother who lives in New York City. She is the mother of two, grandmother of three, and author of the forthcoming book, Gay and Gray: What Will I Tell My Grandchildren.