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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pesia Soloveichik Comes Out as a Gay Orthodox Gemarrah Teacher

Nu nu .... a litvisheh lesbian! A grandchild of R' Aron Soloveichik will teach gemmarah to girls ! 

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by Pesia Soloveichik in Forward

What is it like to be a Soloveichik?” 

This question about my well-known rabbinic family name has accompanied me for much of my life. My grandfather was Ahron Soloveichik and my great-uncle was Joseph B. Soloveitchik. The questions about my identity became even more complex when, three years ago, I came out as gay in the Orthodox community — while I was a Talmud teacher at an Orthodox high school.

Growing up in my learned Orthodox family, I viewed life through the lens of Halacha. I loved Judaism and could not imagine what it meant to live life not as an Orthodox Jew.
When, as a teenager, I became aware of my attraction to women, I did not know of anyone in my community who was Orthodox and gay. So I convinced myself that I wasn’t gay. I was afraid, and my fear kept me closeted and cut off from myself for a long time. I was scared of losing my beliefs, my family, my friends and my community.

As an adult, I began to confront the fears around my sexual identity. At the time, I taught Talmud at SAR High School, a modern Orthodox high school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The intertwining of my professional and personal lives added another dimension of fear to my coming-out process: the fear of losing my job.

Slowly, I began coming out to myself and those close to me. The beginning of my coming-out process and the confrontation of my well-founded fears were incredibly painful. I gradually became more comfortable with myself. 

It became clear to me that to be a healthy person, I could not be closeted and live in fear of people discovering who I was.
I still loved Orthodoxy and deeply wanted to remain part of that community. I spoke to the administration and members of the board at SAR High School. After various conflicting messages and a lack of transparency, I was informed that if I came out as gay while at SAR High School, the school would not support me. If parents asked to have their children removed from my classes, the school would do so, and I would be at risk of losing my position. Such a hostile and unsafe work environment was not tenable for me, and in June 2013 I left my job.

The following year was the most difficult one in my coming-out process. I was devastated, both from my experiences at SAR and from my other coming-out experiences in the Orthodox community. I suffered from depression. I did not know what to do with the broken pieces that had once comprised the framework of my life.

With the support of many true friends, I slowly began to rebuild my life. Today, I believe I am more compassionate because of what I have experienced. Since exploring different ways of living a Jewish life, I no longer identify as Orthodox. I understand the power and beauty of belonging to the Orthodox community and the power and beauty of my life as I have chosen to make it now. Although I do not want to change my current life, I do not wish on anyone else the suffering that I experienced to get to this point.

As someone who has been but is no longer part of the Orthodox community, I now speak for the sake of the LGBT people who grow up in that community and for the sake of the humanity of the entire Orthodox world.

Orthodoxy is an identity that consists of many intertwined components, including an attachment to the Orthodox world and a commitment to its values. It is urgently necessary for all members of this world to contribute to making the Orthodox identity a healthy one for the LGBT people who want to keep it. Otherwise, this community is setting up many queer people who grow up in it for a lot of suffering.

Frankly, teaching LGBT children that the only valuable life is one that is part of the Orthodox community and then communicating to those children that they cannot be a full part of that community is irresponsible and dangerous.

Lack of support around queer issues, whether in schools, synagogues or elsewhere in a Jewish environment, communicates that LGBT people’s suffering and unhappiness do not matter. It communicates to everyone in that environment that it’s okay for a community to decide that some people just don’t matter. The Orthodox world can be better than that, and it must be, both for the sake of its queer members and for the sake of its own humanity.

Pesia Soloveichik is a high school rabbinics teacher at the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester. She completed the Graduate Program for Women in Advanced Talmudic Studies at Yeshiva University and earned an M.S. in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania.


Echter yid said...

To you with respect,,pesia,soloviveichik, I think I have a good shiduch for you,? my cousin ,Abby stein,? Don't you think its a perfect match,?

Moshe said...

ויקרא פרק יח
כְּמַעֲשֵׂה אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם אֲשֶׁר יְשַׁבְתֶּם בָּהּ לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ וּכְמַעֲשֵׂה אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מֵבִיא אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ וּבְחֻקֹּתֵיהֶם לֹא תֵלֵכוּ

Do not follow the ways of Egypt where you once lived, nor of Canaan, where I will be bringing you. Do not follow [any] of their customs.

Doing an aveirah is nothing to be proud of

Anonymous said...

It's nothing to be proud of, but neither should she be penalized or condemned for what she is. Judaism does not provide any outlets for gay people - only enforced celibacy.

Anonymous said...

From Harry Maryles's blog Emes Ve'Emunah

The Right Perspective is Empathy -

I wasn’t going to write about it. That’s because I wanted to spare a family I really admire any more grief than they are already experiencing. But I would be remiss if I said nothing since the news has exploded all over the world and it is well known to my readers that Rav Ahron Soloveichik was my Rebbe. Whose Hashkafos I mostly follow.

In what has to be a very painful article for the family, Rav Ahron Soloveichik’s grand-daughter, Pesia Soloveichik has revealed that she is gay. This has brought out all the hounds from under the woodwork with all kinds of nasty comments about the fact that a Soloveichik has come out of the closet.

My views on the subject are well known. In a nutshell they are love the sinner - hate the sin. But this is not the time for that discussion. I can’t imagine the pain that Pesia’s family is going through with this very public revelation. My heart goes out to them. I know her father, Rav Eliyahu fairly well. We got Semicha from his father together. (Although I am an Am Ha’aretz compared to R’ Eliyahu). I Davened in Yeshivas Brisk while he was Rosh HaYeshiva there. A finer person you will never meet. He is both a brilliant Talmud Chacham, a Bal Chesed, and a true Anav – just like his father. He does not deserve this. Nor does any other member of the family.

I do not blame anyone here. People can’t help who they are attracted to. I only wish that Pesia would not have felt compelled to make such a public statement about it. That said. I’m sure her parents still love her dearly despite all of this. As I’m sure we all would if it happened to us. It also saddens me that Pesia no longer considers herself part of the Orthodox community.

My heart goes out to this wonderful family at this time. The nasty and unfeeling comments already made on this subject in yesterday’s post (which had nothing to do with this) have been deleted. I ask that anyone commenting here refrain from saying anything even remotely hurtful. I will delete them if they do.

I hope that it will not deter or distract Rav Eliyahu Soloveichik from being a Marbitz Torah. Which he once told me is his sole mission in life.

Sydneysider said...

Harry - as usual - is full of bull@#$#

He would be dancing for joy if this happened to a Chareidi gadol. (As would no doubt that t.. who runs this blog.

Maybe the fact that Harry's alma mater YU tolerates gay clubs etc, reduces the shame of publicly admitting To'eiva

Anonymous said...

There is no aveirah to be lesbian only gays.