Film addresses reconciling sexuality with faith
Sandi Simcha DuBowski's documentary
film Trembling Before G-d
provides a powerful and provoking
window into the world of homosexuality
in Orthodox Judaism. The film
centers on stories from and interviews
with religious men and women
whose Judaism and their profound
love for their religion, expressly conflicts
with an integral part of their
identity: their sexuality. Shown
Wednesday evening as part of the
Pugh Community Board's PCB
Three Day Focus on Religion and
Sexuality, the film drew students and
some community members to the
Some of those interviewed in the documentary chose to remain anonymous for their protection. "I don't want to be a less-than Jew just because I'm gay," David said in the documentary. He had spent 12 years of his life in therapy to try to correct his homosexual desires and be straight. Needless to say, the therapy-- which included eating figs and biting his tongue whenever he saw a man he was attracted to--did not "fix" him. Some 20 years after "coming out," David returns to the kind rabbi in whom he originally confided his homosexuality. With the painful experience of therapy behind him, he once again seeks guidance, and tells the rabbi of his inner-conflict. He cannot bear living alone, yet how can he reconcile the attraction he feels towards men with the doctrines of the Synagogue? Must he live a life of celibacy?
The several rabbis interviewed expressed a range of sentiments about the impossibility of being both gay and a pious Jew. While some completely rejected the possibility of reconciling homosexuality with Judaism, others replied that homosexual men and women may be considered Jewish--as long as they stopped carrying on homosexual activities.
One Israeli lesbian anonymously discussed her daily pain. Like several others interviewed in the documentary, she kept her face in the shadows and behind screens in order to protect her identity. She lives a lie as a married woman who struggles to love her husband as she wishes she could.
Some days, the woman said, the effort to simply get out of bed and make dinner for her children and husband is excruciatingly difficult. She recounted a story of attending a gay pride rally in Israel, saying that it felt amazing to be out as a lesbian woman in her Orthodox clothing. Another lesbian woman said of her religious background, "I feel like I'm an outsider. There's no place for me there."
Brian, also openly gay, heartbreakingly expressed the pain he feels from the separation with his beloved Judaism. "I miss people who fear G-d. I miss living with people who always are trying to do good deeds. I feel like I've lost seven years of my life... I've lost my Torah. I've got to find my Torah again," he said.
As the first openly gay Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Steven Greenberg was able to express the collective sentiment of those still struggling. "[The homosexuals in the Orthodox community] want to believe that the Torah does not reject them."
Like Greenberg, some may have conquered the struggle to reconcile their sexuality with their personal faith. But the issue of complete inclusion within their religious communities still remains--of being accepted in communities that matter to them, without regard for their sexual identities, gay or straight.