Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Do not judge your fellow man until you have been in his position" Pirkei Avot 2:5

We live in a predominantly Jewish community with a large Orthodox affiliation in the North East part of the country. Like the old joke, we are actually members of three shuls, the one my wife likes to go to, the one I like to go to, and the one I attended when I was in aveluth.

About 10 days had passed and the chagim were finally over.

Having not received any answers we decided to seek counselling from the shul rabbi where I attend. It is a large congregation of 750 frum families. As is the case in most communities, it is moving farther and farther to the right. Nevertheless, we decided to meet with the rabbi of this congregation. He has known our family for almost twenty years and because he tends to such a large constituency we felt that he has the most experience in pastoral work. We figured (and we know of a few cases) that he has "seen it all" from where he sits.

When we sat down in his study we explained that everyone was healthy, but that we had a different and difficult situation to discuss. We told him that our son told us that he is gay. The rabbi looked at us, took a deep breath as his face paled, and sat in silence for a few long minutes.

When he broke the silence he said "you have such a fine young man as a son. How he must have been in tremendous turmoil over the last few years. It is your job to help him get through these tough times."

Then a small smile crept over his face. He said that before we came to see him, he was meaning to call us because he thought that he had the perfect girl for our son.

We talked for quite a while. We discussed our other children. My wife inquired about calls that he might receive for references on our other children. He responded that it is not an issue.

He went on to relay to us that he sees all kinds of problems and issues in the community.

Our rabbi then quoted from Pirkei Avot and taught us that a basic tenet of halakha is that we can never actually be in a position to judge our fellow man because it is virtually impossible to ever have the same experience, backgound, culture and genetics of our fellow man.

He was not helpful in terms of finding resources for us, but he was helpful in offering us his guidance. We ended the meeting with him asking us to relay to our son that he should feel free to call him at any time. He reiterated that we have fine children and we will get nachos from them, each in their own way and in their own time.

For a brief moment, we felt better.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Searching for Answers

Our son does not live in the same city that we do, so after the first two days of Sukkoth were over, he returned to his home and my wife and I were left searching, questioning, wondering if this was real or a dream.

Who could we turn to? Who could we trust? Who could guide us? Who had answers? Is there an organization that caters to the Jewish community? Is there a self-help group that can guide us through these times and answer our questions?

The only organization that I could find was PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays). But this is an international group that is primarily non-denominational.

In terms of Orthodox Judaism and homosexuality I came up short. The only link that I could find was the work done by Rabbi Steven Greenberg. I found his email address at CLAL, the organization where he works. I wrote him, asking him some questions, but I did not get a reply. I assumed that because it was Chol Ha-Moed he might be away and not answering his emails.

So many questions. No place to turn.

My wife and I would lie awake and relive our life with our child from childbirth to this day, wondering how we missed the signs and signals. Many nights I cried myself to sleep with such a deep sorrow that our son had to suffer by himself. For how many years did he live in turmoil and question his self-worth, his religiousity, the acceptance or rejection by his parents, siblings, friends. If he would have been physically ill, we would have been by his side, helping him get through his ailment.

But we were not there for him when he needed us the most.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Family Changed Forever

Our family was irrevocably changed on the second day of Succoth, a few months ago, when our child told us that he is gay. Even though we suspected that may be the source of his depression over the last several years, the words which he spoke, "OK I am gay," cut through to our innermost being. From that moment, our family as we knew it, no longer existed.

It is now eight weeks later and there are times when it all seems to have been just a dream when I heard those words uttered "OK I am gay."

He is still the same warm, bright and loving son that he has always been. That has not changed. We love him and we have pledged to always support him in all of his endeavors.

So why does it hurt so much?