Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Hashem doesn't create junk."

During winter break my wife and I went to Israel for a short vacation. Every morning I would walk the streets of Jerusalem for about an hour starting at 8 AM. On my first day there I bumped into an aquaintance who used to live in my neighborhood, but moved about nine years ago to another part of the city. Around the time when they moved there were rumors about their son.

We stopped to chat for a few minutes about our flights, our wives, kids and we said that maybe we would bump into each other on the following day. We found it amusing that we never see each other in our home town but in Jerusalem we literally bump into each other.

As we went our separate ways, I stopped in my tracks and decided to figuratively go down a road and not turn back.

I turned around and called out to my friend again. When we got closer I touched his arm and said, "I have to ask you a question. You can choose not to answer." I then asked, "is your son gay?" He replied, "I am not going to answer that."
To which I interrupted, "the reason why I am asking you this is because my son came out about two months ago."
At this point, we located a park bench and proceeded to tell our respective stories.

His son came out to his parents about nine years ago, but he is still not out to the world. Only a select few of their friends and family know that their son is gay.

After we talked for a while we decided to meet again later on in the week. We arranged to meet for tea on Shabbos afternoon. As we sat together under the warm Jerusalem sun we all discussed our experience as parents of gay children. We revelled in our sons' accomplishments and in their midos. We shared some of the funny stories and we cried as we shared the painful and cruel ones.

As it turns out, this was the first time in nine years that these people were able to share this experience with people who have a similar experience.

As we were leaving, the wife told us that when her son was at an especially low point she tried to encourage him with her own pearl of wisdom. She advised him that "Hashem doesn't create junk."

A few weeks later, as we were enduring the cold of the northeast, I got a call from the wife asking if we would like to go with them to a lecture by Rabbi Steve Greenberg. Before the lecture began, she turned to me and said, "had you not stopped my husband, we would not be sitting here tonight. This is the first time in nine years that we are attending a public event such as this."


Rivka Chana said...

I am happy to see another Orthodox parent who is accepting of his/her son's being gay. It seems that you are in Israel. Do you think it makes it easier or harder? We are in New York, and I have not yet met another "accepting" set of parents. My son is in his late 20s and came out to us about 6 years ago; he is selectively out to other people. I'd be happy to have a dialogue/conversation with other interested families.
Rivka Chana

Anonymous said...

I am happy to see a blog for orthodox parents who often have no one to share their grief with. As a gay man in his 20s whos very frum parents still struggle every day , i hope to read other blogs and inspiration that i can pass on to them.

Saul said...

Dear Rivka Chana,
Thank you for commenting on this blog. Allow me to respond to your comments.
As I wrote in the first blog, we love our son and we have no choice but to accept him. We have raised a child who is kind,sensitive, understanding, compassionate and has the fundamental values and midot to make him a true Ben Torah.
Of course some of our dreams have been shattered. I guess we will just have to create new dreams.
We do not live in Israel. We live in the Northeast.
As I wrote in my last blog, we are fortunate to know one other set of parents who "accept" their child. But now that you have written, we now know of three sets of parents. It is the goal of this blog to have more and more parents come together to share their stories. And perhaps together we can dream new dreams.
Please feel free to comment on this blog, but if you want to have a private conversation, I have a private, anonymous email address connected to this blog.
Saul David

Saul said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for commenting on this blog. Why not steer your parents towards this blog.
There is no agenda here.
I am just an ordinary parent facing some extraordinary parental challenges. When our son told us he was gay, I felt that we had two choices. Either we could hide in shame, or stand tall alongside the child we raised. I chose the latter.
It is my hope that parents of gay children can wade through the clutter and pollution that the "community" dishes out to us, all because our children are gay, and to remember what it was like to hold this precious life in our arms on the day that this child was born.
Best of luck to you. Only now do I understand your struggle.
Saul David

Dena said...

Wow. As a bisexual Jew, it is very heartening indeed to see and read this blog. You and your wife are very brave, and doing the right thing in loving your son proudly and figuring out how exactly to do that. So many gay children lose their parents forever when they come out to them, and that is not right. You give my heart hope. What you have done and are doing is a beautiful mitzvah.

Your son is still your son, and your family is still your family. Who knows -- you may still see some of your dreams for your son come true yet, like him falling in love, being loved by his beloved, raising a family, you two becoming grandparents. Just because he's gay doesn't mean he can't or won't have any or all of those things.

(Does your son know about Jewish Mosaic?)

Saul said...

Dear Dena,
Thank you for your kind thoughts.
When my son told us he was gay, he told his mother that she need not worry about becoming a grandmother. His intention is to raise a family of his own some day.
In terms of "Jewish Mosaic" I would appreciate it if you could forward this blog address.
I am curious as to how you stumbled upon this blog. Blogging is new to me and as such, I do not know how to link this blog to popular sites.
I hope that in time enough parents read this blog and perhaps we can create a social network of people who are travelling these same uncharted waters.
Saul David

Anonymous said...

I am happy to see that there are accepting parents and ones who can look foward to grandchildren. Having beeen rasied in a yeshivish home in New York, I have children that one day I will have to explain to them about their "uncle" unless one of the many heartless people I have unforunately met up with explain it to them first.

Saul David said...

Dear Anonymous,

If your children's "uncle" has a warm and loving relationship with your kids, then as a real uncle, all they will care about is this loving person. The fact that their uncle is gay should not matter. They will have memories of the great times that they spent together. This would be a great learning tool to explain to the children about the importance of the qualities of people versus their outward appearance. A person can be a great uncle and gay at the same time. Cool.

Saul david

Anonymous said...

Your words are truly insipiring... in an ideal world, but we live in the real world where loving a person and having beautiful memories sometimes is just not enough.

Saul David said...

Dear Anonymous,

The real world can be cruel. People will be cruel to my son and some people will probably be cruel to the rest of my family because my son is gay. Does that make sense? No. Is it painful? Most definitely. And that is why we have to love them and support them to the best of our ability.
Coming from a Yeshivish home, what if the "uncle" was not frum, instead of gay? Is that more acceptable? How would that be dealt with?
In an ideal world we wouldn't be having this conversation.
I don't have the answers. I am a father who is facing the same struggle as you are. Maybe together those of us who are facing this challenge can come up with some coping mechanisms.
This is a heart-wrenching journey which I did not choose, but was thrust into.
The only thing that I am certain of, is that I will not forsake my son.
Saul David