Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What now?

With the notes from our class up, I encourage you to:
  • start picking through a section to edit;
  • question why XYZ was included but not ABC;
  • clarify a point that might have been misrepresented in my hasty notes;
  • challenge a point that was included but in hindsight might be better removed;
  • jump right in how you best see fit! a post or in the comments of an existing post.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The First Draft

As a community that values the development of human relationships, how do we engage with people when aspects of their person sparks our curiosity or interest?

  • this was generated out of concern for gender variety, informed by our experiences with sexual diversity, class issues, race issues, etc.
  • we see these differences and recognize that people have different experiences and levels of awareness and go forward in good faith that people want to learn and address/avoid causing offense
  • in convert model, avoid causing discomfort, embarrassment, fear, and/or shame, and pointing out difference or exclusivity
  • asking someone about difference can be problematic because it's often framed as exclusionary, presumes that there's a body to exclude
  • we're also motivated to explore this topic of questioning, in a Jewish context, because the absence of a question can also estrange people form one another (i don't know how to ask you XYZ, so i'm going to avoid you). and may miss an opportunity for deepening a relation, community, and growth.
  • curiosity is good because....
  • the rabbis engaged with it (difference), so we as a community are ready to deal with it.

  • orthodox tshuvah: visual external differences matter, don't pretend they don't (like, don't pretend colour blindness) give not and credibility to your visual impressions
  • (texts about avoiding embarassment might have been more relevant)
  • psychological well being of all members of the community is important (that's in relation to abortion, but still applicable)
  • text overall speak to the fact that we name and deal with difference
  • cite arthur waskow on taking up the rainbow and differences.
  • everyone is made in the image of G!d
  • the texts recognize fundamental aspects of themselves - gender change, like the men who chose to be eunuchs. people transform in fundamental ways.
  • conservative tshuvah defines SRS, defining - we disagree
  • havurah community basically says "if you think you're a jew you're a jew," (we let people make a presumption) and we see gender the same way - it's up to the individual.

(give examples how this would play out in the Havurah community)
  • we believe in establishing a safe space when appropriate
  • in this community, ppl make many experiments (men in skirts, women in tzitsits/tfellin), so already sex roles are already blending more so we believe in allowing for more fluidity. we encourage self-expression and dialogue.
  • and we want to be aware of when there are subtle policing or constrictions. when we see the intrusive normativity/conformity, it should be named, called out, and wrestled with. when we don't live up to our value we like to have it pointed out so we can look up to our value.
  • stating our hopes/beliefs for others may not be congruent with the hopes/beliefs that person has for themself.
  • generosity of spirit where if someone does cross a boundary, assume that they are coming from a space of working on boundaries; respect the dignity of the asker who transgressed the boundary.
  • we can assume in this community that people are coming from a place of good will
  • remember that we can have multiple concerns, facets to our personalities that might be overlapping or even contradictory, and that's ok.
  • recognizing/repecting multiple lifestyles
  • "barefoot boogie" as model for community: it's ok to be alone, different, unique... not to stare!
  • people should ideally recognize that they have an active voice and role in any one conversation, and the ability to turn the conversation as they choose. so if a topic is raised that makes you feel disempowered, ownership should be given to the asker to correct it, but also the one asked has ownership to steer the conversation.

It's important to make people feel included, regardless of what may make them "stand out" in the community, so we need to strike a balance between acknowleding uniqueness and not alienating.

We hope to underscore the power of all NHC participants to shape social interactions and name their sensitivities and ideas as they wish.

If I am not for myself who will be for me?

Drawing on the spirits of these texts we hope to show that
  • difference is real and good and should be respected and interacted with
  • act with sensitivty and don't make assumptions
  • take ownership and agency as the asker/asked in the conversation
  • havurah community encourages you to take risks, honour your own boundaries, and encourage challenging comfort zone while respecting boundaries... and inact your own boundaries with dignity and compassion.
  • and seek help from others if you need/want it. you're not alone. we encourage you to not go through this alone.
Presume good will in others.


Greeting, friends! I hope everyone has returned back to the "real world," post-Institute, with minimal disruptions.

I've started this blog for us, as per your request, to continue the conversation around our tshuvah. We can edit the tshuvah, use the comment sections to discuss the edits, pose questions in blog posts... and eventually polish this off in time for next summer!

I'll post the notes from our final class together. Those of you who enjoy wordsmithing, have at it! Those who want to suss out the content, go for it! I think if we all check back here regularly, we'll be able to find our productive stride.

"feygele" (aka, Benjamin)