Spring, 2013 book talks, lectures & trainings
Jewish Transitions is a grassroots organization whose mission is to encourage Jewish communities to celebrate the sacred in every gender. The organization's purpose is to educate and inform Jewish communities about transgender, transsexual, intersex, genderqueer and gender variant lives, and to educate gender variant people about how to live lives that are rich with the blessings of Jewish ritual and tradition. At Jewish Transitions, we believe that all humans are created b'tzelem elohim, in the image of the Divine, and that gender variant bodies are sacred to the Divine Name especially because they contain -at least in some sense- attributes of both male and female bodies. Our sages tell us that in the same way, the first human was both male and female, a duality that encompassed two gender expressions in a single fleshly container: "And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them." Genesis 1:27.
Noach Dzmura and Jhos Singer started Jewish Transitions to provide a home for the expertise they were developing in two areas of transgender Jewish experience: conversion and traditional burial.
Conversion - Many gender variant people are drawn to align their religious expression with their deepest sense of authenticity; in many cases this requires conversion to Judaism. Judaism is a gendered tradition; one must be either male or female to convert. How, then, is a transgender person to become Jewish, if the person's gender expression is not aligned with the sex attributed to their body at birth? Rest assured, it's possible. Yet, conversion can be beset with challenges, both to the person undergoing conversion, and to the spiritual leaders who are guiding the gender variant person through the process. Jewish Transitions conversion guidelines can help. We also offer training to spiritual leaders who would like to develop competency in this area.
Burial/Chevra Kadisha - All Jews have the right to receive traditional burial in a Jewish Cemetery. However, burial can pose unique challenges for gender variant Jews and their communities. Depending on the stream of Judaism, whether or not one is affiliated with a synagogue, and one's legal standing as 'male' or 'female' in the eyes of Jewish law, it may be difficult to find the kind of burial practice one would like to receive. Noach Dzmura and Jhos Singer have been conducting workshops, role-plays, and trainings to help sensitize national and local burial societies (Chevra Kadisha) to the presence and status of gender variant bodies in Jewish text, tradition, law, and custom.
In addition, Noach Dzmura edited the anthology, Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community. The book has been acclaimed as the first of its kind, and it has received much critical praise. In 2011, the anthology won the Lambda Literary Award.