Category Archives: opinion

“How a Gay Boy Became a Straight Man: My Story” by David Robinson— Garbage

Robinson, David. “How a Gay Boy Became a Straight Man: My Story”. Independently Published, 2018.

Garbage

Amos Lassen

I received a tip today that Amazon was still carrying anti-LGBT books and this was one if the titles. I immediately went to Amazon to see this book and found this notice:

“Effective July 2, 2018, this book has been rewritten, updated, and re-titled. Its new title is Orientation and Choice: One Man’s Sexual Journey.” However the remarks and reviews were still on the book’s Amazon page and the notice that the book is available exclusively on Amazon as is this plea: “Please buy the new title. Type the new title in the Search box. Thank you.”

Author-lawyer David Robinson, is now 66-years-old and admits that he had homosexual urges from ages 14 to 16. At 16 he had to choose: date girls or boys. He chose girls. It wasn’t always easy for him. Eventually he married a woman and is very happy with her.  Then we have these questions: “Did his sexual orientation change from gay to straight? Or did he deceive himself? Does it matter? Is it possible to satisfy homosexual urges with heterosexual behavior? What, exactly, is the difference between homosexual and heterosexual urge?” This book is  (as he says) and a look inside his sexual mind every step of the way from age 14 (1967) to today. He says, “that religion had nothing to do with it.” He tells about his college years (B.A. 1974, George Washington University) and law school years (J.D. 1977, Washington University in St. Louis). And then he says, “many people say sexual orientation isn’t a “choice.” But everyone must make a choice: date a male or female. David discusses laws banning conversion therapy. He tells about an impromptu conversion therapy session he experienced in a gym locker room when he was 15 or 16. Did the therapy work? Read his book and decide for yourself. It is a lively, true memoir. If you want to contact David, his email address is davidr225@comcast.net.” And he dares to give his email.

David A. Robinson is a lawyer in Connecticut. He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1953. and practiced law in Springfield from 1977 to 2008. He was a general practitioner from 1977 to 1991. From 1992 to 2008, he practiced exclusively in the area of labor and employment law, usually on the side of the employer. In 2002 he became a resident of Connecticut. In 2006 he was admitted to the Connecticut Bar. He gradually closed his Massachusetts law practice and now practices in Connecticut. He was an adjunct professor at Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law from 1979 to 1982, WNEU School of Business from 2001-2005, and the University of New Haven (UNH) School of Business from 2005 to 2014. At UNH he taught business law, business ethics, human resource management, criminal justice procedure, and law of communications. He lives in the New Haven area with his wife. 

Amazon tells authors, “The Author Page is your chance to tell readers something interesting about yourself.” Here are two interesting–not very interesting, but somewhat interesting–things about David. He is one of a small handful of people, and probably the youngest, alive today who attended a Beatles concert, an Elvis Presley concert, and a Frank Sinatra concert. A number of people alive today saw one or two of those legendary musical acts. David saw all three. He attended a Beatles concert in Boston in 1966, when he was 13 years old; a Sinatra concert in Washington, D.C. (actually, Landover, Maryland, a D.C. suburb) in 1974; and an Elvis concert in Springfield, Mass., in 1976. The other interesting thing about David is he is probably the youngest lawyer alive today whose name appears as counsel in published appellate cases (e.g., N.E.2d, F.3d) in each of five decades: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s.

All that is fine but what about his claims? Why did he feel he had to pull his book back, rewrite it and rename it. Let’s hear from his readers:

David Robinson’s views are very much a product of their time. But like many products of their time, they are perishable and have since rotted.”
“When I read the description, I was fully expecting to read about the author’s struggles with homosexual urges throughout his life and his attempts to rid himself of them or deal with them. Instead, the concept is glossed over, downplayed, and not even linked. Spoiler alert, homosexual urges don’t play an active part of his life per the lack of mention in his book. Instead, his book has focused on his views on the LGBT community. Actually, in his young adult and adult lives, he seems to be more afflicted by pornography (Playboy skewing his perception of women to the point of him breaking off relationships with women because they didn’t look a certain way) and his issues relating to the “chase” of women (At one point claiming that he wanted what he couldn’t have and didn’t want once he had). If anything, that whole part of the book felt completely unnecessary, and offensive, to his point about conversion therapy.” Are you able to follow this?

“Going back to that idea of being a product of its time, Robinson’s overall attitude toward the LGBT community is misguided and detestable. “Homosexual urges” are compared to drinking, smoking and overeating and are labelled as “vices.” Though Robinson points out that he doesn’t want to call them “evil” (He “doesn’t know if he would”) but still uses a word that has a negative connotation to it (Since semantics is another theme). At certain points, such as in the first few pages (Accessible through the preview), he repeats the same talking points about homosexuality being linked to HIV/AIDS, religious disparity, unnatural reproduction (Remember, if your mother had a c-section, she had you or that particular child unnaturally) which support conversion therapy. The problem is his understanding of conversion therapy in the book, stating that an impromptu encounter with, presumably (Because he doesn’t remember), an authority figure reminds him of where his erect penis is supposed to go. Even though this doesn’t even compare actual conversion therapy as a pseudoscientific construct, Robinson uses it as a means to qualify him to discuss conversion therapy. His argument falls apart, though, when he highlights more so about the language of the law and that it would prevent teaching heteronormative sex education. Jumping between that, comparing homosexuality to vices such as smoking (And then linking his smoking habit to homosexual urges), and his idea that he’s pointing out some conspiracy (Though not directly labelled as such), we have a dangerous ignorance on LGBT people and their struggles regarding different sexualities (And gender identity. Though, this book doesn’t discuss transgender people or gender identity).”

“As for the writing itself, it leaves much to be desired and Robinson spends much time talking about a combination of his love life in his early years, his stance on conversion therapy, and the fact that this is just his opinion and that he’s not an expert, but it’s how he sees it. And that’s what ends up diluting the writing with him reminding his readers that he isn’t qualified to talk about this short of anecdotal evidence and pulling hairs on semantics. He tries to reduce people to semantics, to simplify an argument that is as complicated as it is, and then plays it off as it just being an opinion or that he isn’t qualified, while speaking with authority on the subject. There’s a reason why conversion therapy support tends to be anecdotal, because there is nothing to back it up. Bonus points for giving an unattributed quote to an unnamed therapist who practices as well as citing old law dictionaries to define sexual intercourse (Which gets debunked by simple search on Merriam-Webster’s Online dictionary which provides two definitions so as to include non-vaginal intercourse), or using Freud, who has been debunked and is viewed as somewhat laughable in terms of sexual development, to back his notion up. Other than that, it’s really easy to get lost in the constant use of short sentences and clarification. It’s a written conversation with someone obsessed with his own voice.

Robinson’s sexuality then and now is something I am personally not concerned with, nor should his readers be concerned with. It’s his dangerous ignorance that is echoed by many others who support conversion therapy that is problematic. Though he doesn’t directly say it (And he doesn’t have to), his claims strongly suggest a fear of the LGBT community and attitudes related to that. The fear is unfounded as the community wants to create an environment for his hypothetical 15 year old boy to actually think about what is going on in his head rather than being told point blank about what is “natural” and him thinking there is something dearly wrong with him. After submitting this review, I’ll have put the book on my shelf to collect dust, maybe pulling it off the shelf to remind me that this way of thinking is still prevalent, and that ignorance isn’t necessarily religious bound either (Though it’s evoked a couple times in Robinson’s book). Personally, if you’re someone struggling with your sexuality, this book is not the answer. It’s not even a response. There are much better resources to peruse and people to hear from.”

“ Robinson claims he experienced same-gender attraction as a teenager and is now in a happy opposite-gender marriage. That’s great, I am, too! It’s called being bisexual – and by some accounts half the LGBTQ+ community identifies as bi. Robinson has every right to share his own personal experiences. However, he is a lawyer – not a psychologist, therapist or social worker – and when he starts to use his experience to justify conversion “therapy” of any kind he is advocating hate. This book is showing up in my queer and queer-friendly friends’ Facebook feeds as a sponsored post. I shudder to think that it may be appearing in gay and questioning teens feeds, too. Any message to queer youth that is not based in acceptance, pride and love is morally and ethically wrong.”

“This book makes it seem as if a person’s orientation or attraction can be changed, however, it is a matter of semantics. One would think a lawyer would know better. This is a man who is attracted to men and women and has found happiness in a monogamous marriage with a woman. How is that any different than a person attracted to many women who makes a monogamous commitment to one woman? Yes- that is a choice in behavior- not attraction or orientation. If someone is attracted to men and women, one could certainly choose to identify as straight rather than bisexual. But this entire book is clickbait for the idea that it is a choice over attraction and orientation (identity). If this man had only experienced attraction to men and had zero attraction to his wife, would he have lived a full happy life with his choices?”

“Possibly the most ridiculous and harmful thing I’ve ever read.”

“The title of the book and synopsis on its Facebook ad leads you to believe that this book might have some psychosocial/research backing in its nature/nurture claims, but it does not. It’s merely a first person account. I find the title and the marketing misleading.”

“This author has no credentials to write about this subject other than his own anecdotal evidence of denying his own sexuality. This is irresponsible and dangerous garbage. Amazon should not be giving this author a platform to spread his bigotry. Conversion therapy is nothing short of mental and emotional abuse against children, and David Robinson is promoting it.”

“Shame on Amazon for selling this book. Shame on David Robinson for continuing this abuse.”

“What a fantastic piece of garbage!”

“…feels less autobiographical and more like propaganda. The author writes as if he was still trying to prove he is a happy heterosexual. Don’t bother.”

 

“Disgusting that you are selling this bigoted garbage.”

“This is a dangerous book for people that have questions about their sexuality. Furthermore, this is not based in accepted science. Based on the description, the author has to force himself to be intimate with a woman to this day. Imagine if your mate had to force themselves to be intimate with you. It sure would ruin the mood, if you ask me.
I am sad this author has made the decision to not live his best life and will never experience TRUE love.”

“Irresponsible, dishonest garbage. It isn’t worthy of even one star.”

“This is a bunch of trite. How our ‘parts fit together’ is not a measure of anything. The same faulty logic could be used to justify bestiality, cause ‘ hey it fits’, It would fit in a honey dew mellow too David.”
“barely deserves one star for the graphic masturbation sequences.”

I can’t believe I wasted my time dealing with this.

ARENDT-HEIDEGGER: A LOVE STORY

Theater for the New City

Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director

presents

ARENDT-HEIDEGGER: A LOVE STORY

by Douglas Lackey

directed by Alexander Harrington

world premiere

September 27 to October 14, 2018

Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt were leading intellectuals of the twentieth century. In the 1920s, they had a passionate affair. In the 1930s, Heidegger became an ardent Nazi while Arendt became an ardent Zionist. Nevertheless, after the war, they still continued to correspond and to meet. Douglas Lackey dramatizes their relationship. The dialogue and action of the play go beyond known facts, but everything in the play is consistent with them.

WITH
 Alyssa Simon* as Hannah Arendt 
Joris Stuyck* as Martin Heidegger 
Stan Buturla* as Ernst Cassirer
 Alexandra O’Daly* as Elfride Heidegger and Students


Stage Manager Marsh Shugart 
Set and projection design by Lianne Arnold
Costume design by Sidney Fortner
Lighting Design by Joyce Liao
Co-Video Designer/Associate Scenic Designer Asa Lipton

Associate Producer Courtney Fenwick

September 27 to October 14, 2018
Theater for the New City
155 First Ave (between 9th and 10th Sts.) 
Thurs – Sat at 8:00 PM, Sun at 3:00 PM
$15 general admission, $10 seniors and students
Box office: (212) 254-1109 
Smarttix (212) 868-4444

 

CONDEMN THE EXCLUSION OF LGBTQ JEWS AND ALLIES FROM THE CHICAGO DYKE MARCH

 CONDEMN THE EXCLUSION OF LGBTQ JEWS AND ALLIES FROM THE CHICAGO DYKE MARCH

We are deeply disturbed by the exclusion of A Wider Bridge Midwest Manager Laurie Grauer and her friends from the Chicago Dyke March, an annual event attended by 1,500 queer women and allies in Chicago. Laurie was proud to carry a rainbow Jewish flag in the march, as has been tradition for her and her friends for a decade.

Organizers of the march identified the flag, confronted Laurie and her friends, and informed them the flag was “triggering marchers,” and demanded they fold up the flag and promptly leave the March, as the event was an “anti-Zionist, pro-Palestine event.”

The Chicago Dyke March’s Mission statement includes the following:

“[The Dyke March] is an anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led, grassroots effort with a goal to bridge together communities across race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, age, size, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, culture, immigrant status, spirituality, and ability.”

The Dyke March has failed to live up to their goal of “bridging together communities.” That the organizers would choose to dismiss long-time community members for choosing to express their Jewish identity or spirituality runs counter to the very values the Dyke March claims to uphold, and veers down a dangerous path toward anti-semitism.

At A Wider Bridge, we believe in the intrinsic value of being in conversation, even in cases of disagreement; of sharing, empathy, building relationships, and finding common ground. Automatically dismissing Jews and any LGBTQ person or ally who cares about Israel out of hand only builds walls between members of our diverse community.

We call on the Dyke March to issue a full public apology for dismissing LGBTQ Jews from the March, and affirm the Dyke March hold to their own values as a safe place for all LGBTQ people, including the Jewish Community.

We also invite the leadership of the Dyke March to meet with A Wider Bridge to discuss the events that took place yesterday, and to have a constructive dialogue about how anti-Semitism and calls for the disappearance of the Jewish State are creating an unsafe environment for LGBTQ Jews and allies.

Finally, we call on all of our community partners and allies in the Jewish community and the LGBTQ community who care about the advancement human rights and inclusion to join us in condemning this act of hate.

Petition to the Chicago Dyke March
Call on the Chicago Dyke March for Full Apology and Affirmation of Inclusion
We, concerned LGBTQ people and allies, Jews and non-Jews, from Chicago and across the world, call on the Chicago Dyke March Collective:

1. To issue a written formal apology to:

Laurel Grauer, Midwest Manager of A Wider Bridge, and the LGBTQ Jewish marchers who were singled out and dismissed for carrying rainbow Jewish flags.
LGBTQ Jews and allies in Chicago and across the country who feel threatened and alienated by the Chicago Dyke March collective for their actions;
And the broader LGBTQ and Jewish communities for failing to live up to our shared values of diversity, inclusivity, and freedom of expression.

2. To issue a written statement affirming the inclusion of all LGBTQ Jews, without any pledge or loyalty oath to a political agenda related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or any other issues, in future Chicago Dyke Marches.

3. To make a commitment to meet with A Wider Bridge and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to learn about the ugly manifestations of anti-Semitism against the Jewish community; historically against global Jewry, and today inside the LGBTQ community and in broader 21st Century America and Europe.

For questions and media inquiries, please email us at info@awiderbridge.org.

dykemarchchicago@gmail.com

 

“Angels In America”—Another Look Almost 25 Years Later

“Angels In America”

Another Look Almost 25 Years Later

Amos Lassen

“Angels in America” is almost 25 years old now and I thought it would be interesting to take another look at it to see how it fits into today’s world. It has just been revived al at London’s National Theater, and is due in American movie theaters this July. Undoubtedly, everyone notices the play’s apocalyptic aspects and how it lets us know that , catastrophe is on its way. The title of the first part of the two part “gay fantasia on national themes” is appropriately “Millennium Approaches.” The angel comes forth near the end of part one and tells us that in the 20th century the world has become very old.

Playwright Tony Kushner set his drama in the 1980s and sees the period from a few years later. America is dealing with the AIDS epidemic and the disease had the ability and the power to bring death to young people at the prime of their lives and to destroy what were once stable relationships. While we see the destruction of love, we also see so much more. We face anger as if we had never done so before and for the seven-and-a-half hour duration of the drama, we become very angry ourselves.

 

AIDS is just the beginning of disasters to come— the environment is being destroyed, the American people are moving to the right, racial politics reemerge, there is a split within the gay community both gender-wise and regarding race and nationality and we see the beginning of a revolution that is moving ahead very quickly. It is as if the sense of freedom that this country was built upon is lost.

Roy Cohen is the true embodiment of all that is evil and he stands at the center of American life as a symbol of the marginalization and demonization of gay men by the right and by himself, a totally conflicted gay male who was ashamed of who he was. He feels that labels have destroyed the individual since they tell us who a person is thought to be and not who he is. The labels determine where a person fits in the larger scheme. One is not identified by ideology or by sexual orientation but by clout, by the power he has to be where he is. Cohn goes on to say that gay men and not men who have sex with other men rather they are men who do not know anyone and whom no one knows. They have no clout and since he himself has clout he cannot fit into such a definition. I have thought about this for hours on end and remember that yet it was that way just twenty-five years ago but it changed when we stood up and were counted. Today, looking at America in the time of Trump, we have lost the ability to be counted and have reverted back to where we were when America was just finding her angels.

In trying to understand the plot of “Angels in America” we become as lost as those angels did in the early 90s. It is impossible to summarize the play because, in effect, there is no real plot. We have a little bit of everything as Christopher Hitchens wrote when the play opened on Broadway in 1993— “Mormon pioneers, Bolsheviks, Reagan-era mendacities and heavenly intercessions” and there are only in the first half of it.

Kushner examines human relationships when we see Louis dying from AIDS and his partner, Prior, walks out on him, we see the tension between Prior and his ex-lover Belize, we watch the marriage of Harper and Joe fall apart, we see Joe’s sexual adventures with Louis and we witness the father-son relationship between Joe, as a legal clerk, and Cohn, his mentor. It is these relationships that are the foundations and life of “Angels in America”. They all come to a climax at the end of Act 2 of “Millennium Approaches,” when Harper leaves Joe, and Louis abandons Prior to die in a hospital bed.

“Millennium Approaches” is about politics, faith and ideas and it is focused and human. In When the angels arrive in the second part, “Perestroika”, the human element becomes temporarily lost as if to abandon reality. As acclaimed as it is, there are problems in the play. In the characters of Harper and Prior we get the feeling that because they are sick, they are more lucid than the characters who are healthy. They seem to be closer to the truth. The ending almost seemed forced to me— the remaining characters address the audience.

.After sitting through two plays, six acts, and seven hours and 40 minutes of theater, which I didon one day when I saw the play on Broadway years ago, we wonder what are we left with? In Perestroika’s opening monologue, we are asked if we are doomed; even as things fall apart, all hope is not lost. “The world only spins forward,” Prior, living with AIDS for five years by the play’s end, tells us this directly, while Harper, on her night flight to San Francisco on a quest for a fresh beginning, tells us that “Nothing’s lost forever. We often longing for what we’ve left behind as we dream ahead.

Remembering Zalman Shoshi (“Zlotta”)

Zalman_ST_09

I knew Zalman Shoshi fairly well. I lived in Israel when it was against the law to be gay and the police preyed on us nightly wherever we met. Shoshi never let it bother her—she was in and out of jail all of the time and always had great stories and we would see with her what was then Kikar Malchi Yisrael now renamed Rabin Square and laugh WITH her for hours. She was “Zlotta” to us—she loved that Yiddish name and loved to be the center of attention. She died last week at age 60 and I tried to find a way to memorialize her but could not find the words. Then I saw this and it said all I wanted to say so I am copying it just as it was printed.

“NO LGBT PERSON SHOULD EVER FEEL LONELY

Author: Amit Alexander Lev

Source: GoGay

Published: July 18, 2016

 

Everybody knew “Zalman Shoshi,” but no one wanted to be near him. Amit Alexander Lev eulogizes the man who changed LGBT life in Israel forever, and paid the price of isolation from society.

Almost everyone who grew up in Israel in the 1990s knew the name “Zalman Shoshi.” Zalman Winder, known as Zalman Shoshi, “this transvestite” was a generic name for almost any gay or transgender person, and not for nothing. Zalman, who was born shortly after the founding of the state of Israel, was a household name, but never in a positive way. He represented in our household the other, the different, the grotesque. This man wanted to wear women’s clothes, to be the transvestite who sells his body in Tel Baruch.

Even when I grew up, even before I realized I was gay, his name has represented the forbidden. He represented who we don’t want to be. You do not want to be effeminate and ridiculous like Zalman Shoshi, God forbid you don’t want to find yourself on Tel Baruch beach, pressing against men, dressed and made up as a woman.

But Zalman didn’t have an easy life. If today, in 2016, it’s not easy to be LGBT in Israel, living in the ’50s and’ 60s was probably much worse. If today we can come out easily, it is because Zalman Shoshi, and several others more anonymous than he was, paved the a way with their bodies, literally. The body which he sold in order to finance the renovation of the Aguda house, back in the day, on Nahmani Street in Tel Aviv, for example. The body that suffered humiliation because he dared to be who he wanted to be, despite being told it was forbidden.

Perhaps the word “dare” is too big. Perhaps Zalman didn’t dare – he just had no choice. And perhaps he had a choice, and he chose to be the vertex point so that we can all stand behind it and say we’re okay, we’re normal. Either way, the change that Zalman brought, willingly or not, is impossible to ignore.

I didn’t know him personally, but his life circumstances were plastered in newspapers all the time, and did not reflect a particularly beautiful reality. From a difficult childhood, sexual exploitation, living in prostitution, and isolation – a lot of living in solitude. “It’s not so hard to be a prostitute, it’s not so hard to be a transvestite and it’s not so hard for me to be gay – it’s the loneliness that’s hard. Solitude is the most difficult thing for a man,” he once said in an interview.

Today, in 2016, I want to be naive and say that no one should suffer loneliness, certainly not in light of being LGBT. But I know this is naive, and I know we are not there yet. So all that remains for me is to hope that we have the sense to not miss people, that we can help those who need help and that we should not let anyone drown in life’s circumstances”.

“Hannah Arendt and Theology” by John Kiess— Theology and Thought

hannah arend and theology

Kiess, John. “Hannah Arendt and Theology”, (Philosophy and Theology), Bloomsbury, 2016.

Theology and Thought

Amos Lassen

Hannah Arendt is regarded as one of the most important political philosophers of the twentieth century and she has kept that standing even with the controversy that came as a result of her coverage of the trial of Adolph Eichmann for “The New Yorker” magazine. She is famous for her work on totalitarianism and her book about it is still required reading in history degree programs on many campuses. However, her real came with her coinage of the term “the banality of evil” and I am sure there are those who are familiar with the concept without knowing that this came from Arendt who is found at number 38 on the list of women read today in academia. She is also noted for her work regarding the Holocaust, statelessness and human rights, revolutions and democratic movements as well as for her studies on the various challenges of modern technological society. She went through a period in which the world seemed to be angry at her but in recent years, we have seen a growing appreciation of her work especially concerning the complex relationship to theological sources, namely Augustine, the subject of her doctoral dissertation and a thinker with whom she contended throughout her life.

This new book explores how Arendt’s critical and constructive engagements with theology inform her broader thought, as well as the on-going debates that her work brings about in contemporary Christian theology on such topics as evil, tradition, love, political action, and the life of the mind. What we see is a very unique interdisciplinary investigation that brings together Arendt studies, political philosophy, and Christian theology. “Hannah Arendt and Theology” looks at how the insights and provocations of this public intellectual aid in setting a constructive theological agenda for the twenty-first century.

Although I have not always agreed with her, I must state that there is no doubt in my mind that Arendt was a brilliant mind that certainly advanced philosophical thought. She was gifted with the ability to be able to reframe questions about how we should live and thus pushed us into rethinking that which we thought we knew. I cannot even begin to think about how many discussions I have had in my life about Arendt and I see her work as essential. One would probably suppose that if her work is so essential, then she must be easy to understand and that is simply not true.
This is where the value of this book comes in. Writer John Kiess gives us clear understandings of Arendt’s theological thought and leads us clearly to understand the interrelation between Arendt and the importance of her work in the fields of religion and theology.

Just a year old ago I taught a course on Arendt and her banality of evil as it affects and effect the Jewish community and had I had this book then, my class preparation would have been so much easier. However, one of the pleasures of dealing with Arendt is the ideological arguments I would have with myself about what she had to say. One thing I learned years ago is that contrary to what some members of the Jewish community have said— that she was an anti-Semitic Jew is most definitely not true. She never left her Judaism and she acknowledged it especially with the brouhaha that came into being with the publications in the New Yorker about the Eichmann and trial and later with the publication of “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil”. And do not think that I have not been chided by members of my own Jewish community for standing up for Arendt when few others dared to.

In looking at theology, Arendt is difficult to stay away from and it is very easy to distort what she had to say. She was complicated and she was implicit when it came to traditional matters and concerns. A book like this has been needed for a long time and Kiess gives us a comprehensive, well integrated, and dialogical reading of Arendt and theology and I sure that is especially welcome for readers of Christian theology. There is a lot to think about and to me that is what makes a book worthwhile. Below is the table of contents:

Acknowledgments

Abbreviations

Introduction

Ch. 1 A Public Philosopher: The Life and Thought of Hannah Arendt

Ch. 2 The Problem of Evil Reconsidered

Ch. 3 Amor Mundi: Worldliness, Love, and Citizenship

Ch. 4 “That a Beginning Be Made”: Natality, Action, and the Politics of Gratitude

Ch. 5 In the Region of the Spirit: Thinking Between Past and Future

Notes

Index

Announcement from Calamus Bookstore owner Brian Gale:

Calamus Book Store

Announcement from Calamus Bookstore owner Brian Gale:

Calamus Bookstore, one of the last remaining exclusive LGBTQ Bookstores has been an important part of the community since its founding a decade and a half ago. Like many specialty bookstores, Calamus is not the thriving place it once was, and as a business, the bottom line must determine the viability and future of the enterprise.
We appreciate your continued support, but given the current economic climate, and the changed nature of the marketplace, it’s clear Calamus must adapt or close permanently. Thus, in order to keep Calamus going in some form, we must fundamentally change. This brings me to my request: first, your continued patronage is essential, and second, going forth, we are in need of some help from folks with specific skill sets.
Anyone with Marketing and Website expertise would be needed. Also, someone with experience in media production, as the new venture will be heavy on video/audio and linked content. Our budget is tight, so volunteer help or students looking for experience to build their resume/CV would be best.
Please, if you are a possible candidate to help, please be in touch. Also, please share this email with anyone you think would be a possible fit.
Thanks! Brian

Rabbis Speak at Conference on Gays in Orthodoxy

rabbi1

Rabbis Speak at Conference on Gays in Orthodoxy

This week there was a major event in modern Jewish history—a group of modern Orthodox rabbis have done what advocates for Orthodox gays and lesbians say would have been unthinkable as recently as five years ago: They spoke at a conference on the treatment of gay, lesbian and transgender people in Orthodox communities. Present were four prominent Orthodox rabbis who participated in “Faith, Desire and Psychotherapy”, a conference held April 19 at Columbia University that marked the first time rabbis and mental health researchers came together in a public discussion about homosexuality and Orthodoxy. A similar discussion was held in 2009 at Yeshiva University but without Orthodox rabbinic participation.

Regarding gays and lesbians, change has come slowly to the Orthodox community. Actually the Orthodox maintain that homosexual relationships are forbidden under Jewish law (halacha). Therefore there is great tension between the limitations of religious law and the inclusivity that is sought by gay Jewish activists and those that support them and this was addressed at the conference. Present were some 120 social workers, therapists, students and rabbis. Rabbi Shmuel Goldin who is the former president of the centrist Orthodox Rabbinical Conference of America stated that the we live in a world where people care about people. This is one of the values of Judaism and denying that is not good.

Other speakers included Rabbi Mark Dratch, the RCA’s executive vice president; Rabbi Shaul Robinson, the leader of the Modern Orthodox Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York; and Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, a faculty member at the liberal Orthodox rabbinical school Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. There were other important Orthodox Jews present as observors. Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the former executive vice president of the Orthodox Union who also holds a doctorate in psychology. He says the reason he attended was to learn more about the situation and what was going on. He further remarked that there is no endorsement for any specific program now and the situation is simply be studied at the present (and this is still a good more than it would have been say, even five years ago).

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In 2010, Rabbi Nathaniel Helga authored a declaration, signed by over 100 Orthodox rabbis, which called for the inclusion of gays as “full members” of the Orthodox community. The statement emphasized that while Jewish law forbids gay sex, it “does not prohibit orientations or feelings of same-sex attraction, and nothing in the Torah devalues the human beings who struggle with them.” There was a rebuttal from over 200 Orthodox rabbis and it was called the Torah Declaration. In it homosexual inclinations are described as being “changeable.” At this latest conference, this was rejected by mental health professionals, namely Jack Drescher, who has helped develop the American Psychiatric Association’s positions on sex and gender diagnoses, and Warren Throckmorton, a prominent former supporter of conversion therapy who now condemns it.

Quite expectedly, the rabbis present were uneasy. Dratch stated the he spoke only for himself and not for the Rabbinical Council of America while Goldin said that he had already been contacted by one or maybe two of his Orthodox colleagues who were at the conference. Goldin believes that being labeled causes fear and went on to state that by opening up for discussions like these could affect how rabbis are seen.

Work on this conference had actually been going on for two years. Psychologist Alan Slomowitz discovered two years ago that the only research being done in the Jewish community was done by groups which favor the gay movement and so he teamed up with Levovitz and fellow psychologist Allison Feit to plan the conference. Levovitz does not think that being gay or transgender is in conflict with religious Orthodox principles or that that should be a change in halacha. The rabbis present agreed with him that if” a gay person wants to be part of the Orthodox community or not, he or she should be supported and encouraged.” He went on to say that the Orthodox movement tries to be as inclusive as possible but there is the question as to how to go about this without approving the behavior. The idea is to “show love and show that people are fully part of the community.“ Obviously there is no one answer.

“The Decent One,” Heinrich Himmler: Dedicated family man— A Brilliant Review

the decent one

“The Decent One,” Heinrich Himmler: Dedicated family man

A Brilliant Review

 by: ERIC A. GORDON

october 20 2014

 A friend of mine sent me this beautiful review–if you remember I also reviewed this haunting film.

In her analysis of the Adolf Eichmann trial more than 50 years ago, writer Hannah Arendt referred to the “banality of evil” as the crushing ordinariness of everyday life while atrocities of unprecedented proportion are not only going on all around you, but you are actively perpetrating them.

I have no doubt that her pointing to this troubling disconnect in our thinking processes helped guide a generation of (mostly) young protesters toward opposing the Vietnam War. Not even a full generation after the end of World War II, when we thought the global community had said “Never again!” here were our own leaders, in the U.S. and other countries, doing what disturbingly looked like pretty much the same thing.

It is that very ordinariness that film director Vanessa Lapa addresses in her new documentary The Decent One that focuses on the life of Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS and among Adolf Hitler’s innermost circle of loyalists. Himmler headed the Gestapo and ruthlessly pursued any perceived enemy of the Third Reich, showing mercy to few. He was one of the principal designers of death camps, working closely with scientists and administrators to ensure that his beloved German officers and soldiers could be spared the headache of having to personally execute Jews and other undesirables in mass killings. That’s where gas came in so handy.

Using all archival footage without questionable “reenactments,” but with some added sound (running motors, explosions, music), Lapa surveys the early, not particularly distinguished life of her subject, gradually revealing how infected he was (banally, of course, along with millions of others, and not just in Germany) by the casual anti-Semitism and muscular, militaristic masculinity that defined Aryan ideology. In relatively short time, Himmler rose in the Nazi hierarchy owing to his efficiency and effectiveness as his responsibilities increased.

Where Lapa uses original film work, it is to pan over the hundreds of diaries and letters that Himmler and his family exchanged over the course of some 20 years – mostly with his wife Marga and daughter Gudrun – while voiceovers relate the banalities of love and courtship, parenting, sibling relationships, work routines and vacations, holiday plans and gifts. All bathed in a wash of tender embraces and kisses from “Heini.”

The story of where this cache of documents came from remains somewhat mysterious. It is surmised that at the end of the war, some Allied soldiers, acting against orders, appropriated Himmler’s personal effects from his home in Gmund, and sold them. (Himmler committed suicide on May 23, 1945, with a cyanide capsule shortly after being captured in the final days of the war.) Eventually the papers wound up in Tel Aviv, where they languished untouched for years.

Finally Lapa’s father purchased the collection for the purpose of allowing this film to be made. Paired with film clips from 151 different sources, both family and institutional, the resulting 94-minute documentary, a 2014 Israel/Austria/Germany production, in German with English subtitles, is grippingly eerie.

Himmler personified Nazi doctrine in his abhorrence of weakness and homosexuality, his petty bourgeois standards for gender roles (submissive wife, obedient children), his hatred for Jews and Communists. (Viewers will hear a brief clip of “The Internationale” accompanying the scene of a Berlin street rally.) Above all, he loved his German nation, fantasized about the impeccable Aryan morality of the race-pure medieval commonwealth, and wholly identified with the mystical cleansing role the German nation was ordered by history to play in the world.

For someone as punctilious as Himmler, he does show his personal lapses. Disturbed that his (older) wife had given him only one child, when the ruling ideology was to build up the nation with a much higher birthrate than that, Himmler takes on a mistress, by whom he has another two children. And toward the end, after Stalingrad, after the inexorable retreat back home, German cities being bombed into submission, Himmler is still writing upbeat letters reflecting blithe certainty that his side will win.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Lapa’s film certainly does not “humanize” Himmler in his frankly unremarkable family devotion, but only points up how unrecognizable he is as the man who could at one and the same time be one of the great masterminds of Nazism. Is he truly a freak of nature, a moral Frankenstein? Or is he simply opaque to us, like the strangler or serial killer – or bankster or corporate rapist of the Earth – who, it turns out, lives next door, or even in our own house?

Among the memorabilia my Dad nabbed in the course of his service in the Counterintelligence Corps were a few telegrams sent to a regional Gauleiter by leading Nazi officials, congratulating him on the birth of his new son. They were of scant historical significance and I wondered what to do with them. Eventually I turned them over to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust as examples of precisely the kind of “banality” to which these criminally misguided individuals were allowed to rise.

Through it all, Himmler indulges in self-congratulation, emphasizing at every turn how well his officers treat animals, even the “subhuman” ones. Even their plan for a Final Solution of the Jewish Question was in their minds a generous act of decency on behalf of the Aryan nation and the future of the world. It is no exaggeration to say that I squirmed with discomfort and shame for the cognitively dissonant human race at more than one point in the film.

As Himmler writes home from Warsaw, Riga, Lemberg and other cities where he’s traveled to supervise the war, all I could think of was the Kurt Weill song “What did the soldier’s wife receive?” (“Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib?”), written in 1943 to a poem by Bertolt Brecht. From Prague she received high-heeled shoes, from Oslo a little fur piece, from Amsterdam a fine Dutch hat, lace from Belgium, a silken gown from Paris, an embroidered smock from Bucharest. And from vast Russia? The soldier’s wife received the widow’s veil.

This haunting film, now in theaters, recently won the best documentary award at the Jerusalem Film Festival.