“Gravity” by Leana Lieberman— Veys Mir, an Orthodox Jewish Lesbian

Lieberman, Leana. “Gravity”, Orca Books, 2008.

Veys Mir, An Orthodox Jewish Lesbian

Amos Lassen

Fifteen-year-old Ellie Gold is an orthodox Jewish teenager living in Toronto in the late eighties. Ellie has no doubts about her strict religious upbringing but then she falls in love with another girl at her grandmother’s cottage. She is very aware that homosexuality clashes with Jewish observance, and so she feels forced to either alter her sexuality or leave her community. Meanwhile, Ellie’s mother, Chana, becomes convinced she has a messianic role to play, and her sister, Neshama, is rebelling against the restrictions of her faith. Ellie is afraid there is no way to be both gay and Jewish, but her mother and sister offer alternative concepts of God that help Ellie find a place for herself as a queer Jew.

Ellie’s conflict comes from the angst she feels when she reminds herself that Judaism says that she is an abomination, yet God and His commandments are supposed to be good. Neshama says God is just an idea made up by stupid men who say women can’t love other women. And we get to the question of God. When Ellie meets Lindsay, she is faced with denying her sexuality or abandoning her community. While she looks for help from others, her decisions are all her own.

Ellie is terrified of being caught due to the mixed messages her religion sends about homosexuality. In her family the Torah is everything, so there’s no way she can talk to her parents about what’s going with her. Neshama, her older sister, however is sick of the sexism and restrictions placed on them by their faith and is letting it go. Ellie doesn’t want to stop being religious, she just wants to figure out how to make it work for her without being like those hypocrites who pick and choose which scriptures should be followed literally and which are out of date.

Her attraction to Lindsay comes from the fact that Lindsay is how Ellie wants to be. Ellie actually stalks Lindsay for several weeks before making contact. It was weird to see Ellie, a religious girl, behaving in such a way. I had the feeling that Lindsay was using Ellie so that she would feel loved and wanted because she did not get that at home but we come to see that genuine feelings are shared by the two girls. Lieberman does an excellent job writing about Orthodox Judaism.

This is a book about both coming out and coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation while trying to find one’s identity in a closed community. Ellie has to learn that she has the power to make her own decisions and choices and that there isn’t always some authority to tell her what the right thing to do is.

Lieberman shows that there is a place for all kinds and types of people including Ellie, in society and religion.

 

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