Hasidic rabbi who can’t ‘pray the girl away’ transitions to female activist

Full Disclosure:  I’m Facebook Friends with Abby and this is a shameless plug of her book. I think she is really very cool and a good spokeswoman, breaking down doors.

From The Times of Israel:  https://www.timesofisrael.com/hasidic-rabbi-who-cant-pray-the-girl-away-transitions-to-female-activist/

Abby Stein was a mischievous yeshiva boy who had an arranged marriage – and son – in her enclave in Brooklyn. Her newly published book, ‘Becoming Eve,’ details her unusual journey

By Cathryn J. Prince
13 November 2019

NEW YORK — Each night, five-year-old Abby Stein lay in bed and prayed: “Holy creator, I am going to sleep now, and I look like a boy. I am begging you, when I wake up in the morning I want to be a girl. I know that you can do anything, and nothing is too hard for you, so please, I am a girl, why can’t I look like a beautiful little girl?”

Stein, now 27, writes about reciting that prayer in her just published memoir “Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman.” The book gives readers a frank look at what it was like to come of age misgendered in one of the world’s most gender-segregated societies. More so, it’s about Stein becoming the woman she is and about her finally being able to embrace Judaism on her terms.

Born and raised in the Hasidic community of Williamsburg, New York, Stein is a direct descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism. Her parents hoped their sixth child would become a great and learned rabbi. They also thought their sixth child was a boy. But Stein knew otherwise.

She writes about how at age three she sobbed through the ritual haircut that established her payos (side locks), how after she turned six she could no longer play with or speak to girls with whom she longed to play with dolls and trade pink Hello Kitty stationary — in Yiddish, of course.

As she grew she turned ever more inward, looking for solace and answers in her faith — both of which proved elusive. One particularly affecting passage of “Becoming Eve” describes how at 18 Stein met the woman she was to marry and how that, as much as she respected Fraidy, she knew she “also wanted to be her. Not her, exactly, but I wanted to be the woman — I wanted to be the wife.”

Stein’s memoir describes the crushing depression that came with trying to suppress her true self, and how she hoped that perhaps after marriage her “feelings would magically go away… I guess it was my own version of ‘praying the gay away,’ although it was more like ‘praying the girl away.’”

And while much of the book occurs before Stein started the process of transitioning. Stein was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi in 2011 and readers learn that Stein divorced her wife, with whom she shares a son, in 2013. With the help of the Footsteps organization she left the Hasidic community.

Today, she is a vocal activist on behalf of the LGBTQ community, a sought-after speaker at universities, synagogues and community centers, and was named by Jewish Week as one of the “36 under 36” Jews who are affecting change in the world.

Continue reading at:  https://www.timesofisrael.com/hasidic-rabbi-who-cant-pray-the-girl-away-transitions-to-female-activist/

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