By Jay Smith
I remember what it was like before I read a story like mine.
I was sitting in a park with a friend. As a young, queer, American Jew, I was lamenting the fact that I had seen Jewish stories and queer stories, but no Jewish, queer stories in popular media.
“Have you heard of Beyond the Pale?” they asked, suddenly full of giddy joy.
I hadn’t. It was about to change me.
Beyond the Pale, a novel written in 1997 about Jewish lesbian immigrants, was the book I didn’t know I needed. It showed me that people like me had always existed. I now have a tattered copy, read over and over, and lent out to friends. It was an incredible gift to receive a book written by us, for us, and that we shared with one another.
Author Elana Dykewomon said in a 1998 interview: “It can’t be that we are the first generation of Jewish lesbian activists on the planet. So part of what the novel is about is searching for our ancestors and ancestral community as Jewish lesbians.”
Elana Dykewomon died last summer. As I was thinking about who to celebrate this Jewish American Heritage Month, I could think of no one more fitting. She may be gone but I will never stop sharing her words.
This Jewish American Heritage Month, I am honoring all those who told our stories so that I would know that there were people like me who came before me.
Together, we are writing the next chapter of our history.