By Daphne l. Kanellopoulos
“I came across a book called Torah Queeries and I spent some time a couple of summers ago at a week-long institute where I took a course where that book was the subject of the conversations and study. I found it so compelling, interesting and engrossing that I decided it could be a focus for LGBT Jews who wanted to further integrate their queer and Jewish identities. And the Pride Center seemed like a really good place to do that,” said David Rogoff.
“Besides being president of the Pride Center,” says Rogoff, “I’m also a past president of New Jersey’s Lesbian and Gay Havurah and actually, what I did is I invited the Havurah to host a monthly study session at the Pride Center and so this project is a project of the Havurah. I’m really being interviewed more as a member of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Havurah than as president of the Pride Center, although as president of the Pride Center, I’m really glad to have a group like that meeting here.”
Rogoff is one of the facilitators and facilitation is alternated each month with that month’s facilitator picking one of the chapters in the book and preparing discussion questions for the next meeting. The book is comprised of essays by primarily LGBT Jewish scholars (including rabbis) and allies “there are commentaries on chapters from the Torah, which is the five books of Moses – the Jewish Bible basically, looked at as the editor of the book says ‘through a queer lens.’ I think we’re accustomed as gay people to see religion as the organization of our aspirations for equality. We’re accustomed, I think, to see that and for good reason, because the most organized opposition to our aspirations for equality comes from organized traditional religious groups. However, it’s no longer factual that the religious community is a united front in opposition to us.”
In reference to the group, Rogoff says, “It’s been very positive. I think it’s very healing to find teachings in the traditions that you were brought up with that affirm your life as a gay person.”
Rogoff would like to see the possibility of “interfaith cross- pollination” and noted that the Metropolitan Community Church has begun meeting at the Pride Center of New Jersey.
“Here’s the thing, when major religious denominations present themselves as our allies, it can no longer be said that religion only condemns us.” Rogoff continues, “And in fact, I know that in Albany, if this bill passes and it’s supposed to get voted on today, did anything happen yet? (Checks phone to see if the same-sex marriage bill had been voted on yet.) No. It’s going to be partly because there were more voices being heard in Albany besides the voice of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the Catholic Church.”
Torah Queeries runs from 4:30 to 6:00 on the third Sunday of every month. In addition to serving as president on the board of directors at the Pride Center of New Jersey, David Rogoff is also a psychotherapist in private practice in Highland Park. Rogoff is also a past president of the NJ Lesbian and Gay Havurah. For more information, please visit the Web site, njhav.org.