Transgender rabbi lauds teen’s coming out as embodying Passover spirit

April 7, 2015

By Haaretz


The coming out of a Jewish transgender teenager from California in a YouTube video that went viral this month is the same kind of risk that the Israelites took when they left Egypt, a rabbi at Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center said in an open letter to the teen.

Image of Tom Chai Sosnik speaking at a podium.

“The moments before and during the actual exodus from Egypt were extremely risky. How could the individual Israelites be sure that they would be redeemed? And yet, in order for our story to continue, each individual needed to take a risk, needed to take a leap of faith, and perform the Passover sacrifice,” Becky Silverstein, an openly trans rabbi at the¬†Conservative synagogue in California who identifies as a man, said in the open letter. “Tom, it is only through courageous acts of risk-taking that Judaism will continue to thrive and grow. Thank you for urging that process along.”

Silverstein was referring to Tom Chai Sosnik, the 13-year-old who filmed the video about his transition from being a girl called Mia to a boy called Tom at Tehiyah Day School, the Jewish school he attends in El Cerrito, California. “I am no longer Mia, I never really was,” Sosnik says in the video. “Now I finally stand before you in my true and authentic gender identity as Tom.”

After the speech, Sosnik underwent a naming ceremony that the school’s rabbi, Tsipi Gabai, designed and described as a “cross between a bar mitzvah and a brit,” The Forward reported.

Sosnik represents a vision of what the Jewish community should be, said Silverstein.

“I see in your face the faces of the LGBTQ Jewish teenagers I have had the opportunity to work with in my time as a Jewish educator and rabbi. In your face, I also see a vision of what I want so badly for our Jewish community to be: a place where everyone can be celebrated for the entirety of who they¬†are and where nobody feels the need to hide a piece of their identity,” the rabbi said. “In sharing your transition with your parents, community, school, and the greater world community, you modeled for all of us what it means for us to feel as though we ourselves were leaving Egypt, a central commandment within the Passover Hagaddah.”