Students will learn about contemporary LGBTQ Jewish hero Koach Frazier and engage with the “spiritual technology” of our ancestors and make it their own.
By Essie Shachar-Hill, Keshet
Time: 45 mins
Keshet’s Jewish LGBTQ Heroes Posters
If in person:
Students will learn about contemporary LGBTQ Jewish hero Koach Frazier.
Students will engage with the “spiritual technology” of our ancestors and make it their own.
This lesson contains two options. The first examines grief and mourning. Be mindful of your students’ circumstances in the timing and framing of this lesson.
Koach’s talk mentions the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016 and the grief associated. Anti-LGBTQ violence may be distressing for some students. Encourage students to take breaks if needed.
Today we will be learning about a contemporary Jewish hero. It’s important to learn about Jewish heroes because there are so many extraordinary Jews in our history and present who have made important contributions to the Jewish people and the world at large. It’s also important to learn about lots of different Jewish heroes because it uplifts the fact that the Jewish community is diverse, and there is no one way to be Jewish. Today we are going to learn about Dr. Koach Baruch Frazier.
Koach Baruch Frazier (they/them and he/him) is a healer and musician who is working towards the day everyone experiences liberation. He spent 14 years helping people reconnect with the world around them through better hearing and the last several years providing love and support through revolutionary listening and spiritual leadership, traveling the country facilitating healing and transformation through music and workshops at the intersection of antisemitism and anti-blackness. Koach is a co-convenor of the Tzedek Lab and a student at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
For ages 14+
Watch “Resilience through the practice of lament” (3:38-9:43)
Using the formula (20 mins):
Koach says, “Lament has a formula…and formulas can be useful in times of crisis and uncertainty. This is the gift of our ancestors, giving us the spiritual technology to help us stay on this road of resilience.”
First, we’re going to examine the formula Koach lays out, then we’ll look at an example of a lament from the LGBTQ community.
Here’s the formula Koach details:
Violence against the transgender community is alarmingly common. So far in 2020, 26 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been murdered. Most of these were people of color. We lament the lives that were taken merely from hate as we say:
Shechinah: We cry out in pain as we hold the memories of our trans siblings who lost their lives simply for living their truths. We are heartbroken from the consequences of hatred and ignorance. We must remember their names: Nina Pop, Tony McDade, Riah Milton, Merci Mack, and too many others. Healing can only come from a renewed commitment to justice and compassion for others. We are grateful for the breath in our lungs to continue to say their names.
Next, we’re going to practice using this spiritual technology for our own personal laments. Think about something you are mourning right now. Maybe it’s the passing of a loved one, or a friend who has moved away, or a tough transition to a new way of life. It can be big or small.
Write Koach’s formula on the whiteboard, butcher paper, or in the online chat, and give students 20 minutes to write their personal lament.
You may choose to play music while they are writing. Check out Koach on soundcloud for some of their music.
As an alternative to a personal lament, you may guide students to co-create a group lament. Going through the formula step-by-step, you can have students annotate a Zoom white board [virtual] or write answers on butcher paper around the room. This option is less private, but may be appropriate for focusing on a shared experience, such as a loss in the community, or the COVID-19 pandemic.
Debrief (9 mins):
For ages 11+
Frame (2 mins):
As well as being an audiologist and spiritual leader, Koach is a musician. We’re going to listen to a song by Koach called “Be With Me.” This song is based on a slave-era spiritual of Koach’s previously enslaved ancestors. He uses their tune and changes the words to bring in his own feelings and messages that are important to him.
Examining adaptations (11 mins):
Listen to “Be with Me.”
Note: This song uses phrases like “I can’t breathe” and “say her name” which allude, respectively, to the murder of Eric Garner and the continued police violence against Black people in America, and the ongoing murders of black women. Preview this song before listening with your class, and be prepared to answer questions about these references.
Read Rabbi Elliot Kukla’s version of Asher Yatzar:
ברוך את יי אלוהינו מלך העולם אשר יצרה את האדם בחכמה
Barukh At Adonay Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam asher yatzrah et ha’adam b’khokhma
Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Ruler of the universe, who has formed the human being with wisdom. You created in the human body openings upon openings and cavities upon cavities. It is clear and well known that if just one of these unique valves within the complexity of each body was blocked or ruptured, it would be impossible to survive. May the day come when it is also obvious and evident that if just one unique body within the complexity of Your world is blocked or ruptured, if just one of us is not allowed to make our distinctive beauty manifest in the world, then it is impossible for all of Your creation to thrive and rise each day joyfully before You. Blessed are You, Source of all life and form, who implanted within us the ability to shape and reshape ourselves – molding, changing, transitioning and adorning our bodies – so that the fullness of our many genders, the abundance of our desires and the diversity of our souls can be revealed. Blessed are You, Eternal One, who has made me Your partner in daily completing the task of my own formation. (Note: The author made an intentional choice to mix the gender of the subject and verb in the Hebrew of this blessing.)
We just experienced two different adaptations of song and prayer. How did the authors infuse their own experiences/needs? How does the original song/prayer differ from the new adaptation? How is it similar?
Create (12 mins):
In small groups, have students choose a Jewish song or prayer to rework. Ask them to identify the message in the original, and then bring in new aspects that reflect their experiences. (For example, students could rewrite hashkivenu to express what they need protection from. They could update eshet chayil to describe their idea of a valiant person, etc.)
Share (10 mins):
Have the small groups share what they wrote! Musically-oriented students may want to sing, but it’s also OK for students to just read what they wrote.
This activity was an example of using Jewish spiritual technology. That is, using the tools our Jewish tradition provides us to help navigate this complex world. What was it like to use an ancient tool [(ament or prayer, depending on which above activity you did) today? Does it change anything to know that our ancestors have used the same tools for hundreds of years? What was it like to add your own voice to our rich well of tradition and tools?
if you have more time, multiple lessons, or want to assign homework