Tradition: On Being A Religious Jewish Kinkster
4 July 2017 | 2:32 pm

Temple Beth Abraham, Conservative Synagogue in Oakland, CA

I am Jewish and a Semite* on my father’s side of the family. According to Jewish halakha (law) your Jewish ancestry is a matriarchy. You are Jewish if your mother is Jewish not your father. I have been always been spiritual and religious. Meaning I love belonging to an actual congregation and attending services. Being religious and spiritual (the first is an anomaly, the second acceptable) and Jewish in the kink community is not always a comfortable seat. As a femme Leather dyke the anti-Semitism and anti-religious is something that I experience in community.

There is an old joke about two Jewish humans landing on a deserted island. When they are rescued there are three amazing buildings on the island. When asked what they were they pointed to the first building and said, “This is the synagogue I go to. The second is the synagogue he goes to.” The rescuer asked “Well, what is the third?” In disdain they answered, “Neither of us go to that synagogue!” Therefore everything I talk about in this article is from my experience of my beliefs and values. It is about my synagogue, any other Jew or Jewish Movement may have a different experience.

A lot of the Leather and GLBT community have been treated poorly by a lot of religious communities, so I understand their skepticism. Being raised Catholic, the misogyny alone was enough adding the inability to be clergy, the abuse of children by male clergy, and the anti-LBGT community, I know what growing up in an oppressive non-progressive religion was like. This, however did not ever challenge my belief in G-d/dess. That She is genderless, and approachable brings me joy.

The atheists in our this community are very verbal and expressive, too. I have the greatest respect for their beliefs, however I do believe in G-d. My search for a religious and spiritual home has been a long one that started as a child. For all the reasons summed up in this article I chose to convert to Judaism at Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland, CA. TBA was founded in 1907 and it still a vital, growing community. Hopefully people will learn a little something about the tenants of Judaism.

When I sat through my first Shabbat service I felt this healing of continuity. Like my Great to the nth degree Grandmother was filled with joy as I sat there. Even though I could not understand any of the prayers in Hebrew, I felt the tuning fork of my body vibrate in perfect harmony.

I have always felt like a half Jew. When I started attending Temple Beth Abraham the deep abiding love I have always had for this part of myself felt the pull to commit fully for many reasons; one of them being my deep love for Judaism. “You will love Adonai, Your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

Tevye from Fiddler On The Roof

My paternal great grandparents came from a shtetl in Russian to Odessa in the early 1900’s. From Odessa they bought or bribed papers and other documents to safely leave Odessa and come to the USA. The pogroms (A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at the massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews.) were going on in the shtetls in Russia. If you have seen Fiddler On The Roof, Tevye lived in a shtetl and was made to leave in a pogrom. My Grandfather, Joseph Hoffman got a job working for the railroad in Tacoma, Washington. The Tacoma railroad yards were full of Jewish workers. My great grandparents, grandparents and my father were silent and non observant and we were brought up in the faith of my mother. Sometimes I cry because my Jewish ancestors were forgotten. No one remembers them. No one calls out his or her names for yahrzeit (the yearly remembrance of the dead). Now I do, they are no longer forgotten.

I figured out that my Jewish roots have been cut off at the very least 115 years. Since the age of 16 I have been on a journey to discover, accept and heal. This is my Teshuvah (atonement). I feel like I am attaining atonement in some degree for the overwhelming trauma that serves to separates us from our people. We all get separated from each other in a world that does not accept difference. A century of wandering in the desert must be some kind of Jewish record of finding your way home, although wandering seems to be part of our Jewish experiences. In the desert, in dispersion, in our hearts we are always searching to fulfill the Covenant or running from the responsibility of it.

It is, for me, a way to live, a way to pray, a way to serve, a way to study Torah; it fulfills my soul and connects me to the cosmic experience of being a Jew. I converted because I am a lover of Torah of the study of Torah. I converted because I am a lover of communal and private prayer in Hebrew. It is the eternal connection of one generation to another, of every Jew to another, and the amazing fruition of a living, breathing religion and people. Hebrew is a constant ringing in my ears. I close my eyes and Hebrew letters and prayers float in and out of my mind.

While I do not feel in anyway ‘other’, I have some sadness of how much I missed. I revel in how sweet it is to study as worship. Susan, my Hebrew teacher, and unofficial Jewish Mother, has helped me to fill in the cultural gaps by answering every minute question I asked.

In the synagogue, in my home, at the beach, and in the hearts of all Jews is the One, eternal G-d. Although it is not necessary to believe in God to be a Jew. We are more than a religion. We are deeply rooted in community and family. We are a people. We are Mizrahim, Sephardim, and Ashkanazim.

It was a tremendous sacred sign to walk into an amazing synagogue led by Rabbi Bloom, Cantor Kaplan, and Susan Simon. They are welcoming, inspirational teachers, and a blessing. I have only begun to learn from all of them. The Jewish Community of TBA have welcomed me, helped me, prayed with me, and laughed with me. There is such joy. There is much action. A social, active, living breathing, balanced, studying, questioning, debating religion/people is a source of unending bliss.

The members of TBA from the moment we walked in were welcoming and generous. I had been to TBA for the conversion ceremony of a friend and spent several months talking to her about conversion and the Synagogue. When I decided to actually take the step outside of “visiting” the first person to greet me when I walked in was a vivacious smiling face that turned out to be our Rebbetzin, the Rabbi’s wife. She asked our names and where we were from and was just lovely. Community members reached out to welcome us as we kept coming back to celebrate Shabbat. The political liberal, truly welcoming (not just as a pithy saying on the website), and accepting.

From congregants helping me find my place in the Siddur (Order of Service) to Aaron, the 83 year old past President, telling charismatic historical stories, to Susan’s helping me with my Hebrew and customs, to the unending members who showed such kindness to me this and more called to my Jewish heart.

I was honest about being a dyke, about being a Leather dyke, and about being poly with a huzbutch and a boy. Nothing seemed to phase them. Although they may not all understand, they really don’t care. You are a Jew. You are a fellow member. It is the ONLY spiritual path I have traveled that truly accepts everyone: gay, poly, kinky, trans, dyke, and all combinations. It was an overwhelming experience as we kept attending to be so welcomed by everyone, Rabbi to congregant. I am a proud descendant of Abraham and Sarah, as are all my people.

I can sum up why I converted by my response of my closest sister to my study and conversion, “You are already gay and politically rather radical. Why are you adding another layer of possible discrimination?” My response was, “I already am. We already are.” Why? I am all of those women already. I always have been. I am gay. I am politically fierce. I am Jewish. Conversion cements and centers me.

What Is Meaningful To Me. Some Tenants of Judaism

Spirtuality-Torah, Shabbat, Festivals and Holidays

I love Shabbat. I love Shabbat candle lighting and dinner. I love the daily prayers, kashrut awareness, and celebrating the holidays, I have celebrate and observed all the Holy Days, the festivals, the memorials, and even the fasts. I love observing Shabbat. I love especially the Torah Service. I get Torah Sparks and Mishnah Yomit from the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem every Wednesday and read the portion and the commentary. I read the Torah portion again on Friday Evening. Shabbat is the crown of my week. Sometimes I stay until the last few people leave lunch to soak in the joy. I am learning to read Torah in Hebrew. I will forever speak Hebrew with a Susan Simon accent and I could not be prouder to carry her teaching in my heart and mind. All the letters float like a blessing from the Torah to all my senses. My ears hear the trope. I see the sacred letters and words and delight in their form and beauty, my hands hold the sacred text, I smell the scent of paper or vellum, and I taste the sweetness of study and worship.

People — Am Israel

I feel this amazing connection that Jews have for one another. Especially, feminist Jewish women. I am constantly learning a new culture. Although Yiddish was part of my young life, I was not brought up as the people, Am Israel. I did not grow up with the same clues, fears, and hopes, as Am Israel. I am like the lotus working my way up through the mud and water of learning to be part of a culture over 5000 years old. I don’t have the same cultural clues but I strive to reach upward to bloom in a lake full of my people. That lotus wants to pray in tallit and tefillin, carry and read Torah at the Wall like all other Jews! It will be a thrill to be another blossom of Am Israel. As Susan said, “You have to be a little crazy to convert.” Crazy smart. Crazy happy. Crazy in love with my people.

Community — Kiddish luncheon

Social intelligence is greatly overlooked and is so important. TBA has built a strong, vibrant, vital community. The strong leadership of TBA has an amazing effect on the community. The Torah Parshah for June 24 is Korach, one of the viewpoints related to this challenge of leadership is how little we honor and respect our leaders publicly. While no person is perfect, the leadership sets the tone of welcoming in all communities. I think one of most meaningful parts of my Jewish life is my community. I felt welcomed, accepted, and helped.

I am not a shy person but sometimes overwhelmed by my feelings I isolated myself or did not join tables full of people I did not know, so they joined me. I am forever grateful for their hospitality. I have never, ever felt the stranger. Laughter bubbles up from the joyful delight of services to the huge weekly family lunches and makes my heart feel squeezed. When I think back over a year of lunches with 80 year olds to babies all chatting, arguing, gossiping, discussing, laughing, playing some soccer, catching girls giggling over the Rabbi’s sons…I am brought to tears. As my grandfather warned me, “The older you get, the more you cry with sadness or joy.” I stopped wearing mascara. Tears of joy are always right there, waiting as someone greets me with a Shabbat Shalom or hugs and kisses me.

Mikdash Me’at — Jewish home.

Mezuzah, Jewish art, Shabbat Candles, Hebrew practice, trope practice, morning and evening prayers all contribute to making our home Jewish. And Mike. Mike brings 36 years as a third generation Jew. His passion for Am Israel and Er Israel is so deep that it permeates every corner of our home. Recognized worldwide as an expert on WWII he has helped museums in Europe and America archive holocaust and WWII artifacts.

With Mike comes a vast education on the enslavement of Jewish children and adults by the German government during WWII. Mike’s grandmother was “arrested” at age eight and used as slave labor until she was liberated from Auschwitz at age eleven. Children were used because of their small hands, when they could no longer do the work they were moved to the extermination camps or simply shot. Mike’s grandmother married an American GI and came to America.

One of the Holocaust survivors used to say, “You are okay in America.” In some ways we are and in lots of ways anti-Semitism is just as prominent in the USA. The USA had Jewish immigration quotas until the 1950’s, in fact FDR left thousands of American Jews stranded in Europe and refused to help them return to the US.

What makes our home Jewish is the people who occupy it and living out the importance of family. When they killed off generations of your people and families, family and home become sacred. Home is where you live your values every day, in the ordinary. Home is where we argue about the practical application of the meaning of “clean”. Our home is where we argue politics. Home is where we feast. Home is laughing. Home is learning. Home is discussing Jewish news, Israeli news, social justice, and anti-Semitism. Home is where the Shabbat naps are the best.

Tikkun Olam — Repair the World

It is my responsibility as a Jewish woman to contribute to repairing the world through social justice work, environmental work, and the work of prayer born out of compassion and kindness. For me that means being very present to the pain of the world. As a retired social worker where the bulk of my career was spent working with families in crisis and sexual assault/incest survivors I was constantly working to heal deep and abiding pain. I held, cried and sang so many gay men and their families (even those who refused to see their dying children) through death. It can be and is deeply grim helping others repair the ugliness of human cruelty. To do this kind of work takes a great faith in Ha-Shem. To do this work and keep balanced means to keep the spark of joy alive in your heart. This is what community prayer and celebration does for me.

This has been a life commitment and goal: to hold all within the arms of compassionate kindness, to speak out against isms, to meet each morning with joy. I was honored in the 1990’s to receive a National Community Service Award from Ellie Wiesel and President Clinton. I was so humbled to meet this amazing survivor who worked so hard to repair the world. I strive to always accept people for who they are and celebrate their unique face and spirit in the flow of universal compassion. We are all a part of bringing kindness and compassion in Judaism and the world.

Torah, T’filah, and Tzedakah

Torah Study

I am madly self-driven. The Rabbi gave me a reading list; I devoured all of them in about a month. I used the bibliography of each book to read more books. Studying Hebrew with Susan challenges me. I was never good at learning languages. I took and still take on line courses on Talmud and am at the very baby stages of learning to study. Rabbi Gould’s course gave me an excellent example of studying and learning about havruta (study partners). This kind of study is what I am working toward. Studying and living the Torah is an ongoing delight. “Therefore impress these My words upon your very heart: bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve a symbol on your forehead, and teach your children — reciting them when you stay home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up;” Deuteronomy 11:18–19

We are all children, no matter what age, studying the words of Torah.


A woman wears a tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah) at the Wall in Jerusalem.

“Hear O Israel! The Lord is our G-d, the Lord alone.” Deuteronomy 6:4

I do not pray to change G_d. I do not pray to change others. I pray to change me. I pray to become a better listener and a kinder person. I pray to be a better woman of compassion and always more patient. I love communal prayer and knowing that all over the world Jews, just like me, are rising to sing the Shema and pray the Amidah. I pray the English and then slowly read the Hebrew etching the words into my heart and head. I adore Shabbat morning prayers and services with my community at Temple Beth Abraham and all Jews in synagogues all over the world. It is as our Cantor is always reminding us, a cosmic connection.


Money is the goat of the ancient times. It feeds others, pays the bills, teaches children to adults, provides luncheons, pays synagogue salaries, contributes to upkeep of the buildings, gets invested for the future, supports causes, and pays for the assembling of community. Paying my dues is the basic form of giving, giving to other funds, and supporting synagogue and school fundraisers is true philanthropy, a gift from the heart. I pay my membership and contribute as my income allows. While I don’t have a lot of income, I give and gave dollars to many organizations over the years. Lots of raffle tickets wrapped around my ample bosom over lots of year.

Gemillut Chassadim (Acts of Loving Kindness) has taken a huge part of my life. I have sat on non-profit boards since I was in my 20’s until two years ago. From anti-poverty programs to anti-violence to state advisory committees to charity boards, I have always given of my time and knowledge and in return learned so much. In the 1980’s and 90’s I spent a lot of my time being the support for Aids victims. As a trained pastoral minister and social worker I held lots of hands, told families of dying sons, held mother’s of dying young sons in my arms. I held men and women as close to me as I could as they faced the pain, stigma, and fear that was my gay community. Hard heart work. The service of caring, loving, and attending the dying, their families, and the dead was a humbling gift of compassion and trust.

Zionism and Israel

Aqueduct Beach in Caesarea, Tel Aviv, Israel

My love for Israel began long before my Jewish awareness. I remember watching the movie Exodus as a child and getting so upset that the Jews could not be in their own land. I have become an ardent Zionist and lover of Israel.

As the last fundraiser for the Gan was winding down I asked the Rebbetzin about Israel. Her face glowed with the light of wondrous memories as she spoke about the beauty and distinctive ambiance of the Country of Israel. I care for her, Israel, the eternal home of all Jews. I want to visit Israel before I get much older. I want that same glow as I speak to others about Israel. I believe in the peaceful integration of Israelis and Palestinians. I believe that most of the conflict between these two Semitic cultures is related to colonization by the Persians, Babylonians, Mongolians, Greeks, Romans, and British all who encouraged the instability and division between two peoples who may have different religions but are the same people.

What happened at Chicago Pride this year is an example of the use of Anti-Zionist beliefs of the left is a form of anti-Semitism. There is no room for understanding the diversity of Zionists. Not all Zionists are alike, just as not all Americans are alike. The Anti-Semitism in the GLBT and Leather community is par to the rest of the world. It breaks me sometimes how my community screams openness and acceptance but does not act on this with consistency. What is hard is the obvious anti-Semitism of the left. It makes it difficult as the left looks at anti-Zionism as a staple of of it’s belief. Anti-Zionism becomes the new form of persecution, both from the conservatives and left leaning bigots.

Chicago Jewish Community carried flags from it’s synagogue. It is the 10th year one of the members had carried the flag from her synagogue and this year they were ejected from the Parade for carrying the flag.

As a Jew, my love for Israel is concrete, important, and filled with hope. While a lot of Jews do not agree with some of the political decisions of Israel, most of us have a deep and abiding love for the land, it’s people, and a place to call our own. While I may not like the politics of Israel, I also don’t like the politics of the United States.

The right of existence does not lessen the responsibility to act with compassion and as Rabbi Hillel said, “”What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation of this — go and study it!”

Bat Shalom is an Israeli national feminist grassroots organization of Palestinian and Jewish Israeli women working together for a genuine peace grounded in a just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, respect for human rights, and an equal voice for Jewish and Arab women within Israeli society.
  • Se·mit·ic səˈmidik/adjective
    1. relating to or denoting a family of languages that includes Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic and certain ancient languages such as Phoenician and Akkadian, constituting the main subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic family.
    2. relating to the peoples who speak the Semitic languages, especially Hebrew and Arabic.

Deborah Hoffman-Wade, M.Th.,MSW, ICSW, is at heart a Jewish Femme Leather Dyke. Fierce and fabulous, Deborah is Ms. Alameda County Leather 2009. She is past producer of several bay area contests (Mr. San Francisco Leather, Northern California LeatherSir, boy and Bootblack). She was the 2013 San Francisco Leather Alliance Leather Woman of the Year and the 2014 Leather Marshall to the San Francisco Pride Parade. Deborah was a columnist for Lavender Press (MPLS/ST. Paul) and Of A Like Mind (Madison, WI) and writes op/ed for She is Co-Author of Partners in Change: Building Collaborations. More important than all the above stuff, she is wife to Schon Wade for going on 29 years and Ma’am to her boy Mike Gelfand. She is also Oscar’s Momma.

Tradition: On Being A Religious Jewish Kinkster was originally published in Leatherati Online on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Interview with Sir Daddy Daun and slave girl j
30 June 2017 | 3:09 pm

by Leland Carina

Thank you Sir Daddy Daun and slave girl j! Here are some resources to find out more!

Sir Daddy Daun and slave girl j’s Facebook page

International Master/slave website

Northwest Master/slave website

Interview with Sir Daddy Daun and slave girl j was originally published in Leatherati Online on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Leather Mosaic
7 June 2017 | 2:43 am

By Rooks

Leather Mosaic was originally published in Leatherati Online on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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