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(Re)claiming Queer/Domestic/Feminist Judaism

September 5, 2006

A more personal post, containing no links to any articles, save for one to one of my own past posts. We’ll see where this goes.

Yes, it’s tired, we’ve heard it all before. We have to *own* our Judaism, we don’t need to recite the annoying “Religion is *so* last year!” mantra that we all learned in queer school. Religion is cool again, right? Or maybe I live in a bubble.

I’m feeling it a lot lately, which is strange because I’ve been feeling distant from “official” Jewish practice for about the last six months. I’ve stopped going to shul (synagogue), which I used to do occasionally. I stopped putting out the effort to make Shabbat for myself. Part of that comes from feeling a lack of natural community and feeling too burdened by the idea of creating that community, which I’m picky about – I like queers, particularly sassy queers, and I like my Shabbat to be certain way. But I’d prefer to steer clear of identity politics in this post, which usually bore and irritate me to tears. So let’s see where I can move with this.

My brother is getting married in six days. Gay married. And I have all kinds of mixed feelings about the whole thing, as any good queer would, but through the process, I’ve realized recently how much subtle Judaism I have reclaimed without even knowing it. I took up knitting and crocheting about a year and a half ago, and in addition to churning out lots and lots of scarves my first year as a knitter and crocheter, I’ve made countless numbers of kippot (yarmulkes) for various friends and relatives, a few sets of besamim bags for havdalah (bags filled with spices for the ritual that ends Shabbat) in rainbow colors, a mezuzah (doorpost decoration? Hard to explain. Interested parties can read here.) for my new apartment, and a tallit (prayer shawl) for my mother, by far my most ambitious project, which took me several months of intensive work. These gifts have been the ones in which I take the most pride. Scarves are scarves – they keep the wearer warm, of course. But there’s nothing like knowing that a gift that you create will be used during times of heightened spirituality and emotions. And keeping a baby extra gay and extra Jewish (see photo!)

For this wedding, I crocheted two kippot, one for my brother and one for his partner. I also remembered the tallit, which I knitted over a year ago but never did all the non-knitted finishing on it that needed to be done. Last week, I took it to a tailor to have a lining sewn in and bought special string so that the tzitzit (fringes) can be tied to each corner when it returns, all in time for the aufruf (Shabbat service before the wedding).

I’d like to begin knitting and crocheting such objects on commission, specifically for the queers looking for new and public ways to celebrate/accompany/parade their queer religious practice. I happen to like knitting rainbows (ok, this is only part of it) and I also like being part of queer egalitarian religious life, even, and maybe even more so, when I’m feeling distant from all of it. And I’d love to do it barter-style, in exchange for learning new skills or receiving others’ lovely crafts. Pictures of all of my projects to come next week, including the most recent round of kippot and the finished tallit – all projects will be shown with their owners, of course, including the baby rainbow kippah. If any of my dear readers happen to have a gift I gave them at some point, I would so appreciate a digital photo.

I was going to wait to post this until I had more photos, but I figure I’ll have some intense wedding stuff I’m assuming I’ll want to share next week. So photos to come, intensity to come. Weddings are pretty insane. Stay tuned.

*edited much, much later*
The finished kippot, at the wedding: (not a great photo, but they came out really beautiful – it’s blue/orange yarn).






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4 comments

  1. Do you have an EASY pattern to knit a yamulka. I am a beginner but I desparately want to be able to knit one. thank you so much.


  2. And what about the pattern for that knitted tallit? Would you share it? Thanks!
    [=sfc=]


  3. Audrey-I hardly ever use a pattern for making yarmulkas. Also, most people crochet them, I have never met anyone who has knitted one. It’s one of those projects that you need someone to show you, the stitching is the easy part – the hard part is learning when to increase because it has to be done gradually as you work your way out.

    Hey Shelly! I actually made up the pattern myself, working from a pattern from this fantastic book which is has hundreds of standard patterns which can be used for an infinite number of projects. I can dig around at home to remember the size of the yarn that I used, which was quite thin.


  4. Would love to knit a tallit for my granddaughter. Can you help me?



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