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November 26, 2010

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PAGE 20A By Josh Sayles Jewish News of Greater Phoenix In 2009, Scottsdale, Ariz., author Marilyn Frazer pub- lished her first book, "The Relationship Trap" (Relation- ship Counseling LLC, $17 paperback), a book that tells the stories of 14 women who ignored the warning signs of when to get out of a bad relationship. Since then, her work has been chosen as a finalist in the women's issues category of the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the women's issues and self help/relation- ships category of USA Book News National Best Books Award. Says Frazer of her stories, "I've changed all the names to protect the women and the guilty." The Relationship Trap She's currently working . on a sequel about men's relationships. Jewish News: How did you come up with the idea for this book? Marilyn Frazer: About 10 years ago, I was in graduate school getting a master's 'The Relationship Trap' degree in counseling. I needed a theme for a thesis. I began to think about why women ignore the warning signs that say a person is not for them and go into a relationship anyway. After I delivered a paper about the theme, several people in my class asked me, "Why don't you write a book?" I hadn't thought about it until then, but before I knew it, the book took on a life of its own. JN: How did you find the women you interviewed? MF: Some of them I knew and I asked them if they had a relationship that didn't work out too well. Other times, I'd meet strangers and we'd start to talk about things like rela- tionships. I might say, "Have you ever had a relationship that didn't work?" And if they got that funny look on boy, I remember that rela- tionship with so-and-so," I knew they had an interesting story. Sometimes, somebody would respond, "Well, how much time do you have?" I in- terviewed a lot more women than are in the book. I chose these 14 because they are young and old, had money and had no money. They were Jewish, Chinese, Catholic--I tried to get a variety of ages and situations and so forth. JN: Are you a victim of the relationship trap? MF: I was married for 28 years and went through a dif- ficult divorce. I had to learn how to become independent and how to become single again. I had to develop all new friends, and I developed a new career and moved to a new town (Scottsdale, from Charlotte, N.C.). I was single HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 20, 2010 won't name how many, but it was a long time. During that time, I dated a lot of frogs, and none of them turned into a prince. Then, a week after I graduated with my master's degree in counseling, I met my husband, and I've been married for eight years now. JN: Your first marriage lasted a long time. Before the marriage, were there warning signs that it wouldn't last? MF: Not in mine. But it de- pends on the kind of problem it is. For example, if he's the kind of guy who is abusive, it's going to get worse over the course of the marriage. But, sometimes, problems develop in the marriage and grow worse until there is no resolving them. JN: Do you have any rela- tionship advice for women? MF: The women in my their face like, "Oh yeah, oh for a lot of years--maybe I book are full of advice. At the end of each woman's story, she gives her advice to other women. One piece of advice would be, "If a woman has a good reason to leave a guy, she doesn't have a good reason to go back." Another would be, "Make sure you have your boundaries intact before you get into the relation- ship. Look for the warning signs before you get into the relationship, because once you're in, you're too deep into it. You're not thinking with your head anymore, you're thinking with your heart, and then you're not looking for warning signs anymore." If you look in the back of the book, there's a part with the characteristics of what a relationship should be. Josh Sayles is a staff writer at Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. Trio shines light on being gay, Orthodox in Israel Dan Pine At a Nov. 10 panel discussion, from left: Ahur Slepian, Eyal Liebermann, Asaf Lebovitz and Zehorit Sorek speak at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco. gregation Beth Sholom; Asaf Lebovitz, 30, recounted how as a young man he met with his yeshiva rabbi to confess his same-sex sexual attraction. The rabbi sent him to an Orthodox psychologist, who recommended he retain the services of a female sexual sur- rogate to learn about having sex with a woman. "I ran to the Kotel to cry," he recalled. Of course, he did not follow the psychologist's recom- mendation. Still, he did find By Dan Pine j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California Atage 26, Israeli native Eyal Liebermann first sensed he was attracted to men. "Iwasn't ready to even think about it," he recalled of his first inkling. "There is no such" thing as being Orthodox and gay. Once you choose a lifestyle so opposed to religion, how can you be Orthodox?" Turns out, you can. Liebermann, now 36, is a leader of a growing movement in Israel's Orthodox communi- ty. That movement says it's OK to be gay and have a place within the religious community. He and two colleagues came to San Francisco earlier this month for two panel discus- sions. The tour, which also included stops in New York and LosAngeles,was presentedbyA Wider Bridge, a San Francisco- based organization headed by Arthur SlepJan that fosters links between LGBT Jews here and in Israel. surprising support along the way. The head of his yeshiva came around, asking Lebovitz what he could do to make him or other gay students feel more welcome. Today, Lebovitz lives with his partner in Ariel, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. He co-founded Havruta, a Jerusalem-based organiza- tion for Orthodox gay men. He also consults with the organization Israeli Gay Youth to help religious gay teens and young adults find their way. Zehorit Sorek, 35, needed many years to find her way. She even married a man and bore two children, mainly because growing up strictly Orthodox, she didn'tknowany other way. As a teen, she wrote off her attraction to other girls as a function of attending a girls-only school. "I knew it was wrong," she recalled of her mindset then. Things started changing a few years into her unhappy marriage. She met a woman through work, and over time the relationship grew intimate. However, her "coming out" story wasn't so storybook. She lost her cell phone at a Tel Aviv gay pride parade. Some- one found it and called the first number on the list--her father--to reportthe finding of a phone at a gay pride event. That caused a family rift, with her Orthodox mother accepting her, but her father refusing all contact. Sorek's marriage ended, and today she lives happily with her partner and her two kids. She is also active with Bat Kol, an Israeli support organization for Or- thodox lesbians. "I have a new family," she said with a smile. Why remain Orthodoxwhen *so many in that community condemn homosexuality? "We decided to stay and struggle," said Sorek. "We want to change the place we came from." Added Lieberrnann: "It's the identity in which I was raised." Choosing to remain Ortho- dox, the three said they have accepted the contradiction between living as out gays and lesbians, and following halachah, or Jewish law, which most Orthodox interpret as forbidding homosexuality. "I was born Orthodox and have a commitment to hal- achah," Lebovitz said, adding that "not all [Orthodox] keep to halachah all the time. I think every human being must live with contradictions. That's part of life." All three affirmed their com- mitment to remaining religious Jews, and doing what they can to change attitudes. Until that changes, they may continue to face resistance. Lebovitz's attitude about that is simple: Bring it on. "We're not trying to beg for mercy," he said,"or askpermis- sion. We need to be more visible. Hello? We're here. Deal with it." Dan Pine is a staff writer for j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California from which this article was reprinted by permission. Slepian is also chair of the LGBT Alliance of the San Francisco-based Jewish Com- munity Federation, and a past president of Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, a San Francisco synagogue that largely serves LGBT Jews. The visiting Israelis' core message: Despite hostility from fellow religious Jews, these gay and lesbian Orthodox Israelis refuse to be driven from the community they love. At a Nov. 10 public gather- ing at San Francisco's Con- By Ben Harris ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (JTA)--In a darkened room at a synagogue affiliated with the Jewish Renewal movement, 20 women gath er by candlelight for Rabbi Shefa Gold's monthly Jewish chant circle. As a shruti box drones and a hand drum keeps rhythm, many rock in their seats, their eyes closed and faces lifted in almost ecstatic rapture while they chant biblical verses and liturgical phrases Gold has selected for the evening. The volume rises and their voices intensify as they intone the verses over and over, building to a climactic moment when the chant ceases and a heavy silence falls across the room. "The most important part of the chant is the silence," Gold explains. "With the chant we're building a mishkan, we're building a sanctuary, a holy place, with With shruti boxes and drums, practitioners chant their way into Judaism our intention and with all thebeauty we can bring to it. And then in the silence afterward we step into that mishkan that we have built and we receive God's pres- ence." Once a practice confined largely to the fringe, Jewish chanting is making inroads well beyond its roots in Jew- ish retreat centers and New Age spirituality. Regular Jewish chant circles are cropping up across the United States--at least three in the Boston area alone, where a festival was held last month focusing on Hebrew kirtan, a variety of Hindu chanting involving call and response. At the Conservative Tem- ple Emanu-El in Providence, R.I., an alternative "soulful" Shabbat morning service begins with 30 minutes of chanting attracting some 40 participants to its monthly meetings. At the recent convention of the Jewish Re- constructionist Federation in Southern California, Gold was invited to lead a chant- ing workshop and a Shabbat morning service--an invita- tion she saw as further evi-. dence of the mainstreaming of Jewish chanting. "It was something that I felt was a bit more fringe in the past," Gold told JTA. "And now people are recog- nizing it as an important modality of prayer." Nearly all the growth in Jewish chanting can be traced back to Gold, a soft-spoken rabbi ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College who lives with her husband in the mountains of northern New Mexico. From her home in Jemez Springs, Gold runs Kol Zim- ra, the country's only formal training program in Jewish chant. Its graduates have gone on to found chanting groups across the country. Morethan 100 rabbis, can- tors and lay leaders have completed the 18-month training course, now in its fourth cohort. The practice appears to have particular appeal to women and to those already inclined to spiritual pursuits. Participants speak of the healing and meditational qualities of chanting, its ability to open the heart and engage body and mind in ways that more traditional Jewish synagogue practices do not. "The chanting practice allowed access to an un- derstanding of spiritual things,.and an experience of spiritual things, that I wasn't getting any other way," said Bruce Phillips, an alumnus of Kol Zimra who with his wife runs the monthly chant service in Providence. "It brings the body into play," sa, id Rabbi Mike Comins, the founder of To- rah Trek, a California-based organization that runs Jew- ish spiritual "adventures" in the wildness. Comins says that when he combines chanting with the spiritual and physical effects of being out in nature, the effect "is off the charts." "Parts of the traditional Jewish community have done a wonderful job in cre- ating opportunities to make an intellectual connection," said Rabbi Susan Mitrani Knapp, another Kol Zimra alum. "But it's the heart connection that I think we have been less successful at. That's vhy so many turn to Eastern religions." Like the introduction into synagogues of yoga and meditation, chanting has provided an avenue to enliven traditional services and to expand the range of offerings. It also has brought back into the fold seekers who, failing to find spiri- tual fulfillment in Judaism, gravitated to other spiritual traditions. "It's very yogic," said Judith Dack, a formerly secular Jew who found her way back to Jewish practice through chanting and is now on Gold's staffat Kol Zimra. "It's like you're vibrating sound through your body," Dack said. "The best for me is when I can vibrate sound in my primal language, which I think Js Hebrew. It feels like I'm just fully alive in all the different departments, all. the different cells." Gold is convinced that chanting has deep roots in Jewish tradition. At a synagogue in Montreal, an older European-born Jew was moved to tears by Gold's chanting, telling her that he hadn't experienced anything like that since he was a child chanting at the feet of his rebbe and feared he' never would again. "This is something that Jews have done forever," Gold said. "That practice of a repetition of a sacred phrase is just something that works." Visit JTA's Wandering Jew blog to watch a video of a Jewish chanting session in New Mexico.