Jeff Leavell
On Becoming Jewish-ish, p.4

I began wearing my Yarmulke every day. Someone told me I shouldn't because I was going to restaurants that weren't kosher and it would give the wrong impression of someone who is truly "observant". I should have told that person - it was at dinner during Sukkot at the Rabbi's house - to fuck off. I was wearing it for two reasons, because with it the world knew I was Jewish, and because it served to remind me that God was there. Always. Every single moment and instant and event. No matter how big, little, or irrelevant. God was part of my life to such an extent that maybe saying he "was a part of" is the wrong way to say it. Maybe I should say that it served to remind me that God is my life.

At some point I stopped going to Chabad. I began to feel like maybe it wasn't very accepting to say that my being gay was a burden, or something to "overcome." God doesn't really care if I love a Catholic, uncut Mexican, does he? I hope not.

I found a Reform, mostly-gay synagogue named Beth Chayim Chadashim that I liked. They sang a lot, gay couples held hands, the Rabbi was a lesbian, there were straight people there with their kids. Some people called it "Jewish Lite", but I didn't care. I don't care. I go to BCC to be with others who are in a similar pursuit as I am. I am not in the pursuit of observing rules and regulations. I am not in the pursuit of anything short of returning myself to a condition of Godliness. And I don't mean that in a grandiose way -- I just mean that I believe that we are all here to make this place a beautiful and wondrous world. I give tzedaka. I try to smile and say hi. I try to be nice while driving. I try not to gossip and I try to love my boyfriend and I talk to God all day long. I love reading the Torah. I love learning find that through the reading, through the studying, through the constant struggle to understand and to come to terms with all the multiplicities and contradictions, that I find a peace.

I believe it is trite to say that God is love. It is limiting and narrow. But what do we do with Hitler? What do we do with Charlie Manson and the Pharaoh and the kids I work with and the guys who killed Mathew Shepard and all the people who do all the things that seem to tear down any semblance of beauty that could ever hope to exist? What does God do with them? This is what I do, I feel compassion. I feel empathy. And when I don't, I pray to feel these things. I pray to be as generous with my kindness as possible. It doesn't change what has to happen. It doesn't stop the need to kill or to go to war or to do all the things we do, but maybe if we looked at our enemies a little kinder, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, Hitler and Charlies, all the monsters and angels, all of us, would be making the return to that which we came.

So I have my best friend. He doesn't come into conflict with the songs and the prayers and the readings. He just isn't always the same God those things are talking about. And that's okay. It doesn't make me less or more Jewish. I've begun to light the candles on Shabbos. I have been back to Chabad. I cooked my first Passover dinner and invited a whole bunch of non-Jews to come eat. Even the uncut ones. I don't wear my yarmulke every day, but I think about it. I have made a commitment, no matter how many times I fail or fall down, to be with God all day long. Even when it all seems pointless and meaningless and ugly. The world seems larger and more beautiful because of this. The hole I tried to fill with heroin and the non-stop sex in the parks, the emptiness and the wanting, are slowly being filled by something bigger than I had imagined.

[1]       [2]       [3]       4
Image: Rev. Dennis McNally, Raising Lazarus

Jeff Leavell lives in Los Angeles and works as a Case Manager for homeless youth at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. He is currently an MFA student at Antioch University.

Rev. Dennis McNally, SJ, is a Jesuit painter and sculptor whose books include Sacred Space: An Aesthetic for the Liturgical Environment (1985). Email us your comments


The Wrong Half Margaret Mackenzie Schwartz
March, 2004

A Song of Ascents Sarah Lefton
The News from San Francisco
March, 2004

Passion and Violence Jay Michaelson
On the Mel Gibson film and the passions of religion
March, 2004

You are God in Drag Jay Michaelson
Notes from and after retreat
February, 2004

Erev Temima Fruchter
December, 2003

Primal Scream Judaism Temima Fruchter
October, 2003

The Queer Guy at the Strip Club Jay Michaelson
or, The Opposite of Sex
August, 2003

Meditation and Sensuality Jay Michaelson
Sex, drugs, and God in all
July, 2003

Shtupping in the Shadow of the Bomb Marissa Pareles
Jewish sex radicalism in the New World Order
May, 2003

yom kippur Sara Seinberg
April, 2003

Top Ten Lessons for New Homosexuals Jay Michaelson
Tips and advice from my first gay year
October, 2002

June 2004

Jeff Leavell

How I Finally Learned to Accept Christ in my Heart
Jay Michaelson

Playing Eve
Hila Ratzabi

Hyatt Regency Dead Sea Resort
Rowena Silver

Josh Breaks his Finger
Josh Ring

Mean to Girls
Dan Friedman

Our 450 Back Pages

David Stromberg

Zeek in Print
Spring/Summer 2004 issue now on sale!

About Zeek

News & Events

Contact Us

Tech Support



From previous issues:

Bush the Exception
Samuel Hayim Brody

Abraham Mezrich

God Had a Controlling Interest
Hal Sirowitz