Yesterday evening, at the Law School building of Leiden University, LUPride, in collaboration with Amnesty International Student Group Leiden had the privilege of welcoming a chance to learn more about the interaction of Judaism and LGBTQ+ identities. Our speaker, Marianne van Praag, a Rabbi at Liberaal Joodse Gemeente Den Haag, addressed a variety of topics through the lens of Jewish culture, religion, and the mystic interpretation of the Torah.
Marianne’s take on Scripture as a liberal Rabbi is quite different to what most people of the Book are used to hearing, and that is what makes it inspiring and innovative – and some would say, controversial.
By using the example of the first creation story in the book of Genesis, Marianne explained that many things get lost when translating from the original language – and therefore, for the truest meaning, one must turn to the Hebrew language and look beyond the text.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27, NIV).
Marianne explained that her interpretation of the passage was that first, God created mankind – not simply man – and second, that mankind was created in God’s image – as both male and female. From that standpoint, every person, she says, has female and male energies – which has nothing to do with cultural assignation of gender and gender roles; and that if that were the case, then this energy, like yin and yang, needed fulfillment with someone who could compliment those sides – thus, how could being in love with someone of your own gender be wrong? How could being trans be wrong? From that point of view, queerness is a part of what makes humans a creation made in God’s image.
Marianne also spoke about the idea of being true to oneself – that a person should be on the outside as they are on the inside, using the story of the Ark of the Covenant to interpret this meaning. The outside must match the inside; just like the ark was meant to be gold on the inside and out. She related this to the idea of being transgender and how the inside cannot change – therefore, the outside should be the one to be shifted towards matching the person’s true feelings.
Marianne was firm on the subject of religion and homosexuality: when confronted with the question of whether she condoned homosexuality, she said she only has one thing to say – mankind was created in God’s image. Could it be wrong, if mankind had a divine spark within it? “You are who you are,” she said. “Why would we listen to someone else? We can’t help it. Don’t come to me with ‘my son should be this, my daughter shouldn’t be that’.” Marianne’s take on love and life, in general, is such: if your gut feeling tells you it’s a good idea, then it’s a good idea. That’s that.
Marianne emphasized the strength of Judaism in that regard – as a religion, and as a people, she said, Jews never fit into anything and had to fight their own battle, and had managed to stay true to who they are. If the larger society won’t accept you, than who needs them anyway?
She encouraged the dialogue to continue among us – because every single person has a spiritual, divine capacity, to change things, even by doing something minuscule.
The lecture was full of emotional ups and downs and beautifully worded revelations – Marianne’s words were both inspiring and educational. She was willing to answer every question and find an interpretation of even the most controversial ones.
And to the young Jewish queer people out there struggling to balance faith and sexuality, Marianne would just like to say this:
You are beautiful, you are worthwhile, you are created in God’s image. Faith should be complementary and support you in who you are, and not question who you are.
We would like to thank Marianne for coming to speak with us and for providing insight on such an interesting and endless topic.
After the lecture, our guests and the LUP board retired to Café de Keyzer for drinks to round up the evening.
More about Marianne can be found here.