In Yiddish a "feygeleh" means a little
bird, but it is also used as a derogatory reference to a gay person.
One of the titles of lectures that I give in S. Florida and on Long Island,
N.Y., is titled, "50 Fabulous Yiddish 'F' Words--and the stories behind them."
What are the "f" words discussed? "feh," "fet," "fleysh," "flikn," "forshpayz,"
"freser," "frask," "frum," "ferklempt" and "feygeleh."
I begin my talk by saying that we should abolish the word "feygeleh" from
our vocabulary. It's very hurtful. The audience is reminded of the suicide of
18-year-old Tyler Clementi, the freshman at Rutgers University, in New Jersey.
He jumped from the George Washington Bridge in an apparent suicide on Sept. 22,
2010. This occurred after one of his private sexual encounters with another male
was video streamed over the Internet without his knowledge. This was a "talantirt"
(talented) violinist whose life was cut short.
Is there ANY humor in the word "feygeleh"? Well, in 2003, 14 members of
Feygelah, Montreal's newest Jewish organization for gays, marched in a
parade. One young man held up a large sign which read:
"I HAD TO COME OUT OF THE CLOSET. MY MOTHER NEEDED THE SPACE."
Matthew Gore founded Feygelah in response to a gap in services for the
Jewish gay since its predecessor, Yachdav, disbanded. According to Canadian
Jewish News, Sept. 6, 2003, "Gore deliberately adopted the controversial name
for the group, a Yiddish term some Jews use disparagingly--feygelah
literally means "little bird"--to emphasize that there should not be any stigma
attached to being gay."
Gore continued, "It's similar to using the word 'queer.' That was once a
put-down, but now it's now a term of pride. I wanted it to be a public word."
The discussion then leads into the movie, "Oy Vey, My Son is Gay,"
starring Lainie Kazan, John Lloyd Young, and Saul Rubinek.
This is the story of the Hirsch's, a Jewish family who resides in the North
Shore of Long Island. Every "fraytik" (Friday) "ovnt" (evening)
Shirley Hirsch invites another "perfekt" (perfect) girl for Shabbat
dinner. She hopes that her "zun" (son), Nelson, will marry a nice Jewish
When Shirley and Martin once again set him up on a date, Nelson says that he is
already seeing "emetser" (someone). They're thrilled and look forward to
meeting the lucky lady.
Shirley stops by Nelson's "dire" (apartment), unannounced, and is greeted
by Angelo Ferrar, Nelson's live-in boyfriend. In order not to divulge Nelson's
secret life, Angelo introduces himself as his decorator. Shirley also meets the
gorgeous Sybil, Nelson's neighbor and Playpen magazine centerfold. Shirley
believes that Sybil, is Nelson's "misteryez" (mysterious) girlfriend.
Mom is concerned that Sybil isn't Jewish, but is accepting. If her son is happy,
that's all that matters. She looks forward to having the whole "mishpokhe"
(family) meet Sybil at an upcoming wedding.
Nelson attempts to tell his mother that he is gay, but she's too busy with her
own life to listen to her son. Nelson agrees to take Angelo to his cousin's
wedding, instead of Sybil. Halfway through "di tseremonye" Nelson breaks
the "nayes" (news) to his "tate-mame" (parents) that he's gay.
They are confused and distraught and blame one another for Nelson's sexuality.
As the parents "gerangl" (struggle) to accept this, they meet with a
psychiatrist and talk with members of the gay community. Martin goes to a gay
bar in an attempt to understand his son. Martin even goes as far as to try to
get Sybil to sleep with Nelson in an attempt to make him straight.
Shirley and Martin have dinner with Angelo's parents, Teresa and Carmine
Ferraro, in order to understand their son's lifestyle.
Both mothers--Shirley and Teresa--have "mitgefil" (sympathy) for one
another. Martin and Carmine, accuse each others son for being the cause of their
own son's homosexuality.
Both families continue to try to hide the fact that their sons are gay from
their family and friends. Shirley and Martin realize that all bets are off when
their son and his partner attempt to adopt a child, and make national headlines
in the process.
What ensues is a family dealing with acceptance. The end message: No matter who
you care to be with, Love is love. Period!
On Sept. 27, 2007, Rabbi Eliott N. Perlstein, spiritual leader of Ohev Shalom of
Bucks County, gave a "vunderlekh" sermon on heterosexuality and
homosexuality. He said,
"I believe Judaism should wish the same for a same sex relationship that we want
for a heterosexual relationship - that it be loving, long term, exclusive, and
committed. It should, in fact, involve a public Jewish ceremony so that the
union is recognized by the family and community and will lead to a functioning
Jewish family. I therefore am in favor of rabbinic officiation at a sacred union
between two Jewish gay individuals committed to spending their lives together
and creating a Jewish home. If am ever called on to officiate at such a union of
a young person who stood on this Bimah as a Bar or Bat Mizvah or was my student
in my Confirmation Class and they have chosen to share their life with another
Jewish individual of the same sex, I will joyfully stand with them at sacred
ceremony. It may feel somewhat strange, I confess but I believe it will be the
right thing to do and it will feel more right than strange."
Rabbi Perlstein continued, "I don't believe anything Judaism will do or any
religion will say will change anyone's sexual orientation. One doesn't choose
one's sexual orientation, one discovers it and once discovered it is virtually
impossible to change it. We can make people feel rejected, unwanted and
alienated or we can be open and welcoming and make people feel accepted, valued
and embraced. I choose to open my arms rather than turn my back."
Marjorie Wolfe invites her "snowbird" friends in Florida to visit her when she
speaks at libraries in Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Greenacres, Lake
Worth, Highland Beach, and Palm Beach Gardens.