No, Judaism Doesn’t Believe People Can Choose Their Own Gender

March 23 2023

In a recent essay in the New York Times, Rabbi Elliot Kukla writes that Judaism’s “most sacred texts reflect a multiplicity of gender,” and in fact “nonbinary gender is central to understanding Jewish law and literature as a whole.” Drawing on various talmudic passages, Kukla finds support for his concerns about the fate of young transsexuals, as well as reason to oppose various legislative measures in certain states. Tal Fortgang is unconvinced:

“There are four genders beyond male or female,” [Kukla] writes, “that appear in ancient Jewish holy texts hundreds of times.” These are tumtum (one whose genitals are obscured), androgynos (intersex), aylonit (an atypically developed female), and saris (a eunuch). The Talmud, rigidly legalistic as it tends to be, is frequently interested in how to categorize these rare individuals within ancient Judaism’s highly gendered structures of Temple service, ritual purity, and much more. (By reifying categories that are relevant only in a highly binary and gender-role-driven society, Kukla thus inadvertently makes the opposite point from what he intended.)

But if Judaism has long “recognized” progressive ideas about gender, and transgenderism has always existed (but is only now being set free in the West, like left-handedness, which appeared more frequently once the taboo against it vanished), why do we have thousands of years of Jewish history, liturgy, commentaries, and rabbinic responsa that fail to mention this? The Talmud has a law for everything; where is the law of the male who thinks he is a woman?

Read more at National Review

More about: Gender, Judaism, New York Times, Talmud, Transsexuals

Israel’s Friendship with Iraqi Kurds, and Why Iran Opposes It

In May 2022, the Iraqi parliament passed a law “criminalizing normalization and establishment of relations with the Zionist entity,” banning even public discussion of ending the country’s 76-year state of war with Israel. The bill was a response to a conference, held a few months prior, addressing just that subject. Although the gathering attracted members of various religious and ethnic groups, it is no coincidence, writes Suzan Quitaz, that it took place in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan:

Himdad Mustafa, an independent researcher based in Erbil, to whom the law would be applied, noted: “When 300 people gathered in Erbil calling for peace and normalization with Israel, the Iraqi government immediately passed a law criminalizing ties with Israel and Israelis. The law is clearly aimed at Kurds.” . . . Qais al-Khazali, secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (Coordination Framework), a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia, slammed the conference as “disgraceful.”

Himdad explains that the criminalization of Israeli-Kurdish ties is primarily driven by “Kurd-phobia,” and that Kurd-hatred and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand.

One reason for that is the long history of cooperation Israel and the Kurds of Iraq; another is the conflict between the Kurdish local government and the Iran-backed militias who increasingly control the rest of the country. Quitaz elaborates:

Israel also maintains economic ties with Kurdistan, purchasing Kurdish oil despite objections from Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. A report in the Financial Times discusses investments by many Israeli companies in energy, development sectors, and communications projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, in addition to providing security training and purchasing oil. Moreover, in a poll conducted in 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan, 71 percent of Kurds supported normalization with Israel. The results are unsurprising since, historically, Israel has had cordial ties with the Kurds in a generally hostile region where Jews and Kurds have fought against the odds with the same Arab enemy in their struggles for a homeland.

The Iranian regime, through its proxies in the Iraqi government, is the most significant source of Kurd-phobia in Iraq and the driving factor fueling tensions. In addition to their explicit threat to Israel, Iranian officials frequently threaten the Kurdish region, and repeatedly accuse the Kurds of working with Israel.

Read more at Jersualem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israel-Arab relations, Kurds