When transgender activist Abby Stein tried to explain to her father, a chasidic rabbi in New York, that the person he knew as his son was a transgender woman, Stein’s father was confused.
“Why would you do that?” he said. “Women are worth so much less than men.”
That was the world which Stein came from, which she placed geographically in Williamsburg, N.Y., and culturally in 18th century Eastern Europe. In her hermetically sealed community, Yiddish was her first language.
And when she led the GLOE Rainbow Seder for the LGBTQ community in Washington on March 18, she did so in accented English, which slipped easily to the chasidic melodies she taught to the 100 attendees.
Stein, 26, had just been featured in a Vogue photo spread of women forging a new identity after leaving Orthodox Judaism. She told attendees at the seder, dubbed Reflections on Resistance, that she had begun resisting early on.
Noting that, traditionally, the seder begins after the father returns home from synagogue, as a child she asked why is it “the father who comes home from shul, and why are the sisters doing all the work [preparing for the seder] and the brothers are just sitting around?”
Stein’s father answered: “You sound like the second brother“ — the wicked child of the four children in the Haggadah.
That child gets its reputation from asking questions, Stein said, and from looking for answers.
Stein came out to her family in 2015. Her father asked, “Do you think Judaism goes along with this?”
At last weekend’s seder, she gave her answer: Yes.
The Rainbow Seder was held at the Human Rights Center and sponsored by the center and the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center’s GLOE program, Bet Mishpachah and the Embassy of Israel.