Aching To Belong
Laura Sheinkopf is an alumna of the Wexner Graudate Fellowship, Class IX and a graduate of Columbia University and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is the Director of Publicity at Bright Sky Books and lives in Houston with her two children Max and Isabel. Rabbi Sheinkopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I made my way to the drag queen club that evening the line from “Angels in America”, played over and over in my mind, “you know things are bad when even drag is a drag.”
Generally speaking, I am thrilled to do anything rabbinic for drag queens and anyone else who feels peripheral in the Jewish community, but that particular event happened when I was newly divorced and utterly lost professionally. I thought that my leadership days were over since I had no pulpit. I had no formal place in the Jewish community and would have preferred to simply go under cover as a rabbi, so that I would not have to think about how lost I really was.
The man who invited me said that they had a hard time getting a clergy person so they called me. He also threw in “Well its Valentine’s, Rabbi , and we figured you wouldn’t have a date.” So off I went, trying to conceal what was then a relentless stream of sadness. I was flattered to have been asked, but I felt like a phony rabbi – like a rabbi in drag I guess.
The event was at a bar and I stood on a dance floor with a pink light shining on me and an exceptionally good microphone. At churches and synagogues the sound is not always good and people chit-chat sometimes as you offer a prayer. But this was not the case. I opened my mouth and the bar went silent. Every false eye-lashed eye was on me and brimming with genuine tears. Two minutes of how we are all created in the image of the divine and they were moved. Not so much by my words, they were moved because I was there. And not really because I was here, it was more because a mainstream religious tradition was there. It was not what I said; it was where I stood – a rabbi no matter how broken or confused, under a pink light on a parquet dance floor in a bar with people who were, like me, aching to belong.