Live from the Lilith Blog 1 of 2

June 7, 2012 by

Lesbian Jewish Missionaries

Let me start by saying this: the whole “Lesbian Chabad” thing began as a joke.

Okay, actually, maybe that’s not the clearest point to pick up. Let’s try that again: my name is Mel, and I’m one-half of what is jokingly (sort of) known as the Lesbian Chabad of Mid-Maine.

Okay, one more time: my name is Mel. My partner is a rabbi, and though I’ll just refer to her as “R.” here, if you’re even a remotely talented Google-stalker, yes, you can probably figure it out. I am a New Yorker, born and bred, but I spend my time these days a bit farther north. Maine, to be specific, a lot of it, along with R., in the town where she serves as the rabbi for a local synagogue. 

(This would be a good time to state, for the record, that in my house we don’t use the word “rebbitzen.” Rather, I am the only one ever allowed to use it. This is not intended to offend anyone who chooses the term. It’s just that quirk of courtesy that lets us reclaim words that pertain to us, and screw anyone else who tries to use them.)

So, anyway, though I’m from New York and R’s from New Jersey and between us we have a pretty serious case of mid-Atlantic-accented potty mouth, along with a seriously dorky habit of making Talmud jokes, we spend half our time up in a town about twenty minutes north of Augusta, that for reasons I’ll also ascribe to quirks of courtesy, I won’t call by its real name. Let’s just call it C-town.

R is functionally the town rabbi. She has a pulpit at the tiny local synagogue (“little shul in the big woods,” we say), works with a nearby university Jewish student group, and teaches Hebrew. If she could do ritual slaughtering, we’d be set, mostly because I’d have fresher, more local options and would no longer have to drive the kosher meat I transform into gorgeous Shabbat meals in from over an hour away. But I get ahead of myself.

Our home in C-town is an apartment located in one of that university’s dorms, with loud, smelly underclassman boys just through the walls and over our heads. We keep almost no belongings there—a shelf with a few of R’s mishnayot, a few extra shirts, toothbrushes, and the inflatable mattress we sleep on, on the floor. Oh, and shelves full of fleishik pots, pans and dishes. It looks like a mission. It is.

We started making jokes about being members of lesbian Chabad when R came home with a copy of The Rebbe’s Army. “I think it has some really good pointers,” she’d shrugged. …Okay.

Plus, the jokes seemed to make themselves: we’re the town Jews. Our home is where you go for a Shabbat dinner that I cook, counting guests in multiples of ten. R and I—neither of us particularly blessed in the voice department—teach zmirot at the end of meals. We clean up the synagogue and light the yiskor board. We kasher the kitchen for Passover and teach classes and explain jokes and…

One day, my hand wrist-deep in a chicken, I looked over at R, who was reading me aloud two sources for her Talmud class that night.

“Shit. That lesbian Chabad joke?”

“Yeah,” she replied.
“Not so much a joke anymore.”

I’m going to bring you more stories of the adventures of two incredibly Jewy fake Chabadnikot in upcoming posts. Until then…well, time to prepare for Shabbat.

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