[COLD OPEN] Hi everyone. I'm Jonathan Branfman. I'm a visiting assistant professor of Jewish Studies at Cornell and the author of the book You Be You: The Kid's Guide to Gender, Sexuality and Family.
Hi, I'm Lili Rosen. I'm an actor and a writer, and I translated You Be You into Yiddish. Zay getray zikh aleyn—dus kinds vegvayzer tsu min geshlekht un mishpokhe.
We'll be joining us soon on The Book of Life podcast and we'd like to dedicate this episode to Jewish LGBTQ folks everywhere on the spectrum from ultra orthodox to unaffiliated.
[MUSIC, INTRO] This is The Book of Life, a show about Jewish kidlit, mostly. I'm Heidi Rabinowitz. I've got a bonus episode for you today in celebration of Pride Month. We're going to hear about You Be You: The Kid's Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family by Jonathan Bronfman and translated into Yiddish by Lili Rosen. Jonathan is a scholar of gender studies and Jewish studies. And Lili is an actor, a translator, and a cultural consultant on the Netflix show Unorthodox and other Yiddisheh media productions. These two fascinating people have produced an unusual and important book. A good introduction is actually the last page which reads, "Remember, there are many kinds of people in the world. And this diversity is a good thing. No matter what kind of body you have, and no matter what gender you identify with, and no matter who you're attracted to, that's great. And whether you want to get married or not, or want to have kids or not, that's wonderful too. And whenever you meet someone who's different from you, you should always be nice to them and help them fight discrimination. You be you, and help others be themselves."
Jonathan and Lili, welcome to The Book of Life.
Thank you for having us.
You're very welcome. I think it would make sense for us to start with our pronouns. So I use "she and her." Jonathan, how about you?
I use "he and his."
And I use "she and her."
Okay. Jonathan, tell us about You Be You: The Kid's Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family.
Sure. This book grew out of completing my PhD in gender studies, and during that PhD, I was often teaching introductory gender studies classes at the Ohio State University. And in those courses, as an instructor, you help adult students who are 18 to 22 unlearn two decades of harmful myths that they've absorbed their whole lives, like the myth that there can only be two genders, or that there's something wrong with being gay, or that only straight people can be good parents. And even though it was very rewarding to help adults unlearn those myths and accept themselves and each other, I just kept thinking, wouldn't it be great if none of us had to learn these harmful myths in the first place? And wouldn't it be great if right from the beginning, at the same time we learn the aleph bet or ABCs, we also could learn accurate, holistic, non stigmatizing information about the diversity of genders and orientations and families? So I really translated those classroom Gender Studies lessons into language for 7 to 12 year olds. But it's also really meant to include adults as well with like a gentle welcome to these topics. And even when the English edition was under development, I knew I wanted to create as many translations as possible to make this information widely available in culturally sensitive translations. And right from the beginning, Yiddish was on my radar, but I knew I had to find exactly the right translator who could both linguistically and culturally translate this book. And so I was so glad to find Lili.
It's so interesting that this book includes information about gender and sexuality that is rarely seen in a kid's book. But it also leaves out a lot of things. It doesn't mention any sexual activity beyond kissing, it doesn't tell you where babies come from, it doesn't even mention pronouns. So how did you decide what to include or not include?
Great question. There are many wonderful guides about reproduction and that's not what I intended this book to be. I intended this book to be about identity, for children to understand in age appropriate ways the diversity of identities that exist in the world, and also the diversity of families. So rather than including reproductive information, I chose to include chapters about inequality and how to change inequality. Because in my mind, it wasn't enough to tell young people, you know, that diversity exists. I also want young people to understand how our society harms and marginalizes people because of the differences, so that if children experience this themselves, they know how to articulate it and oppose it, and if children see it happening to other people, they can name and oppose it. So the goal is not only to help children accept themselves, but also to accept and support others. And that's why one of the last lines is "be yourself and help others be themselves."
The information in this book is presented in a very matter of fact way and sounds very simple. But as you point out in the end note, these ideas are actually carefully curated from a number of experts and activists. So can you talk about that?
Sure. Like I mentioned, the book grew out of my experience teaching Gender Studies courses for college students. So just a couple of the authors we drew from included Jewish feminists like Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, and Marla Brettschneider, Adrienne Rich as well as many feminists of color, both Jewish and non Jewish, like Jamaica Kincaid, Audre Lorde, for example.
So you've had many translations at this point, I think there are 25 translations of this book?
And two of them are Hebrew and Yiddish. And Hebrew seems obvious. Israel is a place where a book like this is going to be popular. But what inspired you to translate it into Yiddish? Will there be a readership for it in Yiddish?
I'm so glad you asked. The short answer is yes, we already know there's a readership currently in Yiddish. But even before the book came out, I thought there would be and through conversations with Lili and others knew there would be for two reasons. One, the ultra orthodox community is not monolithic. And as I'm sure Lili will say more about soon, there are many people who are in the ultra orthodox community, or who have left the community and become OTD are off the derekh, who want LGBT resources, but cannot easily access them, depending on their comfort in English. At the same time, there's this wonderful revival of Yiddish happening among more secular Yiddish speakers. And I wanted to create a book that would contribute simultaneously to both of those needs. And that's why I was especially glad and feel especially lucky to have found Lili. Lili was the first and only translator who said yes, it is possible to create a Yiddish text that is simultaneously readable and welcoming for native Hasidic Yiddish speakers and secular Yiddish learners who are learning YIVO standard Yiddish.
So that's interesting, did you approach other Yiddish translators and get rejected?
I spoke with other Yiddish translators who said we would really have to make a choice, either Hasidic Yiddish or YIVO standard Yiddish. But also I just spoke with a number of people in the secular Yiddish world trying to learn about different translators, different presses. And everything really came together at the start of the pandemic, actually, when Jordan Kutzik, who writes for The Forward, connected me with Lili, and we found Ben Yehuda Press and we are so glad that they said yes to this project.
Okay, so Lili, I want to bring you into this conversation. The title in Yiddish, does it directly translate to You Be You? Or does it say something else related to that?
Correct me if I'm wrong, Jon, but I question whether there's any other language addition, in which You Be You was literally translated. I don't think that's an expression that works in any other language off the top of my head.
You're right. French and Spanish are like, similar, but they're more like, be yourself.
Exactly. It just doesn't work in any other language. The closest expression in Yiddish is "be true to yourself," or "be loyal to yourself" would be kind of a slightly more literal translation of that. Because that's kind of a known expression, I used that.
Give us a general overview of what were the special, unique challenges of translating this particular work.
As Jon was saying, normally, whenever you write something in Yiddish, you do have to make a choice. W hat dialect of Yiddish you would use, and more specifically, what style of grammar, orthography. In many respects, it was a Sophie's choice. Because at the end of the day, I had to make a lot of compromises for it to work. There will be some people who will say, well, it's neither one nor the other. But the fact of the matter is that it is fully comprehensible to speakers of any dialect. And that was my main focus. For example, I chose specifically the Hasidic or kind of the classical style orthography as opposed to modern orthography favored by speakers of so called standard Yiddish or YIVO Yiddish, but at the same time, I did more or less follow the grammatical conventions that the more academic Yiddish speakers use, because I found that it would only add clarity, but it wouldn't subtract from Hasidic Yiddish speakers' ability to understand. I did add a lot of kind of Hasidic flavor in terms of turns of phrase and colloquialisms. That said, I did see a thread about the book on probably the most popular Hasidic Yiddish message board, kind of like a Hasidic Reddit. And they kind of casually mentioned that it's written in YIVO Yiddish. It wasn't really a subject of discussion on the board. They just took it for granted, because first of all, I doubt they actually read the book, I think it was before it was even publicly available, that they discussed it. They just assumed because he uses all these terms that are foreign to them, they just assume that it's not Hasidic Yiddish. So the challenges are there, the challenges are real, but I did as much as I possibly could to make it as accessible as possible to the widest possible audience.
So I guess I don't know that much about Yiddish dialects. How different are those dialects? Can people who are Hasidic understand YIVO Yiddish and vice versa?
Yes, and no, I would say it's easier for a speaker of Hasidic to understand YIVO Yiddish than the other way around. I grew up speaking, Hasidic Yiddish. But we prided ourselves on speaking proper Yiddish and kind of a pure Yiddish. So that meant that our Yiddish was less diluted by American English, and had a greater concentration of authentically Yiddish vocabulary. Also, I'm kind of a product of a slightly older generation, and I feel like the language has modernized somewhat since. There's also a big difference between spoken Yiddish and written Yiddish, just like there's a big difference between spoken English and written English. I mean, obviously, it's a lot easier for an American to understand something that's written in British English, then it is necessarily for them to understand spoken British English with certain dialects. So that does make it easier. But at the same time, I feel like the concern is much less about, will they understand it, and more about how they approach the dialect and how they feel when they read it. Does it feel like something that's written in your own language? Or does it feel like something that's written in a foreign language? And especially for a book like this, where the vast majority of the Yiddish speakers that will read this book could probably read it in English as well, but it would make it less approachable, it would make it scarier and more foreign, and they're less likely to see themselves in it and to relate to it. And it was really important for us, for specifically LGBTQ members of the Orthodox communities to feel seen, because it's especially those closeted members that so often go through life, unseen, and unheard. And their existence is completely erased. So it was important for it to feel like their own language, their own words. And that was the emphasis.
Lili, I read in The Times of Israel, that translating You Be You had a big impact on you, personally, and actually helped you to be you. Would you like to talk about that?
Sure. So when Jon first reached out to me to translate this, I had not come out yet as trans, or queer for that matter. I always felt very strongly about the issues. And although I knew I was some flavor of queer, because I wasn't really out to myself as trans, it was hard for me to really quantify that. And so I really considered myself an ally, more than a member of the LGBTQ community when I first agreed to take the project on. That said, I was a little bit reticent at first, like, why me? Why a cis hetero presenting-- cis hetero male presenting translator? But at the same time, it was clear that there weren't very many people that would be able to or willing to take on this project. So I decided to jump right in. And then due to various factors, one of which was the actual project, I experienced this awakening, in which I realized that I was actually writing this for myself, translating this for myself. Yeah, so as far as I'm concerned, I am the intended audience, or people like me. You know, when I think about how I hope this has an impact, I think about myself at a certain age, I think about myself at 12 or 13. And I'm struggling with puberty and struggling with my body and experiencing all kinds of dysphoria. I wish I had this book then. And I wish I understood these things then. Hopefully this helps somebody else, it helps prevent somebody else from struggling for so long with their identity.
That was a beautiful, Lili.
Yeah. So this brings me back to thinking about the specifics of what makes this book unique. It doesn't just explain some terms that people may be wondering about, it really puts everything into context with the sections on intersectionality, and discrimination and privilege, which are not topics that you expect to see in a book that's defining gender terms, necessarily. So I think that really makes it more useful in a way. I mean, it's not just informative. It's actually sort of helping you see how everything fits together. It's very holistic.
Thank you, I'm really glad you feel that way. And that was definitely my goal in writing it. Somewhat similarly to what Lili said, when I wrote the English version, I was writing the book I wished I had as a child, and also the book that I would hope to read to my children one day when I have kids, and so I intended it to be very usable. That was one reason why I provided that concrete information. Like, not only do these identities exist, but here are obstacles that people face like discriminatory laws. And here's what you as a child can do if you're on the playground and you hear people using anti gay slurs. I do hope that people find it usable. And now with this Yiddish edition, I hope people in a wide variety of Yiddish speaking communities find it usable in their lives.
Now, with the Yiddish edition, were there changes made at all to the contents to make it more relatable for that audience?
There were. Lili, do you want to take that one?
Sure. Chapter one, the beginning, which sets up the fundamentals of love and attraction and families. And it goes through kind of the classic secular pathway to families, you know, boy meets girl, or boy meets boy, they like each other, they fall in love, they get married. So to translate that one to one to a Hasidic audience, would of course immediately alienate them. Because not only do they not experience love and family relationships in that way, it's actually taboo for them. Now, arguably, the entire book is taboo for them. But again, it was important not to alienate those who are LGBTQ, and yet still very orthodox and very traditional in their practices. So we wanted to be sensitive of that, as well as for these children to just see themselves in the pages of the book and see their own practices and social conventions represented in this book. So we changed it to: when a child comes of age, a matchmaker might arrange a match for them, and then if everybody's in agreement, the match will go forward, and they will get married, and so on, and so forth. So right from the start, they feel seen, they feel represented. And of course, we also explained that not everybody experiences love that way, or relationships that way. And of course, the majority of the world has kind of another means to the same end, but they're both equally valid.
And building on that, when writing the English version, my goal was to meet readers where they are and then kind of guide them beyond whatever boxes they might be within. And so that process in English, addresses a secular English audience that is already familiar with certain conventions of courtship and attraction, but mainly in a heterosexual context. And so then the labor is to help them like step beyond that, and consider queer genders and orientations and families. However, when translating into Yiddish, you are not addressing an audience for whom those forms of courtship are familiar, and as Lili said, they're even taboo. And so it requires a different kind of cultural translation. And also for that process, we did add, I believe, three new illustrations. I do just want to mention our wonderful illustrator Julie Benbassat. Lili, if I'm remembering right, you provided some photographs from your own family, and Julie used those to incorporate images of a Hasidic wedding. But I just want to add as well, in our early conversations, we sort of wondered, do we need to redo all the illustrations in this book and like completely reimagine this book for Hasidic audiences, and we decided pretty quickly against that, because the goal of the book for whatever audience is to help an audience look beyond their own preconceptions. So even if we start the initial phrasing in ways that are familiar to the intended audience, the goal is to then help that audience understand diversity in all its forms. And so whereas for secular audiences, the learning experience might be primarily about queer people, for some Hasidic audiences, the learning process may simultaneously be about queer people and about like heterosexual love matches, or people of all different colors with their hair uncovered or with short sleeves and short skirts. And that form of diversity was important for us to include also in the Yiddish edition.
That's fascinating. I wanted to ask you about the illustrations, so I'm glad you brought that up. The illustrations are extremely diverse. They do include a Jew of color, so that is the one element of Jewish representation in the English language edition. I noticed also that there were people who had artificial limbs, and I believe there was someone in a wheelchair, there was a lot going on beyond just skin color. Also interesting to see that when people are matched up in terms of relationships, there was often interracial relationships being represented and so on.
That was definitely one of our goals in the English edition. So I was so lucky to find Julie, the illustrator who worked very collaboratively with me, and we co designed the images. And it was always important to both of us to have diversity of all kinds, as you said, especially to make sure that Jews of color are represented in the book. And for instance, in terms of disability, my mother is deaf, and my father had Parkinson's for many years. So disability of several kinds was part of our family. And I really want all readers to find themselves affirmed, including readers who are queer and Jewish, and people of color and people with disabilities. And if I can maybe pivot the question to Lili, Lili, am I remembering correctly? So, first of all, one of the changes to the Yiddish edition is, the Jewish character of color is specifically updated, I believe, to a Sephardic Satmar character. And I believe you mentioned that someone, you know, saw the book and said, "I feel seen for the first time, I found myself in this book!" Could you say a little bit about that?
Yeah, it was a very dear friend of mine. It was actually their sister who discovered that. And when I thought of diverse Hasidic Jews, they immediately came to mind. There is a large Sep hardic community within Satmar for various reasons. There are a lot of Syrians in Satmar, there are a lot of Yemenite, it's famously in Satmar. So there are a lot of Jews of color in every flavor of Orthodox Judaism. And yet most people wouldn't know they exist, because, well, for one thing, their Hasidic identity always comes first and always kind of overtakes whatever identity they had, there is kind of this Ashke normativity process that happens, where their own cultural heritage gets overtaken by the Ashkenazi world they find themselves in, the Hasidic world that they find themselves in. And so it was, it was important for us to kind of name them and include them in this book.
Very cool. Another thing I just want to make sure people understand about the illustrations, is that in terms of sexual content, it's this is not a book that has charts and shows a lot of body parts. It's actually kind of vague in that sense. And the people are clothed through most of the book. So it's just interesting, because you know, the word "sexuality" is right there on the cover. But it's more to do with human relationships than with anything technical or physical.
And if I can say a little more about that. One form of homophobia is the assumption that queer identities are purely about sex and sexual gratification, as opposed to straight identities that are imagined as being about you know, companionship and relationships. And I really wanted to make sure that people understand queerness not only in terms of sex acts, but in terms of identity, in terms of kind of the journey to find yourself reflected in a world that does not always reflect you. When I was writing, I was reminded of this experience I had maybe 10 years ago, when I was helping to do an LGBTQ inclusion training for a Jewish summer camp on the West Coast. And when I mentioned to the director before the training that ideally, it should be okay for queer staff members to be open about the fact that they are queer, and it's okay for kids to know that. He emphatically said "No, we don't talk to kids about our sex lives!" And I said to him, your straight staff members, hopefully are not discussing their sex lives with the kids, but the kids know that they have straight role models, or they assume that they have straight role models. And the kids who are straight see a future for themselves in this community, like see a future for themselves in the world at all. And when you conflate queer identity purely with sex acts, you are erasing the wholeness of queer people. And that conversation was actually in my mind when I was crafting this book and trying to think about how to present a diversity of queer identities.
To go back to the illustrations for a moment, I noticed that in the discrimination section, the bullies were illustrated in red, and then the allies were illustrated in blue. And I couldn't help but wonder if this was a political statement.
Oh, very interesting question. So that color scheme just kind of emerged organically in the way that Julie was illustrating. And it's funny in retrospect, we were developing the book over the course of 2016. But I don't think it was deliberately a reference to American party politics. Certainly, when Julie first presented those drafts to me, the colors to me evoked common uses of these colors in popular culture, you know, blue as a kind of soothing, water, like healing kind of energy, and red, often associated with violence or aggression. Yeah, to me, the colors resonated very organically with the way these particular hues get used in popular culture all the time.
Okay, that makes good sense. On Amazon, it looks like the English and Yiddish editions have matching covers, but most of the other editions have a different cover. So can you talk about that a little bit?
So the book itself had an interesting process. Originally, Julie and I self published it through Amazon in 2017, because we assumed that no children's press will be willing to publish it with the level of complexity that we wanted. But we got incredibly lucky. I tweeted about this self published version, and who should retweet it but the wonderful Jewish trans activist and author Kate Bornstein, and a British children's press that specializes in queer youth literature happened to see her tweet and emailed me and said, you know, we would love to publish this more officially. And I still feel so lucky that that happened, because as listeners may know, the process of pitching books to presses is very challenging. In the process of just tweaking the book a little bit for that press, they asked for a new cover image. And so that is the cover image that we use both for the more official English edition and for the Yiddish edition. But for the translated editions, we have continued to use the original cover image.
Okay, and do any of the other translations have differences in the contents or the illustrations, and the interior of the book?
Definitely differences in content a little bit. For instance, in the Arabic edition, we added a glossary page. And the translator felt that was important, partially because there are many dialects of Arabic, and she wanted to be very clear about how she was using these words.
So speaking of glossaries, I think it would be fun to just hear some of the Yiddish terminology for some of this vocabulary that you don't think of as typical Yiddish words. And in fact, I'm wondering, did you have to create any new vocabulary?
Well, I didn't really have to create anything from scratch, because there's already been a movement for several years now to create more inclusive terminology within Yiddish terms relating to gender terms, relating to sexuality terms, you know, pronouns. The challenge was in some instances, again, since all these resources are created by and for a secular audience, and specifically speakers of YIVO Yiddish, you know, how much do I lean on that, rather than terms that the average Hasidic Yiddish speaker would be more familiar with? You know, once again, there were compromises. But for the most part, the differences are more in spelling, because there are different spelling conventions depending on the dialect, the terms are largely the same. Or in some cases, there are multiple suggested terms, and I chose the one that Hasidic people are more likely to relate to. And usually, in these instances, these terms would be whatever is closer to kind of the international term rather than something that's exclusively Yiddish. Because Hasidic Yiddish speakers, to the extent that they're familiar with these concepts, they would only be familiar with them by seeing them in English. So it was actually useful to keep it as close to the English as possible.
So give us a sampler of some of these terms in Yiddish.
Well, transgender is translated as transminik. But at the same time, gender queer is just gender queer, or gender qveer. Because for example, transgender, I feel like it's a lot more literal than genderqueer. Whereas genderqueer is just kind of an identity that you either identify with or you don't. But it's not as literal a classifier, necessarily. So for terms like that, I tried to stick with the actual label, rather than try to invent a new label for people who aren't using that label.
Am I remembering right, really, that there are like a couple of different terms in circulation for non binary?
They're basically the same thing, right? It's just two different prefixes for non just like an English you have so many different ways of saying no as a prefix. So you can say, "non, "you can say "dis," you can say "un," right, so there are analogs to that in Yiddish. And it was just a question of which one to use. Some people use "nisht tsveyik" and some people use "umt tsveyik," for example, to use the YIVO Yiddish. I ended up going with "umt tsveyik" because I just saw them more often. And it did sound more correct. Although this vague would be a little more colloquial, maybe it's kind of literally not binary, rather than non binary.
And if I can ask a follow up question, I think a theme that has come up in some of these answers, but I'd love to draw it out more. Some people might look at this project and say that I as a secular author, or Lili as a formerly Hasidic author, are like imposing some sort of secular gay agenda on Hasidic readers by creating this book. And in fact, I did see one Facebook or Twitter comment where somebody compared this book to like Christian evangelicals translating proselytizing literature into Yiddish to share in Williamsburg. So if I can ask Lili, how would you respond to that sort of accusation about our project?
I mean, that's no different from, you know, anybody who accuses us of having an agenda. If by agenda, you mean that we want the same rights as everybody else to exist and to live and to be happy, then yes, we do have an agenda. You know, I see this meme, I guess all the time, where it's like, I read thousands upon thousands of cis heteronormative books as a child. Clearly they didn't change my identity, they didn't change my orientation. So that's not a thing. You are who you are, your identity won't change because you read a book. You might discover your identity, you might come out to yourself because you read the book, but you are who you are. That is the point of the book.
Absolutely. If I can just add to that, like, even though I have not grown up in a Hasidic community, through conversations with Lili and others, I have come to understand that there are many people within Hasidic communities who do want and seek this information, and who are already having these conversations. And so a book like this is not some sort of foreign alien imposition. It is our attempt to make easier the kinds of seeking and research that some people within Hasidic communities are already doing.
Also, it's not like we're actually missionizing. Gowing up in the Hasidic community, I remember actually finding messianic pamphlets in our mailboxes, they would actually go from house to house in the Hasidic community, and just stuff mailboxes with messianic pamphlets that were ostensibly translated into Yiddish or Hasidic Yiddish... they were of course, always full of mistakes. By the way, I got an email from somebody at Jews for Jesus. They wanted.... they wanted me to translate for them!
[mwahahahaha] That was my wicked witch laugh, but I just really felt it in that moment.
Yeah. And for the record, I turned them down. That is not what I do. But yeah, we're just making the information accessible for those who want them. We're not shoving it down anybody's throats. We're not imposing it on you. And we have no delusions about getting them into Hasidic bookstores, for example. We know that's not happening, and that's okay. But if you want it, it's available on Amazon and it's available elsewhere.
And the I think on the topic of availability, I've had some conversations through Lili with folks at the New York Public Library and Queens Library and Brooklyn Library. And I hope that in the future, the book will be freely available in those libraries.
Excellent. What has the response been to You Be You and it's various translations? And of course, I'm especially interested in hearing about the response to the Hebrew and Yiddish versions.
Sure, so I think I can start and then Lili, I'll hand it off to you. The English edition certainly has been well reviewed, for instance, by Publishers Weekly, in the School Library Journal, and it won a book award from the Moonbeam Awards specifically in the category of positive self esteem. So we're proud of that. And then in terms of the translated editions, I have really only ever received positive feedback. I have to the best of my ability shared each of the translations with LGBT organizations in those language communities, for instance, in France, and Germany and Spain and Latin America. In terms of online responses, every once in a while on Amazon, you do get a particular review that says, and I quote, "This is disgusting exclamation point, but Jesus can help exclamation point exclamation point!" But you know, I think that that response actually illustrates that the book is doing what it needs to be doing in the world. In terms of the Yiddish edition, obviously, I don't hear the conversations in Hasidic or OTD communities and Lili, maybe you've heard a little more about that. But from conversations with secular Yiddishists, actually, somebody reached out to me the other day and said, I just want you to know I was at this conference, and people were talking about your book, and it is making a positive splash with queer Yiddishists.
And we just got to review in the Yiddish Forward.
A very nice review in Yiddish by a wonderful doctor and poet, Zackary Sholem Berger at Johns Hopkins. It's interesting, because in terms of the actual reception by the Hasidic community, of course, to the extent that there is any quote, unquote, reception or public comment to speak of, it will be largely negative, but they tend to ignore-- I mean, much like they ignore the existence of LGBTQ people within their community, they'll ignore any attempt to publicize it or to raise awareness. What's interesting to me is kind of a microcosm of what the reception would be within the community is that within the OTD community, or the community of expats who've left the Hasidic community. There was a mixed response on Facebook, you know, some were just enthralled, and were so excited about being able to actually read literature about themselves in their native language, and to be seen, and to be recognized, and to be validated. And then there were others who were like, fiercely protective, and had this kind of knee jerk, I guess, homophobic and transphobic response, where it was like you and your agenda, you're imposing your agenda on us. And these are people who left the community are now secular. Again, if you're not receptive to the message, don't buy the book, or buy it and burn it. It's all the same to me. No, I'm kidding. Don't burn books. That's, that's evil. But yeah, it's it's clearly not intended for you, although I wish you would read it. But if you don't want to, don't, it's as simple as that. Obviously, it gets a little bit more complicated with regards to children. But I feel like for the other languages, the intended audience was always the kind of seven to twelve year old, but specifically for this edition, where the Hasidic community is woefully underexposed and undereducated, the subject matter and the way it's presented is of equal use to adults as it is to children. And it's just as likely that adults will read them within the community. But the hope, of course, is that there is a progressive parent out there that will read this to their children as well.
It's Tikkun Olam time. The whole book is an activist book, but this is your opportunity to engage in any form of activism, whether you want to talk about the book and related issues or something else that you care about. So I want to ask each of you, what action would you like to call listeners to take to help heal the world? Lili, do you want to go first?
I guess the issue that's nearest and dearest to me right now is definitely this slate of anti trans and anti queer legislation that's taking over American politics. I would urge our listeners, especially our cisgender and or hetero listeners, who are not directly affected by this legislation and have certain privileges that we do not , to stand against it, to stand against it publicly, to speak out, to call their representatives, to march. This is the time, as the expression goes, first they came for the Jews, and we were silent. Now they're coming for the Trans and Queer people
Building on that, you know, particularly the laws saying that you like, can't even say the word gay or trans in school. It's just so twisted, to outlaw people's ability to speak their own lives or like acknowledge who their parents are, for example. And building on Lili's point, alongside your political activism, I would ask listeners, especially cisgender and straight listeners, to really remember that somebody in your life is always listening carefully to you to decide if you are a safe person. Every time a news story comes on about trans rights or somebody makes an anti trans or anti gay joke, somebody in your family, somebody in your class, is listening to you to see how you react. When I think back to my childhood, I didn't consciously know that I was gay until I was about 19. But what surprised me at age 19 was how clearly I remembered conversations from you know, 10 or 15 years ago, jokes that I heard at seder from another room, and that I remembered who had said what about queer people, and it shaped who I decided I could keep relationships with. So for straight listeners who may be feeling like you don't have skin in the game, actually you do. Because if you value your relationships with your children, your siblings, your students, your parents, you really never know which of those relationships may actually depend on your willingness to openly be an LGBTQ ally.
All right, excellent points from both of you. You have the Yiddish copy in front of you right, Lili? So I was wondering if, if maybe you could read us... I really love the conclusion, the final You Be You, Chapter 11. Could you read us the final section in Yiddish?
Un ven du vest trefn emetsn vos iz andersh vi du, zolstu eybik gut zayn tsu zey, un zey helfn kemfn antkegn der diskriminatsye. Zay getray zikh aleyn! Un helf andere zayn getray zey aleyn.
And whenever you meet someone who's different from you, you should always be nice to them and help them fight discrimination. You be you, and help others be themselves.
Beautiful. Jonathan Branfman, Lili Rosen, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Thank you for having us.
Yes, thank you so much, Heidi. This was an honor and a pleasure.
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