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Abby Stein (born 1991) is an American transgender activist,[1] blogger,[2] and speaker. She is the first openly transgender woman raised in a Hasidic community, and is a direct descendant of Hasidic Judaism's founder the Baal Shem Tov.[3] In 2015, she founded the first support group nationwide for trans people of Orthodox background.[4]

Abby Chava Stein
Abby Stein at UC Berkeley April 2016.jpg
Stein talking at UC Berkeley, April 2016
Born (1991-10-01) October 1, 1991 (age 25)
New York City
Residence New York City
Nationality American
Education Columbia University (currently attending)
Occupation blogger
Years active 2012–present
Known for Transgender activism
Home town Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
Height 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Weight 125 lb (57 kg)
Television Dark Net (TV series)
Spouse(s) Fraidy Horowitz (m. 2010–13)
Children Duvid Stein
Parent(s) Rabbi Menachem Mendel Stein, Chaya Stein
Website The Second Transition

Stein is also the first woman, and the first openly transgender woman, to have been ordained by an Orthodox institution, having received her rabbinical degree in 2011, before coming out as transgender.[5] She has not worked as a rabbi since at least 2016.[6]

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Stein was born in 1991 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. She is the 6th child out of 13 born to a family of notable Hasidic leaders.[7] She grew up speaking Yiddish and Hebrew and was educated at a traditional all boys Jewish Day School. The community in which she grew up was highly segregated by gender, which impacts almost all aspects of daily life.[8] She attended the Viznitz Yeshiva in Kiamesha Lake, Upstate New York,[9] for her high school education, also receiving ordination as a rabbi there in 2011.[10] In 2012 she left the Hasidic community (often referred to in Jewish communities as going "off the derech", and in 2014 she started school at Columbia University's School of General Studies.

Coming outEdit

In November 2015 Stein made headlines when she came out on her blog as transgender,[11] and started physical transition. She was featured in some major media outlets, including The New York Times,[12] New York Post,[13] New York Magazine,[14] NBC,[15] Daily Dot,[16] and more. She also appeared on TV, on CNN,[17] Fox News,[18] HuffPost Live,[19] and Vice Canada.[20] She also appeared on several international TV networks,[1] and in numerous international newspapers and magazine in over 20 different languages.[21][22]

When Stein left her community in 2012 and came out as an atheist, her parents said that "No matter what happens, no matter how you are, you are still my child." However, when she came out as trans, her father told her that "You should know that this means I might not be able to talk to you ever again."[23] Since then her parents shunned her, and stopped talking with her altogether.[24] She has also received some hate from her former community,[25] though in an interview with Chasing News (a Fox News Short film company) she said that she got less hate than some people would have expected.[26]

Stein was featured in the 2016 Showtime Documentary series, Dark Net, in episode 8, "Revolt".[27]

Name changeEdit

On June 4, 2016, Stein celebrated her transition and announced her name change at Romemu, a Jewish Renewal synagogue in the Upper West Side neighborhood of New York City.[28] In an interview with The Huffington Post she said that even though she did not believe in God, she wanted to celebrate in a synagogue:

I wanted to show that if you claim being trans is unacceptable in traditional Judaism, well, here is a community that is not just okay with accepting me as I am, but is celebrating with me, rejoicing with me. What I’m hoping is that by sharing my story, others in the same situation will realize that you can have your name changed in a synagogue. There are so many synagogues where you can’t, but there are also those where you can—the Jewish Reform movement, the Conservative movement. Within Orthodoxy, there’s still a long way to go. Every time something like this is done, it’s one step closer to acceptance for everyone.[29]

ActivismEdit

After coming out, Stein started an online support group to help trans people who come from Orthodox backgrounds. By November 2015, it had over 20 members.[30] Stein also said that Facebook and online support communities have been her lifeline while leaving her community, which made her realize the positive power of online communities.[31]

In December 2015 Stein founded a support group for trans people from Orthodox backgrounds.[32] The group's first meeting had 12 people attending, most of them fellow Hassids struggling with their gender identity.[33] Stein's avid blogging also gained her a big following in the Jewish community, and she has become a role model for former ultra-Orthodox Jews – both LGBTQ and not.[34]

Since coming out, Stein has also done several modeling projects depicting her life and transition, which have been published by numerous sites.[35] She told Refinery29 that "I actually liked [shooting], It did help me feel more comfortable," and that she does these projects to encourage others on their journey.[36]

In addition to transgender activism, Stein has also been active in several projects to help those going Off the derech and leaving the Ultra-Orthodox community. She has been working with Footsteps,[37] and its Canadian sister organization, Forward, for which she traveled to Montreal in 2016 to help jump start.[38] In addition, she has also done some lay advocacy work with YAFFED working towards a better education in the Hasidic schools, for which she has also engaged in political work.[39]

Public speakingEdit

 
Stein speaking at the 2017 Limmud NY conference, in Princeton, New Jersey.

Stein's first public appearance was in a promotional video for Footsteps 10th anniversary gala in 2013, where she was interviewed about her experience leaving the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.[40] Around the same time, she also did interviews with The Wall Street Journal[41] and the Haaretz[42] about her experience leaving the community and fighting for custody. She also started giving public speeches on these topics.[43]

In addition to public speaking, she also teaches classes on Gender within Judaism, as well as bringing attention to trans people from Orthodox communities.[44] As of November 2016, she has had speeches at several universities. She has also done longer speaking tours to several communities in Montreal; the San Francisco Bay Area; and the New York metropolitan area.[45]

Starting in 2016 Stein has also become a rising star in demand for speaking engagements and conferences, such as the Limmud franchise,[46] where at the 2017 Limmud NY conference, she spoke more times than any other presenter.[47] At the same time she has also spoken internationally at conferences such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's annual Junction Conference in Berlin,[48] and the Miles Nadal JCC's Tikkun in Toronto.

Honors and awardsEdit

 
Stein with teenage trans activist, Jazz Jennings at the 2016 Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. They were both named as one of the "9 Jewish LGBTQ Activists You Should Know" by JTA and TOI.
  • The Jewish Week 36 Under 36. In 2016 she was named by The Jewish Week as one of the "36 Under 36" young Jews who change the world,[49] she is the first Trans person ever to get this award.[50]
  • Footsteps Leadership Award. At the 2016 Footsteps Celebrates[51] She received a leadership award for "Her outstanding leadership in advancing Footsteps stories in literature and Voice".[52]
  • New York Magazine 50 Reasons to Love New York. In 2015, the New York Magazine counted her story as one of the 50 reasons to love New York, saying that New Yorkers are overly accepting of trans people.[53]
  • 9 Jewish LGBTQ Activists You Should Know. In June 2016 she was named by The Times of Israel[54] and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as one of the nine "most influential Jews who have helped make LGBTQ issues visible and are still working to enact change."[55]

FilmographyEdit

In addition to a long list of interviews with major national and international news networks,[2] Stein has also been featured in several TV segments in the United States, Canada, Israel, Bulgaria, and more - in English, French, Hebrew, Bulgarian, Russian, Spanish, and Yiddish.

Year Title Role Notes
2014 Huffington Post Live[56] Herself TV Series; Episode: "Why Orthodox Jews Struggle to Leave Community" with Shulem Deen
2015 Huffington Post Live[57] Herself TV Series; Episode: "Why This Trans Woman Left Hasidism To Embrace Her Gender Identity"
2015 Chasing News[58] Herself Fox TV Series; Episode: "Free To Be Me"
2016 Great Big Story[59] Herself A CNN Web Series; Episode: "Transitioning to Freedom"
2016 Dark Net[60] Herself Showtime Television documentary series, Episode 8, "Revolt"
2016 Daily Vice - Canada[61] Herself Canadian TV Series; Episode: "Les défis d'une activiste trans reniée par sa communauté juive hassidique" In French and in English
2017 NowThis Original[62] Herself TV Series; Episode: "How This Hasidic Rabbi Became A Trans Woman" - Got a million views on Facebook alone.
2017 Shishi With Ayala Hasson[63] Herself Israeli TV Series on Channel 10; Episode: "הכל אודות אבי: מסעו המופלא של האברך החרדי שהפך לאישה" (All About Abby: The Wonderful Journey of the Young Ultra-Orthodox Man That Became A Woman), In Hebrew
2017 The Theme of NOVA[64] Herself Bulgarian TV Show; Episode: "Темата на NOVA: Свещеникът, който се моли да бъде жена" (The Rabbi Who Prays to Be a Woman) - this was Stein's first TV appearance in Eastern Europe, and Bulgaria's first transgender story on TV, in Bulgarian.
2017 PopSugar[65] Herself Social Media series; Episode: "This Transgender Trailblazer Left the Hasidic Community to Live Her Truth as a Woman" - it got 5 million views on Facebook alone,[66] the most of any of her videos
2017 DKISS[67] Herself Spanish TV series; Episode: "Abby Stein cortó toda la relación con su familia cuando les contó que era transgénero" - Stein was not interviewed for this episode, in Spanish.
2017 Time Code - RTVi[68] Herself International Russian-speaking TV series; Episode: "«Тайм-Код» с Владимиром Ленским. 16 июня" - Filmed at Columbia University, in Russian.
2017 FOX 5 News At 5[69] Herself NYC TV news series; Episode: "Transgender woman's journey from Hasidim to a new life".

Personal lifeEdit

In 2010 Stein married a woman, Fraidy Howrowitz, with whom she also had her son, Duvid.[70] The marriage was an arranged marriage by a matchmaker, and the couple only met for 15 minutes prior to the engagement.[71] As Stein left the community, she divorced her wife.[72] In an interview with The Wall Street Journal right after her divorce she said that "They had a good relationship," and that at the time of the divorce she was able to "obtain a "normal agreement," including weekly visits, joint custody, split holidays, joint decision-making on major life events and every second weekend with her son."[73]

Her current sexuality is not clear,[74] although according to her Facebook profile she is currently (October 2016) in a relationship with a woman.[75] She also refuses to talk about her current relationship with her son in public,[76] she just says that "nothing has changed (relating to her son) since she came out."[77]

Lineage to the Baal Shem TovEdit

In addition the aforementioned lineage, Stein descends from the Baal Shem Tov in four more ways.[3]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

1.^ See below under filmography.
2.^ See the Media tab on her website.
3.^ Read more (in Hebrew): Twersky, Eluzer (2003). Stein, Menachem, ed. Toldot Elʻazar. Brooklyn, NY. pp. 128–132. .

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Discussing transgender rights in the Jewish community with two trans activists - Yiscah Smith and Abby Stein. The Gentile and the Jew, 2015.
  2. ^ The Second Transition
  3. ^ "Descendant of Hasidic Judaism Founder Comes Out as Transgender", JTA, November 19, 2015
  4. ^ "TRANS MEET-UP with Abby Stein," Eshel Online, December 15, 2015.
  5. ^ "'Gender began punching me in the face': How a Hasidic rabbi came out as trans woman", Debra Nussbaum Cohen, Haaretz, February 17, 2017.
  6. ^ "36 Under 36" Abby Stein, The Jewish Week
  7. ^ "Abby, who is 24, was born in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn to a notable Hasidic family that boasts a long lineage of rabbis." Judy Bolton-Fasman, Forward, November 20, 2015.
  8. ^ Abby’s early life was defined by an extreme iteration of Jewish practice, but more relaxed forms of traditional Judaism are also divided along gender lines. Sacred Jewish texts, and by extension Jewish law, are in fact predicated upon an assumption of gender duality. A person’s sex determines what religious practices he or she is obliged to perform, and how he or she is expected to behave in social contexts. Brigit Katz, The New York Times, February 2, 2016.
  9. ^ Abby Stein's profile on Sefaria "Jewish Education Yeshivat Viznitz"
  10. ^ "attended Yeshiva, completing a rabbinical degree in 2011" Glaad.com, April 27, 2016.
  11. ^ "And the Time has come... Coming Out
  12. ^ Trans woman who also left Hasidism blogs about double transition.
  13. ^ I left Hasidism to become a woman
  14. ^ I Grew Up Hasidic and Trans. Here’s How I Found a New Community.
  15. ^ OutFront: Trans Woman Spreads LGBTQ Awareness in Hasidic Community
  16. ^ For this transgender Orthodox Jew, blogging was her lifeline
  17. ^ Transitioning to Freedom
  18. ^ Free To Be Me
  19. ^ Why This Trans Woman Left Hasidism To Embrace Her Gender Identity
  20. ^ Daily Vice Canada, March 19, 2016.
  21. ^ Noah Gadebusch; Benyamin Reich (May 13, 2017). "Der Rebbe im Minirock". Jüdische Allgemeine (in German). Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  22. ^ Francesca Bussi (August 3, 2017). "NATA due volte". Gioia (magazine) (in Italian). Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  23. ^ "Hassidic-raised trans woman to speak about her journey". Alix Wall, Jweekly, April 7, 2016.
  24. ^ "I Have Daddy and Mommy Issues". The Second Transition, January 16, 2016.
  25. ^ "This trans woman got some serious hate when she left Hasidism behind". Joseph Patrick McCormick, Pink News, November 19, 2016.
  26. ^ Free To Be Me
  27. ^ "DARK NET: Growing Up Trans In An Ultra-Orthodox Community" Tracy Clark-Flory, March 10, 2016.
  28. ^ "Next Shabbat Morning, June 4th, I will be having a Celebration at Romemu. Call it a Bat Mitzva of sorts. We will do a name change at the Torah, followed by a Kiddush, which is the traditional way of celebrating milestones in one’s life. I am doing this event in public not just to celebrate my own life in transition, but to send a message to the entire Jewish-Trans community, the entire queer community, and well, every human being: Look, no matter what you think, you can find community, you can, and will find love. Don’t feel alone, because you are not alone. One might think that tradition has no way to accommodate and celebrate us, and maybe it didn’t have until now, but it does now!!!" Abby Stein, Romemu, Xoxo, May 22, 2016.
  29. ^ "How This Ex-Hasidic Woman Lost And Found Her Judaism", Carol Kuruvilla, June 9, 2016.
  30. ^ "DARK NET: Growing Up Trans In An Ultra-Orthodox Community" Tracy Clark-Flory, March 10, 2016.
  31. ^ "The heir to a rabbinic dynasty who's turned away from Brooklyn's Hasidim after finding a world she never knew existed online," sho.com, Dark Net Season 1, Episode 8, March 10, 2016.
  32. ^ "She also founded a support group for trans people of Orthodox backgrounds," Summer Luk, Glaad.com Blog, April 2016.
  33. ^ "Stein decided to start her own support group, and 25 people signed up. Most were fellow Hassids struggling with their sexuality or gender identity, Stein said. In December, they had their initial meet-up, with 12 people attending., Alix Wall, Jweekly, April 2016.
  34. ^ "She recently started a support group for transgender people from Orthodox backgrounds and, as an avid blogger (she came out as trans via blog, in a post that garnered 20,000 views overnight), has become a role model for former ultra-Orthodox Jews – both LGBTQ and not." Jodie Shupac, CJN, March 2016.
  35. ^ Abby stein: Photographer Eve Singer Captures Stark, Personal Portraits of an Ex-Hasidic, Transgender Activist. Eve singer, Fuzz Magazine, September 2016.
  36. ^ 14 Intimate Photos That Depict One Trans Woman's Rapidly Changing Life. Sara Coughlin, Refinery29, October 7, 2016.
  37. ^ "36 Under 36 2016, The Jewish Week". footstepsorg.org. May 23, 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2017. 
  38. ^ Joey Tanny (April 20, 2016). "Abby Stein's Visit With Forward in Montreal". forwardorg.org. Retrieved August 18, 2017. 
  39. ^ Amy Sarah Clark (August 9, 2017). "Watch Ex-Chasidic Activist Abby Stein Grill De Blasio On Yeshiva Probe". The Jewish Week. Retrieved August 19, 2017. 
  40. ^ "Footsteps: the journey" Footsteps on YouTube, November 15, 2013.
  41. ^ "Formerly Orthodox, and Struggling for Parental Rights", Melanie Grayce West, August 11, 2014.
  42. ^ "Off-road Jews: A Helping Hand for Those Who Stray From the ultra-Orthodox Path", Debra Nussbaum Cohen, November 29, 2013.
  43. ^ "On Tisha B’Av, ex-ultra-Orthodox Jew mourns destruction of ‘personal temple’", Cathryn J. Prince, The Times of Israel, July 24th, 2015.
  44. ^ Abby stein on Sefaria.
  45. ^ "The Second Transition - Calendar".
  46. ^ "Her Journey From Hasidic Rabbi To (Happy) Transgender Woman", Debra Nussbaum Cohen, Forward, February 7, 2017.
  47. ^ "Limmud Conference Tests Limits Of Pluralism", The New York Jewish Week, February 22, 2017.
  48. ^ "The Junction Annual: Our World in Transition", Speakers.
  49. ^ "A Voice For Transgender Chasidic Jews", Amy Sara Clark, May 23, 2016.
  50. ^ "We celebrate our first-ever 36er of transgender experience — a thinker, blogger and activist." Hannah Dreyfus, The Jewish Week, May 27, 2016.
  51. ^ "Footsteps Celebrates 2016"
  52. ^ Picture, Leadership award plague.
  53. ^ "50 reasons to love New York: I Grew Up Hasidic and Trans. Here’s How I Found a New Community.", Tim Morphy, December 16, 2015.
  54. ^ "From Stonewall to the US Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, Jews have been at the forefront of the fight for equal rights. Here are some of the most influential voices still making a difference.", June 28, 2016.
  55. ^ "9 Jewish LGBTQ activists you should know.", Gabe Friedman, JTA, June 27, 2016.
  56. ^ "Why Orthodox Jews Struggle to Leave Community". August 15, 2014. 
  57. ^ "Why This Trans Woman Left Hasidism To Embrace Her Gender Identity". November 17, 2015. 
  58. ^ "Free To Be Me". December 9, 2015. 
  59. ^ "Defiant Abby Stein". January 12, 2016. 
  60. ^ "Trans Orthodox Dark Net". March 10, 2016. 
  61. ^ "DAily Vice Canada Interview". March 15, 2016. 
  62. ^ "How This Hasidic Rabbi Became A Trans Woman". May 6, 2017. 
  63. ^ "All About Abby: The Wonderful Journey of the Young Ultra-Orthodox Man That Became A Woman". May 27, 2017. 
  64. ^ "The Rabbi Who Prays to Be a Woman". June 4, 2017. 
  65. ^ "Meet Transgender Activist Abby Stein". June 5, 2017. 
  66. ^ As of June 27 POPSUGAR. Celebrity
  67. ^ "Abby Stein cortó toda la relación con su familia cuando les contó que era transgénero". June 19, 2017. 
  68. ^ ""Time Code" with Vladimir Lensky. June 16th". June 26, 2017. 
  69. ^ "Transgender woman's journey from Hasidim to a new life". June 26, 2017. 
  70. ^ "Abby shares custody of their three-year-old son Duvid with her former bride Fraidy Horowitz. Abby's sheltered upbringing culminated in her arranged marriage at 18 to Fraidy Horowitz. the daughter of another Hasidic Jewish family." Ben Ashford, The Daily Mail, November 23, 2015.
  71. ^ "Abby's sheltered upbringing culminated in her marriage at 18 to Fraidy, the daughter of another Hasidic Jewish family. It was formally arranged by a matchmaker and was, in Abby’s words, a ‘done deal’ before they had even met. ‘It wasn’t exactly forced, but it was completely arranged,’ she said. ‘I met her once in advance, for 15 minutes.', News Grio, November 23, 2015.
  72. ^ "She divorced her wife and left the community." The Jerusalem Post, November 19, 2015.
  73. ^ "Formerly Orthodox, and Struggling for Parental Rights." Melanie Grayce West, August 11, 2014.
  74. ^ In an article she wrote for Keshet through My Jewish Learning in November 2015, she writes that in the past "really I wasn’t in the mood to think of sexuality while I was still working out gender." But doesn't say anything about her current sexuality.
  75. ^ Facebook.com. Abby Stein, relationships.
  76. ^ "I like to keep my son out of public eye, so I prefer not to talk about him in public." Abby Stein in a comment on her blog, March 19, 2016.
  77. ^ "Her Speech on YouTube" At Nyack Library, May 2016.

External linksEdit