Abby Stein (born 1991) is an American transgender activist, blogger, 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. In 2015, she founded the first support group nationwide for trans people of Orthodox background.
|Abby Chava Stein|
Stein talking at UC Berkeley, April 2016
October 1, 1991 |
New York, NY, United States
|Residence||New York, NY|
|Education||Columbia University (currently attending)|
|Known for||Transgender activism|
|Home town||Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY|
|Height||5 ft 7 in (170 cm)|
|Weight||125 lb (57 kg)|
|Television||Dark Net (TV series)|
|Spouse(s)||Fraidy Horowitz (m. 2010 div. 2013)|
|Parent(s)||Rabbi Menachem Mendel Stein, Chaya Stein|
|Website||The Second Transition|
Stein is also the first openly transgender woman to have been ordained by an Orthodox institution, having received her rabbinical degree in 2012, from an Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic school. To date, she is also the only female rabbi to have been ordained by an Ultra-Orthodox institution. However, she was ordained before transitioning, and is not working as a rabbi as of 2016.
Stein was born in 1991 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. She is the 6th child out of 13 to a family of notable Hasidic leaders. She grew up speaking Yiddish and Hebrew, and attended an all boys Jewish Day School, in a society where everything is determined by gender roles. For high school she went to the Viznitz Yeshiva in Kiamesha Lake, Upstate New York, from where she also got a rabbinical degree in 2011. In 2012 she left the Hasidic community, and went off the derech, and in 2014 she started school at Columbia University's School of General Studies.
In November 2015 Stein made headlines when she came out on her blog as transgender, and started physical transition. She was featured in some major media outlets, including the The New York Times, New York Post, New York Magazine, NBC, Daily Dot, and more. She also appeared on TV, on CNN, Fox News, HuffPost Live, and Vice Canada.
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." Since then her parents shunned her, and stopped talking with her altogether. She has also received some hate from her former community, 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.
On Saturday June 4, 2016, Stein celebrated her transition with a celebration and name change at Romemu, a Jewish Renewal synagogue on NYC's Upper West Side. In an interview with The Huffington Post she said that even though she doesn't 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."
After coming out in 2015 Stein started an online support group to help trans people who come from Orthodox backgrounds, by November 2015, it had over 20 members. 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.
In December 2015 Stein founded a support group for trans people who come from Orthodox backgrounds. The group's first meeting had 12 people attending, most of them fellow Hassids struggling with their gender identity. 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.
Since coming out, Stein has also done several modeling projects depicting her life and transition, which have been published by sites such as Refinery29, Daily Mail, and Fuzz Magazine. 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.
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. Around the same times she also did interviews with The Wall Street Journal and the Haaretz about her experience leaving the community and fighting for custody. As she became a household name for these issues, she also started giving public speeches on these topics.
After coming out as trans in November 2015, Stein has been doing even more public speaking, including traveling around the United States and Canada on speaking tours. In addition to telling her story, she also teaches classes on Gender within Judaism, and raises awareness on the issues facing trans people from Orthodox Communities. As of November 2016, she has had speeches at several universities such as Columbia University, Rutgers University, University of California at Berkeley, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Brooklyn College, California State University San Marcos, Mcgill University, University of Montreal, Binghamton University, and Rockland Community College. She has also done longer speaking tours to several communities in Montreal, Quebec and the San Francisco Bay Area, in addition to several speeches throughout the New York metropolitan area.
Honors and awardsEdit
- 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, she is the first Trans person ever to get this award.
- Footsteps Leadership Award. At the 2016 Footsteps Celebrates She received a leadership award for "Her outstanding leadership in advancing Footsteps stories in literature and Voice".
- 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.
- 9 Jewish LGBTQ Activists You Should Know. In June 2016 she was named by The Times of Israel 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."
In 2010 Stein married a woman, Fraidy Howrowitz, with whom she also had her son, Duvid. The marriage was an arranged marriage by a matchmaker, and the couple only met for 15 minutes prior to the engagement. As Stein left the community, she divorced her wife. 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."
Her current sexuality is not clear, although according to her Facebook profile she is currently (October 2016) in a relatonship with a woman. She also refuses to talk about her current relationship with her son in public, she just says that "nothing has changed (relating to her son) since she came out."
Lineage to the Baal Shem TovEdit
- Israel ben Eliezer, Baal Shem Tov
In addition the aforementioned lineage, Stein descends from the Baal Shem Tov in four more ways.
- "A Descendant of the Founder of Hasidic Judaism Just Came Out As an Atheist Trans Woman". Camille Beredjick, Friendly Atheist, December 7, 2015.
- Discussing transgender rights in the Jewish community with two trans activists - Yiscah Smith and Abby Stein. The Gentile and the Jew, 2015.
- The Second Transition
- "Descendant of Hasidic Judaism Founder Comes Out as Transgender", JTA, November 19, 2015
- "TRANS MEET-UP with Abby Stein," Eshel Online, December 15, 2015.
- "'Gender began punching me in the face': How a Hasidic rabbi came out as trans woman", Debra Nussbaum Cohen, Haaretz, February 17, 2017.
- "36 Under 36" Abby Stein, The Jewish Week
- "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.
- 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, New York Times, February 2, 2016.
- Abby Stein's profile on Sefaria "Jewish Education Yeshivat Viznitz"
- "attended Yeshiva, completing a rabbinical degree in 2011" Glaad.com, April 27, 2016.
- "And the Time has come... Coming Out
- Trans woman who also left Hasidism blogs about double transition.
- I left Hasidism to become a woman
- I Grew Up Hasidic and Trans. Here’s How I Found a New Community.
- OutFront: Trans Woman Spreads LGBTQ Awareness in Hasidic Community
- For this transgender Orthodox Jew, blogging was her lifeline
- Transitioning to Freedom
- Free To Be Me
- Why This Trans Woman Left Hasidism To Embrace Her Gender Identity
- Daily Vice Canada, March 19, 2016.
- "Hassidic-raised trans woman to speak about her journey". Alix Wall, Jweekly, April 7, 2016.
- "I Have Daddy and Mommy Issues". The Second Transition, January 16, 2016.
- "This trans woman got some serious hate when she left Hasidism behind". Joseph Patrick McCormick, Pink News, November 19, 2016.
- Free To Be Me
- "DARK NET: Growing Up Trans In An Ultra-Orthodox Community" Tracy Clark-Flory, March 10, 2016.
- "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.
- "How This Ex-Hasidic Woman Lost And Found Her Judaism", Carol Kuruvilla, June 9, 2016.
- "DARK NET: Growing Up Trans In An Ultra-Orthodox Community" Tracy Clark-Flory, March 10, 2016.
- "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.
- "She also founded a support group for trans people of Orthodox backgrounds," Summer Luk, Glaad.com Blog, April 2016.
- "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.
- "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.
- Abby stein: Photographer Eve Singer Captures Stark, Personal Portraits of an Ex-Hasidic, Transgender Activist. Eve singer, Fuzz Magazine, September 2016.
- 14 Intimate Photos That Depict One Trans Woman's Rapidly Changing Life. Sara Coughlin, Refinery29, October 7, 2016.
- "Footsteps: the journey" Footsteps on YouTube, November 15, 2013.
- "Formerly Orthodox, and Struggling for Parental Rights", Melanie Grayce West, August 11, 2014.
- "Off-road Jews: A Helping Hand for Those Who Stray From the ultra-Orthodox Path", Debra Nussbaum Cohen, November 29, 2013.
- See for example: "On Tisha B’Av, ex-ultra-Orthodox Jew mourns destruction of ‘personal temple’", Cathryn J. Prince, The Times of Israel, July 24th, 2015.
- See: Abby stein on Sefaria.
- "The Second Transition - Calendar".
- "A Voice For Transgender Chasidic Jews", Amy Sara Clark, May 23, 2016.
- "We celebrate our first-ever 36er of transgender experience — a thinker, blogger and activist." Hannah Dreyfus, The Jewish Week, May 27, 2016.
- "Footsteps Celebrates 2016"
- Picture, Leadership award plague.
- "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.
- "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.
- "9 Jewish LGBTQ activists you should know.", Gabe Friedman, JTA, June 27, 2016.
- "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.
- "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.
- "She divorced her wife and left the community." The Jerusalem Post, November 19, 2015.
- "Formerly Orthodox, and Struggling for Parental Rights." Melanie Grayce West, August 11, 2014.
- 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.
- Facebook.com. Abby Stein, relationships.
- "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.
- "Her Speech on YouTube" At Nyack Library, May 2016.
- Read more (in Hebrew): Twersky, Eluzer (2003). Stein, Menachem, ed. Toldot Elʻazar. Brooklyn, NY. pp. 128–132.