Upcoming Book Fair Hosts Transgender Jewish Author Joy Ladin

by Crystal A. Proxmire


"I think the transgender community is overlooked. So, inviting author Joy Ladin to come speak about her book seemed like the right thing to do," said Michael J Phillips, president of the Jewish Gay Network of Michigan. JGN was established in June of 2004 to provide support for the intersecting communities, and is described on the website as, "A community encompassing growth, empowerment and advocacy in the GLBT-Ally and Jewish communities." JGN will be taking part in the Jewish Community Center's 61st Annual Book Fair, with Ladin speaking at 4 p.m. on Nov. 11 at JCC of Metro Detroit, 6600 West Maple Road.

The book fair is a huge event which runs from Nov. 7 - 18, bringing in authors from all over the world. Phillips said he and the folks at JGN are excited to be a part of it, along with many other activities at the center.

"The JCC has been very supportive of the Jewish Gay Network of Michigan. The JCC has allowed us to maintain an office at the West Bloomfield JCC for 4 years. We now have a representative who sits on the JCC Board of Directors. We have many activities at the JCC. We have a support and discussion group, Family and Friends, that meets at 7 p.m. in the library of the West Bloomfield JCC on the first Thursday of every month. We hold our monthly Board of Director's meetings at the JCC. We have been supporters of the Jewish Book Fair, the Jewish Music Festival and the Jewish Film Festival and we have scheduled special events at the JCC," Phillips said.

"Last spring, JGN sponsored the film, Melting Away as part of the Jewish Film Festival. It was a wonderful film from Israel, about a family dealing with a transgender child. We also invited Denise Brogan-Kator, at that time from Equality Michigan, to speak after film. She was great. After the film and Denise's presentation, there was not a dry eye in the theater."

Phillips expects visitors will be moved by Ladin's story as well. Ladin is the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in the English Department at Stern College of Yeshiva University in New York, but the journey there was not an easy one. Ladin caused quite a stir back in 2007 when she announced, after securing tenure, that she was going to be transitioning. The university administration put Ladin on paid leave and barred her from coming to the campus that she loved. After two years the university allowed her back, paving the way for diversity and dialogue in a traditionally conservative educational environment. She has since written a memoir about her experience called Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders. In it she talks about the conflicts she faced in her journey from Jay to Joy, and about how her love of teaching kept her committed to the Orthodox university and the students with whom she shares her love of language.

Ladin also has authored six books of poetry. Her books will be available at the fair. For more information visit http://www.jgnmi.org.

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