'First openly transgender rabbi' slammed by Jews, Rabbis after claiming ancient Judaism recognized 'a range of genders'

“It doesn't actually take a whole lot of Jewish education to recognize that in the book of Genesis, it says ‘male and female, he created them.’ There are two genders, period. Full stop.”

In a recent guest essay for The New York Times, the self-proclaimed “first openly transgender rabbi to be ordained by a mainstream denomination” claimed in the title that “Ancient Judaism Recognized a Range of Genders. It’s Time We Did Too.”  

The March 18 guest essay by Elliot Kukla, who claims on his website he provides “radical spiritual care” and was “the first openly transgender rabbi to be ordained by a mainstream denomination” wrote the “ancient Jewish world” used to describe babies in scripture, including boy, girl, "tumutum," "androgynos," "aylonit," and "saris."

Kukla wrote, “There is not an exact equivalence between these ancient categories and modern gender identities. Some of these designations are based on biology, some on a person’s role in society. But they show us that people who are more than binary have always been recognized by my religion. We are not a fad.”

Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values which represents over 2,000 rabbis said, “I've been biting back laughter about this article since I've seen it. It doesn't actually take a whole lot of Jewish education to recognize that in the book of Genesis, it says ‘Male and female, he created them.’ There are two genders, period. Full stop.”

“There is such a thing as an aberration where a baby is born, manifesting signs eventually being both male and female, or neither of the above,” Rabbi Menken added. “And all of these are biological abnormalities, which the Talmud speaks about. None of this is about a person deciding after birth that they are a different gender than all 100 million cells in their body.”

Jason Bedrick, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation posted on Twitter regarding the op-ed, “The New York Times has taken a break from bashing Jews to distort Judaism to push a radical ideology. But anyone who has a basic knowledge of Jewish law knows that this is absolutely false.” 

“Judaism recognizes two sexes, period,” he continued. “’And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’ - Genesis 1:27 Jewish law also recognizes the existence of several aberrations. All relate to physical traits that are not chosen.”

He added, “The NYT piece claims there are ‘four genders beyond male or female that appear in ancient Jewish holy texts hundreds of times.’ Wrong. The tumtum, androgynous, aylonit, and saris are NOT genders. ‘Gender’ was not even a concept in the Talmud separate from biological sex.”

Bedrick then defined the terms according to the original texts. “A ‘tumtum’ is where a child is either a male or female but their sex organs are obscured by a deformity. Once the extra flesh is removed, the child's actual sex is revealed. This is not a separate gender.”

“An ‘androgynous’ is a hermaphrodite, or what today we would call ‘intersex.’ This is a very rare condition that is an aberration, but not a separate sex or gender itself,” while “An ‘aylonit’ is a woman whose secondary sex characteristics do not develop, usually rendering her infertile. She is definitely female and this is not a separate gender.”

Bedrick added, “A ‘saris’ is a male who has been castrated (a eunuch) or who otherwise had his male sex organ physically damaged or not develop,” and noted that castration is against Jewish law.”

“Again, these all relate to physical conditions (not a feeling that one is in the wrong body) and are NOT separate 'genders' as understood today,” Bedrick explained.

Another point. The author writes: "This part of Judaism has mostly been obscured by the modern binary world until very recently." Absurd! No one hid this. Anyone who studies Talmud or halacha regularly sees these terms all the time. Any yeshiva student could define these terms.

Rabbi Menken slammed The New York Times for publishing the piece stating, “...there's nothing accurate about. The New York Times only cares about the narrative that they wish to follow.”

Citing the recent hit pieces the outlet has written about Jewish day schools Rabbi Menken continued, “look at the obsessive attack that they're in the middle of doing on Yeshiva education. They want to promote woke progressivism, so they will publish, with zero factual bases with zero authority as long as it promotes a woke version of Judaism, while they also do simultaneously classically antisemitic and anti-factual attacks on Yeshiva education, because the Yeshiva is the ultimate unwoke enterprise in world.”

“I don't think they're going to be happy until they just destroy everybody's religion. Because for them, religion is the enemy of all this because it's what so many of us believe in…they start with Judaism because Judaism is the root of all monotheistic faith and the belief in such a thing as a moral authority and a god and you work out from there.”

Bedrick added, “It’s also ridiculous that the NYT wants to use the Talmud’s recognition of sexual deformities to push transgenderism when the Torah itself very clearly forbids cross-dressing and castration (what’s today euphemistically called ‘gender-affirming surgery’).”

He stated, “I’m not arguing that secular law should follow Jewish law—but the NYT article is and it’s distorting Jewish law in the process. Let’s at least be honest about what Jewish law says if we want to talk about it.”

“Why bring Jewish law into this?” he continued. “The author and other people who make this case don’t see the Torah as binding anyway and therefore dismiss any Torah law that runs contrary to modern progressive sensibilities. They just want to steal Torah Judaism’s authority when convenient.”

Rabbi Menken added regarding people who identify as rabbis but have the Jewish knowledge of the back of a postage stamp and you can still get “ordained.”

“Look at the rabbi in Florida who's suing about the abortion laws, says he believes in something called ‘Cosmic Judaism.’ He demonstrated that he doesn't actually know anything about Judaism at all. And the same thing is to of this so-called rabbi writing this… it's filled with ignorance.”

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