What would you do? What would you do if your entire hometown found out you'd been keeping a secret?
January 9, 2010 was a surreal day for Isaac Namdar, a Jewish surgeon living and working in New York City. That afternoon he received an e-mail from his nephew telling him not to come to synagogue that weekend and to stay away from the Sephardic Jewish community he'd grown up in.
"Everyone knows, Uncle," his nephew wrote.
Isaac panicked. Someone had discovered his on-line wedding album with pictures of him and his husband, Andrew. Okay, so a handful of people had found out that he was gay. He would manage somehow.
But he was stunned to find out that over 5,000 people viewed his online wedding photos and someone had hacked into his Facebook page and other assumed "private" digital files. The dam had broken. He was being swept up into a current of homophobia that included being excommunicated by his rabbi the following weekend.
Isaac had never brought his husband, Andrew, home to the insular spiritual and cultural community he had grown up in. Different than his peers, Isaac chose an occupation that would take him away from the community. As a physician, he was able to relocate to the big city where he struggled for years with his sexual orientation. When he met and fell in-love with Andrew he stopped struggling. The two legally married in Connecticut in 2009. Isaac expected that he would continue to keep his community and his marriage separate, but on that fateful day the two collided.
Isaac and Andrew glimpsed an opportunity for education and seized it. They opened their wedding website up for dialogue. What ensued was two weeks of unbridled posts about homosexuality, Judaism, and God. It was an online town hall where people could hide under various profile names and share their true feelings and engage in a dialogue.
Some of the posts were thoughtful and supportive.
"Congratulations to you both and BRAVO for following your path. Kudos for choosing to embrace the way G-d created you. May you have a blessed and happy future as a family."
"Mazel tov to Andrew and Isaac. What a gorgeous couple! I genuinely hope that you two don't mind that your site has become a platform for a serious discussion about the value system in our community, of which I have grown to become a staunch critic."
Some were predictable for a conservative religious community.
"We are an orthodox Jewish community which does not allow 2 men 2 get married. I'm sorry if that offends anyone. It isn't close (sic) mindedness, it is who we are. It would be the same if someone married a non-Jew."
"Homosexuality is not in line with Judaism, but neither is shaming a fellow man."
Others were just plain stupid.
"Suck cock Jewish Father and everyone else who aggrees with the Gay ways."
"Is he so gay that he couldn't get it up for a woman even if he tried to?"
(Um, isn't that sort of the meaning of gay for gay men?)
After a couple of weeks Isaac chose to shut it down and to turn these posts and his experience into a book. You can order his book In This Day and Age?!: A Community at the Crossroads of Religion and Homosexuality through your local bookseller or online.
Presently Isaac is speaking out at temples and spiritual conferences about his
eexperience. Issac hopes that his story will foster more understanding and respect between religious leaders and their LGBT congregants.
In February 2011 I did a tele-seminar interview with Isaac. The interview will be included in my upcoming CD package How to Come Out of the Closet And Into Your Power. You can download the interview "How to Survive Being Outed and What to Say When Someone Tells You That You Can Change!" too.
Isaac said that if he had been younger or a more insular member of his community and not had the kind of outside support he had as a successful surgeon, this experience might have caused him to commit suicide.
I want to honor Isaac for his courage to take a terrifying situation and creating an opportunity for others to grow. Isaac you are a love warrior!
Remember a hero isn't someone who does not have fear. A hero is something who does something courageous despite the fear she or he feels.
Take a moment to reflect on when you've been a hero. What did you do even though you were afraid? Acknowledge yourself. Being an LGBTIQ person or a straight ally often means being true to yourself and doing things even in the face of fear.