Metro Weekly

Trans Teacher Leaves Orthodox Jewish High School over Harassment

Talia Avrahami is leaving her job after a transphobic whisper campaign, which led to people stalking her and making death threats.

yeshiva, Orthodox, Jewish,
Photo: Davidleshem, via Dreamstime.

Transphobic discrimination pressured a trans teacher at a New York City Orthodox Jewish high school to leave her job last week.

Talia Avrahami, a social studies teacher at Magen David Yeshivah, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Brooklyn, was asked to leave soon after parents’ night, according to The Times of Israel. One parent had videotaped Avrahami introducing herself at the parents’ night event and posted it online. The video quickly circulated to community sites and chat groups, and the abuse came close behind.

Following a week of harassment, Avrahami agreed to leave Magen David Yeshivah on Friday, September 16. The school sent an email to parents informing them their children would have a new social studies teacher beginning Monday, September 19.

“They’re posting pictures of our family, they’re posting where we live, we’re getting death threats. They’ve somehow taken videos outside our home,” Avrahami told The Times.

Avrahami said she hadn’t faced many problems related to being trans at work until parents’ night, except for one incident in which one student erased the “s” in “Mrs. Avrahami” to make her name read “Mr. Avrahami.” Being trans isn’t something she considers a huge part of her identity, she said.

“I’m an Orthodox Jewish woman who happens to be transgender, just like there are Orthodox Jewish women out there who happen to have red hair,” Avrahami said.

A friend who spoke to The Times described Avrahami as a dedicated Orthodox Jew who adheres closely to religious tradition.

Avrahami has a degree from Yeshiva University in Jewish education, and is pursuing another in Jewish history. She landed her job with Magen David Yeshivah over the summer.

Even after her job loss, Avrahami expressed hope that the Orthodox community will not always be so hostile to LGBTQ people.

“There is absolutely a place for transgender people in the Orthodox Jewish community and in halakhah [Jewish law],” she said.

Young people, she told The Times, have largely supported her. She and her husband belong to Manhattan’s Washington Heights Jewish community, which she said has a welcoming and younger demographic.

“It kind of reinforces a lot of views that I had before, in that the kids are the future,” she said.

Avrahami’s alma mater, Yeshiva University, is currently embroiled in disputes of its own surrounding the place of LGBTQ people in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Last year, the YU Pride Alliance sued the school demanding official recognition for the group, which would have allowed the club to advertise its meetings on bulletin boards and hold events on campus. The New York Supreme Court told the school to recognize them, and this month, the Supreme Court temporarily upheld that order on procedural grounds. To avoid complying, the university suspended all student activities on campus.

But last week, the Pride Alliance offered a temporary ceasefire. It will hold off on its efforts to get recognition while the legal battle continues to play out, so student activities can resume, CNN reported.

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