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Jewish Day School Embraces Transgender Teen

After Tom Sosnik came out as male, his rabbi created a new ceremony

Sara Ivry
March 27, 2015
Tom Sosnik. (YouTube)
Tom Sosnik. (YouTube)

Here’s a silver lining to the Christmastime suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old in Ohio whose family refused to accept her as transgender: the story of Tom Sosnik. Sosnik is a 13-year-old Jewish day school student in Northern California who was inspired to come out as transgender after hearing about Alcorn’s death.

“All of 6th grade, I struggled with my gender identity. And I am now embracing my truth,” Sosnik, the child of Israeli immigrants, said in a video posted earlier this month on YouTube. “I stand before you as a 13 year old boy. …Thank you all for making me feel safe enough to openly be myself.”

Along with Sosnik’s family, the teen’s classmates and teachers at Tehiya Day School have embraced him, and held a ritual two weeks ago celebrating his coming out.

Mindful of the high number of suicide attempts in the trans community, the school’s rabbi, Tsipi Gabai, worked with the Sosniks to create a meaningful ceremony invoking blessings and Jewish readings to mark his transition. “I take what is said in the Talmud, that when one saves a single soul it as if one saves the whole world, very seriously,” she said.

Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.