Last week, a friend returned from a trip to Egypt and the pyramids. â€œWas I interested in a trip there,â€ she asked. â€œNo,â€ I responded, â€œI was already there, thousands of years ago, in Goshen and at the Sea.â€ I thought, I have no desire to return to Mitzrayim; I could get cucumbers and garlic at the local grocery. I had no intention in getting stuck in mitzrayim again.
Jay Ladin was not so fortunate. A tenured professor at Yeshiva University’s Stern College in New York City, Ladin is the Chairman of the Literature Department, head of the Writing Center, and a published poet. Ladin, perhaps stuck on the wrong side of the mehitzah and trapped in his own mitzrayim, decided on an exodus from the you that is you, to the you that will be, or from the current self to the future self. Two years ago, Professor Ladin announced that he would live transgendered and begin to transition from Jay to Joy. Never an easy decision for anyone. The university placed Ladin on indefinite leave.
Ladin, 47, returned to YU this semester as Professor Joy Ladin. Still an excellent teacher and administrator – just dressed differently from before. While some embraced her and learned from her courage, others were horrified and feared that it would hurt YU in its pocketbook. That saddened me. Here was the opportunity to open wide the tent of observant Judaism and teach Jews of all ages that all are accepted. This chance was sullied by thoughts of the potential damage to institutional development’s bank accounts.
But no matter what fund raisers, administrators, rabbinical leaders and students will say, either yeah or nay, Ladin is there and teaching. YU is the only known religiously conservative university to employ a tenured transgendered professor, and University President Richard Joel told a local NY newspaper that, “I’m proud of my university and all my faculty.” Thanks. Talk about checkbook Judaism. My check is in the mail in support of Ladin. Maybe the naysayers will see that doing the right thing has economic benefits.