Podcast Interview: Trans-Affirming Hebrew Name Change Ritual

In the Torah, names are powerful and signify moments of transformation. Our Jewish ancestors Avraham, Sarah, and Yisrael each received new names as part of their journeys.

As a child, Spencer Kaseff struggled with self-loathing. Assigned female at birth, but unsure of his gender identity, Spencer was deeply sensitive and spent a lot of time alone. But in December of 2019, Spencer left that part of his life behind during a Hebrew renaming ritual.

This episode is a conversation between Andy Anderson (they/them), Spencer Kaseff (he/him), and Heather Paul (she/her) about Spencer’s emotional renaming ritual that was performed at Hillel International’s Global Assembly in 2019.

“There’s a need for transgender Jews to receive new Hebrew names as much as new secular ones, but very few resources exist for transgender renaming rituals. According to a 2018 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, calling a transgender person by the name they use to refer to themselves can reduce their chance of suicide by as much as 65%. In Judaism, we can take a step toward inclusion by honoring and celebrating the journeys of transgender Jews through Jewish renaming.” -Heather Paul

Want to watch the video or view a ritual template for your own use? Check it out on Ritualwell. Thanks to Andy for interviewing us – and thank you to Spencer…for everything ❤

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