ABBY STEIN IS arguably the ideal choice to lead a post-screening discussion of the New Jersey Jewish Film Festival’s offering on Sunday afternoon, April 7. “Family in Transition” is an Israeli documentary about a father of four struggling to keep his family together as he transitions into a woman; Stein is the first openly transgender woman raised in a chasidic community.
Stein began her transition from male to female at the age of 23, in 2013. She came out on her blog and became an educator and activist for transgender issues — eager, she said, to let other transgender chasidim know they are not alone. “I wanted to be a voice. If someone would have told me then that there were other people like me, it would have been so helpful,” she said.
Stein speaks about her experiences on college campuses, started a Facebook group for chasidic transgender Jews, and launched a support group for others going through the process. She has been interviewed by print media and television across the globe, and she’s working on a memoir. Her blog, “The Second Transition” — the first was leaving her chasidic home and community in Brooklyn, which she did with support from Footsteps, which helps ultra-Orthodox Jews integrate into mainstream society — can be found at abbychavastein.com.
Selected as one of 2016’s “36 Under 36” — the New York Jewish Week’s annual profiling of up-and-coming innovative community leaders — Stein remains involved in Jewish life through Romemu, a New York congregation that is part of the Jewish Renewal movement. “I tried for a while to disengage myself from Judaism altogether,” she said, “but it’s really hard to take 20 years of your life and forget about it.” In fact, Stein has joked that she’s the first, and only, ultra-Orthodox ordained female rabbi, having received smicha in 2011 at Yeshiva Viznitz, before her transition.
If you go
What: “Family in Transition,” best documentary winner at Tel Aviv’s
2018 DocAviv International Film Festival, followed by discussion led by
When: Sunday, April 7, 2 p.m.
Where: JCC MetroWest, West Orange
Tickets: $13, $11 for students and seniors; visit jccmetrowest.org/njjff or call 973-530-3417.