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From Egypt to the Promised Land: Coming Out with the Help of Rabbi Paul Kipnes

We rabbis offer support and counseling to people through the many transitions in life. I recently received this from someone who years ago called me for help:

Coming out in my 50s was painful in the extreme, but having emerged at the other end of a prolonged coming out process, I am so grateful that I had the courage to finally live my truth…and it was Paul Kipnes, rabbi of Congregation Or Ami, who pulled me through the darkness and into the light.

I came home one day a few years back, and my ex-wife asked me if I was seeing anyone else. After having tried for so many years to keep my gayness secret from myself and then, when I could hide from myself no longer, to hold my family together until my youngest child left home, I finally said, “yes,” and all hell broke loose. She became so angry that I had lied to her, not told her of my struggles, not let on how tormented I was. From that moment, my life became almost too much to bear, as all my carefully constructed fictions crumbled.

Rabbi Paul was my refuge. When I called him up, he met me that very afternoon. We sat for hours. I cried, I mumbled, I stumbled my way through my story…and he held me, hugging me and providing me a safe space to try to figure out my life. He talked with me about the Jewish master narrative, leaving the narrow places of Egypt, wandering aimlessly in the desert, and finally arriving at the promised land. In my darkest moment, he showed me a flicker of light.

Today, I am filled with gratitude that I am in the promised land. I have achieved serenity, I have a serious relationship that is almost a year old, I have strong relationships with my grown children, and most important, I have a strong relationship with myself. In those dark hours when I first met with Rabbi Paul, I could not see a way out. He showed me that like Jews and gays so many before me, I too might one day arrive at a promised land.

I could not have seen that on my own. Because of Rabbi Paul, I was able to leave my personal Egypt, was able to muster the courage to wander through my own personal wilderness, and arrived joyously to today. When I say shehechiyanu thanking God for sustaining me, keeping me alive, and allowing me to reach a joyous day, I recognize that I am also thanking Rabbi Paul Kipnes and the divine within him that he showed me that dark day.

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