Job: Digital media specialist at Aras Corporation
Hebrew name: Leah
Currently living in: Marblehead
Alma maters: Marblehead High School ’15, Indiana University ’19
Favorite foods: sushi, truffle fries, brisket
Favorite music: The Weeknd, Billie Eilish, Daft Punk
Favorite movies: “The Godfather,” “The Social Network,” “Pulp Fiction”
Favorite TV shows: “The Mandalorian,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” CNN
Favorite books: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Old Man and The Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
Favorite travel destination: England
Somewhere you’d like to go next: Japan
Favorite North Shore spot: The lighthouse on Marblehead Neck
Favorite Jewish person not in your family: Gal Gadot, Lance Stroll
Favorite Jewish holiday: Passover
What is your Jewish background?
I was raised Jewish by both my parents who are also Jewish, and family, who are Jewish. It was always part of my identity from day one. It’s always just been something that has been there – it’s never felt foreign for me to be Jewish. I went to Camp Tevya, and I got to be a part of a larger Jewish community of my peers. Going on Y2I with the Lappin Foundation really helped solidify meaning as being proud to be Jewish. In addition, going to Hebrew school as a kid – though I sometimes dreaded it like many kids – I now appreciate it so much more, and appreciated it as I got older, especially when I was confirmed by Temple Emanu-El, and getting to learn from Rabbi [David] Meyer was such an important thing for me … and I look back on it very fondly. I still like to do what I can to deepen my identity today. I like to go on the Facebook Live feeds that Rabbi Meyer posts during Shabbat and listen to his sermon. I really enjoy doing that with my parents … My cousin’s husband recently converted to Judaism, and I’ve been really getting to reinvestigate my Judaism, since he’s been so enthusiastic since converting. It’s really helped me want to deepen my Jewish identity.
Can you talk about your career?
I’m a digital media specialist at Aras Corporation. We supply software for companies who do manufacturing. I work in the marketing department, doing promotions, webinars, and video campaigns that talk about our products and demonstrate its capabilities to our subscribers. I went to school for digital media and media production, and I never thought engineering had any aspect of film to it. But it’s a lot of digital media – a lot of editing videos, editing webinars, putting your company in the best light. It’s been a really great fit for me, and I get to use the software that I used in college, I use it every day at my job.
Could you talk about your experience coming out as transgender?
When I was 6 years old, I knew something was a little different about me, but I didn’t have a word for it. It was very uncomfortable growing up, because I didn’t know if maybe everyone felt this way, or maybe this is abnormal. Even when I first heard the term ‘transgender’ I questioned it myself, and I wondered, ‘Is this really me?’ But after a lot of self-acceptance I was able to come out to my family, and people who I work with, and then my friends back at school, then eventually my friends back on the North Shore, and eventually on social media, and to the world. I came out to the world when I was 19 years old, the summer before my sophomore year of college. It was a big process, with a lot of crossing T’s, and dotting I’s, and making sure that the people who really shaped me as a person, whether from an everyday background or a Jewish background, didn’t find out through social media, they found out directly through me. It was really important that I covered everything – even to this day, it can be a difficult topic for people, but I always say that the only way to not make it uncomfortable is to make it common, make it seem mundane, you talk about it.
Was everyone accepting?
Yes, thankfully. My parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, family – I had a great coming out experience. I must say that my experience is not THE experience – a lot of trans folks definitely have trouble coming out, whether it’s coming out to themselves or coming out to family members and friends. I definitely am very lucky, and I make sure to think about that as often as possible. Since coming out, my Judaism has definitely strengthened, and I think I’ve become more faithful since coming out. I know sometimes organized religion can be the opposite part of the LGBT experience, it can be the dividing factor, but Rabbi Meyer and the Jewish people in my life have shown a lot of support for the transgender community.