Oakland editor wins award for book on transgender Jewish experience

A book of essays on transgender Jews edited by Oakland resident Noach Dzmura has won a prestigious national literary award.

“Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community” won the Lambda Literary Award in the transgender nonfiction category. The awards, known as the Lammys, are given yearly to works that celebrate or explore LGBT themes.

“Balancing on the Mechitza” is an anthology of essays on the transgender Jewish experience. A number of Bay Area residents contributed essays, including Jhos Singer of the Coastside Jewish Community and Rabbi Reuben Zellman of Congregation Beth El in Berkeley.

The awards were given out at a May 26 ceremony in New York City. Dzmura’s friend Jase Schwartz received the award on the editor’s behalf, and after making an acceptance speech, Schwartz sent a text message to Dzmura, who was about to go to a book reading at Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley. The reading then turned into an impromptu party.

“I’ve been reading people who won this award all my life — it’s the answer to a dream,” said Dzmura, who is the communications director at Chochmat HaLev and an adjunct faculty member in the University of San Francisco’s Jewish studies and social justice program. “Trans people have been on the radar, but the idea that trans people can be identified with particular religions, this isn’t an idea that occurs to most people.

“[The book] is promoting the idea that there is a transgender Jewish experience and transgender Jewish lives — that that’s not an oxymoron, and that those two things can go together and quite harmoniously.”