Transgender Professor Joy Ladin Faces Life Back at Yeshiva

When Joy Ladin told officials at the Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva University she was in the process of becoming a woman, school officials immediately put her on indefinite leave. A letter from her lawyers got the decision revoked, but now Joy, back at school, is facing a slew of new struggles.

BY Rachel Ament

September 18 2008 12:00 AM ET

A few years ago,
Jay Ladin found his mind constantly shifting toward the
subject of gender, and then one day, it got stuck there. The
obsession had turned into a physical illness. Ladin,
an English professor at the Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva
University’s Stern College, was having trouble
eating. He’d dropped a whopping 30 pounds and tossed
and turned throughout sleepless nights.

Jay Ladin knew he
wanted to become a woman but feared the havoc that
would be in store for his family and career.

Now Jay is Joy,
miles ahead of where she was two years ago when she told
Stern College administrators she was in the process of
becoming a woman. School officials immediately put her
on indefinite leave. Unfazed, Ladin’s lawyers
sent a letter to the school, and in one sharp snap, the
decision was revoked; Ladin could keep her tenure (she began
teaching at the school again two weeks ago for the
first time since her transformation).

The details of
the legal work have remained a mystery to the public and
even to Ladin, with an anonymous source stating that
“it remains unclear whether Stern faculty
members suddenly empathized with Ladin or if the
decision was completely legally motivated.”

Whatever the
case, heated protests could be heard everywhere from the
hallways of Stern College in New York City to rabbinic
powwows on the other side of the Atlantic.

“We are
dealing with someone who is severely psychologically
disturbed, and we should physically restrain him from
touching his body, the way we would an anorexic
teenager,” says Rabbi Moshe Tendler, senior dean of
Yeshiva’s rabbinical school. “Transsexuality
in the Torah is absolutely forbidden!”

Other reactions
have been milder.

“I
don’t understand this illness, but I don’t
think people need to react with such anger and
hate,” said a staff member who works in Stern's
administrative office. “Rabbi Moshe Tendler is a
scary man.”

School
administrators are doing their best, it would seem, to keep
their faculty quiet on the subject. When queried,
faculty members would provide only PR-tinged responses
about how they could not speak to the press, while
others would speak only on condition of anonymity.

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