Jewish Advocate Review
From Boston's Jewish Advocate, January 29,2010:
An outsider finds his way home
By Leah Burrows Special to the Advocate
Even his name felt wrong.
Then, after years of searching, of trying to fit in without ever really succeeding, Leblang took action. He changed his name to Judah, and began to turn his life around.
Now, at 52, Judah Leblang has found his niche as a storyteller.
In his first book, "Finding my Place," the Medford resident and columnist for Bay Windows newspaper weaves together personal essays about his search for self and community.
"Most people try to find their place in the world," Leblang said. "It's not a physical location but a sense of who you are and where you fit."
Leblang knew from childhood that he was different.
"Growing up gay during that time, I felt so isolated and different," Leblang said. "Where I grew up, most everyone was Jewish. It was so homogenous, and I felt something was missing."
As a child, Leblang formed a strong bond with an uncle who was hearing impaired.
"I always felt there was a connection between being deaf and being gay," Leblang said. "My uncle was caught between two worlds, the hearing world and his world, and I connected with him. There is a fundamental experience in being gay and feeling like an other and an outsider."
This connection eventually led him to pursue a career in deaf education.
He worked as a teacher and translator for more than 15 years, but eventually, he says, just burned out.
"I would hear these other teachers screaming at their students and counting down the years until they could retire, and I never wanted that to be me," Leblang said. "I wanted to start exploring my own voice."
He started writing personal essays for the Somerville Journal, becoming the paper's first openly gay columnist. "It was never really just about being a gay man, it was about life," Leblang said of the column.
Leblang's life has led him to unexpected places, from southern Tennessee, where Jewish slurs were casually tossed about, to a yoga ashram in western Massachusetts, where Leblang lived for a year and learned how to connect with people and a community.
His story is not without cruel twists of fate, either. In 2006, after spending more than half his adult life working in the deaf community, Leblang lost two thirds of his hearing in his left ear. Unsure of the cause, doctors have not been able to correct the problem. Leblang now uses a hearing aid.
"There is this Yiddish expression I love," Leblang said, "man plans and G-d laughs. I think a lot of times that these things happen for a reason."
For samples of LeBlang's writings, visit judahleblang.
"Finding My Place: One Man's Journey from Cleveland to Boston and Beyond" - order now!
"Finding My Place" Book
"Finding My Place" CD
"Finding My Place" Book and CD Set