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The groundbreaking anthology Queer Jews (Routledge, 2002) centered the voices of over two dozen LGBTQ Jews who were re-envisioning American Jewish culture by creating new communities and making room for themselves as openly, unapologetically queer and Jewish. Queer Jews highlighted the bold voices of a generation of LGBTQ Jews creating new models of inclusion that spoke to the needs of all marginalized Jews. It captured a moment in Jewish history, when queer theory, feminism, and lived experience combined to bring about revolutionary ways of understanding Jewish tradition and innovation.
The anthology’s editors, Caryn Aviv and David Shneer, were themselves part of that revolution, as scholars of Jewish culture, activists for social change, and visionary Jewish professionals. Aviv’s and Shneer’s work and lives exemplified a new vision of Jewish spirituality, communal and familial structure, and cultural engagement. After many years in academia and serving as the co-founder and director of several Jewish communal organizations, Aviv was ordained in January 2020 as a rabbi. Sadly, in November 2020, Shneer, a beloved professor at the University of Colorado and former director of that university’s program in Jewish studies, died at the age of forty-eight.
Now, twenty years after the initial publication of Queer Jews, the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion was honored to host a symposium in honor of the role the book played in re-imagining the American and global Jewish worlds, and in memory of David’s many gifts and contributions to queer Jewish life.
- David’s husband, Gregg Drinkwater, himself a notable scholar of Jewish and queer history and the former director of a national Jewish LGBTQ advocacy group, will open the day with reflections on the book and on Shneer’s life.
- Most of the original contributors to the anthology will then speak about how queer Jewish life has changed in the last twenty years, while also offering thoughts and visions for the future.
- The day will close with a tribute to Shneer, as well as two other contributors to the anthology who are no longer with us, Inbal Kashtan and Oscar Wolfman. Their memories are our blessing.
- 9-10am: Opening Remarks: Dr. Bernie Schlager, Christie Balka, Dr. Gregg Drinkwater, Avi Rose (Moderator: Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman)
- 10:10-11am: Identity: Ali Cannon, Hadar Ma’ayan Dubowsky, Rabbi Steve Greenberg, Rabbi Robert Judd, TJ Michels (Moderator: Rabbi Mychal Copeland)
- 11:10am-12pm: Culture: Dr. Marla Brettschneider, Sandi Simcha DuBowski, Dr. Ruti Kadish, Eve Sicular (Moderator: Rabbi David Dunn Bauer)
- 12:15-1pm: Plenary: Dr. Jodi Eichler-Levine, Koach Baruch Frazier, Dr. Samira Mehta (Moderator: Dr. Lori Lefkovitz)
- 1:10-2pm: Institutions: Jaron Kanegson, Dr. Jonathan Krasner, Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman (Moderator: Idit Klein)
- 2:10-3pm: Memorial: Dr. Gregg Drinkwater, Rabbi Aviva Goldberg, Rabbi Evette Lutman, Dr. Kathy Simon
PARTICIPANTS’ BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES
- Christie Balkais Policy Director of All Our Kin, and co-editor of the groundbreaking anthology Twice Blessed.
- Dr. Marla Brettschneider is Professor of political theory with a joint appointment in political science and women’s studies at the University of New Hampshire where she started queer studies.
- Ali Cannon is a poet and dabbler in essays and short stories. His work appears in From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond; Queer Jews; and Secret Sisters. He lives in Oakland with his wife and teenage son.
- Rabbi Mychal Copeland is the rabbi at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco, a Jewish community rooted in the LGBTQI community, and co-edited Struggling in Good Faith: LGBTQI Inclusion from 13 American Religious Perspectives (SkyLight Paths, 2016).
- Dr. Gregg Drinkwater’s research focuses on sexuality, gender, and Judaism in the modern United States. Prior to entering academic life, Drinkwater worked for 10 years as an advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in the Jewish community through Jewish Mosaic and Keshet and was co-editor of the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.
- Sandi Simcha DuBowski is the Director/Producer of Trembling Before G-d, Producer of A Jihad for Love, and is in post-production on Rabbi, an 18-year film about Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie supported by The Sundance Institute Documentary Program and the newly launched Jewish Story Partners.
- Hadar Ma’ayan Dubowsky is a teacher, writer and educational researcher living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is mother to three wonderful children.
- Rabbi David Dunn Bauer works as a community leader, chaplain, and spiritual counselor and in 2011 became the first Jew to earn the Certificate in Sexuality and Religion (CSR) from Pacific School of Religion.
- Dr. Jodi Eichler-Levine is Berman Associate Professor of Jewish Civilization and an associate professor of religion studies at Lehigh University and the author, most recently, of Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis: How Jews Craft Resilience and Create Community.
- Koach Baruch Frazier (KB) is a transformer, heartbeat of movements, healer, musician, and a collaborative leader striving to transform lives both sonically and spiritually.
- Rabbi Aviva Goldberg is founder and rabbi emerita of Congregation Shir Libeynu, an unaffiliated, liberal, and inclusive synagogue in Toronto, Canada. A retired professor of Humanities at York University, Aviva has four adult children and four grandchildren, and lives in downtown Toronto with her partner of thirty-one years, Dinah Rosen.
- Rabbi Steve Greenberg is the author of Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), and the Founding Director of Eshel, a support, education and advocacy organization for LGBT Orthodox Jews and their families.
- Rabbi Robert Judd is the spiritual leader of B’nai Sholom Congregation in Huntington WV and is celebrating 20 years in the rabbinate this year.
- Dr. Ruti Kadish has been active in the feminist, LGBT and peace movements, in both the US and Israel, for over three decades. She currently is J Street’s Director of Communal Relations.
- Jaron Kanegson loves Jewish folklore and has masters degrees in Jewish Studies, Clinical Psychology and English/Creative Writing. Jaron is the parent of three children and currently works in the field of online education.
- Idit Klein is the President and CEO of Keshet which works nationwide for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life.
- Dr. Jonathan Krasner is the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Associate Professor of Jewish Education Research at Brandeis University whose research focuses on the history of American Jewish education, youth, childhood, and queer Jewish life in the twentieth century.
- Dr. Lori Lefkovitz holds the Ruderman Chair in Jewish Studies at Northeastern University, where she directs the Humanities Center and the Jewish Studies program. Her books include In Scripture: the First Stories of Jewish Sexual Identities.
- Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman was the first out queer person admitted to rabbinical seminary in 1984. Jane staffs the Jewish Roundtable of CLGS, and is co-editing an anthology, Transkeit, that will be published by Cambridge Scholars Press later this year.
- Rabbi Evette Lutman has served as the spiritual leader of B’nai Havurah: The Denver Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, since 2010. In addition to her rabbinic ordination, she holds a law degree and represented battered women in various settings before pursuing the rabbinate.
- Dr. Samira Mehta is an Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies and of Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research and teaching focus on the intersections of religion, culture, and gender, including the politics of family life and reproduction in the United States
- Avi Rose: Together with Christie Balka, Avi Rose co-edited Twice Blessed in 1989. He recently retired as longtime Executive Director of Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay.
- Eve Sicular is An acolyte of Vito Russo z”l who researched Soviet film pioneer Esther Shub at Harvard. Eve Sicular studied Yiddish cinema on the job at YIVO Institute and The Museum of Modern Art while developing her bands Metropolitan Klezmer and Isle of Klezbos as well as musical documentary theater, “J.Edgar Klezmer: Songs from My Grandmother’s FBI Files.”
- Dr. Kathy Simon: with a background in education and school reform, Kathy’s current work focuses on communication skills, offering public workshops and private sessions to support people to connect across difference.
This CLGS Jewish Roundtable Symposium was recorded on 2 May 2021.