What could we do if we all came together as a community—trans folks, gender non-conforming folks, non-binary people, cis people—to spend a day exploring Torah informed through the lens of queer experience? On Sunday, October 27th, our Beit Midrash in New York City was filled with the energy of people who showed up for each other, who showed up for inclusion and diversity, for Torah and for queerness. We kicked off the program by turning to three leaders, Rabbi Sarra Lev, Rabbi Emily Aviva Kapor-Mater and Rabbi Steven Greenberg, who have made the lives of so many queer Jews better through their work. We asked them questions like “What do you do when the Torah lets you down?” and “What does Queer Torah mean to you?”
In breakout sessions that followed, we explored topics like “How Do We Talk About Sex in the Yeshiva?” and “Declaring the Pure to be Impure and Other Queer Superpowers.” Our learning was interwoven with singing, and we gathered at the end to stand together and daven Mincha, the afternoon prayer service.
I didn’t think I needed Queer Torah in my life, but it turns out I was wrong. From Rabbi Sarra Lev I learned that the work of queering the Torah is to make the invisible visible and that the rabbis have been doing this thing called queering the Torah for centuries. This is the very same work behind the rabbinic project of midrash, of looking at the Torah and, instead of seeing just the literal plain sense of the word, attempting to give voice to that which is unsaid.
AVI STRAUSBERG “A Torah of Tears: Reflecting on Torah Informed by the Lens of Queer Experience,” on the Lilith Blog.