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Queer Judaism: LGBT Activism and the Remaking of Jewish Orthodoxy in Israel

On Wednesday, May 22nd, Professor Orit Avishai from Fordham University discussed her new book, which offers a compelling look at how Orthodox Jewish LGBT persons in Israel became more accepted in their communities.

About the Book

Until fairly recently, Orthodox people in Israel could not imagine embracing their LGBT sexual or gender identity and staying within the Orthodox fold. But within the span of about a decade and a half, Orthodox LGBT people have forged social circles and communities and become much more visible. This has been a remarkable shift in a relatively short time span. Queer Judaism offers the compelling story of how Jewish LGBT persons in Israel created an effective social movement.

Drawing on more than 120 interviews, Orit Avishai illustrates how LGBT Jews accomplished this radical change. She makes the case that it has taken multiple approaches to achieve recognition within the community, ranging from political activism to more personal interactions with religious leaders and community members, to simply creating spaces to go about their everyday lives. Orthodox LGBT Jews have drawn from their lived experiences as well as Jewish traditions, symbols, and mythologies to build this movement, motivated to embrace their sexual identity not in spite of, but rather because of, their commitment to Jewish scripture, tradition, and way of life. Unique and timely, Queer Judaism challenges popular conceptions of how LGBT people interact and identify with conservative communities of faith. Professor Avishai's book can be purchased here.


About the Speakers

Orit Avishai is a Professor of Sociology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Fordham University, where she is affiliated with the Center on Jewish Studies. She has law degrees from Tel Aviv University and the Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Orit has spent much of her career studying how Orthodox Jews experience Jewish frameworks that regulate gender, sexuality, and desire. Her book Queer Judaism: LGBT Activism and the Remaking of Jewish Orthodoxy in Israel was published by New York University Press in 2023. She is now writing about Yeshiva University students' attempts to start a pride club on their campus.

Tamar Hofnung, Ph.D. (moderator) is the Israel Institute Fellow at UCLA's Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies and UCLA’s Department of Sociology. Prior to joining UCLA, Tamar held the Rothschild Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC Berkeley's Sociology Department. Having earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tamar specialized in human rights under the joint program "Human Rights Under Pressure" with Freie Universität Berlin. Tamar has also served as a Japanese government scholar (MEXT), conducting research for two years at Kyoto University's Institute of Research in Humanities. Tamar's ongoing research focuses on racial and gender equality policies in Israel and the United States, with a specific emphasis on gender violence and equitable representation. Her scholarly contributions have been recognized with prestigious awards, including the Annenberg Foundation Prize of Excellence in American Studies, the Jacques Nass Political Economy Prize of Excellence, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Post-Doctoral Award for Exceptional Female Researcher.


DISCLAIMER: The views or opinions of our guest speakers and the content of their presentations do not necessarily reflect the views of the UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Hosting speakers does not constitute an endorsement of the speaker's views or opinions.