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Program Recap: 50 Years of Queer Jewish Liturgy

June 21, 2023
by Rebeca Miller

This program originally aired on March 11th, 2022.

In this program Dr. Gregg Drinkwater and Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman look back at 50 years of LGBTQ Jewish liturgy. Drinkwater and Litman reflect on key moments in the development of liturgy for LGBTQ-centered Jewish spiritual communities, examining prayers, poems, blessings, sermons, and rituals. Topics include the often subtle queer subtexts found in Jewish liturgical material from LGBTQ synagogues in the 1970s; the spiritual practices sparked in those congregations by the trauma and urgency of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s; the interplay between the liturgical innovations of Jewish feminists and LGBTQ Jews; the turn toward more explicitly queer references in liturgy from the 1990s and 2000s; and Jewish liturgy centering transgender and nonbinary people developed in the last two decades.

Dr. Gregg Drinkwater’s research focuses on sexuality, gender, and Judaism in the modern United States. His work has appeared in the journals Jewish Social Studies and American Jewish History, as well as the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies. He is currently working on a book on the history of gay and lesbian synagogues and their role in incubating queer Jewish space and is serving as a visiting professor in Jewish History at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Prior to entering academic life, Drinkwater worked for 10 years as a researcher and advocate for LGBTQ inclusion and social justice in the Jewish community through the organizations Jewish Mosaic and Keshet. He is the co-editor of the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible (NYU Press, 2009).

Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman supervises the Jewish Roundtable at the Pacific School of Religion’s Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies (CLGS), which sponsors cutting edge speakers on queer and Jewish issues, and convenes conferences and strategic summits for groups such as trans Jews, LGBTQ rabbis, and Jewish queerspawn. Jane works closely with Pacific Asian, African American and Latinx colleagues addressing interfaith issues such as Religious Liberty and Trans Inclusivity using an intersectional approach. Widely published in the fields of Jewish women’s history, queer theory and contemporary theology, Jane’s book, Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Scriptural Themes in Contemporary Life, co-edited with Rabbi Debra Orenstein, won prestigious academic and community awards. Jane’s most recent work includes Krovai Elohim: All in God’s Family for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the essay on Judaism in the anthology Struggling in Good Faith.