Watch a recording of this CLGS Jewish Queeries Series Event HERE!
Adopting Jewish culture and community as an adult can be both challenging and empowering. For queer people, becoming Jewish raises issues not only about religious affiliation but also about the nature of gender identity and sexual orientation. If Jewish queers have a double identity as “twice blessed” — in the words of an early anthology of Jewish LGBTQ stories — then LGBTQ people who become Jewish as adults are thrice blessed. Join three thoughtful LGBTQ activists as they reflect on forty years of Jewish queer life, their choices, and what these mean in terms of Jewish communal diversity.
Dr. Barbara Johnson is an 81-year old retired professor of Anthropology and Jewish Studies (Ithaca College), now living happily with her partner in rural Vermont, where she is involved in their small lay-led community synagogue and various forms of racial justice activism. Barbara formally embraced Judaism in 1983 after many years of study and Havurah-style involvement that was profoundly influenced by her long-term relationship with a group of Indian Jews, both in India and in Israel. She met with them several times in South India during the 1970s, then lived closely with their community in Israel during two years of residence and many other visits. Barbara has taught about Judaism from a multi-cultural perspective and published extensively on Indian Jewish history and culture with a focus on women’s music.
Noach Dzmura edited the Lambda Literary award winning anthology Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community way back in 2010. It will be coming out as an audio book later this year!! He worked with Chevrot Kadisha all over the country for a couple of years to help make Jewish burial and end-of-life rituals accessible to transgender and non-binary Jews. In the past two years Noach has turned his attention to the textile arts, creating and donating a memorial quilt to the survivors of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha congregations. His most recent textile fine art piece, “The Ba’al Shem Tov Over Appalachia,” recently sold, but is still available for exhibition upon negotiation. Noach and his partner Mel are currently in lockdown in Wheeling, West Virginia, with their three children. Contact Noach at Brerrabbi@gmail.com.
Karl Malchut was raised within a fundamentalist branch of Pentecostalism. His struggle with same-sex attraction led him on a religious journey that included joining both Mormon and Quaker communities as he learned to accept himself. He converted to Judaism in 2016. Karl is a member of Beth Emet: The Free Synagogue in Evanston Illinois, where he is a co-founder of their Holocaust Literacy and Awareness Committee. Last year he became president of Affirmation Chicago, which serves as a support organization for LGBTQAI Mormons and former Mormons like himself. Karl is a student at Oakton Community College with concentrations in Jewish Studies and Women’s/Gender Studies. He is also a caregiver at Reba Place, an intentional Christian Community in Evanston, Illinois. Karl’s life is centered around interfaith dialogue, especially Jewish-Christian dialogue. He is known as a bridge-builder and innovator.