Date: 5th Apr 2016
A year-long Jewish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) research project culminated in an event at London's "JW3" Jewish community centre on November 24. The showcase combined ritual objects, photographs, Jewish storytelling, rabbinical dialogues on "queering religion" as well as a screening of the project's five LGBTQI Jewish ritual films.
The Ritual Reconstructed/ Connected Communities project was funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by Professor Margaret Greenfields. It is a collaboration between Buckinghamshire New University, Liberal Judaism, University of Portsmouth and The Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University with support from community partners JW3 who hosted the event.
Ritual Reconstructed used the medium of film, performance and storytelling to look at the ways in which Jewish people who identify as LGBTQI engage in religious and community life. As part of the event, award-winning playwright Stephen Laughton gave a special reading/performance of his new work on being gay and a young Orthodox Jewish man. This led to a challenging and stimulating theological panel discussion by leading Rabbis which explored Liberal Jewish values, inclusion and equality for LGBTQI community members.
A key focus of the project has been how being LGBTQI has influenced, shaped or changed Jewish faith rituals and how being Jewish influences LGBTQI rituals such as remembrance of LGBTQI people murdered as a result of hate crimes or who have died of AIDS.
Professor Margaret Greenfields said: "The Ritual Reconstructed event was a marvellous opportunity to bring together the various strands of this exciting, multi-faceted project. Community participants, including professional performers and writers who volunteered to be part of the event challenged perceptions through a variety of powerful performances whilst members of the rabbinic panel explored and argued convincingly for interpretations of traditional texts which include LGBTQI Jews as full and equal members of the faith community. The films led to enthusiastic discussion about methodological issues and gendered faith performance."
Community participants reported that the most powerful elements of the showcase event were, "the fellowship, faith and [being part of a] community who really care about each other and the sense of community collaboration." Another said the event was a success because, "the thing about identity politics and LGBT politics is that it's about breaking down boundaries, change and radical progression in Judaism."
Although the project is now in the final phase, plans are underway to develop a broader inter-faith theological discussion on LGBTQI faith issues which it is anticipated to take place in 2016.
In February, Bucks New University will screen the Ritual Reconstructed films at a special event and Portsmouth University will also host a screening and discussion seminar.
Project updates and information on how to borrow exhibition resources for display at Jewish or LGBTQI venues are available at the Ritual Reconstructed website.
Top picture: The Ritual Reconstructed showcase event.