Disability and Divine Power: Reading Julia Watts Belser (December 21, 2017)

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Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, 136 Magazine Street, Cambridge, MA  – December 21, 2017.  See end of post for logistics.

This study is led by Penina Weinberg.

Banner for event has a painting of an ecstatic person in red, possibly flaming, dress whirling in a blue wheel chair. Caption is
“Ezekiel’s vision split open my own imagination. Hearing those words chanted, I felt a jolt of recognition, an intimate familiarity. I thought: God has wheels!”
from “God on Wheels—Disability and Jewish Feminist Theology”
by Julia Watts Belser in Tikkun 2014
Illustration from the article: “Whirlwheel” by Olivia Wise. [end of caption]

Article can be found here via subscription or access through a library:  http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/god-on-wheels

Join us for an introduction by Penina Weinberg to the work of Julia Watts Belser on disability studies, and a relevant Talmud text study with Ruach HaYam member Ariel Cohen. Many of us wish for and hope for a world that will be accessible to all, and accepting of all. But there is much more. As Belser writes: “I fear that by conceptualizing disability primarily as an access problem to be solved, we fail to invite in the vibrant, transgressive potential of disability culture: of a ‘crip’ sensibility that celebrates disability as a way of life, a radically different way of moving through the world.” The notion of celebrating a vibrant and transrgessive culture will be familiar to queer Jews who wish to participate in celebration, not just tolerance.

Julia Watts Belser, whose work we will read, is an Associate Professor of Jewish Studies in the Theology Department at Georgetown University, with expertise in rabbinic literature and Jewish feminist ethics, with a focus on gender, sexuality, and disability studies. She is the author of Power, Ethics and Ecology in Jewish Late Antiquity: Rabbinic Responses to Drought and Disaster (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem (Oxford UniversityBar Press, 2017).

Barb Ariel Cohen is the Chief Scientific Officer of Arex Life Sciences, a biotech startup enabling physicians to more successfully treat male infertility. Ariel has been studying for the past 20 years with her rebbe Rabbi Alan Ullman, including a small private study group which he took to Israel.

  • Ruach HaYam study sessions provide a queer Jewish look at text, but are open to any learning or faith background and friendly to beginners.
  • Study starts promptly at 7:15 pm. However we open the doors at 6:45 for schmoozing. Feel free to bring your own veggie snack for the early part.
  • A parking consideration is in effect for the three blocks around EC during all regularly scheduled events.  It’s a good idea to put a note in the windshield that you are attending an event at EC.
  • Accessibility information: all gender/accessible bathrooms, entry ramp.

Penina Weinberg is an independent Hebrew bible scholar whose study and teaching focus on the intersection of power, politics and gender in the Hebrew Bible. She has run workshops for Nehirim and Keshet and has been teaching Hebrew bible for 10 years. She has written in Tikkun, founded the group Ruach HaYam and is president emerita and webmaster at her synagogue. Penina is a mother and grandmother.