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.

Gendered in the image of God: The first human (August 17, 2017)

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Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, 136 Magazine Street, Cambridge, MA  – August 17, 2017.  See end of post for logistics.

This study is led by Penina Weinberg.

In speaking of the creation, the Kabbalists call the first human du-partzufin, a Greek term meaning two visages, ie two faces on one body, not two bodies. They describe the divine and human each as bi-sexual. They say that both genders are present in all humans and that this is the image of the divine.
What does that actually mean? How does non-binary fit into this idea?
We will read from Genesis and from the Kabbalists in an effort to see the biblical story of the creation in a new light, and to make greater sense of our own gender journeys.

  • 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.

Women’s Voices in the Talmud (July 13, 2017)

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Ruach HaYam Workshop @ Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA
July 31, 2017.  See end of post for logistics.

This study is led by Jonah P

We’re very excited to have guest teacher Jonah P back for a second year! Don’t miss this opportunity!

The Talmud was the project of hundreds of male rabbis over many generations. When and where do women’s voices appear? Who are the female characters who elbow their way into the stories and legal cases? What wisdom did they leave us with? In this session, we will listen to these women’s voices and attempt to understand how their experiences influenced the legal system of their day and shaped the wisdom of the Talmud.

This will be a text learning session which is open to any learning background and friendly to beginners (English translations provided for everything).

About the facilitator: Jonah P. has been reveling in the intersection of queer/trans and Judaism since becoming active in the Boston Jewish community in 2011. He recently completed a year of learning at Yeshivat Hadar and is currently learning in Jerusalem.

  • 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.

Sex of the Soul: Gendered in the Image of God (June 22, 2017)

The text which we will look at after reviewing the place of Mopsik’s work in the history of the Kabbalah is here:       Mopsik Sex of the Soul pp 46-52

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Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA
June 22, 2017.  See end of post for logistics.

This study is led by Penina Weinberg.

We will dip one toenail into Charles Mopsik’s book: Sex of the Soul: The Vicissitudes of Sexual Difference in the Kabbalah. Mopsik was a modern scholar of Kabbalah. With him we will re-visit the creation of humans in the image of God and explore what it means, according to the kabbalists, for the soul to be both male and female in every human. This will not be a study in depth, but will open a tiny peep hole into an amazing world of thought. Mopsik warns us that we cannot pull this knowledge into modern reality, but it will illuminate our own thinking on the questions of gender.

“Clearly it is out of the question to draw a direct lesson from these classic texts and apply them to modern reality… Nevertheless, even though there is no way of equating them, the parallels are thought-provoking and can guide attempts to find solutions to the problems raised… The religious recognition and acceptance of polymorphism in human sexual identity, bisexuality, the acknowledgement of a gulf between external gender and ontological real gender, the existence of parents who are basically of the same gender, and a complex economy of desire differing vastly from so-called natural instinct, all demonstrate the flexibility of kabbalistic mystical belief as it attempted to grapple with the infinite variety of human existence.”

  • 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 chair of various committees in her synagogue. Penina is a mother and grandmother.