Author Archives: Rabbi Lisa Edwards

About Rabbi Lisa Edwards

As a leader of the world’s first gay and lesbian synagogue, Rabbi Edwards is frequently profiled in the media and is a sought-after spokesperson on issues of faith and sexuality. She is known as a thoughtful and reasoned advocate for same-sex marriage, environmental protection, and social and economic justice. Rooted in Jewish teaching, Rabbi Edwards speaks eloquently to the need for individuals and communities to come together to bring into being the world we dream is possible. Rabbi Edwards has taught on an adjunct basis at HUC in the rabbinical school, and at USC in the Jewish Studies program. Her writing appears in a half-dozen books, including Kulanu : All of Us (a URJ handbook for congregational inclusion of gay and lesbian Jews); The Women’s Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions; Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation; and Mentsh: On Being Queer and Jewish (edited by Angela Brown), where she wrote the foreword. She is a guest Torah commentator/columnist in LA’s Jewish Journal, the second-largest circulation Jewish publication in the U.S. Additionally Rabbi Edwards is a co-editor of the revised editions (1999) of the Reform Movement textbook, Introduction to Judaism: a Sourcebook, and its companion Instructor’s Guide and Curriculum. She is the “Spiritual Role Model” in the book Outspoken by Michael Thomas Ford, a book of interviews of GLBT people intended for a youth audience.

Hints of “Queerness” from Our Ancestors, Our Sages, and Our God

lisa_1

Rabbi Lisa Edwards

Rabbi Lisa Edwards, of Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), offered these words last week as leaders from day schools across Los Angeles came together to discuss concrete strategies and tools for creating more LGBTQ inclusive institutions at the Keshet Leadership summit in LA.

We come together in the midst of our annual study of the Book of Genesis, with its many examples of the presence of LGBTQ people—of alternative family structures and gender non-conformity. I thought to mention a few examples, in the hopes you’ll take opportunities to study these and others later on.

First, consider Sarai, matriarch of our people, who while unable to get pregnant, suggests that her husband Avram have a child with a surrogate (her handmaid Hagar). Our first alternative family structure—not only surrogacy, but one dad and two moms.

By the way, one of our Talmud sages, without a hint of irony or distress, amidst a discussion of the
mitzvah
of parenting, takes note of the long years of infertility of Sarah and Abraham, and suggests that our matriarch and patriarch appear to be
tumtumim
(people of indeterminate gender).

Rebecca and Eliezer by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

Later, and again without criticism, the Torah and our tradition show us there has always been gender non-conformity.  Consider Rebekah when first we meet her in Chayei Sarah—how “butch” is Rebekah!—strong enough to hoist bucketful after bucketful of water to water many camels.

And then Rebekah and Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, whom we meet in
Toldot
, remind us that there have always been boys who present more “macho” and boys who present more “sissy”—consider the rough and tumble hairy hunter Esau—“a man of the outdoors” (25:27)—twin but certainly not an identical one, to his smooth, mild brother Jacob, who prefers to stay at home and try vegetarian recipes (red lentil stew, for example, 25:29).