Course Schedule


Queer+Jewish: exploring an intersection (Seminar)

Dozent/in: Sacha Kagan

14-täglich | Montag | 10:15 - 13:45 | 17.10.2022 - 03.02.2023 | C 40.164 Seminarraum | .
Einzeltermin | Mo, 07.11.2022, 10:15 - Mo, 07.11.2022, 13:45 | C 40.176 Seminarraum | .

Inhalt: In contemporary Jewish culture, queer approaches to gender, sexuality, identity, family and communal life have grown in recognition. Gay & lesbian Jewish interests groups long grew internationally (Cooper 1989). In North-America, while the late 20th century was marked by an “ambivalent tension” of “queer aesthetics and Jewish morality” in artistic productions (Shneer 2007: 58), more recent decades have seen explicit articulations of the intersection of Jewish and queer. Notwithstanding these queering developments, some empirical research (in psychological and sociological qualitative studies) documents the ongoing difficulties and tensions of conflicted LGBTQ + Jewish double-identities, as well as coping mechanisms and negotiations of identities, e.g. in the UK (Coyle & Rafalin 2001), the USA (Faulkner & Hecht 2011), or Canada (Schnoor 2006). This seminar explores the intersections of Jewish and Queer cutures. In academia, theoretical advances were initiated at the intersection of Jewish identity and queer theory, exploring potential correlations between the inventions of the modern notions of “the Jew” and “the homosexual”, links between homophobia and antisemitism, contradicting models of masculinities and further intersectional concerns (Boyarin 1997; Boyarin, Itzkovitz & Pellegrini 2003). Jewish Studies scholars (e.g. Sienna 2019), have retraced queer dimensions over the past two millennia, initiating a reversal of the “writing out” of queers from Jewish history. Meanwhile, LGBTQ Jews in North America have developed specific cultural and/or religious practices (Balka & Rose 1991, Shneer & Aviv 2002). Liberal branches of Judaism have witnessed queering developments (Hoffman & Steinberg-Egeth 2022), while a variety of discourses on queer issues exists in conservative Judaism (e.g. Dalsace 2012). Some have proclaimed a queer “revolution” in liberal Judaism (Romain & Mitchell 2020). Gay synagogues (Shokheid 1995) and a Lesbian rabbinic discourse (Alpert, Elwell & Idelson 2001) have emerged in North-America in the late 20th Century. Queer interpretations of religion have been combined with transformative ambitions for communities (Drinkwater, Lesser & Shneer 2009). This involves "midrash" (i.e. narrative interpretations of the underlying significance of a biblical text) created by contemporary queer-oriented artists/authors (e.g. Ladin 2018, Ramer 2020) and poets (Hammer 2017). The queering of Jewish cultures has affected various areas of communal life, such as e.g. families (Fishman 2015), education (Shneer 2002) and the Yiddish language (Shandler 2006). The seminar will explore Queer+Jewish cultural production. Historical research has been conducted on the roles gay Jewish theater and film-makers played since the 1960s in exploring the intersections of Jewish + gay identities and on integrating LGBTQ communities into a wider Jewish historical narrative (Friedman 2007). Literary studies have contributed insights on how 20th century Jewish American literature and theatre was inhabited by queer sensibilities (though often in stealth-mode, “passing” as heterosexual, implicit or denied), which may have prepared the ground for the wider acceptance of queerness in contemporary Jewish American culture (Hoffman 2009). The seminar will pay attention to another layer of difficulties that comes from the possibility of antisemitic tendencies within some interpretations of intersectionality (Stögner 2019). We will also consider how, in this fast-evolving context, Heritage professionals in Europe have been especially inert, with rare and small-scale efforts to thematize the intersection of Jewish and Queer cultures, e.g. the Jewish Museum in Berlin with a critical self-evaluation of the lack of queer perspectives in its own collections (Waßmer 2018), some elements in its exhibitions (e.g. 2013: “Are there Gay Jews?” within the exhibition “The Whole Truth”), and through online media (; and in the UK the oral history project “Rainbow Jews” since 2012, initiated by the organization “Liberal Judaism”, focusing on the lives of LGBTQ people in the UK since the 1950s, which started exhibiting its collection in 2014.