Religion and Current Political Issues: New Book Revisits the Social and Sexual Prohibitions of the Bible

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New Book Torah Queeries Examines the Bible through Literary Theory and Offers New Perspectives on Ancient Texts; Important Resource for Everyone Covering Gay Rights, Women’s Issues and the Intersection of Law and Religion; A Reading and Discussion Will Be Held 7:30 pm, Feb. 11, at Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood, California

Congregation Kol Ami, a progressive reform Jewish congregation, will host a discussion of contemporary issues and the Bible, based on a newly published re-examination of the meaning and context of commonly understood Biblical precepts. In the book Torah Queeries, scholarly essays move beyond familiar quotations to shed new light on how Biblical positions may actually reflect on current concepts of sexuality, women’s rights and gay rights. The discussion with the book editor and several of the contributors will take place Thursday evening, February 11th at 7:30 at Kol Ami in West Hollywood. The event is jointly sponsored by Kol Ami, Beth Chayim Chadashim, JQ International and IJSO - the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation.

Specifically, Torah Queeries addresses issues in the first five books of the Bible, referred to as the Pentateuch or the Torah, based on the cultural setting for the text, the language of the times, and historic interpretations. This literary analysis that moves beyond the usual perspectives is often referred to as “queer theory,” where issues raised challenge commonly held beliefs. Among the issues discussed:

In the passage about the “rape” of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, a chapter in Torah Queeries points out there is no ancient Hebrew word for “rape.” Rather the book suggests the issue is that Dinah was taken without her father’s permission. The scholars say this is an example of how Biblical ethics cannot be directly applied to modern situations even though they may appear to be similar on the surface.

In the creation story when the text says, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created (them),” Torah Queeries asks if that could that mean in the beginning Adam was intersexed, both man and woman, challenging our fundamental understanding of sexuality in the Bible.

And regarding the often-quoted passages of Leviticus used to condemn homosexuality, one contributing scholar questions the relevance of singling out these prohibitions and applying them to modern times: “Activists sometimes act as if the Bible is all about homosexuality, but a lot more of it is about leprosy, about 220 versus more, to be precise.”

“Closer examination of the text from multiple viewpoints doesn’t diminish the Bible; rather when seen through the eyes of neglected and rejected perspectives, our understanding of the text becomes richer,” said Rabbi Denise L. Eger, spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Ami, whose own contribution addresses forgiveness and acceptance in the Bible. “It is important for any discussion of the Bible and modern policy to take into account that the Bible cannot be reduced to a few passages based on imperfect translations that have been taken out of context.”

Participants in the discussion include Rabbi Eger; Rabbi Lisa Edwards of Beth Chayim Chadashim; Rabbi Elliot Dorff of the American Jewish University; Rabbi Julie Pelc Adler director of the Berit Mila Program (ritual circumcision program) for Reform Judaism, and Gregg Drinkwater, editor of the book and director of Jewish Mosaic, the National Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

For information about the event or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Stephen Gendel
212 918 4655

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Stephen Gendel

212 918 4650
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