The Office of Religion and Spiritual Life held an Interfaith Council dinner last week discussing gender and sexuality within religion especially Judaism. The dinner was open for students of all faiths and the special guest was Rabbi Dana Benson who discussed LGBTQ issues within Judaism and how she tackles misconceptions and strives for inclusion.
“I try to pray in a queer way. We have an LGBTQ prayer book I use during services. For example, Purim is a Jewish holiday where you dress in costumes and eat a lot of candy and the main text is the Scroll of Ester. The Scroll of Ester talks about hidden identities, Esther doesn’t reveal herself as a Jew until the end of the story so I use Purim to talk about LGBTQ issues because I talk about hidden and revealed identities. I use Passover and the Exodus to help with the process of coming out by comparing it with the process of coming out of Egypt,” Rabbi Benson said.
Benson hopes to help people engage with Judaism so that they may find a greater sense of meaning and purpose in their lives, just as she has. Benson knew she wanted to join the Rabbinate after her Birthright trip to Israel where she heard a voice calling her into the Rabbinate while in the Negev desert. When she came out to her rabbi, he was very accepting and assured her that her sexual identity would not hinder her from fulfilling her call to serve as a Rabbi and teach in the Jewish community.
Ethel Mogilevsky K’18, an intern for the office of religion and spiritual life, helps put together community reflections and other programs such as this dinner.
“The Office of religion and spiritual life has many wonderful purposes. We host community reflections, we offer great programming around interfaith work, and Chaplain Liz Candido is a confidential resource that students are welcome to use to talk about LGBTQ within Judaism,” Mogilevsky said.
Mogilevsky feels events like these are a way to bridge students from different religious backgrounds together to promote inclusion and acceptance in a space where diversity is present but needs to be understood on a deeper level.