Jonah, God and Other Strangers: Reading the Torah from a Transgender perspective

Joy Ladin, poet, author, and first openly transgender professor at an Orthodox Jewish Institution, to speak on Jonah, God and Other Strangers: Reading the Torah from a Transgender perspective

To Register:

Joy Ladin (she/her) will be the featured speaker in Kolot Mayim Reform Temple’s Building Bridges: Celebrating Diversity in Jewish Life speaker series on Sunday, February 6th 2022 at 11 AM PT on Zoom, co-sponsored by the Chair in Transgender Studies at the University of Victoria. As the first openly transgender professor at an Orthodox Jewish institution, Joy  knows firsthand how complex it can be for institutions and communities to respond to and embrace those who they see as different.

In this talk, Joy will share her personal journey and offer her insights and unique reading of gender identity in the Hebrew Torah. She will analyze and reinterpret key texts from a trans perspective–that is, in light of experiences of not fitting into identity-defining roles and categories, experiences of feeling estranged that are particularly acute for transgender and nonbinary people but common to everyone and, the Torah tells us, to God.

Since coming out as transgender in 2008, Joy has become an internationally recognized speaker on transgender issues. A celebrated poet, literary scholar, and public speaker, Joy has empowered many with her personal  journey of integrity and resilience. Her memoir, Through the Door of Life, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. It details her transition within an Orthodox university and eloquently weaves together Jewish and transgender themes.

Joy Ladin holds a Ph.D. in American Literature from Princeton University, and long held the Gottesman Chair in English at Yeshiva University. Her most recent book, The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective, was a Lambda Literary Award and Triangle Award finalist. A new book of poems in the voice of the Shekhinah, the feminine aspect of the Divine, Shekhinah Speaks, is forthcoming in early 2022. She serves as an emeritus member of the Board of Keshet, an organization devoted to full inclusion of LGTBQ Jews in the Jewish world.

Joy Ladin’s talk is being co-sponsored by Kolot Mayim Reform Temple and the Chair in Transgender Studies at the University of Victoria.  The world’s first Chair in Transgender Studies works to provide inspiration and hope to Trans+ people and allies, and to advance reconciliation, racial justice, equity, and inclusion for all. Aaron Devor, Chair in Transgender Studies and a member of Kolot Mayim Reform Temple notes that “Joy Ladin’s The Soul of the Stranger breaks new ground by drawing parallels between Jonah’s struggles and those of contemporary transgender people–showing new truths that can still be found in our ancient Torah.” 

This event is part of a 6-part series of talks on the theme of Building Bridges: Celebrating Diversity in Jewish Life. The stellar list of speakers includes luminaries from Indigenous, Black, Asian, feminist, differently gendered, and differently abled advocates whose vision and wisdom serve to make our world a better place. The Chair in Transgender Studies offers free public lectures and arts events throughout the year. Visit for more information.

Kolot Mayim and the Chair in Transgender Studies hope that these speakers will motivate us to stand against racism, discrimination, and exclusion. Kolot Mayim talks are free and held on scheduled Sundays 11:00 AM -12:15 PM PT. To register, please use this link or visit the Kolot Mayim website.

Summary of event details

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An inclusive, warm, and progressive Conservative synagogue in Victoria, B.C.

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