- Earning a graduate degree in Jewish studies at an accredited institution of higher learning (GTU = Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA)
Some things that have led me to this path and sustained me throughout, 1. Flexibility, there isn't a rabbinic program anywhere in sight in the Bay Area and the GTU/ALEPH combo is a good one; 2. Like the HUC, RRC or JTS I will earn a Masters level degree while studying for the rabbinate; 3. The GTU/Center for Jewish Studies is an affiliate of ALEPH, and the member schools are as well, therefore all my credits will be counted towards the ALEPH Ordination Path; 4. Both programs will keep me in the vicinity of San Francisco, so my family doesn't have to pick up and move (far) away for school, and then not be able to return, which we probably wouldn't be able to do even if I found a job in the area; 5. The last grad school I attended, was great, but this is the GTU, I feel like I am on another planet. I have dreamt about walking the holy hill as a student for a long while, and now I AM; 6. This path feels solid, now that I am better prepared for grad school, and have a lot more confidence about the trajectory of my life and work within the framework of the rabbinate. See the academic statement of purpose that got me into the GTU below, and you may find out a little more about me and my work.
My Academic Statement of Purpose (GTU)
I would like to pursue the Common MA in Jewish Studies at CJS, working with Naomi Seidman as advisor, in order to serve as leader and educator to the community residing at the intersection of Jewish practice, variant gender-identity, and alternative sexuality. I have already established myself as a lay leader and educator within the queer Jewish community here in the Bay Area by teaching at Congregation Sha'ar Zahav's religious school, Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer; writing homilies for Jewish Mosaic's Torah Queeries project; and contributing to the Lambda Literary Award-winning anthology, Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community, an essay on trans identities intersecting with ancient ritual: "Hatifat Dam Brit" (Extracting a Drop of Blood).
My objective for pursuing graduate study is to analyze present-day interpreters of Jewish texts currently used to reflect on non-binary gender and sexual identities in Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim and Talmud. By focusing on those texts currently in use in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and polyamorous communities, I hope to provide further relevant analyses to assist in modeling more inclusive present-day Jewish communities. I intend to analyze the interpretive methods of contemporary LGBT scholars who have worked with these texts to evaluate their methods according to traditional and modern interpretive schema. My goal is to determine the "toolbox" of present-day interpretive methods; to see if the hermeneutics employed by modern scholars have changed from those used by traditional scholars; and, if so, how, and to what effect.
While pursuing full time employment to support a growing family, I was able to take courses at Hebrew College in Biblical Hebrew, Jewish history and Jewish philosophy. I began to seriously consider attending graduate school after starting to teach at Sha'ar Zahav, which required me to perform research along the lines of what I propose here, in developing curricular materials for my students. I realized I enjoyed the work, and felt called to focus my study on critical analyses of textual interpretations leveraged by LGBT religious leaders in educational contexts. The Gender-Neutral Torah, edited by Batya Kalis was particularly formative for me as I contemplated this decision. My study with ALEPH toward the Jewish Renewal Rabbinate (application in progress), has been a critical step toward finding my voice as a Jewish scholar. Through studying various texts and liturgical forms with ALEPH, I was able to see beyond traditional interpretations to find more gender-neutral exegetical techniques. My hope is that I can continue my study through ALEPH in conjunction with the GTU and receive both my MA and ALEPH Rabbinical Smicha.
Click here to find out how to Help Send Martin to ALEPH