Name and role at the Press: Ethan Ampel, Marketing/Publicity Assistant
Book selection, and why: Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible
I was raised in a family that practiced what could be called “reform Judaism,” but I like to refer to my childhood as “perform Judaism.” But I enjoyed it. The food was good and I loved to sing.
Then puberty arrived, and I realized two things: 1.) I was gay, and 2.) many of the questions I had were met with overly simplistic answers that seemed to discourage asking more. So I dropped the book. But then, just a few months ago, I went on a Birthright trip to Israel. I could write a whole movie about my experience there, but one moment in particular will stick with me forever. At the Wailing Wall, a Rabbi told us “Judaism is about questions. That’s why in rabbinical school you are always discouraged from studying alone. Other religions, you question and they say you don’t believe. But we are about always asking questions.”
Encouraging questions! Well, how ’bout that? Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible follows in the same vein of open-minded thought. What’s great about this book is that on the one hand, it’s very traditional—it maintains the customary practice of reading a specific portion of the Torah each week in accordance with the Jewish calendar. On the other hand, however, it explores the Torah from angles that can only really be described as, well, queer—and that word doesn’t just connote the incorporation of voices from the LGBT community, but the definitively 21st-century style that the book takes on in interpreting biblical stories for the modern world. Torah Queeries just might encourage even a lax, queer Jew like me to go beyond “performing” Judaism and take a stab at following the script(ure).
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