On November 24, 2015, at London’s “JW3”  The Jewish Community Centre – a year long Jewish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) research project culminated in a bricolage “showcase” which incorporated ritual objects, photographs, Jewish storytelling, rabbinical dialogues on “queering religion” and an evening screening of the Project’s five LGBTQI Jewish ritual films. As part of the event a special reading/performance took place of the new work by award winning playright Stephen Laughton on being Gay and a young Orthodox Jewish man as well as a challenging and stimulating theological panel discussion by leading Rabbis which explored Liberal Jewish values and inclusion/equality for LGBTQI community members. This latter element has led to requests to develop a broader inter-faith theological discussion on LGBTQI faith issues which it is anticipated will take place in 2016.

The Ritual Reconstructed/ Connected Communities project was funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by Professor Margaret Greenfields. The project was a collaboration between Buckinghamshire New University, Liberal Judaism, University of Portsmouth and The Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University with support from community partners JW3 who hosted the event.

Ritual Reconstructed used the medium of film, performance, photography and storytelling to look at the ways in which Jewish people who identify as LGBTQI engage in religious and community life. A key focus of the project has been on how being LGBTQI has influenced, shaped or changed Jewish faith rituals and how being Jewish influences LGBTQI rituals such as remembrance of LGBTQI people murdered as a result of hate crimes or who have died of AIDS.

Professor Margaret Greenfields said: “The Ritual Reconstructed event was a marvellous opportunity to bring together the various strands of this exciting, multi-faceted project. Community participants, including professional performers and writers who volunteered to be part of the event, challenged perceptions through a variety of powerful performances. Members of the rabbinic panel explored and argued convincingly for interpretations of traditional texts which included LGBTQI Jews as full and equal members of the faith community. The films led to enthusiastic discussion about methodological issues and gendered faith performance.

Feedback from the showcase event has been extremely positive. Comments from participants on the impact of this ground-breaking project include:

Ritual Reconstructed in its efforts has in no small way been facilitated by Liberal Judaism,  which in the UK has led the way on LGBTQI inclusivity by being responsive to social need, and by being “practical in so many ways” (Rabbi Janet Darley, 2015).

Community participants reported that the most powerful elements which came across during the showcase event were: “The fellowship, faith and [being part of a] community who really care about each other. Also community collaboration in important areas, such as this [event]”

“This thing about identity politics; LGBT politics… it is about breaking down boundaries.. and change and radical progression in Judaism”

“Being in my wheelchair and able to hold the Torah, somebody noticing that I wasn’t up and dancing and that then this important ritual was able to take place around me was. So inclusive, so welcoming”

Although the project is now in the final phase, dissemination of activities through publications, conference and information on community events and press coverage will continue over the next few months. The project website will continue to be updated with blogs, a film of the RR November event and additional ‘bricolage’ items contributed by participants until early February  2016. Bucks New University will be screening the Ritual Reconstructed films at a special event in January 2016 and Portsmouth University (responsible for the film production) will also host a screening and discussion seminar in February 2016. The Ritual Reconstructed website (http://ritualreconstructed.com/) will continue to feature theological discussion papers, policy recommendations on faith and wellbeing and ‘ritual bricolage’ including music, photographs, art-work and blogs contributed by participants. Website updates will include reflections on the entire project and the impact on wellbeing and identity. Part of the on-going dissemination will (by request of participants and rabbis involved in the activities) include an archive of some project resources available for exhibition in community settings.

Sign up for membership on the Ritual Reconstructed website to receive alerts and/or email IDRICS@bucks.ac.uk to find out more on how to receive a loan of the exhibition resource for display at Jewish or LGBTQI venues.

Supported by JW3 The Jewish Community Centre

This news release first appeared in the press at Buckinghamshire New University click here http://bucks.ac.uk/content/newsroom/2015/Ritual_Reconstructed