Julia Watts Belser – 2023 Sondra & Howard Bender Visiting Scholar
Hope and Grief in the Age of Climate Change:
Queer Disability Politics and Ancient Jewish Story
Julia Watts Belser (she/her) is Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, as well as core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program and a Senior Research Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Her research centers on gender, sexuality, and disability in rabbinic literature, as well as queer feminist Jewish ethics. She directs an initiative on Disability and Climate Change, which brings together disability activists, artists, policy makers, and academics to address how disability communities are disproportionately affected by environmental risk and climate disruption.
Her work brings ancient texts into conversation with disability studies, queer theory, feminist thought, and environmental ethics. She is the author of Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem (Oxford University Press, 2018) and Power, Ethics, and Ecology: Rabbinic Responses to Drought and Disaster (Cambridge University Press, 2015). She has held faculty fellowships at Harvard Divinity School and the Katz Center for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her forthcoming book, Loving Our Own Bones: Disability Wisdom and the Spiritual Subversiveness of Knowing Ourselves Whole is available for pre-order.
A rabbi and a longtime advocate for disability and gender justice, Belser writes queer feminist Jewish theology and brings disability arts and culture into conversation with Jewish tradition. She co-authored an international Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities (Hesperian Foundation, 2007), developed in collaboration with disability activists from 42 countries and translated into 14 languages, designed to help challenge the root causes of poverty, gender violence, and disability discrimination. She’s an avid wheelchair hiker, a lover of wild places, and a passionate supporter of disability dance.
In 2012, the Sondra and Howard Bender Visiting Scholars Endowed Fund was established to help bring leading scholars in Jewish culture, history, language and religion to CU campuses to further the curricular goals of CU’s Program in Jewish Studies. Attending lectures by leading scholars in this growing field provides students with the opportunity to learn from a broad range of academics. In addition, visiting lecturers create a unique opportunity for the Program in Jewish Studies and CU to engage both students and the local community. Public lectures catalyze discussions that include participants from a wide variety of backgrounds, enhancing students’ ability to think about issues beyond the walls of the classroom.
The annual Sondra and Howard Bender Visiting Scholar series is generously supported by the Sondra and Howard Bender Visiting Scholars Endowed Fund, honoring the lives of Sondra and Howard Bender.