Hidden Perspectives

Bringing the Bible Out of the Closet

Yael Shafritz Interview

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Can you introduce yourself to our readers and give us an idea of what you do?

My name’s Yael, I’m a second year Politics student. I’m a student activist and campaigner on a wide range of issues. I originate from London, where I grew up in the Jewish community, so have always been a keen campaigner of minority rights within the Jewish community. I also campaign on women’s issues, Israel/Palestine and other issues of social justice.

How did you get involved with Hidden Perspectives?

I got involved with Hidden Perspectives through my role on the LGBT committee at the Sheffield University Union. For the past year I’ve been one of the Campaigns Officers on the committee, and one of my priorities as Campaigns Officer was to run events building bridges between the LGBT community and faith communities at the University. Upon hearing about the Hidden Perspectives campaign I knew it would be perfect for us to get involved, as the campaign would provide us with more resources to work with faith societies on campus, as well as building bridges to religious communities.

Do you have a personal story about LGBT and Religion/The Bible?

As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in the Jewish community. As with every religious community there is a huge diversity of opinion. In my Orthodox Jewish day school I was always very uncomfortable being LGBT and the school regularly taught and condoned homophobic bullying. However, outside the world of orthodoxy things have been better and are constantly changing. On the Progressive Jewish summer camps I worked on, we have been able to run sessions about Sexuality and gender for both the children and the leaders. Although this story involves many more people than myself, it is so important as it shows that there can be openness and a desire for discussion about issues relating to sexuality and gender within religious communities.

Why do you think projects like Hidden Perspectives are important?

Projects like Hidden Perspectives are important as they help break down the barriers between the LGBT and religious communities. Although it is well known that many religious communities refuse to engage with the LGBT community, it is also problematic that many LGBT feel alienated from even trying to engage with religious communities, especially as many feel there is no common ground to be reached in the texts. Projects like Hidden Perspectives can provide common textual and cultural tools for LGBT communities to go out and seek conversation with religious groups, and give them a common ground for discussion.

Why should people get involved? Whats your hope for people who do?

People should get involved in Hidden Perspectives as the more there is a diversity of opinion, religious and cultural background involved in the project the more people will be able to learn from each other.

I also hope everyone involved in the project can learn at least a little more about sexuality, gender, religion and how they interact. But on a larger scale than that, I hope people involved in the project will learn how to look at things in a different way, and be able to step back and appreciate more than one narrative!

Do you believe LGBT and the Bible should be discussed together (under the same platform)? 

I certainly believe the Bible and LGBT issues should be discussed together. The Bible is a widely read text which certainly affects the LGBT community, therefore the two should be discussed together to deal with any misconceptions that arise in textual interpretation. It also provides a space for LGBT people of faith to discuss their views, so they are neither excluded from religious or LGBT communities.

What has been your experience with interaction between LGBT & Religion at Uni? 

My experience of interactions between LGBT and faith at Uni has been mixed. On the one hand I have seen religious groups who are unwilling to interact with the world outside of their faith and in doing so have promoted or condoned homophobia, which has actively hurt members of the LGBT community.

On the flip side of this, the Faith communities that have engaged with the LGBT community have been incredible. Some of them are willing to engage and make sure they are being inclusive in any way possible. Others are more wary, but are still willing to have a discussion, and are very aware of gaps in their knowledge. The fact that so many students during their time at university are so open minded and willing to hear views different to their own gives me hope that the more the LGBT community works with faith groups at the university, the more likely views will be changed. Most people are not homophobic, they only need to be given a chance to meet and hear from LGBT people!

What are some of your hopes for the future of LGBT & Religion discussion?

I think projects like hidden perspectives are a catalyst for a world where there is increased discussion between LGBT and faith groups. With things like equal marriage so high on the agenda in many countries faith groups can no longer ignore the LGBT community and will be forced to engage, but I think in this case forced engagement is good, as seeing the realities and normalising the LGBT community will hopefully make many religious groups realise there is no difference between people who are or aren’t LGBT, ultimately leading to more discussion of LGBT issues, but with religion as a common cultural ground.

Words by Emily Foster Brown

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Author: Hidden Perspectives

A research project within the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) at The University of Sheffield.

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