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About Jay Michaelson

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Dr. Jay Michaelson is the author of five books and over three hundred articles on religion, sexuality, law, and contemplative practice. He is a columnist for The Daily Beast and the Forward newspaper, and has been a professional LGBT activist and Jewish activist for fifteen years.

Jay’s¬†books include¬†Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment, the bestselling¬†God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality, and the landmark report¬†Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign against Civil Rights.¬†He founded two Jewish LGBT organizations, and has supported the work of LGBT activists worldwide at the Arcus Foundation, the Democracy Council, and his new project at the Daily Beast, Quorum: Global LGBT Voices. Jay’s activist work has been featured on NPR, CNN, and in The New York Times.

A national voice of progressive Judaism and a teacher of Jewish and Buddhist meditation, Jay holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from Hebrew University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and nondenominational rabbinic ordination.  He has held visiting positions at Brown University, Yale University, Harvard Divinity School, and Boston University Law School. For information on how to bring Jay to your community, click here.


Dr. Michaelson’s work consists of writing, LGBT advocacy, academic scholarship, and teaching.

1.  Writing

Currently a contributing editor to the Daily Beast and the Forward, Dr. Michaelson is the author of five books:
Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment (2003)
God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality (2011)
Everything is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism (2009)
Another Word for Sky: Poems (2007)
God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness, and Embodied Spiritual Practice (2006)

as well as over 300 essays, articles, and works of fiction.  His work has appeared in The Daily Beast, The Forward, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Salon, Tikkun, and other publications.  In addition, Jay was the founder of Zeek, the first Jewish online magazine, and editor of Az Yashir Moshe: A Book of Songs and Blessings.   His writing has been anthologized many times.

2.   LGBT Advocacy  

Dr. Michaelson has been a professional LGBT activist since 2003.  He currently co-directs Quorum: Global LGBT Voices, a collection of TED-style talks by global LGBT activists.  
Previously, he founded the LGBT Global Rights Initiative at the Democracy Council; served as vice president of the Arcus Foundation, the leading global funder of LGBT issues; and was the founder of Nehirim, a national LGBT Jewish community and co-founder of Eshel, an Orthodox Jewish LGBT organization.  
A leading authority on the religious refusals movement, Jay was Religious Liberty fellow at Political Research Associates, where he wrote the the 2013 report Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Assault on Civil Rights,¬†one of the first long-form analyses of the “religious exemptions” tactic which have since become widespread. He has lectured on this subject at Yale Law School, the Newseum, and Brooklyn Law School.
Jay gave over 90 lectures around the country based on his book God vs. Gay?, and was active in the fights for marriage equality in New York and Minnesota.  His advocacy work has been featured on NBC, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, and in the New York Times.

3.  Scholarship

Dr. Michaelson is an affiliated faculty member of Chicago Theological Seminary, where he teaches online courses on contemporary religion.
Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from Hebrew University (2013)
M.F.A., Writing, Sarah Lawrence College (2011)
M.A., Religious Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1998)
J.D., Yale Law School (1997)
BA magna cum laude, Columbia College (1993)

The areas of focus for his scholarly work are sexuality, religion, law, and contemplative practice.  Jay was a visiting scholar at Brown University (2013-14) and visiting assistant professor at Boston University Law School (2007-08), and has held visiting teaching positions at Yale University, Harvard Divinity School, and City College of New York.  His academic articles have been published in journals including Theology and Sexuality, Michigan Journal of Gender & Law,  Duke Law Journal, Stanford Environmental Law Journal, and the Yale Law Journal.  He has presented papers at conferences including the American Academy of Religion and Association for Jewish Studies, and given named lectures at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Pacific School of Religion, Drew University, and the Academy of Jewish Religion.

4.  Teaching

Outside the academy, Jay is a frequent speaker and¬†scholar in residence and teacher at institutions ranging from Yale University to the New York Open Center, the Human Rights Campaign to Burning Man, and (as of 2015) over 90 synagogues and Jewish institutions across the country. ¬†He writes and teaches widely in the Jewish community, and has become a leading pundit on emerging forms of Jewish identity. ¬†Jay is himself a rabbi, having received rabbinic ordination from his longtime teacher, Rabbi David Cooper, and now co-directs the Elat Chayyim Jewish Meditation Retreat, which Rabbi Cooper founded. ¬†A¬†well known “BuJu” or Buddhist Jew, Jay is a student and teacher of Theravadan¬†Buddhist meditation, currently apprenticing as a jhana teacher with Leigh Brasington. ¬†In 2008-09, Jay spent five months on silent meditation retreat, and has sat long retreats with the Insight Meditation Society guiding teachers, as well as Lama Surya Das, Keith Dowman, and others. ¬†In addition, Jay has learned and taught Kabbalah for twenty years, and spent two years at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. ¬†He is also a proud member of the Radical Faerie and Burning Man communities.


2014 Urbach Prize finalist, Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies
2014 ‘Deadline Club’ award for opinion writing, New York Society of Professional Journalists
2012 Lambda Literary Award finalist
2010 ‘Deadline Club’ award for opinion writing, New York Society of Professional Journalists
2009 Forward 50 list of influential American Jews

Other Work   

During his legal career, Jay was a clerk to Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and a Golieb Fellow in legal history at NYU Law School. He wrote the first legal academic analysis of geoengineering, now regarded as a key climate change mitigation strategy, and worked for Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now EarthJustice).  He was also founder and general counsel of Wasabi Systems, a venture-funded software company.  Jay also co-founded of the Tibet Oral History Project, which records the testimonies of Tibetan victims of the Chinese Occupation of Tibet.  As the founder of four successful nonprofits, he frequently serves as a consultant to emerging nonprofit organizations.