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About Jay Michaelson

michaelson118rDr. Jay Michaelson is an author, activist, and academic.  He is currently a Visiting Scholar at Brown University, Director of the LGBT Global Rights Initiative at the Democracy Council, a Fellow at Political Research Associates, Associate Editor of Religion Dispatches magazine, and a weekly columnist for the Forward newspaper.

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Writing.  Jay 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), and God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness, and Embodied Spiritual Practice (2006) over 200 essays, articles, and works of fiction.  His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Newsweek/The Daily Beast, CNN Online, Huffington Post, Salon, 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 in volumes including Queer Religion, Torah Queeries, Signs of the Apocalypse: Rapture, The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism, and Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice.

LGBT Advocacy.  Prior to the Democracy Council, Jay was 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 is the author of the 2013 report Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Assault on Civil Rights.  Jay gave over 80 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 CNN, NPR, and in the New York Times.

Academic Background and Work. ¬† Dr. Michaelson is¬†a Visiting Scholar at Brown University, affiliated with the contemplative studies program. ¬†He¬†holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from Hebrew University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, an M.A. in Religious Studies from Hebrew University, an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence, and a BA magna cum laude from Columbia. ¬†The areas of focus for his scholarly work are sexuality, religion, law, and contemplative practice. ¬†Jay was a visiting professor at Boston University Law School (2007-08), and has held 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, Association for Jewish Studies, and CUNY Graduate Center’s Harry Hay Conference, and given named lectures at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Pacific School of Religion, Drew University, and the Academy of Jewish Religion.

Contemplative Practice. ¬†Jay is a rabbi, having received rabbinic ordination from his longtime teacher, Rabbi David Cooper. ¬†A¬†well known “BuJu” or Buddhist Jew, Jay is a student and teacher of Theravadan¬†Buddhist meditation, currently apprenticing 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, Lama Surya Das, Keith Dowman, and others. ¬†In addition, Jay has learned and taught Kabbalah for twenty years, completed the Elat Chayyim Jewish Meditation Advanced Training program, and spent two years at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. ¬†He is also a proud member of the Radical Faerie community.

Teaching/Speaking. 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 dozens of universities, synagogues, and community centers.  In this work, Jay brings together scholarly rigor with a personal commitment to spiritual practice and personal growth.

Awards.  2014 Urbach Prize finalist, Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies; 2012 Lambda Literary Award finalist, 2010 award for best opinion writing by the 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, a Golieb Fellow in legal history at NYU Law School, and the recipient of several prizes and awards for his legal writing and scholarship including the Gherini Prize, Israel Peres Prize, and an Olin Fellowship.  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.   He lives with his partner in upstate New York.