About Jay Michaelson

michaelson118r[For bios for events, please click here.]

Dr. Jay Michaelson is the author of six 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 is a frequent commentator on NPR, MSNBC, and online.  In his ‘other’ career, Jay is an affiliated assistant professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, teaches meditation in Jewish and Theravadan Buddhist lineages, and holds nondenominational rabbinic ordination.

Dr. Michaelson’s most recent book is The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path. Other 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.

From 2003 to 2013, Jay was a professional LGBT activist. 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 holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from Hebrew University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence, and a B.A. from Columbia.  He has held visiting positions at Brown University, Yale University, Harvard Divinity School, and Boston University Law School.

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Additional Information:

1.  Writing

Columns at the Daily Beast

Columns at the Forward

The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path (2015)

Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment (2013)

Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Assault on Civil Rights  (2013)
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)

Other essays, articles, and works of fiction

Az Yashir Moshe: A Book of Songs and Blessings.


2.   LGBT Advocacy  

Jay co-founded 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.  

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.