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Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah

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Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah is a radical feminist and writer/editor, who was active in the Women’s Liberation Movement in Britain during the late 1970s and early 80s. She was a member of the Lesbian Line Collective in London for five years from June 1979, and of a Jewish Lesbian group (also in London) for three years from 1981, prior to embarking on rabbinic studies at Leo Baeck College in October 1984.

At that time Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah and another rabbinic student, Sheila Shulman, were the first ‘out’ lesbians to study at Leo Baeck College and we were put on probation for the full five years of the rabbinic programme. As a student, she participated in the Jewish Lesbian & Gay Group, based in London, and after ordination served as rabbi of the group (unpaid) – later joined by Rabbi Mark Solomon (and subsequently succeeded by other gay/lesbian rabbis ordained since).

Since ordination she has worked as a full-time congregational rabbi (Buckhurst Hill Reform Synagogue, 1989-94); as Director of Programmes for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain and Deputy Director of the Sternberg Centre (1994-97); as Chair of the Leo Baeck College Rabbinic In-Service Training Team (1996-2002); as a lecturer at Leo Baeck College teaching Classical Hebrew and also Spirituality (1997-2002); and as a free-lance rabbi, including a part-time congregational appointment at Leicester Progressive Jewish Synagogue (1998-2000). She has worked to make Progressive Judaism more inclusive of lesbian and gay Jews – first in the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (1989-1997), and when that venture failed, subsequently, in Liberal Judaism (1997-present).

In 2000, the Liberal Judaism Rabbinic Conference created a Working Party on Same-Sex Commitment Ceremonies, on which Rabbi Sarah served as a member.  Following this work and the agreement of a policy by the LJ Rabbinic Conference, that policy was adopted unanimously by the lay leadership of the movement in 2003. The Working Party then embarked on creating a liturgy for same-sex commitment ceremonies. As chair of Liberal Judaism Publications since 2003, she steered through the publication of this liturgy, entitled: "Covenant of Love: Service of Commitment for Same-Sex Couples," edited by Rabbi Mark Solomon; and also a new Liberal Judaism leaflet, entitled: "Lesbian and Gay Jews and Same-Sex Relationships," to coincide with the new Civil Partnership Act granting legal recognition to same-sex relationships (in force from December 5th 2005).

Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah is currently rabbi of Brighton & Hove Progressive Synagogue and a rabbinic tutor at Leo Baeck College. She has written Trouble-Making Judaism (David Paul Press, 2012). She has edited three books and contributed over three dozen articles and several poems to various journals and anthologies. Her publications that relate to lesbian and gay themes include:
‘Long Live Jewish Families,’ Bet Deborah Berlin Journal, no. 2, December 2001.
‘Gay-Lesbian Kiddushin,’ Bet Deborah Berlin Journal, no. 2, December 2001.
‘Being a Lesbian Rabbi’ in Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation, ed. Rebecca T. Alpert, Sue Levi Elwell and Shirley Idelson, Rutgers University Press, 2001.
‘“Marriage” by any other name: Lesbian and Gay “Commitment Ceremonies”’ in Taking Up the Timbrel, ed. Sylvia Rothschild and Sybil Sheridan. SCM Press, London, 2000.
'Our Jewish Wedding,' in Taking Up the Timbrel.
‘Towards a New Jewish Sexual Ethic,’in Renewing the Vision. Rabbis Speak Out on Modern Jewish Issues, ed. Jonathan A. Romain, SCM Press, 1996.
‘Sexuality and Spirituality,’ Bima, no. 6, 1996.
 ‘Judaism and Lesbianism: A Tale of Life on the Margins of the Text,’ in Jewish Explorations of Sexuality, ed. Jonathan Magonet,  Berghaan Books, 1995.  (Also published in The Jewish Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 3, Autumn 1993).

Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah and Jess Wood Sarah celebrated a Civil Partnership at the Brighton Registry Office on Friday, March 24, 2006, followed by a Jewish marriage service (chuppah)  at the Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue on Sunday, March 26. The event was the first public same-sex wedding to take place in a synagogue following the new Civil Partnership Act in the U.K., and the first occasion when a rabbi married her same-sex partner in their own synagogue. 

The chuppah was attended by over 200 people, including more than 100 congregants. The service drew on the new liturgy published by Liberal Judaism in December 2005 to coincide with the Civil Partnership Act coming into force, and also included selections from Twenty One Love Poems by Adrienne Rich. The officiants were Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, Rabbi Marcia Plumb and Student Rabbi, Gili Tzidkiyahu. An article and photo appeared in the Jewish Chronicle on Friday, March 31, 2006.

(This biographical statement provided by Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah.)

Additional Resources

Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah provided copies of these papers she has written and presented:


"Marking 25 Years on the Way to Liberation" spoken at a Pride Chavurah, June 2014.
http://lgbtran.org/exhibits/profiles/elizabeth-tikvah-sarah/25th Anniversary of ordination - Pride Chavurah - 27.06.14.pdf

"Discrimination Against LGBT People in Judaism and Obstacles to Change" presented at a Brighton University conference on LGBT right in Europe on 31 August, 2012.
http://lgbtran.org/exhibits/profiles/elizabeth-tikvah-sarah/LGBT RIGHTS IN EUROPE - BRIGHTON UNI - 31.08.12.pdf

"The Jewish Case for Equal Marriage" submitted to the local MP sitting on the House of Commons select committee on equal marriage, May 2013
http://lgbtran.org/exhibits/profiles/elizabeth-tickvah-sarah/The Jewish Case for Equal Marriage.pdf

"Sex Lessons in the Torah," a commentary on Leviticus 18 and 20, April 2012.
http://lgbtran.org/exhibits/profiles/elizabeth-tickvah-sarah/Sex Lessons in the Torah - Acharey Mot-K'doshim - LJ web-site 04.12.pdf

Created: 11/25/2005 11:12:59 AM

Modified: 7/23/2014 12:17:57 PM

Biography: November, 2005