Through a Queer Lens: Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah

What can we see?

We can see a black and white photograph of a woman with glasses smiling.

Look closely, what can you see?

What do we know?

The is a photograph of Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah. After graduating from LSE and engaging in lesbian feminist activism and writing, Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah studied for the rabbinate, becoming the first lesbian in Britain to lead a mainstream congregation, following her ordination in 1989. Since December 2000, she has been the Rabbi of Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue.

Inspired by the Torah’s call to pursue justice, and to love our neighbour and the stranger as ourselves, she has dedicated her congregational practice, her wider rabbinic work, and her writing to women’s and LGBTQ+ equality/inclusion and interfaith engagement.

Rabbi Sarah describes herself as “a proud Senior Railcard-carrying gender-queer lesbian feminist Liberal Jew”.  She is committed to transcending gender binary prescriptions and assumptions and to challenging patriarchy in all its forms.

Rabbi Sarah has campaigned for equal marriage since 1996, and is married to painter/theologian/LGBTQ youth project director, Jess Wood MBE.

What do we wonder?

We might wonder what led Ellie Tikvah Sarah to become a Rabbi.  We might also wonder how attitudes have changed in the Jewish community around LGBT+ issues.

What do you wonder?

Object File

This photo was taken by fine art photographer and archive curator, Ajamu. His work dissects issues of race, gender, sexuality, difference and aesthetics from the position as someone who inhabits the intersection between Blackness and Queerness.

Ajamu works with large format 5 x 4 black & white film, shoot straight and crop within the frame with a preference for softly focused images. What the viewer sees is what he saw when he looked through the viewfinder – a complex interpretation of the moment based on many aspects of his own identity, experiences and cultural politics.

He favours classical, simplified symmetrical composition, with dramatic, focused lighting. Ajamu generally shoots slightly from below, looking up at the sitter against uncluttered backgrounds to convey depth and beauty and the power of each sitter.

His camera is affectionately known as Bessie after the Bisexual African–American Jazz and Blues singer Bessie Smith.


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