Orit Avishai

Professor of Sociology (at Rose Hill)
Email: [email protected]

Dealy Hall 403A
Fax: 718-817-3846

  • L.L.B., Tel Aviv University Law School, 1994;
    L.L.M., Yale Law School, 1996;
    M.A., Ph.D., University of California Berkeley, 2007

  • Gender, religion, sexuality, feminist theory, Jewish Studies. I have also dabbled in studying family and motherhood.

  • I am an ethnographer who is interested in how ideology and culture, very broadly defined, shape social institutions, identity categories, political dialogue, cultural practices, and processes of knowledge production. Before pursuing a Sociology Ph.D. at Berkeley (where I also earned a graduate certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies), I earned law degrees from Tel Aviv University and the Yale Law School, clerked in the Israeli Supreme Court, and worked briefly as a lawyer. The scope of my scholarship reflects this broad training. I have written about breast-feeding and the politics of motherhood in the United States, gendered and sexual regimes in Israeli Jewish Orthodoxy, women in conservative religions, feminist knowledge production, and the marriage education movement in the United States. My most recent research focused on Orthodox Jewish LGBT activism and experiences in Israel, and my book Queer Judaism: LGBT Activism and the Remaking of Jewish Orthodoxy in Israel was published by NYU Press in March 2023. My new research focuses on religious polarization and conceptions of religious freedom in American Jewish Orthodox communities in the U.S.

  • Queer Judaism
    My book, Queer Judaism: LGBT Activism and the Remaking of Jewish Orthodoxy in Israel, tells the stories of Orthodox Jewish LGBT persons and the movement they built, revealing a rich complexity: LGBT persons who embrace their sexual identity not in spite of—but because of—their commitment to Judaism; a heteronormative and homonationalist LGBT movement; and a religious tradition polarized by the politics of gender and sexuality. The book and a series of articles engage and challenge theories about queer activism; liberal notions of tolerance and pluralism; religious identity formation; and the gender and sexual politics of belonging.

    Religion and Politics in Polarized Times: The American Orthodox Jewish Experience
    This new research arc focuses on how American Orthodox Jews negotiate religious, political, and national identity in an era of political polarization.

    The Haredi Research Group
    I am a senior partner and founding member of The Haredi Research Group (HRG), a multi-disciplinary collaboration of more than two dozen researchers across three continents working to compile and disseminate research about Jewish Orthodoxies to the broader public through a series of reports and a dedicated website.

  • Articles on LGBTQ+ persons of faith

    Queer Judaism: LGBT Activism and the Remaking of Jewish Orthodoxy in Israel. 2023, NYU Press.

    Forthcoming. “From a Theology of Transgression to a Theology of Tolerance. Bloomsbury Handbook of Religion, Gender, and Sexuality, edited Dawn Llewellyn, Sian Hawthorne, and Sonya Sharma.

    “I’m God’s Creation, Not a Problem to Solve”: Religion as a Positive Force in the Lives of LGBTQ Persons of Faith.” Introducing the New Sexuality Studies, 4th edition, edited by Nancy Fischer and Laurel Westbrook. 2022

    Queer Religious People Beyond Identity Conflict: Lessons from Orthodox LGBT Jews in Israel. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 59(2) 360-378. 2020

    Collaborations in Jewish Studies

    2022. With Ayala Fader. “Introduction: The Jewish Orthodoxies Project.” Introduction to cluster of papers for American Journal of Jewish Studies.

    2022. The Haredi Moment. Senior partner and a lead author of a research report on The Haredi Moment by The Haredi Research Group (HRG), a multi-disciplinary collaboration of more than two dozen researchers across three continents working to compile and disseminate research about Jewish Orthodoxies to the broader public through a series of reports and a dedicated website.

    Articles on Gender, Sexuality and Religion (Theory and overview)

    2016. “Gender.” In Handbook of Religion and Social Institutions. Edited by David Yamane. Springer.

    2016. “Theorizing Gender from Religion Cases: Agency, Feminist Activism, and Masculinity.” Sociology of Religion 77(3): 261-279.

    2015. “A Gender Lens on Religion.” With Afshan Jafar and Rachel Rinaldo. Gender & Society 291(1) 5-25. (Introduction to special issue on Gender and Religion; served as guest co-editor)

    Articles on Gender, Sexuality and Religion, and Jewish Orthodoxy (empirical)

    2016. “God’s Case for Sex.” With Kelsy Burke. Contexts 15(4): 30-35.

    2014. “Premarital Preparation as a School for Marriage: Religion, Gender, and the State in Israel.” In Religion, Gender, Politics, edited by Hanna Herzog. Jerusalem: Van Leer. (in Hebrew)

    2012. "What to do with the problem of the flesh? Negotiating Jewish sexual anxieties." Fieldwork in Religion 7(2):148-162.

    2012. "Contesting Sex-restrictive Sexual Narratives from Within: Jewish Laws of Menstrual Purity and Orthodox Sexual Anxieties." In The Ashgate Research Companion to Sexuality and Religion, edited by Andrew Yip and Stephen Hunt. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.

    2010. "Women of God." Contexts 9(4):46.

    2008. “Doing Religion in a Secular World: Women in Conservative Religions and the Question of Agency.” Gender and Society 22(4):409-433.

    2008. “Halakhic Niddah Consultants and the Orthodox Women’s Movement: Evaluating the Story of Enlightened Progress.” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 7(2):195-216.

    2007. “Imagining ‘the Orthodox’ in Emuna Elon’s Heaven Rejoices: Voyeuristic, Reformist, and Pedagogical Orthodox Artistic Expression.” Israel Studies 12(2):48-73.

    Articles on Methods and Feminist Knowledge Production

    2017. “Bifurcated Conversations and Marginalized Knowledge: The Missing Feminist Revolution in the Sociology of Religion.” With Courtney Irby. Gender & Society 31(5):647-676.

    2013. “Reconciling Progressive Research Agendas with Fieldwork Realities: The Dilemmas of Feminist Ethnographers.” With Lynne Gerber and Jennifer Randles. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 42(4):394-426.

    Articles on the Marriage Movement

    2018. “Saving Marriage Culture One Marriage at a Time: Leaps in Logic in the American Marriage and Relationship Movement.” With Jennifer Randles. Qualitative Sociology 41: 21-40.

    2015. “The Marriage Movement.”  With Melanie Heath and Jennifer Randles. Families as They Really Are (2nd ed), edited by Barbara Risman and Virginia Rutter. Norton Press.

    2012. “Going to School for Marriage.”  With Melanie Heath and Jennifer Randles. Contexts 11(3) 34-38.

  • 2022. Orthodox Judaism Can Still be a Difficult World for LGBTQ Jews but the Tide is Slowly Turning. The Conversation. December 5, 2022.

    2022. Yeshiva is Likely to Win its Battle Against LGBTQ Group—But do Jewish Organizations Really Want to Empower a Militant Christian Movement? Religion Dispatches, November 1, 2022.

    2022. Win the Battle, Lose the War. Katz Center blog on the NYT investigation of Hasidic schools. September 16, 2022.

    2021. Anticipating the LGBTQ Moment in Haredi Communities. Katz Center blog on the Haredi Moment.

    Op-Ed, New York Daily News, 4/8/2020/ “Why are some ultra-Orthodox Jews flouting social distancing rules? With Ayala Fader and Lea Taragin-Zeller

    Op-Ed, CNN 8/6/12 “Do Powerful Women Need to Tame their Unsightly Bulges

    Op-Ed, Washington Post 5/31/12 “Five Myths about Breast-Feeding

    Op-Ed, CNN, 5/17/12 “Breast-Feeding Intuitive and Easy? No!

  • Undergraduate

    • Gender, Sexuality, and the Body (interdisciplinary capstone)
    • Justice I: Identities and Inequalities in American Society (Honors course)
    • Introduction to Sociology
    • Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality (lower division writing intensive course)
    • Religion, Gender, and Sexuality (interdisciplinary capstone)
    • Research Ethics (interdisciplinary capstone)
    • Diversity in American Families (upper division writing intensive course)
    • The Senior Seminar (American Studies thesis writing course)