In the first wave of the American AIDS Crisis, struggle raged between Queerness and religion when mainstream churches and synagogues turned their backs on dying people and used bible-based homophobia to justify their cruelty. Over the years, scientific understanding of the virus has changed, and medical response has become increasingly effective. In the best circumstances, HIV has become a part of life rather than a sentence of death. Although stigma persists and the virus continues to spread, progressive and Queer religions have become tools to combat homophobia and stigma and to affirm the humanity of all people. Queer faith guide us how to respond to HIV in our lives, and knowledge of HIV can bring us to new religious insight. Being HIV positive has shaped Rabbi Bauer’s rabbinical identity and work. He will teach texts from Jewish tradition that inform a meaningful response to HIV and talk about how the phenomenon of HIV illuminates new truth for an ancient and evolving faith.
Rabbi David Dunn Bauer in 2011 he became the first Jew to earn the Certificate in Sexuality and Religion from Pacific School of Religion, writing on “Blessings for the Erotic Body” and “Jewish Queer Sexual Ethics.” He now serves as the Acting Director of Recruitment, Admissions, and Student Life at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College where he was ordained in 2003. From 2013-2017 he directed social justice programming for Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in NYC, the world’s largest LGBTQ synagogue. His accomplishments there included original programming and public advocacy for LGBTQ Asylum seekers from the former Soviet Union and for LGBTQ homeless youth and helping build important ties between Muslim and Jewish communities in NYC. One of very few openly HIV-positive rabbis, Rabbi Bauer was the rabbinic director for Talk to Me About HIV, an initiative funded by the NYC Department of Health to educate Jewish clergy and professionals in HIV awareness and prevention. In addition to over a decade of congregational rabbinical service in Massachusetts, California and New York, Rabbi Bauer’s background comprises 20 years of international theater experience, 25 years of yoga practice, academic study on sexuality and spirituality, and several years of work as a touch healer. He earned his B.A. in Theatre Studies and English Literature at Yale University, studied Talmud at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. His essays can be found in The Sacred Encounter: Jewish Perspectives on Sexuality, published by the Reform Movement, and Queer Religion, published by Praeger, edited by Donald J. Boisvert and Jay Emerson Johnson.