By James Cohen
Joy Ladin’s 2008 transition at Yeshiva University, where for 18 years she held the Gottesman Chair in English, made her the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution. She just won the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry for The Book of Anna; her memoir of transition, “Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders,” was a finalist for a 2012 National Jewish Book Award, and her pioneering work of Jewish trans theology, The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and a Triangle Award. In 2012, she also became the first openly transgender person named to the Forward 50 list of influential or courageous American Jews. Her essays on gender identity, Judaism and poetry have been widely published, and she has taught and spoken about Judaism and gender identity around the country. She has served on the board of Nehirim, and on the advisory board of the Human Rights Campaign’s Jewish Organizational Equality Index. She has spoken about transgender issues to dozens of Jewish groups and communities, and has been featured on a number of public radio programs, including Krista Tippett’s “On Being.” Ladin is the author of ten books of poetry, including the newly published Shekhinah Speaks (Selva Oscura Press 2022), Lambda Literary Award finalists Impersonation (2015) and Transmigration (2009), Psalms (2010), and the first new and selected poems by an openly trans poet, The Future is Trying to Tell Us Something (2017), as well as a critical study “Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry” (2010). Her poems and essays have been widely published. She has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize for Poetry and received an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship and two Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Research Fellowships. She was also a Fulbright Scholar. Ladin is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Doctor of Philosophy from Princeton University.