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Rabbi Elliot Kukla

First Openly Transgender Rabbi & Disability Activist and New York Times Contributor

First Openly Transgender Rabbi & Disability Activist and New York Times Contributor

Travels From Travels From:
Oakland, CA, USA
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Rabbi Elliot Kukla Biography

Elliot Kukla is a rabbi, author, and activist. In 2006 he was the first openly transgender person to be ordained as a rabbi. He has offered spiritual care to those who are ill, dying and bereaved since 2007 and has been engaged in justice work since 1996. Kukla’s writing regularly appears in the New York Times and his disability and transgender activism has been featured on NBC, National Geographic, NowThis News, the New York Times, and Democracy Now!

Kukla’s writing has been used to lobby against the medical rationing of disabled people in the California state senate and to set policies for welcoming transgender people by all non-orthodox branches of Judaism. He has spoken to audiences around the world including keynoting for Etsy, the Jewish Museum of San Francisco, and the virtual version of "Crip Camp" (the Oscar-nominated film). In 2019 he was named one of the 50 most influential Jews of 2019 by The Forward. In 2022, he was even a New Yorker crossword clue (April 12, 7 across).

Rabbi Elliot Kukla Speaking Topics

  • Sanctifying Queer, Trans, and Nonbinary Lifecycles

    This current moment of anti-trans backlash is often framed as a clash between traditional religious values and new-fangled ideas about gender. However, gender creativity exists all over the world and through-out history within traditional religious texts and spiritual practices. In this session, I tell my own story as the first openly transgender rabbi ordained by a movement in Judaism. I have written prayers for sanctifying gender non-conforming lives that are used by all non-orthodox branches of Judaism. We will explore how to sanctify lifecycle moments that are unique to queer, trans and nonbinary people such as coming out, transitioning or moving to a less anti-queer city, as well as rituals for our everyday lives. This session leaves audiences with the spiritual tools to bring holiness to our lives and dispel stigma and shame.

  • Gender Radicals in Traditional Religion

    This current moment of anti-trans backlash is often framed as a clash between traditional religious values and new-fangled ideas about gender. However, gender radicals exist within traditional religion. In this session, I tell my own story about how discovering the six genders beyond male and female in ancient Jewish holy books inspired me to become the first openly transgender rabbi. I also share two thousand year old Jewish texts that imagine the first human being (Adam) as an androgynous and God as infinitely gendered. In this moment of anti-trans backlash, this session shows that we have always existed. It empowers audiences to claim the diversity of the past to build a vibrant future.

  • The Spirituality of Disability Access

    When we turn to the topic of disability access for our organizations or communities we tend to get stuck in the details. We worry about things like wheelchair ramps and ADA toilets. All these things are important but they are leaves on the tree on the access: relationship is the roots. You can take care of all those details and still not meet the needs of the people who actually want to access your community. In this session we will explore the thinking of contemporary disability justice activists like Mia Mingus, Alice Wong and Leah Lakshmi Pipzena-Samarasinha. We also offer tools for thinking about how access intersects with your community's existing practices and values. This session helps audiences understand that access is not a checklist. Access is about connection. Access is love.

  • Laziness as a Spiritual Practice

    Workplace burn-out is at an all-time high. 42% of workers in 2023 reported burn-out, which marks a new record. We are exhausted and need to do less. And yet so many of us feel guilty whenever we try to rest Why is this? In this session, we will explore rest as a liberatory spiritual practice that can help us heal as individuals, strengthen loving relationships, and create a more sustainable future. We will begin by discussing the racist and exploitative origins of the stigma surrounding the term "lazy". Next we will explore sources on rest from a variety of ancient and modern spiritual sources including the Torah on the sabbath, the Nap Bishop, and Chinese practitioners Tang Ping. Finally, we will begin to uncover how to integrate rest into our own lives and through concrete spiritual practices that can be used individually and within your organization. This session is based on my New York Times essay "The Most Valuable Thing I Can Teach My Kid is How to Be Lazy".

  • Wild Grief: Honoring Disenfranchised Losses

    The term "disenfranchised grief" refers to losses that are not widely socially recognized as legitimate sources of grief and are rarely marked by funerals or memorial services. Disenfranchised losses include the losses that go along with mental or physical illness, accompanying elders with dementia, deepening disability, heartbreak, divorce, estrangement, pet loss, the death of an abuser or an ex, abortion, miscarriage, moving, immigration, aging, the loss of a queer relationship and many other stigmatized losses.

    Over the past years, since 2020, the world has changed rapidly due to many intersecting crises. Political upheaval, climate disruptions, and pandemic have all led to losses of people, places and things. Disenfranchised loss can lead to feelings of hopelessness, confusion, and despair, as well as addiction and mental health challenges. In this session, we will learn how to name disenfranchised losses, identify how they impact us at work and at home, and begin to understand how to free "wild grief" through ritual, story-telling, and self-reflection. I have offered bereavement spiritual care for the past 20 years. In 2021, I founded and direct the Communal Loss Adaptation Project which tends to the disenfranchised losses of a changing planet.

Rabbi Elliot Kukla Videos

  • Trans Religious Leaders Share What Faith Means to Them
    Do we just say there's one way to grow up, or do we say there's lots of different ways to be a person?' — Trans religious leaders stand in the gap,...

Speaker Lists Featuring Rabbi Elliot Kukla

FAQs on booking Rabbi Elliot Kukla

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  • What topics does Rabbi Elliot Kukla speak about?

    Rabbi Elliot Kukla is a keynote speaker and industry expert whose speaking topics include Aging, Disability, Diversity, Faith & Religion, Health, Inspirational, Jewish Speakers, LGBTQ, Mental Health, Motivational, Parenting, Personal Growth, Political, Virtual Speakers.
  • Where does Rabbi Elliot Kukla travel from?

    Rabbi Elliot Kukla generally travels from Oakland, CA, USA, but can be booked for private corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. For more details, please contact an AAE Booking agent.
  • Who is Rabbi Elliot Kukla’s agent?

    AAE Speakers Bureau has successfully booked keynote speakers like Rabbi Elliot Kukla for clients worldwide since 2002. As a full-service speaker booking agency, we have access to virtually any speaker or celebrity in the world. Our agents are happy and able to submit an offer to the speaker or celebrity of your choice, letting you benefit from our reputation and long-standing relationships in the industry. Please click the Check Availability button above and complete the form on this page including the details of your event, or call our office at 1.800.698.2536, and one of our agents will assist you to book Rabbi Elliot Kukla for your next private or corporate function.
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Rabbi Elliot Kukla is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics such as Sanctifying Queer, Trans, and Nonbinary Lifecycles, Gender Radicals in Traditional Religion, The Spirituality of Disability Access , Laziness as a Spiritual Practice and Wild Grief: Honoring Disenfranchised Losses. The estimated speaking fee range to book Rabbi Elliot Kukla for your event is $10,000 - $20,000. Rabbi Elliot Kukla generally travels from Oakland, CA, USA and can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are Alex Iantaffi, Kylar Broadus, Lydia X. Z. Brown, Chella Man and Aaron Rose Philip. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Rabbi Elliot Kukla for an upcoming live or virtual event.

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