This month, the Community Spotlights will introduce you to individuals who are exploring the idea that “no one is more welcome here than you” – a project of the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning (CJEL).
Izzy Starr (pronouns: they/them/theirs) always wanted to be Indiana Jones, until they realized that they could do better.
After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Anthropology and a thesis on the complex history of the College’s skeletal teaching collection, Izzy moved to Azerbaijan with the Critical Language Scholarship Program to improve their Turkish. Then, as a US Fulbright Research Grantee at Ankara University, they examined skeletal remains from archaeological sites to understand patterns of movement across Anatolia. While in Turkey, they also ate a lot of baklava and applied to grad school.
Currently, they are a PhD candidate in the Gokcumen Lab at the University at Buffalo. They hold a Microsoft Ada Lovelace Fellowship as an under-represented minority PhD student in computing, for their trans-disciplinary research on the evolution of psoriasis. They also delight in teaching and developing curricula, such as their course on bioethics and philosophy in biology.
In addition to their research, Izzy is an educator on LGBTQIA+ and disability issues, focusing on accountability, inclusive education, and representation. To indulge their escapist rabbinical fantasies, Izzy administers an online international Queer Daf Yomi group through My Jewish Learning and co-moderates Jewish Queeries, a Buffalo-based torah study group, organized through the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning. Both groups center queer experiences in the Jewish narrative and use critical perspectives to show how Judaism, Jewish life, and Jewish traditions can be more inclusive for people with diverse identities and experiences.
When Izzy isn’t teaching, reading, writing, coding, engaging in Daf Yomi, practicing Mussar, or napping, they can be found officiating roller derby at Buffalo Riverworks or cooking something weird and delicious with their chosen family. They are always striving to be their best self.
We are grateful to Izzy Starr for creating queer centered spaces to explore Jewish Texts and are honored to feature them in this week’s My Jewish Buffalo.