Ware Lecture

2024 Ware Lecture: Julia Watts Belser

Saturday, June 22, 2024 at 7:00 PM ET / 6:00 PM CT / 5:00 PM MT / 4:00 PM PT

Each year, the UUA President extends a prestigious invitation to an outstanding guest to captivate the General Assembly as the esteemed Ware Lecturer. To be part of this extraordinary moment, you must register for General Assembly. With your registration, you'll have the privilege of live-streaming the event on June 22 or accessing the video on-demand when it's made available. Don't miss this opportunity to be inspired!

A headshot of Julia Watts Belser, a white Jewish woman with curly brown and silvered hair, in front of a flowering bush. She's wearing a patterned red blazer and red kippah (beret) to match.

Julia Watts Belser (she/her) is a rabbi, scholar, spiritual teacher and a longtime activist for disability and gender justice. She is Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Georgetown University, as well as core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program and a Senior Research Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Her work brings ancient Jewish texts into dialogue with disability studies, feminist thought, queer theory, and environmental justice ethics. She is a cultural historian of rabbinic Jewish literature and a contemporary Jewish feminist theologian who draws disability arts and culture into provocative conversation with Jewish tradition to challenge structural violence, deepen our capacity for social justice, and honor the sacredness of disabled people’s lives.

Belser has held faculty fellowships at Harvard Divinity School and the Katz Center for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of two scholarly books, Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem (Oxford University Press, 2018) and Power, Ethics, and Ecology: Rabbinic Responses to Drought and Disaster (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Her most recent book, Loving Our Own Bones: Disability Wisdom and the Spiritual Subversiveness of Knowing Ourselves Whole (Beacon Press, 2023; published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton), is the recipient of a National Jewish Book Award.

At Georgetown, Belser directs Disability and Climate Change: A Public Archive Project, an initiative that documents the wisdom and insights of disabled activists, artists, and first responders on the frontlines of climate crisis. She co-authored an international Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities (Hesperian Foundation, 2007), developed in collaboration with disability activists from 42 countries and translated into 14 languages, designed to help challenge the root causes of poverty, gender violence, and disability discrimination. She’s also an avid wheelchair hiker, a lover of wild places, and a passionate supporter of disability dance.

History of the Ware Lecture

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President, in consultation with the General Assembly Planning Committee, invites a distinguished guest each year to address the General Assembly as the Ware Lecturer.

In 1920, Harriet E. Ware of Milton, MA, bequeathed $5,000 to the American Unitarian Association (AUA) for its unrestricted use. Two years later, on the evening of May 24, 1922, the first Ware Lecture was given by the Rev. Frederick W. Norwood, pastor of the City Temple in London, England. The lecture had been "established in honor of the distinguished services of three generations of the Ware family to the cause of Pure Christianity."

The lecture has been given every year at the former May Meetings of the AUA and since 1961 at the General Assembly. No lecture was scheduled for 1945 due to World War II, although Morris S. Lazaron delivered an address on May 23, 1945 at All Souls Church in Washington, DC, which is referred to as a Ware lecture. There was no lecture in 1950 when the Unitarians celebrated their 125th anniversary.

The Harvard Square Library maintains a history of the Ware Lecture, including illustrated biographical notes.

Previous Ware Lecturers

Previous Ware Lecturers have included the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Kurt Vonnegut, and poet Mary Oliver.

About the Author

UUA General Assembly and Conference Services

General Assembly & Conference Services professional staff coordinate logistics such as registration, housing, the exhibit hall, services to our attendees prior to General Assembly (GA), and the GA Program. Fax: (617) 948-4651

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