Posted by Sasha Perry
A few weeks ago I attended Los Angeles’ Pride Parade. It was my first in the States as an adult. Growing up, Las Vegas wasn’t organized enough or maybe not queer friendly enough to have a Pride parade that I can recall. My first several Pride events took place in Jerusalem. I was very happy to be part of the marches, and more than thrilled to attend the late night, semi-secret drag shows that happened during the festivities. While it didn’t occur to me that Pride looked different from city to city, there was a definite sense of uniqueness that surrounded the Jerusalem Pride. I thought the crowds were large and boisterous, which I immediately found to not be true when I came to LA Pride. To me, it seems that LA and Jerusalem are making very distinct statements in their Pride events. In LA I was surprised to find that not everyone marches in the Parade. There are organizations and churches, clubs, and even radio stations, all with their very large and creative floats and music. The streets are lined with supporters, folks from the LGBTQ community, friends, and allies. It seemed to me that the LGBTQ community was marching for each other. It was less a political statement as much as it was a celebration of all things queer.
Here in Jerusalem, Pride takes on a much different meaning. Everyone in the LGBTQ community, their friends, family members, and allies marches in Pride here. There is no one set apart, all are participants, and all are making a statement. Obviously the numbers here are smaller, but Pride here is still making a political statement of queer identity within a religious city, and we need all the voices and bodies we can get. Walking through the streets of LA there was a small number of people from the Westboro Baptist Church, holding their signs of hate and bigotry. Walking through the streets of Jerusalem the hate was more pervasive. Orthodox Jews held up ropes tied into a noose screaming that queers needed to die. Young girls held signs dooming all queers to a level of hell that I was pretty sure Jews don’t even believe in. To my surprise, the majority of the people in the Pride march, just walked by, not giving more than a second glance at the protesters. With all the diversity of the parade I was inspired by the solidarity of everyone involved. There was an unspoken consensus that the little fights didn’t matter, but that the large battle of being seen in Jerusalem was of utmost importance. In LA, queers are seen. That’s not to say that we don’t have discrimination and hatred and our own battles to wage. But in Jerusalem, folks of the LGTBQ community are still fighting for the awareness that they even exist, while in San Fransisco queer culture is so visible that there’s even a queer anti-Pride, calling on the SF community to take back Pride from corporatism and media.
I hope that one day the Pride in Jerusalem can look as outlandish and beautifully loud as that of Los Angeles or SF. That one day LGBTQ folks in Jerusalem will be as visible as Haredim. And I hope that we can support the community on this side of the world until it happens, and when it does, Pride in Jerusalem is going to explode.
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June 28, 2010 | 3:34 pm
Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
The economic crisis has forced Jewish communities to focus more on the quality of its relationships than on the amount of its programming. It’s a novel idea, sadly, but a good one. The problem is, of course, the execution.
The idea that we as Jewish educators can use our own Jewish journeys, our experiences, our real selves to connect with young Jews trying to figure what this whole Jewish business means to them, is powerful, and it works. But it requires more than just transparency-it necesitates strategy, nuance, and a keen understanding of how privilege works.
LGBTQ allyship can be a tricky business. To do it right means understanding the depth of heteronormativity in Jewish communities and how it impacts young Jews every day. When we assume that everyone around us is heterosexual, when we assert our own heterosexuality as the norm, rather than making space for students to come to us on their own terms, we make it difficult to impossible for them to feel that Jewish communities are welcoming.
Allyship can be as simple as not directly assuming that a person has a partner of the opposite gender. It can be about not talking about your own straightness constantly. It certainly means confronting your own homophobic assumptions, and interrupting homophobic situations when you see and hear them. In Jewish spaces, think about the emphasis on heterosexual dating situations, having an organization dominated by heterosexual staff, attending a training on how to create truly inclusive Jewish communities. Teaching and transmitting allyship as a practice is made more complicated by the pervasive atmosphere of heterosexual coupling in all facets of the Jewish community. Therefore, using words like “partner,” instead of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” or downplaying in certain situations one’s desire to be married or partnered-in other words, confronting and deconstructing heterosexual privilege for the sake of building a strong, inclusive Jewish world.
The sad truth is that none of this matters unless it’s a priority, unless we’re serious about examining heterosexual privilege and how Jewish communities as structured around it. There need not be a discrepancy between showing your authentic self and being a strong LGBTQ ally, but there does need to be a recognition that the assumption of heteronormativity is rampant in Jewish communities and toxic to their growth. It is not enough to say that we welcome everyone, if our next words prove that what we really mean is everyone who is just like us.
June 28, 2010 | 9:01 am
Posted by Tera Greene
Before the past weekend began, I was sent a message in my inbox that made me perk up and want to help out. Los Angeles is a sprawling city, and CicLAvia is a project that aims to open seven miles of streets to bikes, pedestrians, dogs, families and strollers, by closing them to cars on
Sunday, September 12
Sunday, October 10, 2010 (10/10/10). If you live in Los Angeles, tell your friends and join the fun this fall! Even if you don’t live in Los Angeles, still consider supporting this cause to help our community play together better, even if only for a day.
See the video my friend Marie made and donate to the cause here:
This project will only be funded if at least $7,000 is pledged by Sunday Aug 15, 2:34pm EDT. Pledges begin at a dollar.
CicLAvia’s profile on Kickstarter
Have a meaningful week and thank you!
Thanks to everyone who donated a little bit to help make a big difference in this project’s outcome. As you can see, this idea raised 118% of it’s goal, so Ciclavia is DEFINITELY happening! Yay! Please save the NEW date: 10.10.10 and share this information with your friends. I mean, there’s nothing like closing down streets for pedestrians, street art, bicycling, etc, for 5 hours. You can get all the current information about this event by going to the website’s action page!
Tera “Nova Jade* Greene is active, artsy and into helping fund cool projects. She can be contacted via her personal website.
June 28, 2010 | 4:55 am
Posted by Maital Guttman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
USSF “Social Justice” Forum Bans Advocate for Middle East Gay Community
Intolerance for Israel Trumps Human Rights Commitments, Causes Harassment of Scheduled Speaker
and Sudden Cancellation of Educational LGBT Workshop
[Los Angeles—June 23] Today, StandWithUs, (SWU) was suddenly banned from presenting a Gay Rights workshop at the international US Social Forum (USSF) conference being held in Detroit, Michigan, from June 22 to June 26.
USSF notified SWU on Tuesday, just two days before SWU was scheduled to present its “LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East” session.
“The cancellation letter claimed that we had ‘masked the true nature’ of the workshop and were really trying to ‘defend Israel,’ but this is patently false,” according to SWU Midwest Director Brett Cohen, an expert on gay issues in the Middle East who was approved by USSF to lead the session. “We gave them our program plan and background about our organization, and website information months ago. In all that time, the conference organizers never asked for more information.” Cohen has been harassed for several weeks by USSF participants who emailed him intimidating messages with thinly veiled threats that violence might break out at his session. The organizers of the USSF were unwilling to offer security at the workshop, and warned Cohen, “Security is important to the US Social Forum. At the same time, the social forum is an open space,” implying that Cohen’s physical safety might be at risk.
In their message to the forum, the organizers stated that they cannot, “allow the workshop to proceed uncontested.”
“The real tragedy is that once again, the voice of the persecuted Middle Eastern LGBTQI community is being silenced. They face murderous persecution and discrimination. In Iran, gay men are forced to undergo sex change operations, or face execution. Across the Middle East, gays are murdered by their own families in ‘honor killings.’ They face active discrimination and often, legal punishment for the ‘crime’ of being gay. We wanted to highlight their plight using videos and documents produced by LGBT rights organization members who live in hiding for fear of death in every country in the region except Israel. Our goal was to shed light on their plight and connect conference participants to these important organizations so that they could offer assistance and shed light on this viciously persecuted minority. I thought building these coalitions was the purpose of this conference,” said Cohen.
“Apparently, USSF was so afraid that participants might indirectly learn that Israel has an outstanding record on LGBT issues and is a refuge for persecuted gays in the Middle East that they chose to turn their backs on the cries for help from this suffering minority across the region. This was the only workshop about the plight of gays in the Middle East, but the organizers’ unfortunate prejudice against Israel trumped their commitment to human rights. And they tried to ‘shoot the messenger’ by harassing and intimidating Brett Cohen, and to make sure the message for much needed help was never heard,” said SWU CEO Roz Rothstein.
SWU has been committed to education about LGBT suffering in the Middle East. The organization has had projects such as iPride 2009, which connected non-Jewish gay leaders from around the world with the annual Tel Aviv Pride event and introduced them to gay Israeli politicians and to many different gay rights organizations with offices in Israel. SWU’s campus advocacy programs have always included education about gay issues in the Middle East.
“The USSF response highlights once again how anti-Israel prejudice and ignorance hijacks and perverts human rights values, and clouds the judgment of those who claim to be human rights activists. They refuse to acknowledge Israel’s many efforts to find a path to peaceful co-existence. In effect, they end up supporting radical groups and intolerant governments that make a mockery of all their purported ideals. They have shown that they are so focused on hating Israel that they cannot focus on standing up for the people at risk like those in the LGBTQI community who suffer under the oppressive regimes. When USSF and other activists take these positions, they don’t seem to be proponents of human rights. Instead, they are hypocritical or actually enemies of human rights and of peaceful co-existence. The leaders of the USSF have shamefully silenced the suffering of Middle East gays because of their own hateful intolerance. Anti-Israel bigotry is alive and well at the USSF. Such bigotry is a grave threat to human rights values everywhere when obsessive focus on Israel trumps all else.” concluded Rothstein.
StandWithUs (SWU) is a nine year-old, international, non-profit Israel education organization that ensures that Israel’s side of the story is told on campuses, community, libraries, schools and in the media. SWU hosts speakers, programs and conferences in cities around the world, takes missions to Israel, offers website resources and creates brochures and materials about Israel in a variety of languages and on a variety of topics, that are distributed globally.
www.standwithus.com and www.standwithuscampus.com and www.standwithus.co.il.
June 24, 2010 | 4:15 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
On August 23rd, 2007, I boarded a plane heading for Los Angeles in hopes of creating a new life. I had been struggling with depression for several years, and finally believed that I had hit an emotional bottom. I came to L.A seeking recovery and a new way of life at Beit T’Shuvah, the Jewish residential treatment center that I now work for. It was time to get real with myself, something that I hadn’t been for more than ten years. I was completely disconnected from myself and everyone around me, and did not know who I really was anymore. I had created so many masks to hide behind, unable to reveal my biggest secret, that I am a gay woman. I had known that I had feelings towards women from a very young age. The first time I admitted my feelings to my mom, I was five years old. I explained to her that I had feelings for my female preschool teacher, “the same way a husband has for a wife.” By the time I reached eighth grade, I had begun to create masks to conceal my true identity.
In my recovery, I have come to realize that I had created all these masks out of my own fear of judgment from others. I believed that if people were to know the truth about who I was, those I loved and trusted would disapprove or stop loving me. Ultimately, I came to the realization that my feelings were those which society had placed in my head, and I was projecting my own feelings onto those around me. I had hidden my sexuality and had become my own harshest critic and biggest oppressor.
I want to take a moment to express the overwhelming gratitude that I have for my life today, I am finally free. As someone who has gone to some very dark places, and spent several years hiding who I was, the fact that I now desire to be completely transparent in writing this blog, is absolutely profound for me. I feel such a tremendous sense of freedom in being able to write my truth. This blog is a testimony of my recovery.
In addition to Beit T’Shuvah being instrumental in my recovery, there is an organization called JQ International, a space for GLBT Jews, which has taken on a meaningful role in my recovery. Last year, I went to Beth Chayim Chadashim’s annual brunch fundraiser. It was there that I met Asher Gellis, Executive director of JQ, and my world opened up. I was invited to volunteer at Single De Mayo, LA’s largest single ladies event, which has been produced by JQ for the past two years. I had never in my life been surrounded by that many proud gay and bisexual women, and I had an amazing time. I felt like I was part of something much bigger than myself, and realized there were so many women out there just like me. I started going to their Shabbat Potlucks, and getting involved with a solid group of young people that I truly respected and was thrilled to have become a part my life. After I started getting involved with JQ, I invited Asher Gellis and Naomi Goldberg to Beit T’Shuvah where they made a brilliant presentation training our counselors and therapists how to create a safe space for the GLBT residents. It was wonderful to see how our staff and volunteers embraced their presentation.
With all that being said, I cannot say that I never struggle. I continue to wrestle with my old mindset, and the ideas placed on me by society. A lot of my old fears still come up, but through contrary action, I continue to move forward. The road towards authenticity is not easy, but I have learned that pain is the touchstone of all spiritual growth. If I can use my experience to help another young woman who is struggling, it will have made my whole journey worth it.
June 23, 2010 | 11:11 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
10 years ago, I stood before my fellow graduating classmates of the year 2000 and delivered another speech as I’d done at every graduation prior. Though I think my best commencement participation was in the 6th grade when I debuted my “Melody Americana” - wherein I played the National Anthem, The Flight of the Bumble Bee (abridged), and a transposed version of the theme song from Jeopardy on my flute, shoulder pads and all - my high school graduation felt different. I felt like I wasn’t just going on to another year of school, but heading toward a future that would solidify only with my eagerness to see it unfold.
Now that I am about to reconvene with those “kids” from ten years ago, I can’t help to be reflective. By sitting back and rethinking just how much I’ve accomplished in ten years, I am truly humbled. Though I am 26 and didn’t reach my goal of billionaire status at this age, and I completely did not pursue marine biology and medicine as a profession, I have so much to be thankful for, especially without having had an agent or manager in my profession of the Arts and Entertainment. As a DJ, I’ve headlined for and played on stage with Grammy and Emmy-award winning talent. I’ve composed an original hour-long collection of songs for a dance opera. Not to mention I have shot my own music videos as a singer-songwriter with my acoustic guitar, I have remixed music for Israel’s birthday, and I have produced and been a music supervisor on so many projects. I have also performed as a poet and performance artist and have been invited to speak to classes from K through College. I have even strutted on catwalks in New York and Los Angeles (heels and no heels). I’ve been on MTV with a mohawk, singing Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” in perfect pitch, been on CNN proudly voicing my rights to be queer and more recently, I have been on Entertainment Tonight interviewing a high-profile celebrity with the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait project.
Through it all, there’s film. I should re-phrase… there are “movies”. I love TV, sitcoms and dramas alike, but movies - oh, sweet flicks - they have shaped me over the last ten years and longer. So, as I reflect this summer, I will also be taking time to enjoy some movies, especially at this year’s Outfest Film Festival. As a 6th season Senior Volunteer in the Outfest family of festivals, I have worked hard over the years serving on the host committees, helping with outreach, performing on stage and most-notably, as a licensed bartender. I even screened my own comedic short at Outfest in 2009. This year, though, I am making a point to actually see flicks. Here’s what I’ll be watching, along with a few other films I recommend that have nothing to do with the Outfest programming. Full film guide can be seen here.
(I didn’t realize it, but the majority of the themes deal with high school, coming of age or schooling in the training sense. Interesting.)
√ The Lottery (A film by Madeleine Sackler) - Tagline: “You Could Win An Education”. My only connection to Harlem is that I danced at the Dance Theatre of Harlem back in the day; and unlike the students in this film, I’ve always had the opportunity for the best education and the best and highest coursework. But, the reality is that a lot of students don’t have bright opportunities, and enough is enough already. Great film to see. I just caught it in LA, but it’s next stops are in DC June 25-July 1 and then in Denver July 9- 16. Get involved!
If you’re not in Denver those dates in July, then you must be attending the 28th Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival July 8th - 18th (chai!), right?
√ July 10th - A Conversation with Jane Lynch - DGA 1 - 130 PM. GLEE. High School. Totally. And Ms. Lynch will be receiving the 14th Annual Outfest Achievement Award this year. I hope she wears a track suit.
√ July 11th - A Small Act (Dir/Scr: Jennifer Arnold, USA) - DGA 2 - 1130 AM. FREE. A story of a Holocaust survivor who anonymously gave $15 to sponsor a little boy in Kenya… who then went on to graduate from Harvard and became a human rights lawyer. Enough said.
√ July 11th - Clueless (Dir/Scr: Amy Heckerling) - DGA 2 - 445 PM. Part of the Legacy Screening Series. I can write on and on about why Clueless is one of my favorites of all time, but let’s just say my love for the tailored and flamboyant look has a lot to do with watching D, a bonafide BAP, and Cher, a bonafide JAP, over and over and over…
√ July 11th - Fit (Dir/Scr: Rikki Beadle-Blair, UK) - DGA 1 - 7 PM. Teens in a Drama and Dance class and how they deal with their identity through it all.
√ July 13th - Gay Days (Hazman Havarod) (Dir/Scr: Yair Qedar, Israel) - Laemmle Sunset 5 - 715 PM. A very political look at the cultural revolution of Israel’s gay community as it came of age in the 1980s.
√ July 14th - A Marine Story (Dir/Scr: Ned Farr, USA) - DGA 1 - 7 PM. Women Marines. Boot camp. I mean, if you saw the Gymnast, then you know this should be fun.
There’s also a film on the circuit called Eyes Wide Open (original title Einayim Petukhoth), though it is not a part of Outfest this year (but Cannes ain’t half bad).
Here’s to 10 years of rocking out. Where will I be in the next 10 years? I’ll be even more awesome, with a partner by my side and at least one lil’ wee babe in a front pouch whom we’ll love so dearly. For now, I’ll just focus on being 26 years of age and furthering my magical career.
As a little treat, here’s the the comedic short I co-produced and screened at Outfest last year, called Queerer Than Thou. To date, it has queerly screened at over 50 major and independent film festivals and college campuses around the world, including at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, CA, and has won one audience award. Enjoy the show!
June 18, 2010 | 3:49 pm
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
Did you know that in 29 states you can be fired just for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual? (Click here to see what your state says). And if you’re transgender, you can be fired in 38 states?
Surprising, right!?!?! Laws prohibiting such discrimination in the workplace have been in place for decades for racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and women. And yet, simply for having a photo on your desk of you and your spouse, you can be fired in the majority of states.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 has been introduced in the House and Senate, which would make it illegal to discrimination against someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the employment context. This is overdue. A recent study found that complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation filed by employees in states with laws protecting such employees are filed at similar rates to those filed by women alleging sex discrimination. Yeah, you heard that right – gay, lesbian, and bisexual people file complaints that the same rate as women. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 has fallen victim to our inefficient and paralyzed Congress, so it hasn’t been voted on. President Obama, meanwhile, has said that he would sign the bill if it reached his desk.
And yet, there is good news, especially for those of us who work in the Jewish community. Today, one of the leading funders of Jewish organizations, the Schusterman Family Foundation made a striking pronouncement. Lynn Schusterman, the chief of the Foundation, stated “We will only consider funding organizations that have non-discrimination policies covering both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.” For more on her statement, check out this op-ed in today’s JTA.
Wow. You heard that correctly, one of the largest contributors to Jewish organizations, funding things from Birthright to Hillel to BBYO, has made nondiscrimination policies a requirement to receive funding. This is a huge step forward in the Jewish community in terms of making it a priority that all people are treated equally in the workplace.
June 17, 2010 | 11:46 am
Posted by Janelle Eagle
As a freelance filmmaker, photographer, and producer, I never know where my next gig is going to come from. I was pleasantly surprised and very grateful when I was recently hired by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for a temporary position as the producer of what they referred to as “an anti-hunger event.” I walked into the position having a pretty limited knowledge of hunger issues in Los Angeles, but my professional experience and Virgo-style organizational skills ended up being a great match for such an incredible project.
The Jewish Federation has been working for sometime in Los Angeles to combat the hunger epidemic that plagues our city. In Los Angeles, 1 in 4 children in a household is struggling with hunger. Many have no access to fresh produce and are surrounded by an abundance of fast food. All of this I learned while on the job… I was completely oblivious before. How did I not know that it was such a rampant problem in my very own proverbial back yard?
What started as an unformed idea became 19 different events happening simultaneously on one day, June 13, all around Los Angeles. The Jewish Federation chose the date (6/13) because there are 613 mitzvot or commandments in the Torah. The goal was to have 613 individual acts to end hunger be completed as a community on June 13th. They dubbed this, the “613 Community Challenge.”
After weeks of planning, I am incredibly proud of the team that I worked with. This past Sunday:
- We fed battered and bruised women and children at the Downtown Women’s Center.
- We gleaned produce from 5 farmer’s markets, resulting in a donation of over 2000 pounds of fresh produce to 4 needy charities serving the homeless.
- We painted murals at Tomchei Shabbos, a facility used to provide services to vulnerable Orthodox Jews.
- We planted gardens in East LA and the Florence/Firestone Community of South Central.
- We signed postcards to Senators Boxer & Feinstein encouraging them to renew the Child Nutrition Act
I was particularly proud of the fact that many of the Federation’s LGBT employees were active in creating and producing these events. One of the events, called Food on Foot, actually took place at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. This fantastic integration of community is exactly the vision that so many of us within the LGBTQ Jewish Community have. We want to be part of the greater Jewish Community in a meaningful way. What a joy to stand side by side as a community to help end hunger in Los Angeles.
Here’s a video about the day, specifically highlighting the event that took place at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center!