Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
1. Two women carry a banner that says “Gay Bashers Come and Get It.” Whenever the man with a “Jesus Saves from Hell” sign stops along our route, they stand next to him. Eventually, they’re joined by someone holding piece of white poster board with “Fuck This Guy” written on it, along with an arrow pointing to the Jesus guy.
2. In front of me for a few blocks is a woman, who, on her slender, sweaty back, has painted the words, “Liberation Not Assimilation.” We march past a Michael Kors store. In the window are two white wedding cakes with two brides and two grooms on top of each. This is very likely the definition of irony.
3. R asks me if I identify as straight. I panic. I tell her I like boys. She says, “I didn’t ask who you sleep with, I asked how you identify.” I consider this, feeling embarassed because I know they are different questions. I don’t know what to say, only that I hate the word straight and I don’t know if that means I have trouble owning the privilege associated with it. I am on the verge of a feminist/queer ally nervous breakdown.
4. S buys us whistles, which we blow jdelightedly and frequently. We scream and cheer and chant and watch the people watching us from the sidewalk. There are tourists taking pictures and people who yell along with us and folks who are just trying to get where they’re going. S and I find A, leaping around, a woman symbol painted on her arm. I always think she’s in charge, no matter where we go.
5. For a while, it seems like I can’t get away from the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid folks. There are other signs that say “Soldarity with Queers in Palestine,” and I feel good about this, but I can’t get over how it all makes me feel like I’m divided within myself, like a pie chart.
6. We approach Washington Square Park, and throngs are waiting for us, along with a steeply priced pretzel truck and an alarming amount of cops. I tell S that I do not want this to end. I think about conversations I’ve been having lately about movements, how you cannot have a meaningful mass mobilization without meaningful organizing, without building community. People leap into the fountain, collapse on the grass, whirl around. The sky is orange. We disperse.
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June 24, 2011 | 12:40 am
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
Last Saturday was beautiful, profound and meaningful. I spent my afternoon in Shabbat services, enlivening my spirit through singing, reading prayers, and dancing. I was decompressing and cleansing myself of the stresses of the week. Two women in their 50’s were having their B’not Mitzvah, which I came to learn is when two or more women are having a Bat Mitzvah together. Nicole was given the Hebrew name Nechama, which means comfort, and Beverly was given Batya, which means daughter of G-d. The Torah portion that the women flawlessly read was Shelach Lecha, which was when Moses sent out 12 spies, one from each tribe, to scout out the Promised Land (Bamidbar 14: 1-10). During Nechama and Batya’s B’not Mitzvah speeches, I was touched when both women turned towards one another to express whole heartedly how they now saw each other as sisters, cultivated through the bond that they shared while preparing for such a pivotal day in their lives.
What was especially profound about the Shabbat service was the juxtaposition between it being such a peaceful space, yet when I looked through the window just behind the women, I saw a very different world. It was a vast space surrounded by barbed wire and with prison guards carrying guns. The service was held at the California Institute for Women, which is a prison in Corona. Rabbi Moshe Halfon, who is the Jewish Chaplain of the facility, led the service. You could see within the eyes of both Nechama and Batya, and all the other incarcerated women in the room, how incredibly meaningful the service was to them. It was very apparent to me that the women were not taking Shabbat for granted, and made the most out of the opportunity to experience some spiritual healing, peace and comfort. They were very present and engaged. It was truly beautiful.
I was witnessing how the power of Judaism has the ability to bring such light and love to the spirits of all these women, despite the nature of the external prison that surrounds them.
You may be wondering how I ended up spending my Shabbat services at a Women’s prison, and so I want to give you the short version of why I became fascinated and inspired to potentially do social work within the incarcerated population. Four years ago, if you were to ask me how I felt about people who were incarcerated, I would have given you a judgmental response with a sense of superiority. Over the past few years as I have gotten the chance to really connect and bond with people who have been incarcerated, it has helped me to shed my judgmental side, and be more compassionate and understanding. I cultivated a profound friendship with someone who had recently gotten out of prison after having served 24 years for planning a robbery that had led to a murder. Given her background, one could easily feel uncomfortable in her presence; however the integrity and spiritual wisdom she exudes creates the exact opposite effect. I was at the Shabbat services at CIW because I want to continue to learn the powerful lessons that I get from being around that population. The moment that I feel any sense of superiority towards another human being, I loose my connection to G-d and to myself.
Both Batya and Nechama talked about the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt and the exodus led by Moses, and compared it to the enslavement of their destructive choices and the exodus from living a life of crime. They were choosing to live holy lives, even within the walls of the prison. There were women in the room who were serving life sentences, and will never get the chance to step outside the walls of the prison, yet they had beaming smiles because they understood that they still had the freedom to make the exodus from their internal prison. I believe that almost everyone to a certain extent has experienced some form of imprisonment by our internal struggles. Sometimes we are not even aware of it.
As I sat in the room, I found myself wrestling at different moments with discomfort, however the cause was totally separate of the fact that I was literally in a prison. I wasn’t sure why I was so uncomfortable in my skin, but I knew it was coming from a place of fear and doubt caused by feelings of inadequacy. At one point, as I was standing in the back of the room and watching the women singing and dancing, I thought to myself about how ironic it was that I was feeling as though I was the most uncomfortable person in the room, even though I live such a chaos free and sheltered life in comparison. It is important to me to be non-judgmental, empathetic, and loving towards everyone, however I am not always that way with myself.
Beyond my fears and doubts, and the misconceptions that sometimes come along with them, I really do know who I am and believe that I am a great person who is very dedicated and passionate about making a positive impact on others. Although having fears and doubts at times is very normal and a part of the human experience, I know that I shouldn’t feel it as much as I do. Fear and doubt often holds me back from reaching my highest potential. I become stuck in the past, holding onto old ways of thinking, and unable to see things as they truly are. I have missed out on a lot beautiful moments because I was too stuck in the prison in my head. Going back to school has helped me to shed light on why at times I become unaware of or feel disconnected from my own true nature. It has helped empower me to truly be stronger in myself.
Through working hard to gain a greater sense of inner peace and wholeness, I now get the truth behind the saying “knowledge is power.” So far, my education at Cal State LA has helped me to have a more thorough understanding of how bigotry has deeply influenced my identity. Through learning in my classes about racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia, I have gotten a better idea of how these complex belief systems are so deeply rooted within most human beings, often unconsciously influencing our thoughts and behaviors. A great deal of the pain, shame and inadequacy that we feel has been ingrained in us since childhood, by the prejudiced messages and ideologies that we are given by the media, acquaintances, and sometimes even family and friends. These messages ultimately reinforce the lies that tell us to believe that we are inferior and not worthy of being loved.
Homophobia has had a major influence in shaping my identity. I began to truly understand the magnitude of this, as I was putting together a research presentation that I had given at Cal State’s 7th Annual Student Research Conference on Gender, Sexuality, and Power. My thesis was: Societal homophobia effects identity building in the LGBT community in both communal and individual identities. Through working on my presentation I began to understand how to identify and breakdown the different beliefs I may unconsciously have about my sexuality that may trigger feelings of shame or inferiority.
I learned about how the media tends to promote homophobia by reinforcing stereotypes that keep the LGBT community as “the other.” According to The Media Awareness Network “Too often networks and film companies shy away from portraying gays and lesbians for fear of alienating or offending advertisers, investors, and audiences.” Unfortunately there is some validity to their concern because of how homophobia is so alive and breathing.
According to the material I read from the Gay-Straight Alliance, I learned that homophobia also really affects heterosexuals . Homophobia forces heterosexuals to act “macho” if they are a man or “feminine” if they are a woman. This limits their individuality and self-expression. Homophobia causes youth to become sexually active before they are ready in order to prove they are “normal.” This can lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies and STD’s. Homophobia strains family and community relationships.
On The Campaign to End Homophobia website, I learned that there are four distinct but interrelated types of homophobia: personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural. The form of homophobia that struck me the most was internalized homophobia, which is experienced when lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have strong feelings of fear, discomfort, dislike, hatred, or disgust with same-sex sexuality. I had felt that way for many years of my life. Internalized homophobia is very common within the LGBT community.
I read in a study about some of the affects, behaviors, cognition and defensive functioning associated with internalized homophobia. Some of the affects were: chronic anxiety, self-loathing, depression and distrust. Some of the behaviors were: Alcoholism, substance abuse, suicide and difficulty or avoidance in intimate relationships. Some of the cognitions were: At fault for victimization, innately defective or inferior, low self-esteem, negative attitudes and beliefs.
As I break down the beliefs, I am breaking free of my internal prison.
During my philosophy class, I experienced a surreal moment where I just felt a great sense of clarity of the big picture. I had a smile on my face and felt great peace, which I carried with me outside as the class had ended. There was no doubt in my mind that in that moment I was experiencing pure joy. I felt an amazing sense of unconditional love for myself and everyone else in my life, including the people that I may struggle with. My heart and mind were open, and I was naturally taking deep breaths of air, almost without any effort. I felt free. As I continue to work on breaking down the parts of my belief system that are not based in truth, freedom will become a more integral part of my being. I imagine that this is what Nechama and Batya felt during their B’not Mitzvah.
What I hope for you to take away from reading this blog is an inspiration to want to question and breakdown the untrue beliefs you may have about yourself and the world around you.
June 16, 2011 | 6:37 pm
Posted by Kalil Cohen
Outfest: The 29th Gay and Lesbian Film Festival has three fantastic feature films by Israeli filmmakers, two in Hebrew from Israel, and one written and directed here in the United States. All three films are going to be fantastic events, with filmmakers and community collaborators from Los Angeles in attendance!
Israeli Filmmaker Eldar Rapaport returns to Outfest with his first feature film, AUGUST. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Eldar moved to the US in 1991 to attend Emerson College in Boston. This year at Outfest he is being featured as part of the ‘4 in Focus’ program, which celebrates a talented new wave of filmmakers who have just finished their first feature films.
August, plays Sunday July 10th at the Director’s Guild of America.
What if the ex-boyfriend you never quite got out of your system moved back to town in the middle of a heat wave? That’s what happens to Jonathan, when his sexy ex Troy returns to L.A. during a particularly sweaty summer. Jonathan falls quickly back into bed with Troy, but will this steamy summer fling pull Jonathan away from his smoldering Spanish lover Raul? Find out in this sensual melodrama that will have you sweating along with its stunning protagonists. Buy Tickets Here
Two Israeli films in Hebrew to check out at Outfest are Joe + Belle and Mary Lou, both Sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.
Joe + Belle, by Veronica Kedar plays Sunday July 10th at the Laemmle Sunset 5.
Things get very complicated very quickly when Joe, an angsty drug dealer, meets Belle, a buoyant suicidal psychopath, in this dark comedy. After an outlandish accident in Tel Aviv leaves the pair with a body to dispose of, they embark on a madcap journey to lose the cops - and end up finding love in Sderot (the target of ongoing rocket attacks). Gritty but tender, JOE + BELLE offers an absurd portrait of life in contemporary Israel. Buy Tickets Here
This screening is co-sponsored by JQ International Women, and with special thanks to El Al for helping to bring the filmmaker to LA for this screening!
Mary Lou, by Eytan Fox and Shiri Artzi, plays Sunday July 10th at the Director’s Guild of America.
What MAMMA MIA! did for ABBA, MARY LOU does for Israeli pop sensation Svika Pick. Meir grows up obsessed with his mother, who left them on his tenth birthday. As a teen, he and his best female friend fall for the hot new boy in school, and as the three friends reach adulthood, Meir’s yearning for his mother - and his elaborate drag performances - both bring the trio together and tear them apart. This latest film from Eytan Fox (THE BUBBLE, YOSSI & JAGGER) is funny, moving and packed with catchy tunes.Buy Tickets Here
This film is co-sponsored by Beth Chayim Chadashim, Congregation Kol Ami and JQ International Men, all of whom will have representatives in attendance at the screening. This is a great chance to get connected with these fantastic organizations, in addition to seeing a wonderfully entertaining film.
June 11, 2011 | 5:21 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
I am sitting in the Philly airport, en route to the ROI Global Summit of Young Jewish Innovators being held in Jerusalem. As referenced in a recent Social Media Press Release, the ROI Community was created in 2005 by Lynn Schusterman, an American Jewish philanthropist, in partnership with Taglit-Birthright Israel, and “is an international network of 600 social entrepreneurs and Jewish innovators in 40 countries on six continents who are creating innovative ways to connect to Jewish life.” I feel honored to be one of the 150 social entrepreneurs whom will meld minds in this four-day mindshare happening June 12-16, 2011 at the Dan Jerusalem Hotel.
Last year, about this time, I was on my Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, blogging and journaling about my experience to Israel for the first time, pre, during and post the adventure. I recant how while in Israel in 2010, I truly felt the energy of history. At such a critical turning point in my life and career, I also become grounded in my passion and my destiny to be the best Artist I could be, with a voice within media outlets to share my dialogue and comparative notes while also finding creative ways to help foster, nurture and support my peers in my residence of Los Angeles and globally. I must say that since setting clear intentions for my goals in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv while on Taglit-Birthright Israel, I have been blessed with a wave of creative milestones, one of which is the reason why I am heading to this year’s ROI Global Summit (ie. GenToGen - Podcast, Facebook, Twitter).
Though I have yet to start the first day of the summit, I am already seeing that where Taglit was the scratch of the surface, ROI will be the deepening of the itch for more Jewish innovation and engagement participation. We even have a twitter hashtag - #roicom, where participants can flood each other’s twitter feeds with the latest thought or experience about the Summit. By the same token, the ROI participants were also invited to attend the prestigious Third Annual Presidential Conference, where truly we can look toward “Facing Tomorrow”, though leaders in the future we are not because we are already leaders now.
Take a gander at these fellow ROI’ers, one of whom is halfway through the 2010-2011 Birthright Israel NEXT COmmunity Engagement Fellowship with me, Heather Wilk (twitter, @HeatherGWilk). These individuals are helping to make the world see LGBTQ individuals as people worth taking positive notice of, because we are people, just like anyone else; and I thought, “well, what better way to get more of their impact out to the masses than with a mention here at Oy Gay”?
Stay tuned for more blogs, follow me on twitter (@djnovajade) and check GenToGen often, as scheduled Podcast artist interviews are happening every two weeks. Possibly, a few impromptu interviews will occur while on my trip in Israel, June 12-24, 2011, too.
I love #roicom.
ROI’ers to Watch that are Making an Impact in the global LGBTQ Community
Brian Elliot, founder of Friendfactor. Involved and behind high profile lobbying for equal marriage legislation in NY State, and has been incredibly effective mobilizing friends - gay and straight - to overturn discriminatory laws throughout the US.
Heather Wilk. Owns cause-related marketing company, Cause Creative Marketing, which targets young adults. Her largest charity campaign is in 6,000 high schools and will raise over $500,000 for hospitals across the US. She is currently developing a 501c3 called “Straight But Not Narrow.”, a great way for teenagers to support gay friends and family. Within four days of launching they had thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook.
Ido Levit is coordinator for special projects at the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (English Version). He is also Art Director for Balabasta, the wonderful festival in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market, opening July 4, and a project of Jerusalem Season of Culture. He is active in Awakening, the young people’s movement in Jerusalem that promotes ways to retain young adults and professionals in Jerusalem. His number one project is Urban Edges, artists creating plastic arts in the streets of central Jerusalem.
Malki Rose, from Melbourne, is founding a chapter of Bat Kol in Australia, which until now was an Israeli-only organization for Orthodox lesbians. She is also starting Chafetz, for gays and lesbians in her hometown.
To learn more about ROI participants from your community, click here.
Sara Averick, Israel: 052-867-4966 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jose Rosenfeld, Israel: 052-287-7646 or email@example.com
Toby Dershowitz, USA: 202-250-6104 or firstname.lastname@example.org