Category Archives: Hyperlocal

San Francisco

countering the untrue

As the GLBT portal of the 16th Street J, The Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) engages metropolitan Washington’s GLBT Jewish community by sponsoring original programming and fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment at the Washington DCJCC.

My colleague in Washington D.C., who like me works to break down obstacles in our communities paths to living Jewishly, responds to the article, “Bridging the gap between faith and sexuality” (WJW, Oct. 20) in the brilliantly written (and re-posted below) letter. This article that my colleague writes about seems to express a limited capacity as to the centrality of Judaism in the lives of many that are outside of a hetero-normative experience.

I too have a limited capacity to understand how the role of Judaism can not be central to my life. Proudly I am as Jewish as I am a proud Lesbian, American, Feminist and ally to identities that are created in the image of the divine, צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים‎‎; t’zelem elohim, but are not my own. Judaism helps to make meaning of my life, help me understand the inexplicable and it gives me some structure to the chaos around me. This afternoon, the chaos around me can be read simply through the blatant disregard for LGBT Jewish identity in this passive Editors response to my colleagues letter, “WJW had no intention to take a position on this issue.”

This evening I am speaking on a panel hosted by Spectrum, Marin’s LGBT Center. We will be talking about how different religions handle biblical prohibitions against homosexuality and on the role religion plays in helping make meaning of our LGBT lives. I anticipate questions about how LGBT Jews continue to look beyond words written in Torah as well as how it is that so many LGBT Jews continue to love a community of cultural relevance, faith and spirituality when some continue to foster feelings of marginalization for LGBT Jews and our steadfast allies. I have a few answers to these questions, including boasting about how extraordinary our local Jewish Editorial staff is, but I would prefer to give them in person, so if you are up for a conversation please join us.

Meanwhile, read this letter as it has been ‘cut and pasted’ from wjw: “What GLOE works to counter everyday. As a proud member of both the Jewish and GLBT communities in Washington, I was hurt and outraged to find that Washington Jewish Week seems to state that these communities are mutually exclusive. As the director of GLOE, a program of the DCJCC, I know that they are not.

The article “Bridging the gap between faith and sexuality” (WJW, Oct. 20) stated “While the Torah strictly prohibits homosexual behavior” as a fact without question. Such a qualifier does a tremendous disservice to all GLBT Jews and undermines the effort to build a more inclusive community.

With close readings of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, the latest data on the science of sexual orientation, and a sympathetic, accessible, and ecumenical approach to religious faith, Michaelson makes the case that sexual diversity is part of the beauty of nature, and that the recognition of same-sex families will strengthen, not threaten, the values religious people hold dear.  Jay Michaelson’s book, God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality, discusses the common misconceptions around this supposed biblical prohibition. Since this book, its author, and the surrounding program at the DCJCC were the topic of the article, I found it incongruous that the piece introduced Michaelson’s thesis with a dogmatic interpretation of the Torah. Even more importantly, the biblical imperatives towards love, community, justice, family, and saving a life, both vastly outnumber and outweigh any other verses one might “strictly” quote. WJW is an important voice in our community and the articles, images and words it chooses to print carry significance. That phrase, which betrays a bias toward exclusion, has repercussions throughout the community. I worry your readership will see this factually-stated interpretation and believe it to be true. Further, I am horrified to think of the closeted gay kids in our Jewish community whose parents receive this paper. Seeing an article in a Jewish paper that speaks to a gay and Jewish identity is a rarity for them. When they read beyond the headline, that “who you are is strictly prohibited in the Torah,” it only serves to shame them and to alienate them from Judaism – something GLOE works to counter every day.

Your statement was not just untrue – or even simply an unfortunate misphrasing – but rather, it highlights the bigotry that still exists within the Jewish community, and the lack of value placed on our lives as GLBT Jews. Haley Cohen, GLOE Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach & Engagement Washington DCJCC”


Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Hyperlocal, LGBT Alliance


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gays have kids too

During these days between the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, Jews are told to reflect on what really matters to us. So here it goes, one thing that really matters to me is continually bringing the stories and realities of everyday LGBT Jewish leaders into the mainstream. Many LGBT folks don’t always have the big life concepts mapped out for them. By the way, when I write “them”, I do mean me as well.

I often look to the experiences of my family to help me navigate this world but a few things don’t always translate. Some translations on expectations and roles get lost on me. Not so much because of discrimination any more, but more often the nuance of difference. I work to find community and friendships with other LGBT Jewish leaders, in part because they model one of the many ways that I might too have a healthy same-sex relationship, how to raise children, how to present the gender identity that works for me, or how to juggle the demands of chosen family versus biological family.

Something else that matters to me is a love of democracy and the drama of politics. So when I saw this ad yesterday, pairing my love of politics with a story that brings a local queer Jewish family into the mainstream – I had to link to it. So in honor of speaking out to what matters to me during the Jewish High Holiday’s as well as embracing October as LGBT History Month please take a look at this 33 second ad featuring our LGBT lives having mainstream visibility. The ad features a gay and Jewish former city supervisor, Bevan Dufty running for mayor of San Francisco, proudly introducing himself in his most important identity role: a father.

Related Stories

  • AutostraddleBevan Dufty Reminds Us Gay Candidates Have Kids Too (link)
  • I Want to be a (Gay) Dad, Celebrating LGB Parents (link)
  • Queer Landia, Gay SF Hopeful features Daughter in New Ad (link)
  • Towlroad, Gay SF Mayoral Hopeful Bevan Dufty Features Daughter (link)
  • The Stir, Gay Candidate for Mayor ‘Exploits’ Kid By Admitting She Exists (link)
  • David Mixner Blog, Impressions (link)
  • Politco, Ben Smith’s Frontiers of Gay Politics (link)
  • Gay Politcs, Bevan Dufty in Someplace New (link)
  • San Francisco Bay Guardian, Bevan Dufty loves MUNI (link)

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sweetness follows

we of course, all witnessed the seas of political activists empowered to change their worlds this past year. as we approach the jewish high holidays this evening, i stop for a moment to revisit some of the more local advances and news that i witnessed this past year.

overall folks within my community seemed to mostly agree with natalie portman in not wanting anything to do with john galliano. we wrestled through a few of the more challenging conversations with courtesy from tony kushner’s views on israel to ballot measures seeking to outlaw circumcision. we saw the demise of don’t ask don’t tell celebrated in the streets and hardly had time to pay attention to a new state law created by jewish gay leader, mark leno that requires lgbt history be taught in california textbooks. within a more hyper-local perspective we celebrated everything out and proud about gertrude stein, marched to honor 30-years of AIDS activism, watched allen ginsberg howl on-screen and sang our good-byes to both elizabeth taylor and debbie friedman.

still thinking locally, it has been a great year for many of our outstanding lgbt jewish leaders to shine. just to name two of the many deserving leaders, roberta achtenberg, was appointed as the first lesbian to the federal civil rights post and bevan dufty, whom if elected in november, would be san francisco’s first gay (and possibly third jewish) mayor. while we still can’t beat the reputation of states like new york that decided everyone can get hitched there this year we did just learn that our dear city of san francisco did not loose first place in hosting the highest concentration of gay and lesbian couples over the past decade.

at my synagogue, congregation sha’ar zahav, i participated with 40 other members in the year of civil discourse and learned together through the training how to disagree with people i respect but don’t always want to listen to. on a even more personal note i moved once again back into the castro.

as i am approaching my own sense of sweetness on this last day of the Jewish month of elul 5771, i pause to remember that not everyone’s life is so full of honey right now. this morning i watched with sadness as alyssa rodemeyer, the sister of jamey rodemeyer, discussed the continued bullying of her late brother after he took his own life this last week at the age of 14. it made me realize that we still have a lot of work to do together. i look forward to seeing what sweetness we can create together in community in 5772.

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finding the community that works for you

san francisco is the home of the third largest metropolitan jewish community in north america and within this number are approximately 36,000 lgbt queer self-identified jews. i get asked a lot about how to find “the” queer jewish community. meaning to many that are asking, “where is the community? you know, the one that distinctly pulses with fabulous people sort of like me?”

i don’t have a definitive answer but it seems folks generally want to know where to physically find the queer jews that they want to hang-out with, to date, to fall in love with, to have a family with, to network with, to simply know who and where they are…  so far, in my relatively short time in the bay area, it seems that the community is made up several intersecting times. each time seeming to intersect within a microcosm of a few respected and connected people. these people also seem to make the time to show-up, often bravely alone, at events or activities that seem to share similar themes and values to them.

so this is one of the reasons why i am constantly populating our queer jewish community calendar with ways that queer jewish folks (and their family and friends) can get involved and get connected to the community.  so take a look and match your interests with the events listed (film festivals, israel travel, active-activism like the aids walk, family camping weekends, foodie conferences, art exhibitions…) and find the community of queer jews that works for you.


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marc smolowitz is still around and shines brightly with 15 stories of hope

you might know my friend, marc smolowitz. maybe you know him from his days organizing in the castro with the act-up movement. maybe you took one of his courses at the art institute of california, or you might know his name because he directed and produced a few highly awarded films. you might know him because of his local leadership at full circle fund, sf public press, jewish film festival, or san francisco’s access public cable tv. folks might know him because he served on the jewish community federation’s lgbt alliance board. i just know him, love him, have been mentored by him and want to share that he is very much still around.

The full list of local directors who contributed to Still Around includes (alphabetically): Emmanuelle Antolin, Daniel Cardone, S. Leo Chiang, Deborah Craig, Robert Dekkers, Véronica Duport Deliz, Jörg Fockele, Stuart Gaffney, Amir Jaffer, Sade Huron, Tim Kulikowski & Ian Wolfley, Rick Osmon, Anne Siegel, Marc Smolowitz and Debra A. Wilson.

this month is the 30th anniversary of HIV/AIDS. and marc has been preparing by devoting the past two years to create the HIV Story Project. this new npo produced an unrivaled collection of 15 stories by local directors. each story speaks to what survival for our times mean. still around shows people living and thriving with HIV/AIDS. even 30-years into this epidemic, this work is groundbreaking by featuring stories of hope and courage. marc’s most recent work is a definitive ‘must see’.

let me know if you will be in the audience supporting this film, these local producers, directors and frameline on friday june 24 at the castro theatre (1:15pm w. a 3:30 after-party at the Lookout co-hosted by AIDS Healthcare Foundation). trust me, you can do all of this before pride shabbat begins this friday (get tickets). the screening is co-presented by various HIV/AIDS nonprofits and the directors and subjects are expected to be in attendance for a post-screening question and answer session.


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Frameline Opens Tonight with a host of LGBT Queer Jewish filmmakers to support!

How does this happen? Each year Frameline jumps into the middle of the best month of the year with some of the hotest and most incredible films and on the day of the opening night I am hustling to buy tickets before everything sells out.  As I need to be organized about which films to see, I created a list. Some of the films I am opting to see this year are made by Jewish LGBT local leaders and friends and some of the films I am opting to see are simply themed around the complexity of queer Jewish identities.

So if you are like me and you want to attend at least a few of the 200+ films at the the oldest and largest GLBT Film Festival in the world, we need to get on it and purchase our tickets today. So, just in case you want a cheat sheet to Frameline, here is mine…

Films based in Jewish Identity

Films Directed and/or Produced by local LGBT Jewish leaders
  • Celebrating the Life of Del Martin – San Francisco, 2011, 57 Min. Directed by Debra Chasnoff. Shown on Friday, June 17, 11:30 AM at the Castro Theatre.   
  • Blink – San Francisco, 2010, 8 Min. directed by Yoni Klein and Alka Joshi. Shown on Tuesday, June 21, 1:30 PM at the Castro Theatre within The Grove.
  • The Grove – San Francisco, 2011 62 Min. Directed and Produced by Andy Abrahams Wilson. Shown on Tuesday, June 21, 1:30 PM at the Castro Theatre 
  • Still Around –San Francisco, 2011, 85 Min. a feature length compilation of 15 short films produced by Marc Smolowitz. Shown on Friday, June 24, 1:15 PM at the Castro Theatre.
  • Gillian– San Francisco, 2010, 11 Min. Directed by Martin Rawlings-Fein. Shown on Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre within Transtastic!
  • Spiral Transition – San Francisco, 2010, 6 min. Directed by Ewan Duarte. Shown on Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre within Transtastic!
  • Genderbusters – San Francisco, 2010, 6 min. Directed by Sam Berliner. Shown twice! Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre within Transtastic! and Friday, June 24, 4:00 PM at the Castro Theatre within Dyke Delights.
  • Perception – San Francisco, 2010, 2 min. Directed by Sam Berliner. Shown on Thursday, June 23, 11:00 AM at the Castro Theatre within Queertoons.
  • We Who Are Sexy: The Whirlwind History of Transgender Images in Cinema – Live on-stage conversation and film clip presentation, 90 min. with film historians Jenni Olson and Susan Stryker on Sunday, June 19, 2:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre.
Debra Chasnoff

There's just one day left before the World Premiere of Debra Chasnoff’s latest film, Celebrating the Life of Del Martin on Friday, June 17 at 11:30am at the Castro Theater.

Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the first reported AIDS cases, local filmmaker Andy Abrahams Wilson will be screening his new work, The Grove. His film which gives a history on the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park shown at Frameline on June 21 at 1:30pm at the Castro Theater.

Israeli filmmaker Tomer Heymann will be speaking after showing his film The Queen Has No Crown on Saturday evening, June 18 at the Roxie Theater 6:30pm.

Marc Smolowitz is one of the local filmmakers who produced Still Around - a feature length compilation of 15 short films shown on Friday, June 24, 1:15 PM at the Castro Theatre.

Marc Smolowitz is one of the local filmmakers who produced Still Around. This feature length compilation of 15 short films will be shown on Friday, June 24, 1:15 PM at the Castro Theatre.

Martin Rawlings-Fein is another local filmmaker who will show a film at Frameline this year. His short film, Gillian will be shown on Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre within Transtastic!

Martin Rawlings-Fein is another local filmmaker who will show a film at Frameline this year. His short film, Gillian will be shown on Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre within Transtastic!

Yoni Klein and Alka Joshi

Local filmmakers Yoni Klein and Alka Joshi created Blink an 8 minute short that will be shown on Tuesday, June 21, 1:30 PM at the Castro Theatre within The Grove.


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Honor the memory and birthday of one of our most globally recognized San Francisco Gay Jewish leaders with your own messages of hope!

Come Out! Come Out! Wherever you are!  Come Out! Come Out! Wherever you are and celebrate the 2nd Annual Harvey Milk Day this weekend! Harvey Milk, the New York born and raised son of Jewish immigrants became the first openly gay man elected to a major public office in 1978. Sadly, within a few months of his San Francisco election he was assassinated (more). Harvey’s memory is now being remembered, celebrated and honored globally each year on his birthday as a day of action. Celebrate by telling your story and taking action. Celebrate by suggesting more LGBT Jewish hero’s to honor with the Hineini Visibility Project.  Learn more about Harvey Milk and how to honor his memory…

 Harvey Milk Facebook Profile Picture Campaign

Change your Facebook profile picture to this 1953-54 US Navy photo provided here for download from the Harvey Milk Foundation


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