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Jewish drag queen Sasha Velour is on the cover of The New Yorker this week



(New York Jewish Week) — Subscribers of The New Yorker opened their mailboxes this week to a hard-to-miss hot pink cover with an illustration of a drag queen with a mohawk, large blue earrings and extravagant makeup. 

They were looking at “The Look of Pride,” a self-portrait by a Brooklyn-based Jewish drag queen and artist named Sasha Velour. Velour, 35, is featured in the June 12 issue in an interview about how she is celebrating Pride month and why drag has been lifesaving for her.

“Drag is an antidote to shame,” she said. 

Velour was the 2017 winner of  “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and is currently on tour for her new book, “The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag,” which intertwines her own personal history — including her Jewish identity — with the history of drag as both a revolutionary art form and cultural practice.

Velour’s Judaism and Jewish family upbringing is a recurring theme in her book. “For years I studied Jewish history and Hebrew language after school and on the weekends,” she writes. “I was bar mitzvahed at 13 and even taught Sunday school when I was in high school, reenacting Jewish fables with puppets that I made myself,” writes Velour, who was raised in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Chicago suburbs. 

 Velour, whose out-of-drag last name is Steinberg, also writes about the influence her Jewish ancestors had on her — even those who she never knew. In “The Big Reveal,” Velour writes that her great-grandmother, Goldie Rabinovitch, was working at the at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in on March 25, 1911, but was spared from the deadly fire that day because she was late to work — window shopping, as the family lore goes, or possibly buying a pickle in Cooper Square.

“This is a story about snacks!’” Velour writes. Or, as her grandmother Dina would tell her: “Remember Grandma Goldie’s lesson… window-shopping can save your life!”

That same Jewish grandmother also first put Velour in drag when she was a child. “When I visited her house as a little kid, she would always encourage me to channel my inner diva,” Velour writes. “Beating out a drum rhythm on the arm of the couch, she would coach me to walk dramatically into the room, drop my coat, and reveal the look. ‘Fabulous!’ she’d whisper, knowingly.”

When I was a kid, I loved dressing up with my grandmothers, putting on makeup, staging shows. I didn’t even know it was ‘drag’ but it just made sense to me,” Velour tells The New Yorker in the interview published Monday. “Later, learning more about drag and understanding the existence of queer and trans people around the world quite literally saved my life.” 

In her book, Velour also credits the Talmud with showing her how to hold multiple ideas — and, by extension, identities — in her mind at the same time. “According to Talmudic thought, in order to find the truth, we must be able to hold multiple possible meanings as true at the same time,” she writes in her book. “That’s the kind of book I always liked best — a scrapbook that brought many things together in conversation.”

Both comics and drag come from strong independent traditions that enable artists and performers to develop a more unique and recognizable style, and to address a wider range of political and personal topics,” she tells The New Yorker. “All you need to make art is your own self.” 

The post Jewish drag queen Sasha Velour is on the cover of The New Yorker this week appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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