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This Purim, a space for queer Jews to celebrate their identities — and dance the night away



(New York Jewish Week) — Stuart Meyers grew up in the heavily Jewish Philadelphia suburb of Voorhees Township, New Jersey. Yet, even though he was Jewish, being queer meant that he often felt like an outsider in Jewish spaces.

Fortunately, as an adult, Meyers — a dancer, artist and nightlife events producer — realized that, instead of abandoning one identity in lieu of another, he could create a vibrant space for queer Jews to celebrate both aspects of their identities. 

“I didn’t have an experience [growing up] of being able to bridge my queer and Jewish identities — I just was made to feel like they couldn’t coexist,” Meyers, 32, told the New York Jewish Week.  “I started to have this desire and longing to understand what it meant to be Jewish and bring these two identities together.”

In 2021, the Bushwick, Brooklyn resident developed “Flaminggg,” a queer Jewish nightlife experience that aims to bring Jews of all gender expressions and sexual orientations together to loudly and proudly celebrate their Jewish and queer identities. (The name, Meyers said, stuck around after he threw his first Hanukkah party. “It was easy to affirm: We are a fiery, bright burning bunch whose light, despite it all, is eternal.”)

Flaminggg parties, of which there have been four so far, include DJ sets that incorporate pop music, house music and Jewish music, as well as drag performances, dancing, conversation and Jewish rituals. Next week, Flaminggg will host “Flamingggtaschen,” its second-ever Purim party on March 4, at 3 Dollar Bill, a queer club in East Williamsburg. These days, the winter holiday, when cross-dressing and role-playing are commonly a part of even traditional festivities, is often associated with queer pride and a celebration of coming out, 

“It’s a sensitive thing,” Meyers said. “People who are queer but secular often say, ‘I do not want to be in a Jewish space.’” Some queer Jews had experiences growing up where they didn’t feel like they belonged, while others were unsure of what to expect, he said.  Still others have participated in — and not enjoyed — queer Jewish events that are “not sexy” and felt antiquated, he said. 

“I think being queer and Jewish is sexy, magnificent and magical and so related and I want to share that,” Meyers said. “That is the driving belief in what I’m trying to create.”

A drag performer at Flaminggg’s Hanukkah party in December 2022. (Afrik Armando)

Meyers believes that Flaminggg is the first intentionally Jewish nightlife experience for queer adult Jews that is unattached to a synagogue or larger Jewish organization. “It felt like no one was doing this kind of programming, that was artistically and thoughtfully making queer Jewish space in a way that was not just a ‘bright fluorescent lights, community hall,’ kind of Judaism, which I feel like a lot of people want to steer clear from because it just doesn’t feel meaningful,” Meyers said, adding: “Those bright overheads don’t flatter a queen’s skin!” 

Of course, there are other organizations and companies that create events for LGBTQ Jews, such as Hebro and Jewish Queer Youth. While Meyers has worked with both in the past, they serve different demographics — cisgender gay men and younger adults mostly with Orthodox backgrounds, for instance. New York City synagogues and Jewish spaces like Congregation Beit Simchat Torah and Lab/Shul are also queer-driven, but, again, secular Jews may still be turned off by some of the synagogue and Jewish ritual aspects. (Meyers is also producing and hosting Lab/Shul’s Purim party extravaganza at House of Yes this year, which will feature drag performances, a Purim spiel and a dance party.)

Flaminggg, by contrast, aims to draw a diverse crowd — participants represent all sexualities and genders, and the parties are open to any level of religious observance (or not). Meyers hopes that his events will reach people who have previously not entered Jewish spaces and want to learn more about and celebrate Judaism and queerness in all its forms and nuances. 

And, of course, Flaminggg differs from other queer, Jewish events in that it is a nightlife-oriented, night-long party. Quoting Jewish anarchist political activist Emma Goldman during a Zoom interview, Meyers joked: “If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.” 

This year Purim’s party, which is set to run from from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., will include a spiel (a comic retelling of the Purim story), a DJ set and other diverse queer Jewish performances. Meyers expects around 300 attendees. 

“I’ve basically been waiting for this Purim party ever since the Hanukkah party ended,” Yochai Greenfeld, a drag performer who performed at Flaminggg’s 2022 Hanukkah party, told the New York Jewish Week.

That event, he added, was “probably one of the best parties of my life.” 

“There are a ton of Jewish spaces to party in, but those tend to be somewhat uninviting for queer people to express themselves within those spaces,” said Greenfield, whose drag persona is named “Abbi Gezunt” (Yiddish for “so long as you’re healthy”). “The queer party scene is also mega-oversaturated, and there are tons of different spaces to explore. However, it can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable to express your Jewishness in those spaces.”

Greenfeld added that being around people with similar backgrounds allowed for empowering conversations on the sides of the dance floor, something he said he’d never experienced at other parties.

In addition to nightlife, Meyers has plans to grow Flaminggg into a more robust programming venture. Funded solely through donations and ticket sales, Meyers hopes to keep it that way so as to remain independent from any political or religious agendas. Currently in the process of establishing Flaminggg as its own LLC, Meyers envisions branching out into Shabbat dinners and queer Jewish study groups. 

Ultimately, Meyers hopes that through Flaminggg’s events, attendees will feel more ownership over their Jewish identities. “All the Jewish programming I do is for building a deeper and deeper possibility of people coming into a space and going: ‘I’ve never felt so affirmed in being both queer and Jewish,’” he said. “Creating a platform where we can celebrate all of that is really special.” 

Flamingggtaschen: A Queer Purim Party is on Saturday, March 4 at 3 Dollar Bill (270 Meserole St.) Get tickets here. 

The post This Purim, a space for queer Jews to celebrate their identities — and dance the night away 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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Local News

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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