JCC of Greater Baltimore to Host Inaugural Queer Jewish Arts Festival – JMORE

Date: May 17, 2021

Source: Jmore

URL: https://jmoreliving.com/2021/05/17/jcc-of-greater-baltimore-to-host-inaugural-queer-jewish-arts-festival/

A scene from “Indecent,” starring Susan Lynskey and Emily Shackelford, when the Paula Vogel play was presented at Baltimore Center Stage in 2019. (Photo by Stanley Photography)

For the first time ever, Baltimore’s Jewish community will present a festival celebrating LGBTQIA+ stories and experiences through film, theater, music, literature and dance.

From June 1-13, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore will host its inaugural Queer Jewish Arts Festival in celebration of “Pride Month 2021,” highlighting the work of local and national Jewish artists.

Events for the festival will be held virtually and at the JCC’s Gordon Outdoors, the drive-in venue located at the Owings Mills JCC campus.

“We look forward to hosting a safe festival where people can come together and showcase their pride and experience the work of these amazing artists,” said Barak Hermann, CEO of the JCC of Greater Baltimore.“COVID-19 has been extremely challenging for artists. We are thrilled to provide a new outlet where they can share their work with the community.”

The festival will kick off Tuesday, June 1, at 8 p.m. with a screening of a filmed production of the Tony Award-winning play, “Indecent.” Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, “Indecent” was inspired by the events surrounding the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s play, “God of Vengeance.”

“We could not be more excited to host a festival that explores queer Jewish content across genres,” said Sara Shalva, chief arts officer of the JCC of Greater Baltimore.

Jmore recently spoke with Shalva about the festival.

Jmore: How did the idea for the festival come about?


Sara Shalva, the JCC’s chief arts officer (Provided photo)

Shalva: Last summer, I was speaking to Sean Elias, the artistic director of Iron Crow Theatre, Baltimore’s only professional queer theatre, and we really connected. We began discussing the intersectional identity of being Jewish, queer and an artist, and the lack of ability to provide opportunities for these individuals.

With Sean’s help, we put together a nine-member committee and from that sprang the idea for the Queer Jewish Arts Festival, which will celebrate LGBTQIA+ stories and experiences through film, theater, music, literature and dance.

What are some of the highlights we can look forward to?

First of all, we’re pleased that this will be a hybrid event, with an in-person screening of a filmed production of the Tony Award-winning play, “Indecent,” as well as additional virtual events.

“Indecent,” which has been performed before in Baltimore at Center Stage, is based on the real-life story behind Sholem Asch’s controversial Yiddish drama, “God of Vengeance.” It will be shown at the JCC’s Gordon Outdoors, a drive-in entertainment venue on the JCC’s Owings Mills campus.

The festival will also explore queer Jewish content across genres, with performances and panel discussions with such notable artists as Jewish writers Rachel Sharona Lewis and Mónica Gomery; Tsibele, a new-traditional klezmer band based in Brooklyn, New York, that sees klezmer as a subversive music form and are activist-oriented in their performance platforms; and dancers and choreographers from across the country who will discuss dance and identity, focusing specifically on Jews of color.

Are you concerned about criticism of the festival from more traditional segments of the Jewish community?

There has been some concern voiced, but it hasn’t been too loud or too harsh. The JCC serves the entire community, and we try to provide programming that is sensitive to the needs of all Baltimore’s Jewish community, and I think the Orthodox community knows how much we care about and are devoted to them.

How do you think the festival will move the needle toward increased inclusivity for queer Jewish artists?

Jewish tradition has always straddled the line between assimilation and counter-culturalism. We hold many different truths.

I hope this festival is about blurring those lines between us and them. The Queer Jewish Arts Festival is the perfect example of how arts and activism intersect.

Sponsors of the Queer Jewish Arts Festival include JPride, the Iron Crow Theatre, LifeBridge Health and the Maryland State Arts Council. For information, visit www.jcc.org/gordon-center/queer-jewish-arts-festival.

A retired businessman who lives half of the year in Pikesville and the rest in Florida, Maurice “Maysh” Fried, 94, enjoys transmitting the power of community and philanthropy.


“Disloyal,” a new podcast from the Jewish Museum of Maryland, examines art, culture and history from a Jewish lens, using JMM exhibitions and programming as launching pads for conversations.


Max Weinberg, longtime drummer for rock icon Bruce Springsteen, and his four-piece band played classic rock tunes at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills May 12.


The festival, celebrating LGBTQIA+ stories and experiences, will be held during Pride Month.

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