Date: May 3, 2021
As the JMM planned this program, Jewish community members have reached out about the event and we want to share the support we’ve received. Below is a letter from Maryland Rabbis and spiritual leaders endorsing the program and why. We invite you to read this letter, to better understand why it’s so important to our work at the Museum.
This week, The Jewish Museum of Maryland will host “Drag Queen Story Hour,” an event that celebrates imagination, play and gender diversity. Through programs like this, children are able to see people who express their genders with joy, interact with LGBTQIA+ adults living vibrant lives, and know that their genders are honored.
We, the undersigned rabbis and spiritual leaders of the Baltimore Jewish community, are in full support of the upcoming Drag Queen Story Hour offered by the Jewish Museum of Maryland. We affirm that the Baltimore Jewish community should be a place where queer and trans grownups and children feel welcome. One way we do this is by offering programming where such members of our community see themselves reflected in our culture and institutions. In addition, events that showcase positive LGBTQIA+ role models counter negative stereotypes and misinformation for those who do not have close relationships with queer and trans people.
Jewish tradition teaches that all human beings are created in the image of the Divine. Each of us is like an entire universe of unique potential and possibility. We believe that every human being should be able to see their stories reflected in our communal narratives.
Especially as trans youth are under attack in the courts and in our schools, we must offer unwavering support and nurture gender diverse children and adults. Showing children examples of gender diverse adults gives children the understanding that they will be able to grow up, to survive, to even thrive in adulthood. Something we should want for all our children. There are 1.3 million transgender youth in the United States, and out of that population, only 8% say that their places of worship are very accepting, according to a recent survey. We have a chance to ensure that every trans Jewish child knows they are not just accepted, but necessary for the Baltimore Jewish community to thrive.
While we know that drag performers are not necessarily transgender, the opportunity to see vibrant gender expression has important resonance for gender non-conforming and transgender youth. Drag is an opportunity for creative expression and fantastical play, activities we want our children to engage in as they develop their own identities and grow. Those who equate drag shows as “after dark, adult only” performances are wrong in their sexualization of drag. It is an agression against the queer community to suggest an adult reading a children’s story would somehow be dangerous or inappropriate based on the clothing or makeup applied. While there may be initial discomfort, programs like these are also an opportunity to think about the biases we carry and an invitation to learn more about the LGBQTIA+ community and culture through the artistic performances available for us to attend.
Jewish Museum of Maryland Executive Director, Sol Davis envisions that “Jewish museums have the potential to go beyond representation in their galleries. Our institutions must push toward activating Jewish values like pursuing justice in all aspects of our work. Purposefully creating space for all Jewish people is central to that work.”
We encourage our communal institutions to continue in its efforts to provide programs and opportunities for all members of our community to create spaces for all Jewish people and their loved ones. We look forward to wonderful stories and celebration together tomorrow night at Drag Queen Story Hour!
Rabbi Amy Scheinerman
Rabbi Andrew Busch, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation
Rabbi Andy Gordon, Bolton Street Synagogue
Rabbi Ari Goldstein
Rabbi Ariana Katz, [Hinenu: the Baltimore Justice Shtiebl](hinenu: the Baltimore Justice Shtiebl)
Rabbi Craig Axler, Temple Isaiah, Fulton, MD
Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg, Beth Am Synagogue
Rabbi Daniel Plotkin, Temple Isaiah, Fulton, MD
Rabbi Debi Wechsler
Rabbi Dena Shaffer, Director of Learning and Engagement: Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative
Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen
Rabbi Floyd Herman
Rabbi Gordy Fuller; President, Howard County Board of Rabbis and MyFamilyRabbi.com
Rabbi Gustav Buchdahl, Emanuel Emeritus at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation
Rabbi Ilyse Kramer, Columbia Jewish Congregation
Rabbi Jay R Goldstein
Rabbi Jennifer Weiner Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation
Rabbi Jeremy Fierstein, UMBC Hillel
Rabbi Jerry H. Seidler, Staff Chaplain, LifeBridge Health Sinai Hospital of Baltimore
Rabbi Jerry Seidler
Rabbi Jessy Dressin, Repair the World
Rabbi John Franken, President, Baltimore Board of Rabbis
Rabbi Joshua Gruenberg Chizuk Amuno Congregation and Schools
Rabbi Laurie Green, Kehila Chadasha
Rabbi Linda Joseph, Bet Aviv
Rabbi Paul Schneider, HOS emeritus, KSDS
Rabbi Rory Katz, Chevrei Tzedek Congregation
Rabbi Sonya Starr, Columbia Jewish Congregation
Rabbi Steven Schwartz, Beth El Congregation