January 18, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Q&A: Celebrating ‘Gelty Pleasures’ for Hanukkah with JQ International

In honor of Hanukkah, the Pride LA spoke with Anna Goodman from JQ International about its recent “Gelty Pleasures” holiday event. Check it out:

In one sentence, what is “Gelty Pleasures”?

Gelty Pleasures is the biggest and only Hanukkah celebration for all LGBTQ+ and ally Jews in Los Angeles!  

Can you elaborate more?

JQ International has been putting on it’s annual Gelty Pleasures Hanukkah party event for the past 7 years. Providing a night of festive music, signature cocktails, drag performances, and raffle drawings, Gelty Pleasures is a unique, fun, safe, and welcoming environment for all LGBTQ+ and ally Jews to celebrate Hanukkah with their friends and loved ones.  

What was the point of the event? What did attendees experience?

There are multiple reasons why someone would attend Gelty Pleasures! The largest reason would have to be creating community. Often times the events that are presented for Jews to celebrate Hanukkah, or to meet and engage with other Jews, tend to be geared towards a more heteronormative experience, with the majority of cisgender and straight individuals in attendance. And on the other end of the stick, most LGBTQ+ events tend to be geared towards Christmas or do not represent any type of religious or cultural experience. Gelty Pleasures provides a SAFE and enjoyable space for BOTH experiences, where LGBTQ+ Jews can be with their friends, allies, and others with similar backgrounds to celebrate the Festival of Lights, where they can feel that they don’t have to choose between being Jewish or Queer, but they can be both, and proud of it.

Guests experienced a night of festive Hanukkah decor with rainbow gelt and dreidels scattered about, a photo booth with fun props, our “What’s your Gelty Pleasure?” interactive chalkboard wall, speciality Hanukkah themed cocktails (our traditional Mazel-Tini and Gins & Jews drinks!), raffle prizes, and unique and hilarious drag performances by Anna Shevitz, Brooke Hashem, and Dandy Frank (all LGBTQ+ Jewish performers who arranged Jewish and/or Hanukkah themed acts for the evening). 

Can you talk a bit about the difficulties of being both queer and Jewish? 

I think everyone has different experiences based on where they grew up, and how they were raised. We’re very fortunate to live in Los Angeles, where there are a substantial amount of Jews who live here, as well as many LGBTQ+ people, events, and programs to participate in. The difficulties come when trying to find a community that embraces both your religion/ culture, and gender identity and/or sexual orientation at the same time. As mentioned above, it is hard to find both, and to meet others that identify with similar experiences. That’s why JQ International was created, to strengthen and celebrate the lives of LGBTQ+ Jews and their allies. Not only do we provide events for LGBTQ+ Jews and allies to meet, connect, and engage with one another, we also provide educational programming for Synagogues and other Jewish institutions to learn and understand more about the LGBTQ+ community, the proper vocab and language to use, and how they can be better allies and provide an inclusive environment for their constituents. 

JQ also has the JQ Helpline, the only resource and support line in the US dedicated to serving LGBTQ+ Jews and their allies. Our free and confidential JQ Helpline provides customized support and inclusive resources over the phone, by email, and in person to those in need. Wherever you are, contact the JQ Helpline for trained and compassionate professionals who will help you find the resources and support you need.

Does JQ International do anything else to celebrate Hanukkah with the community?

JQ’s Persian Pride programming hosted a special Holiday/ Hanukkah gathering where 22 current and past fellows exchanged presents and connected with one another. The Gelty Pleasures Hanukkah Party was a part of Infinite Light, a citywide Hanukkah festival powered by The Jewish Federation’s NuRoots initiative, which JQ supports immensely. JQ International also sent out custom Hanukkah Cards to it’s contributing members wishing them a Happy Hanukkah, and sharing the 8 values of Inclusion, and how they can light a candle each night to illuminate their embrace of the diversity within our community.

What message does JQ International want to convey to our readers during the holidays?  

To quote our year end appeal letter, “When we connect with one another and experience the sensations of celebration, acceptance, and love, we are truly transformed.”  JQ is all about connections. Connection of our core identities. Connection to support and resources. Connection to each other and community. Connection between the Jewish and LGBTQ+ people and our greater world. These connections would not be possible without your support. We hope those looking to give with consider JQ when making their year-end contributions. We also want to wish everyone a Happy Holiday, however they may celebrate, and a joyous new year. 

(Click here to read our year end appeal letter)

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