From Zoom latkes to a sold-out drag show: how the queer Jewish community is celebrating its second Hanukkah pandemic

Many Torontons are going to have a very rare Hanukkah this year, from lighting candles in the Village to a sold-out drag show.

LGBTQ + in the J, a community-building program of the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Center (JCC), is promoting the most queer-centric Hanukkah events since its inception more than three years ago, says Cara Gold, community development manager Jewish in Miles Nadal. JCC.

“There is something about this year: there is a kind of critical mass happening,” Gold said. “It’s an exciting year for queer-focused Hanukkah events in the community.”

the seven Hanukkah events that LGBTQ + in the J is promoting includes a Zoom-hosted latke-making workshop, a virtual zine-making workshop, and the third annual workshop 8 gay Hanukkah drag show.

Gila Münster, a Toronto-based drag queen, has been hosting the event since 2019. Münster is looking forward to this year’s sold-out show, which will take place in person on December 5 at the Toronto Comedy Bar, after of having to present the show online. last year.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Münster said. “Bringing people together in person will facilitate a kind of connection that we could not achieve virtually.”

For Münster, this is a sign that Toronto’s queer Jewish community is getting the visibility it deserves.

Although Hanukkah Gay 8 will focus more on displaying queer talent than religion, Münster says the Hanukkah spirit will still live on anyway.

“Something that celebrates Hanukkah is the light that comes out of the darkness; we have had two years of darkness and our lights have dimmed due to COVID, ”said Münster. “With this event, we hope to bring light to people’s lives and a sense of reconnection.”

LGBTQ + at the J is also making its first partnership with Church-Wellesley Village BIA to host Hanukkah in the village December 4. In addition to klezmer and sufganiyot music, the outdoor event will include a candle lighting ceremony by Rabbi Ariella Rosen and Rabbi Becca Walker.

Gold describes Rosen and Walker as a “dream team of local rabbis” – they are the world’s first conservative Jewish rabbis to have a same-sex marriage. The women tied the knot in October 2021. Both Rosen and Walker are excited to be a part of Hanukkah in the Village to celebrate the intersection of their queer and Jewish identities.

“Having an event like this legitimizes both queer and Jewish identities in a way that is really enjoyable and important, especially at a time of year when a lot of Christmas experiences, whether for the queer community or any other community, tend to focus. at Christmas, ”Rosen said. “It’s nice to have something that is specifically about Hanukkah.”

Walker says it’s especially shocking to celebrate both Hanukkah and queer experiences, as they both touch on similar themes of liberation.

“It was like a band of Jews resisting forced assimilation,” Walker said. “I think there is a certain resonance with the queer experience that also resists the norms of a larger society that often feel imposed.”

Last Hanukkah, Rosen and Walker organized Zoom candle lighting ceremonies at different times and didn’t have enough time for them. They are excited to have some extra time for at least one night together.

“I’m excited to put together some fun latke combinations,” said Walker.

“I’m excited to eat them,” Rosen said.

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