Underground Dilettante Goes to Sha’ar Zahav’s 30h Birthday
Holy Wigs - Drag Show from Jerusalem
Heather Gold has long joked that it’s easier to come out as gay than Jewish in this town. Last night, your humble F2F correspondent hung out with the doubly out people of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav at the 30th birthday bash for their queer little shteibl in the Mission, sometimes known as the Mishkan Dolores. (Sha’ar zahav means "golden gate" in Hebrew, by the way.) Amidst colorful decorations and lights; sequins, taffeta and bowties; decadent chocolate truffles (aye ay aye); and a performance by Jill Sobule, there was â€“ natch â€“ an Israeli troupe of drag queens.
Mark Leno and Rabbi Camille Angel Welcome the Crowd
"Congratulations, Sha’ar Zahav, you’re thirty!" queen Galina said, to some wincing from her sidekick (not a shaven beard hair over twenty-three.) "Why have we come all the way from Israel to do this show? Because we’re Holy Wigs, the drag show from Jerusalem!"
(It’s kind of a BIG DEAL to be a drag queen in the holy city, and this troupe risks condemnation from, well, pretty much everybody, performing their weekly shtick at Jerusalem’s only gay bar, Shushan, just a half mile from the Western Wall and Al Aksa Mosque.)
The Holy Wigs came out to our little queer Yerushalayim with five queens and a king -- Avivit Katzil. Diva D promised "a little culture from the smallest, most insignificant place in the Middle East" to laughs from the crowd, who enjoyed a roundup of Israeli gay slang, from atch-cha (gayboy) to kookitza (young boy) veeyayzha (old gay man).
Taking in the glittering show were plenty of heavy hitters -- State Assemblyman Mark Leno blessed the crowd by saying "ad mea esrim -- shall you live to be 120, like Moses!" Congregation Emanu El’s Rabbi Sydney Mintz and Rabbi Eric Weiss of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center were cutting sharp looks. I also saw Bonnie Feinberg of the Israel Center and partner Beth Friedman, Marsha Attee, Julie Dorf, Manny Fishman, Alan Foss (nice hat!), Deborah Newbrun and Daphne Haas-Kogan rocking out with the assembled mishpacha.
The Holy Wigs opened their set with the "Cell Block Tango", as everyone in the room named Lipschitz blushed. They did snippets from Cabaret, a medley of Israeli diva ballads (from Shoshana Damari to Ofra Haza), and a heavy-lipstick-and-sequins Barbra Streisand/Celine Dion number ("Tell Him") that brought the house down.
But the night was really about celebrating the everyday successes Sha’ar Zahav has had in being different.
"Our children are receiving queer Torah," Sha’ar Zahav’s Rabbi Camille Angel said. "Our kids with two moms, with two dads, with queer families...they learn to value otherness, differences, us."
The evening was unabashedly sweet. As a young member of the congregation, Annie, put it, "You guys like schmaltz."
Underground Dilettante Sarah Lefton has changed careers more times that you’ve changed your underwear this week, but has kept up a strong motif of abject dorkiness. Somewhere between helping start a half-dozen Internet companies, designing some infamous t-shirts, running a Jewish summer camp and teaching web design to thousands of starry-eyed career changers, she officially Saw It All. Riding her trusty, rusty Vespa from geeky event to event, you can count on her to deliver the straight dope about the bad belly dancing, great passed hors d’ouevres and adorable nerds that keep the San Francisco underbelly worth tickling. (Mmm, underbelly.)