6 Influential Jews Who Show Their LGBTQ Pride

by | Jun 19, 2017 | Entertainment, Event, Hillel Ontario, News | 0 comments

In honor of Pride Month, we put together a list of seven influential Jews who are supporting the LGBTQ community. Some are actively supporting LGBTQ organizations, while others came out as gay or transgender and act as role models to other members of the LGTBQ community. These famous figures share in common a passion for public support of the LGBTQ community and an understanding of the significant role they play in fostering LGBTQ pride.

 

Billy Eichner
Billy Eichner is one of the up and coming American comedians, hosting the comedy show Billy On The Street, and having starred in Parks and Recreation and American Horror Story. Billy Eichner is also part of the Jewish LGBTQ community, and openly supports and celebrates it: “Here is to being out of the closet and being yourself” (Eichner, 2017).

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© www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop-shop/6738498/billy-eichner-adele-hello-joke

 

Victor Garber
Garber was born to Jewish parents in London, Ontario and is known for his roles in Titanic, Star Trek, Legally Blonde, and many more. The Canadian film, stage, and television actor likes to keep his personal life private. Despite his efforts to stay out of the spotlight, he did confirm that he is in a long-term relationship with his partner Rainer Andreesen, stating that “[he doesn’t] really talk about it but everybody knows.” (http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/15/entertainment/la-et-mg-victor-garber-gay-rainer-andreesen-20130115).

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© http://jamescameronstitanic.wikia.com/wiki/Victor_Garber

 

Dana International
Sharon Cohen, also known as Dana International, had her biggest success 1998, when she won the Eurovision song contest for Israel. With eight albums and three compilation albums, the Israeli singer and songwriter is amongst Israel’s most successful musicians. Sharon Cohen, born Yaron Cohen, came out as transgender at the early age of 13.
With her win at the Eurovision Song Contest, Dana International fought the negative reactions she first received when Israel announced that they would send a transgender singer to represent them at this major annual European event. Since then, Dana International has become an LGBTQ icon and is internationally known for her success. (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/blog/entry/lgbt-community-in-israel/)

dana international

© https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/38/15/a8/3815a886b6ee23305465c004167468e7.jpg

 

Michael Kors
Michael Kors was born in Long Island, New York to a Jewish mother and a Swedish father. The successful, internationally known fashion designer is not only known for his clothing and jewelry lines, but also as a judge on Project Runway. In 2011, Kors and his life partner Lance Le Pere decided to get married. He stated “Lance and I are very excited to finally be able to have the opportunity to marry in our home state after many years together” (http://www.jta.org/2011/08/05/arts-entertainment/six-degrees-no-bacon/designer-michael-kors-to-mary-long-time-boyfriend). With their marriage, the fashion designer and his husband showed their support of marriage equality in the US.

Designer Michael Kors attends the 7th Annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards at Skylight SOHO on November 15, 2010 in New York City. 7th Annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards - Arrivals Skylight SOHO New York, NY United States November 15, 2010 Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage.com To license this image (62484579), contact WireImage.com

© www.popsugar.com/beauty/Michael-Kors-Talks-About-His-New-Fragrance-Gold-18196540

 

Harvey Fierstein
Best known for his roles in Mulan, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Independence Day, the actor and winner of multiple Tony Awards is a strong supporter of the LGTBQ community. Fierstein produced several musicals and plays with complex LGBTQ characters, puts a lot of effort into preserving the LGBTQ history and gave the LGBTQ community much support after the Orlando shooting in 2016. In reaction to the shooting the actor made the following very powerful statement: “These last two weeks have been very hard for all of us, especially for gay people. […] We knew that it was hate, but hate turned inward. Hate so strong, hate that destroyed so completely that his soul was gone and all he could do was cry out. And instead of knowing there was someone to cry out to and say, ‘Help me. Help me be myself. Tell me I’m all right,’ he took a gun to prove he was a man and destroyed hundreds of lives. (http://ew.com/article/2016/06/24/harvey-fierstein-orlando-trailblazer-awards/).

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© http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/harvey-fierstein-3408.php

 

Adam Lambert
Adam Lambert’s career as a singer, songwriter, and actor exploded 2009, when he blew the audience away at the eighth season of American Idol. Since then, the openly gay artist has been a heavy supporter of the LGBTQ community. With his famous quote, “Love overcomes hate. Love has no color. Love has no orientation. All is love” (Lambert, 2009), Lambert encouraged many people to be themselves. He is also known to support LGBTQ communities, such as The Trevor Project. In 2013, Lambert collaborated with AT&T, aiming to raise money for The Trevor Project, as seen here. (https://www.glaad.org/blog/video-adam-lambert-takes-part-att-live-proud-psa-campaign-raising-funds-trevor-project).

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© http://awiderbridge.org/queens-lead-guitarist-asks-adam-lambert-to-sing-in-hebrew-at-israel-concert/

 

Hari Nef
The model, Hari Nef, was born Harrison Jacob Neff to her Jewish parents in Philadelphia. Nef is the first transgender woman who was signed by one of the biggest model agencies, IGM Models. But more importantly for the LGBTQ community, the model has been a very active LGBTQ supporter, and is said to be leading today’s transgender revolution. (https://i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/meet-hari-nef-the-american-actress-leading-the-transgender-revolution)

hari nef

© www.imdb.com/name/nm6341515/

Hillel Ontario’s Remarks at Canada’s National Summit on Antisemitism

Hillel Ontario’s Remarks at Canada’s National Summit on Antisemitism

Today, the Government of Canada held a National Summit on Antisemitism.

Convened by The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, and The Honourable Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, today’s Summit sought to provide parliamentarians and policymakers a comprehensive understanding of antisemitism in Canada, and identify concrete steps to address the issues facing the Jewish community.

Below is the full transcript of Hillel Ontario’s testimony.

Good afternoon, 

My name is Jay Solomon, and I am the Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer for Hillel Ontario. 

Supporting approximately 14,000 Jewish students at nine universities across the province, Hillel Ontario – now the largest Hillel in the world – empowers students to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning, and Israel.

This spring, Israel and Hamas – labelled a terrorist group around the world, including in Canada – squared off in the largest military conflict the region has experienced in some years. For both Israelis and Palestinians, the fighting was painful and distressing. 

In the wake of these tensions, around the world, and certainly here in Canada, supporters of Israel have been subjected to vile and sometimes violent vitriol. And, even more concerning, Diaspora Jews have been attacked – verbally and physically, online and in person – simply for being Jewish and regardless of their feelings about or connection to Israel.

As an illustration, I thought I would share just a few recent examples of some of what Jewish students have been subjected to on campuses in Canada in the past few months. At Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, a student posted a video on social media mocking the stabbing of Israelis. Near Western University, in London, a Nazi flag appeared at an anti-Israel rally. At McMaster University in Hamilton, a Jewish student was bullied online for showing support to Israel. And, on the personal social media pages of countless Jewish students across the province, blue squares and other expressions of concern about antisemitism were peppered with comments condemning Israel, levelling personal attacks at the students who posted them, and, in some, threatening physical violence. 

And then there’s the issues posed by student unions and faculty associations who in many cases have replaced informed debate and well-meaning dialogue – the cornerstones of university education – with one-sided rhetoric condensed to 20 second videos and 140-character tweets in an attempt to boil hundreds of years of culture and history into soundbites that are inevitably biased and simplistic. As a recent example, a student group at Western University published incredibly offensive social media commentary calling on the University Student Council to eliminate “all pro-Zionist narrative” from the campus. Another illustrative example involves the President of the University of Toronto Faculty Association who is alleged to have spoken about an “entitled powerful Zionist minority” at a recent academic panel.

These, and other, recent examples of antisemitism are as disturbing as they are unacceptable. Year over year, the Jewish community is the most targeted religious minority for hate crimes in Canada. And, these recent incidents underscore the important efforts that lay ahead – work that must include critical education on antisemitism, and a renewed commitment to relationship-building based on shared values and experiences. 

What many in the Jewish community have known for some time, but have been reluctant to say out loud, has become entirely self-evident in the past several months. We have long since recognized that antisemitism exists on a broad continuum, ranging from those who are simply uninformed, to those who are misinformed, to those who are wilfully ignorant. 

But, there’s another category; and it is one that has been taboo to speak of in many circles for too long. 

The unpopular reality is that some of the world’s worst antisemites (who, it just so happens, are among Israel’s most virulent detractors) embrace this label with malice and intentionality. And it is this type of poisonous, malevolent antisemitism that has been on full display recently. 

As the largest affiliate of the global Jewish student movement, Hillel Ontario’s student leadership and campus professionals have been working around-the-clock to support students who have been shaken by a tsunami of antisemitism online and on campus. 

We have communicated directly with university presidents, provosts, and student union leaders to ensure Jewish students were protected, and that their rights would be respected. We lodged official student code of conduct complaints and filed police reports when Jewish students were targeted; reported countless antisemitic posts on social media; provided personalized pastoral counselling; compiled educational resources and offered learning opportunities for those wanting to learn more; and provided space for students to process their own feelings, emotions and perspectives.

But, the truth is, our efforts on campus alone are not enough. And, we need your help. 

We need our nation’s leaders to come together to forcefully, consistently, and unconditionally condemn antisemitism – in all its forms – and to take proactive steps to secure the safety and security of the Jewish community of Canada, today and for the years to come.

We need formalized learning opportunities across the educational sector – for teachers, professors, administrators, equity officers, student government leaders and those charged with securing and protecting the campus community – to ensure historical and modern perspectives on antisemitism’s manifestations, as well as ways to combat them, are entrenched in and integrated into diversity, equity and inclusion and anti-oppression programming. Education on the perils of antisemitism must become a natural part of DEI and anti-oppression efforts on university campuses.

As a society, we must publicly acknowledge the overlap between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and recognize that, far too often, anti-Zionism is used as a convenient shield behind which antisemites stand. 

As advocates for the Jewish community, we know that it is acceptable to criticize Israeli policies, or voice legitimate concerns for the welfare of Palestinians. Like any other liberal democracy, Israel is not immune from legitimate criticism. 

But, we also know that fair-game critiques end when Jews are denied the universally held right to collective self-determination; when Jews are held collectively responsible for the actions of the Israeli government; when antisemitic tropes dating back centuries are used to target Jews and Jewish communal institutions; or when comparisons are drawn between Israel and the horrors of the Holocaust. 

We need Canadian leaders to stand with the overwhelming majority of Jewish Canadians in a definition of antisemitism that includes the delegitimization of the Jewish state. Like any other minority group, the Jewish community’s definition of our oppression should be defined by the majority of our community, not fringe elements within it or outside of it. 

We need our nation’s leaders to counter efforts to promote the divisive and discriminatory Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions campaign against Israel, and work to promote dialogue and relationship-building opportunities based upon shared values. 

On behalf of Hillel Ontario, our students, professional staff and lay leadership, I want to offer my sincere thanks to the Government of Canada for convening this National Summit on Antisemitism, and for inviting me to participate in today’s proceedings. 

In the days and weeks ahead, Hillel Ontario stands ready to support the important work that lies ahead; to work in conjunction with the federal, provincial and municipal governments, and with university leadership, to support Jewish students in the ongoing fight against antisemitism. 

Thank you.

A Hillel Summer: Keeping Spirits High

My name is Stacey Ianco and I am going into my third year at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management. Hillel has been my home away from home, and has helped me embrace my Jewish culture, enhance my Jewish identity, and meet new people.. 

This year has been like no other we have experienced. Throughout these challenging times, I have felt lucky to have remained connected with my fellow students – especially through my involvement in Hillel. 

Especially given the year we just experienced, Hillel has been vital to my Jewish campus life. That’s why I was so excited to hear that Hillel programming was going to continue during the summer.

Hillels Ryerson, York and UofT teamed up to create the Summer in the 6ix program, and I knew I wanted to participate. 

In addition to receiving some really cool swag, Summer in the 6ix connected me with activities and programming I

 could engage in alongside (virtually) other Jewish students across the GTA. We baked and decorated delicious sugar cookies over a Hillel Zoom meet, sharpened our knowledge and competed with other Hillel students in bi-weekly trivia games, and customized our Hillel t-shirts with tie-dye. In a summer characterized by distancing and separation, Hillel brought me closer to my community.

To be sure, this has been a difficult year for so many reasons. I am so appreciative of all that Hillel does for Jewish students across the province. Especially this year.

I will continue to be an active member of Hillel for all my years of university and the future. Hillel has given me the confidence I need to be a proud Jewish woman and has enhanced my university experience in many ways. 

I look forward to being able to create more special events to include and connect every Jewish student in Ontario for many years to come.

Stacey I., Hillel Ryerson Student Leader

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