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Celebrating Jewish LGBT community and allies at JQ International Awards

Over 200 attend Beverly Hills gala

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L to R: Arya Marvazy, JQ Assistant Director, Honorees Courtney Mizel Howard Rosenman and Liana Chaouli, and Asher Gellis, JQ Executive Director (Photo courtesy JQ International)

It’s in that moment when a young Jewish person realizes they’re gay and has no idea where to turn, or their parents are confused about what to say to their teen who’s just come out to them, that JQ International can be the island in the storm.

Founded in 2004 as a place for young people who identify as both Jewish and LGBTQ and need help feeling like they’re normal and have the support they need, JQ’s work fills a space for many who feel lost.

“We created a place where those identities could come together, be celebrated and affirmed,” Asher Gellis, Executive Director of JQ International told the Los Angeles Blade.

“What we noticed early on, were similar stories, lots of young people who had great Jewish role models, but no LGBTQ role models; leaving them with a message that there was no place for them as gay or lesbian Jews adults.”

We decided we would be those role models in the community, doing workshops with teens and adults, and advocate for greater awareness in the Jewish space for inclusion to change that message — to be more embracing. With teen programs around Los Angeles for 14 to 17-year-olds, including allies, we partner with about 40 synagogues, we help institutions become truly inclusive, versus simply tolerant, Gellis says.

One of the key components of JQ’s work is the helpline. A place for people to call and get the support they need to help them to accept and mesh both their Jewish and gay identities.

“When I was trying to come out, I’d never heard Jewish and lesbian in the same sentence. Now, when people have these feelings, I hope they will find us,” Rabbi Rachel Bat-Or says.

Rabbi Bat-Or told the Blade she was looking to volunteer somewhere when she learned of the work JQ was doing in the community. She spoke with Gellis and says she knew she was in the right place. “I’m a rabbi, a lesbian, and a psychotherapist, the helpline is where I needed to be,” she says.

“Unfortunately, what they say today when they call is no different than what I said many years ago. ‘I’m not normal. No one will understand. I’m afraid I’m the only one. My family is Orthodox and they’ll never accept me.’ People are coming out younger, but also in their 40s, 50s, and 60’s. We get a lot of men who got married, knowing they were gay, and got married anyway because they wanted to fit in, and now at the age of 50, 60 and even 70, they want to live an authentic life.”

She says growing up; it was all about ‘what will the neighbors say.’ JQ hopes to turn that shame into service.
“When I speak to people on the help line, I know that I’ve done something to change the course of someone’s life.”

Neil Goetz, is a JQ board member. He came to the organization after his husband, Kevin Goetz, a Hollywood film veteran, was honored for his work at the 2016 annual garden brunch.

Neil Goetz says his late father was a rabbi. He says growing up gay and Jewish was extremely challenging, so when he found JQ, he felt like he wanted to be a part of it.
He took the training for the Speaker’s Bureau, and goes out to schools and different parts of the community and tells his story to people.

“I wish there’d been something like this growing up. I came of age in the 70s. There was recreational drug use, it was the disco and pre-AIDS era, and I grew up in a very Orthodox home, it caused a lot of stress for me to be myself,” Goetz says.

As a board member, he says the only thing that JQ is missing currently is that celebrity face – a Lady Gaga, Rosie O’Donnell, or Barry Manilow, to bring a spotlight to the work of the organization, and of course more money to support the various programs.

At this year’s 2017 Garden Brunch, Zvi Howard Rosenmann, a well-known Hollywood producer, was honored with the Trailblazer’s award. He told the over 200 guests gathered at a Beverly Hills manse, that JQ gives people the same pride to embrace their gay identities as to embrace their Jewish identities.

It was said over and over throughout the afternoon brunch, JQ is that bridge between the challenging questions of what it means to be LGBTQ and Jewish and the answers.

As honoree Liana Chaoluli, President and Founder of Image Therapists International, an author and style expert said simply in her speech thanking JQ for her award, “JQ, like my own life’s work, is about being you, because everyone else is taken.”

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Events

Portrait of a Festival on Fire, AFI Fest returns with live screenings

AFI Fest returns this year with live screenings—and a roster that’s typically chock full of queer breakout films

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Courtesy of the American Film Institute's AFI Fest

By Dan Allen | LOS ANGELES – Like most things last year, L.A.’s most prestigious mainstream film festival AFI Fest was forced to go virtual—but it still managed to include what proved to be some of the year’s most critically lauded gay films, including I Carry You With Me and Uncle Frank. The fest’s prior incarnation in 2019 served up one of the most acclaimed and popular lesbian movies in recent memory, Portrait of a Lady on Fire

So it’s no surprise that as AFI Fest pivots back this year to a pando-transitional screening hybrid of virtual and in-person at the Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, the five-day lineup is once again crowded with LGBTQ+-themed excellence from the U.S. and across the globe. Safety protocols will of course be in effect—but for the squeamish, the anti-social, or the just plain lazy, a virtual (albeit more limited) AFI Fest schedule will again be available for 2021. 

Whether you choose live or virtual, here are our picks for this year’s queer (and -ish) flicks not to miss at AFI Fest, which runs November 10 to 14.

tick, tick… BOOM! 

Opening AFI Fest this year is the world premiere of the hotly-awaited adaptation of John Larson’s autobiographical musical, starring Andrew Garfield and directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda in his feature debut. Larson was of course the creator of the theatrical phenomenon Rent, and tick, tick… BOOM! is its origin story, as struggling New York City composer Larson responds to the pressures of life and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. (Screening live with Red Carpet Premiere at TCL Chinese, November 10, 7:30pm)

The Power of the Dog

One of the buzziest films to come out of this year’s Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals is the latest from Jane Campion, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as a deeply closeted gay cowboy in 1925 Montana whose repression manifests itself in the sadistic intimidation of his brother’s new wife and her teenage son. (Screening live with Red Carpet Premiere at TCL Chinese, November 10, 7:30pm)

Great Freedom (Grosse Freiheit)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLQZoNZEOVU
Austria’s official submission for next year’s Best International Feature Film Oscar and a jury prize winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Great Freedom tells the story of irrepressible German homosexual Hans Hoffmann (Franz Rogowski) through several decades, from his wartime imprisonment for repeatedly breaking Nazi Germany’s antigay Paragraph 175 law, and post-war following his life, loves and an unexpected friendship. (Screening live at Chinese 3, November 14, 4pm)

Petite Maman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdORAHCydyY
While not technically LGBTQ+-themed, Petite Maman is director Céline Sciamma’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to her wildly popular period lesbian romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire. In this film, Sciamma (who also directed 2011’s Tomboy) returns to the themes of childhood and family: Eight-year-old Nelly has just lost her grandmother, and while exploring the woods near the matriarch’s home, she meets another little girl with striking parallels to her mother. (Screening virtually beginning November 11; screening live at Chinese 1, November 13, 1:15 pm)

Paris, 13th District (Les Olympiades, Paris 13e)

Another film with a strong Portrait of a Lady on Fire connection is this French graphic novel adaptation starring Noémie Merlant (Portrait painter Marianne) as Nora, whose new life in Paris is complicated when she’s mistaken for a cam girl. Céline Sciamma also collaborated on the script here, which features a tapestry of love stories including that of free-spirited Émilie and her new roommate Camille. (Screening virtually beginning November 11; screening live at Chinese 1, November 11, 8:15pm) 

Bernstein’s Wall

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSodXElSVTQ
Composer and social justice warrior Leonard Bernstein tells his life story in his own words, artfully pieced together here from many interviews conducted throughout his career, and augmented by segments from his letters, as published in the award-winning 2013 book The Leonard Bernstein Letters. (Screening live with director Douglas Tirola in attendance at Chinese 4, November 12, 3:15pm)

The Girl and the Spider

An award winner at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, Ramon and Silvan Zürcher’s film focuses on the interpersonal relationships and behavioral cues surrounding a young Swiss woman, Lisa, as she moves out of the apartment she’s shared with Mara, who’s clearly been more than just her friend. (Screening live along with a conversation with directors Ramon and Silvan Zürcher at Chinese 3, November 14, 1pm)

Wildhood 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSodXElSVTQ
Seen here in its American debut, Wildhood follows Two-Spirit Mi’kmaw teenager Link as he sets off with his younger half-brother Travis in a search for Link’s long-lost mother. Along the way they meet Pasmay, another young Mi’kmaw Two-Spirit, and what had at first seemed bleak for Link evolves into a beautiful journey of discovery about family, origins, identity and young love. (Screening live with producers Gharrett Paon and Damon D’Oliveira in attendance at Chinese 3, November 13, 4pm)

AFI Fest 2021’s numerous shorts programs will also be peppered with LGBTQ+-themed goodness. Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker looks at the coded advertisements created by the legendary but closeted gay illustrator. In Israel’s Her Dance, estranged transwoman Aya surprises her Orthodox Jewish family by showing up for Shabbat. From Puerto Rico comes Mano Santa, in which a grandfather briefly harbors his runaway grandson after he’s fled home. In Boys of a Certain Age, a teenager faces danger and excitement during a weekend of self-discovery with his best friend. Set in Cyprus, A Summer Place follows Tina on her birthday, as a chance encounter stops her from giving up everything.
And a couple of LGBTQ+ film icons will be representing at AFI Fest this year, albeit in non-queer titles, in the form of Pedro Almodóvar’s latest Parallel Mothers (starring Penelope Cruz and longtime Almodóvar muse Rossy de Palma), and the arty and meditative Memoria, in which Tilda Swinton plays a Scottish orchid farmer visiting Colombia who struggles to make sense of the sudden-onset sound that only she can hear.

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Events

West Hollywood Halloween Events 2021

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Courtesy of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has released its annual Halloween events guide available here.

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Project Angel Food’s 2021 Telethon raises $1.1 million

Project Angel Food is thankful to have received support from friends and the community providing the funding needed to sustain their service

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Eric McCormack led a toast, lifting a glass with all the stars in studio to Chef Randy (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

HOLLYWOOD – Los Angeles charity Project Angel Food succeeded in raising $1,126,090 far surpassing their fundraising goal of $800,000 in their 2021 Telethon which aired on KTLA 5 Saturday evening. The Telethon, LEAD WITH LOVE 2021 was presented by City National Bank.

Hosted by by Will & Grace star Eric McCormack and KTLA anchor Jessica Holmes along with Loni Love and Alec Mapa as co-hosts, the evening broadcast opened with a surprise greeting from British Rockstar musician Ringo Starr.

It’s been a difficult year for everyone, and Project Angel Food is thankful to have received so much support from friends and the community and providing the funding needed to sustain the expanded service to those in need, preparing and delivering over one million medically tailored meals to our most vulnerable neighbors.  Project Angel Food Executive Director Richard Ayoub said, “I am overwhelmed with gratitude and inspiration.  The success of this tells me Los Angeles is with us every step of the way.”

A good deal of celebrity star power helped to boost the donations which were taken in by phone, online, and text. Loni Love, author, and host of The Real, presented her $25,000 winnings from her recent appearance on ABC’s Celebrity Family Feud. Her donation joined that of actor Jamie Lee Curtis who called in live via Skype, made a $10,000 gift from her family foundation.

The Herb Ritts Foundation offered a “match challenge” of $75,000, agreeing to match donations coming in over an hour up to $75,000. The match was reached in just 27 minutes.

Other big donors for the night included: $50,000 each from Susanna Blinkoff & Jordan Corngold, Connie Frank, and Mary Fisher; $30,000 National Rongxiang Xu Foundation & Human Heritage Project; $26,000 from Michael J. Libow; $25,000 from Stanley and Joyce Black Family Foundation, Block Party WeHo, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation, WEN Hair and Body Care by Chaz Dean, Whole Foods Market, and Main Street Catering…and our thanks to everyone who donated! 

A special Tribute was paid to Chef Randy Nakamura, who died from COVID this past year, by celebrity chefs Cat Cora and Stuart O’Keeffe, and actor Brad Garrett, who met Chef Randy at Project Angel Food.  Eric McCormack then led a toast, lifting a glass with all the stars in studio to Chef Randy, followed by a special performance by LeAnn Rimes, singing Throw My Arms Around the World, beautifully capturing the spirit of the evening.

Highlights and behind-the-scenes of the night can be seen at Project Angel Food’s website…and it’s still possible to donate by texting LOVE20 to 50155.   

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