Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Remembering the History of Gay Jews

[UDATED several times]
“We gather together tonight as a community to remember the bondage of our ancestors and the struggles of those that continue today, so that we may be inspired to cherish the freedom we now have, to recognize the bondage of those who are not yet free, and to encourage our collective call to help in the struggle to free all people and to value all people equally. On these evenings, the bond of friendship, love, family and community reaches out from within - as from this gathering – to unite all humankind in remembering our collective history in hope for tomorrow.”
From the JQ International GLBT Haggadah

Gay Liberation History Remembered During Passover
“I think especially of the three great movements of liberation which have marked the past generation: black liberation, women’s liberation, gay liberation. Each one of the movements liberated all of us, all the rest of us, from stereotypical ways of thinking which had imprisoned us and confined us for hundreds of years. Those movements, though they have a deep past in American history, were almost inconceivable just before they occurred. Then, all of a sudden in the 1960s, they burst out together, changing us all.”
Quote by architectural historian Vincent Scully from his Jefferson Lecture of 1995. Quoted in ”The Gay Metropolis“ by Charles Kaiser

Simeon Solomon1873: Simeon Solomon, an influential painter, was known for his association with the Pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetic Movement. Solomon lived a life marked by both stunning success and wasteful tragedy. He chose to live openly as a homosexual at a time when it was not socially acceptable to do so. He created works depicting androgynous male figures that are representative of homoerotic love and wrote a celebrated prose poem that may be read as a defense of male-male desire. The poet Swinburne and Oscar Wilde were two of his best know gay patrons. His career was cut short and his work marginalized because of late nineteenth-century English homophobia when he was arrested for attempted sodomy in London.

Magnus Hirschfeld1897: Magnus Hirschfeld, a prominent Jewish doctor, forms the world’s first homosexual rights organization in Berlin, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, with the goal of repealing the laws criminalizing homosexuality in Germany know as Paragraph 175 of the Imperial Penal Code of 1871. By 1912, 3,000 doctors, many of them Jewish, had joined him in urging the laws’ repeal. When the Nazis took power, they burned works by Jewish authors including thousands of books looted from the library of Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Research.

Marcel Proust1909: Marcel Proust begins to write “À la recherche du temps perdu” (Remembrance of Things Past). This seven-part novel is at once a kind of autobiography, a vast social panorama of France in the years just before and during World War I, and an immense meditation on love and jealousy and on art and its relation to reality. The work has been described as 'one the major achievements of Modernism and a great gay novel.' Because Marcel, the narrator, is fascinated by those who do not fit into strictly heterosexual patterns of social and sexual intercourse, the novel returns to the topic of homosexuality again and again. He was one of the first novelists to explore the entire spectrum of human sexuality.

Jacob Israël de Haan1910: Jacob Israël de Haan, Dutch poet and novelist of Jewish and homoerotic writings. He was also a talented legal scholar. His Jewish activism began when he sought to help Jews that had been imprisoned in Tsarist Russia. De Haan went to Russia armed with a letter of recommendation from the Queen of the Netherlands and was able to negotiate leniency for his Jewish clients. His work for Russian Jews made him keenly aware of the evils of anti-Semitism. Today his work is considered a precursor of Amnesty International. De Haan was assassinated in 1924 in Palestine, and responsibility was attributed to Zionists alarmed by his ultra-Orthodox politics, his contacts with Arab states and possibility for his homosexuality. The Homomonument in Amsterdam, the world’s first gay memorial in 1987, quotes a line from one of his poems (Such a boundless desire for friendship..). The monument was designed to inspire and support GLBT people in their struggle against denial, oppression and discrimination.

1921: Aldo Mieli, a Jewish Italian doctor, historian and activist, brings the ideas of the German homosexual rights movement to Italy by publishing Rassegna di studi sessuali (Review of Sexual Studies). Besides a pioneer of gay rights, he is best known as one of the founders of the history of science as an autonomous discipline. His political career was cut short because the Italian Socialist Party could not accept this homosexuality. He was forced to leave Italy for Paris in 1928 when the Fascists took control of Italian society. On the eve of WWII, Nazism forced him to leave France in 1939 and to seek asylum in Argentina. His belief in the power of reason and science to resolve the world's problems wasn't enough to stop the campaign of Fascism and anti-Semitism.

Kurt Hiller1922: Kurt Hiller, long-time collaborator of Hirschfeld in Germany, publishes “Paragraph 175: The disgrace of the century! Paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code criminalized homosexual activity. Hiller was an influential writer in the early German gay rights movement in the first two decades of the 20th century. In 1933-4, he spent time in concentration camps before fleeing to Prague and London. He died in 1972, the last of the leading men of the pre-WWII German homosexual movement. Hiller believed that homosexuals do not need to be satisfied with the compassion and understanding of those 'who pretend to be progressive', but that they have to stand up for their rights out of a sense of self-respect.

Walther Rathneau
1922: Walther Rathenau was a German Jewish industrialist, politician, writer, and statesman who served as Foreign Minister of Germany during the Weimar Republic. His visibility as a powerful, affluent Jewish politician, as well as rumors that he was a homosexual with a penchant for blond Nordic men may also have been a factor in establishing his divisive reputation in German politics at a time of growing anti-Semitism. Although he was a strong German nationalist and proponent of Jewish assimilation in to mainstream society, Rathenau was hated by Germany's extreme right, which culminated in his 1922 assassination. Today the Walther Rathenau Prize is given by Germany for outstanding lifetime achievement in international relations. Hilary Clinton was bestowed the honor in 2011.

1923: Sidney Franklin is the first American and Jew to become a successful bullfighter in Mexico and Spain. Born in Brooklyn to an Orthodox family, he is initially attracted to the visual and performing arts. After a violent dispute with his father, he runs off to Mexico City where he ends up being groomed for the bullring. Ernest Hemingway lauds Franklin in "Death in the Afternoon" as “a better, more scientific, more intelligent and more finished matador than all but six of the full matadors in Spain today.” His biographer states that Franklin had numerous relationships but was not out because of the machismo culture.

Myron Brinig1929: Myron Brinig was one of the first Jewish-American writers of his generation to write in English rather than Yiddish. Brinig was also the first Western novelist to write about homosexuality, and one of the first to write about the Jewish-immigrant experience. Between 1929 and 1958 he published 21 novels. In his book “Singermann”, he explores the transformation of a Jewish peddler into a thriving merchant on the American frontier. The novel also dealt with homosexuality and transvestism. A homosexual himself, he remained closeted all of his life, a stance he thought necessary for his writing career.

1933: Lincoln Kirstein, an American impresario, author, and art patron becomes one of the most influential forces in twentieth-century American dance when he convinces George Balanchine to come to the US to establish an American form of classical dance. Kirstein helps establish the School of American Ballet, the American Ballet, the touring company Ballet Caravan, and the New York City Ballet. He wrote librettos for ballets: Billy the Kid, Filling Station, Pocahontas, and numerous scholarly books on dance and art.

Herbert List1937: Herbert List was a German-born artist who combined a love of photography with a fascination for Surrealism and Classicism. His work was published in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Life and other publications. His austere, classically posed black-and-white compositions, particularly of male nudes, have been highly influential to modern photographers like Robert Mapplethorpe, Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber. Unable to evade the Nazis during WWII, he was sent back to Germany and drafted into the army despite being a Jewish homosexual. He spent the war as a map designer in Norway.

1938: Herschel Grynszpan was a 17-year-old gay Polish Jew and political assassin. His assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris on November 7, 1938, after the brutal abduction and deportation of his Polish family in Germany, provided the excuse for Hitler to incite Germans to “rise in bloody vengeance against the Jews.” It supplied the pretext for the massive Nazi pogrom of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. Nazi paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians beat and murdered Jews, destroyed 1,000 synagogues, looted 7,500 Jewish businesses, smashed Jewish cemeteries, hospitals and schools. 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps. Grynszpan was arrested and in a poignant statement taken after the arrest told the police: “Being a Jew is not a crime. I am not a dog. I have a right to live and the Jewish people have a right to exist on this earth. Wherever I have been I have been chased like an animal.” He declared that he had to avenge the Jews, to draw the attention of the world to what was happening in Germany.

Gad Beck1940: Gad Beck, a gay Jewish teenager living in Berlin makes a daring effort to rescue his boyfriend, Manfred Lewin. He dons a Hitler Youth uniform and enters a deportation center to free his Jewish lover. However, Lewin refuses to be separated from his family. Beck joins the Jewish underground smuggling food, arranging housing and helping Jews escape from Berlin to Switzerland often with the assistance of his non-Jewish, homosexual acquaintances. In 1945 a Jewish spy for the Gestapo betrayed the underground group. He was interned in a Jewish transit camp in Berlin. After World War II, Beck helped organize efforts to emigrate Jewish survivors to Palestine.

1940: Roger Stéphane joins the French resistance when the Vichy Regime passes the Statute on Jews, a series of anti-Semitic laws that groups the Jews as a lower class and deprives them of citizenship. After the war he becomes a journalist, political columnist, literary critic, and in 1950 cofounder of Le Nouvel Observateur and a TV producer in the ‘60s. Out his whole life, he is one of the earliest advocates for gay rights in France. He later campaigns against French torture and genocide in Algeria.

1943: Willem Arondeus lived openly as homosexual Dutch artist and author. He was part of the anti-Nazi resistance movement during World War II. Arondeus realized shortly after the German occupation of the Netherlands that the mandatory registration of Jews wasn’t for their safety, but to send them to death camps. He wrote and distributed an underground leaflet to convince others to join the resistance. He also led a resistance group of homosexuals that bombed the population registry in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, the group was betrayed and arrested within a week, and the members were executed. His last words were: "Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards."

Aaron Copland
1944: Aaron Copland, a composer, teacher, and conductor is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his score for Martha Graham’s ballet “Appalachian Spring”. In one of the great ironies in music, a reserved, gay Jewish leftist from Brooklyn produced the sound instantly identify with the conservative values, vast landscapes and bold pioneer spirit of the rugged American settlers. Given the social prejudices of the times, Copland was relatively open about his homosexuality, yet this seems not to have hindered the acceptance of his music or with his status as a cultural figure. He composed a wide variety of music, including concert hall pieces, ballets, and Hollywood film scores such as “Of Mice and Men”, “Our Town” and “The Heiress”, for which he won an Academy Award.

Homosexuals in camps1945: As labor and death camps were liberated in Europe, thousands of homosexual inmates were not considered unjustly imprisoned. In East and West Germany as well as Britain, US, and USSR, homosexuality remained a crime. Many ‘liberated’ inmates were in fact once again imprisoned and were forced to serve out their terms. Paragraph 175 was a provision of the German Criminal Code that prohibited sex between men. It was on the books from 1871 to 1994. In the US, it wasn’t until June 2003 that the US Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that state laws criminalizing private sexual activity (including sodomy) between consenting adults was unconstitutional.

1946: Niek Engelschman, a Dutch actor and resistance fighter, and Benno Premsela an interior designer and a survivor of the Shoah, are the first two chairmen of the Dutch homophile organization "Center for Culture and Recreation" (COC). The goals of the COC are twofold: decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity and for equal rights, emancipation and social acceptance of LGBT’s in the Netherlands and all over the world; and to offer culture and recreation for gay men and lesbian women. It is one of the earliest and oldest surviving LGBT organizations in the world and today has a special consultative status with the United Nations. The Homomonument, the world’s first gay memorial, symbolically points to the role of the COC in the LGBT-movement in The Netherlands. One of the points of the triangle making up the monument points to the office of COC Amsterdam.

1950: Edouard Roditi, a poet, essayist and translator associated with the Surrealists, becomes the object of persecution during the political witch-hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy and is fired from his civil service job as "a security risk" on the grounds of his homosexuality. Roditi was one of the first recruits for Voice of America that broadcast radio shows into Nazi-occupied Europe. After the war, he worked at the UN Charter Conference in San Francisco; and in 1946, he served as an interpreter at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. While in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich, he witnessed the German anti-Semitism, an experience that led him to learn Hebrew and study ancient Jewish texts as an act of cultural memory. Later he wrote poems inspired by his Jewish heritage. In 1975 he spoke about the importance of psychotherapy in examining and coming to terms with his life and choices and said, ". . . every day I thank God for having made me a Jew and a homosexual."

Rudi Gernreich1950: Rudi Gernreich, Jewish refugee and fashion designer (the unisex look, the monokini) along with his lover, activist Harry Hay, co-found the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles. After being convicted in an entrapment case, he becomes one of the five original members. The Mattachine Society is the earliest, sustaining, gay liberation organization in the US. Organizing principles called for creating a service and welfare organization devoted to challenging anti-gay discrimination and building a gay community.

Robert Friend1950: Robert Friend, considered one of the most prominent figures among English language writers and translators, moves from the US to Israel. Friend becomes a professor at Hebrew University. Some described his poetry as “preeminently a poet of desire” and “bold in portraying, not without humor, the darker, lustful side of love.” His sexuality found expression in his poetry well before the Stonewall era. Throughout the 20th century, gay writing becomes more visible and begins to articulate gay experiences.

Edward Sagarin
1951: Edward Sagarin (using pseudonym Donald Webster Cory) publishes The Homosexual in America”. At the time it was considered the most comprehensive description of gay life in America. It was the first publication in the US that discussed homosexual politics and sympathetically presented the plight of homosexuals. It described how they were discriminated against in almost all aspects of their lives and called for a repeal of anti-homosexuality laws. It prepared the stage for the gay liberation movement. He also started the first book-of-the-month club directed to a GLBT audience. Sagarin, heterosexually married and deeply closeted, later turned against the gay movement he helped create; becoming, in Frank Kameny's words, "no longer the vigorous Father ... but the senile Grandfather of the Homophile Movement".

Allen Ginsberg1955: Alan Ginsberg authors the poem “Howl,” which contains gay sexual imagery. He is very open about his sexuality and is an early proponent of freedom for men who love other men. The poem becomes a legal landmark in a free-expression case.
"who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,
"who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
"who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,
"who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose gardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,”

Gay poets and writers were voicing new explicitness of tenderness, rage, rejection of convention and sexual hedonism.

Leonard Bernstein1957: Leonard Bernstein was a major figure in American classical music. No one had a more prominent or controversial career - or did more to sell classical music to the general public as something exciting, and worth getting into a sweat over. The musical “West Side Story” was the creation of Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, and Stephen Sondheim: four gay Jewish men working at the very top of their craft. Bernstein's personal life was marked by anguish over the tradeoff between a conductor's glory and a composer's productivity, and the criticism invited by his impassioned political activism. It has been alleged that Bernstein was also conflicted about his devotion to his family and his homosexuality. Arthur Laurents said Bernstein was simply "a gay man who got married. He wasn't conflicted about it at all. He was just gay."

1964: George Cukor’s career highpoint is directing the movie “My Fair Lady” for which he receives his only Oscar. He is considered the preeminent "woman's director" and gay auteur of Hollywood's classical era. Cukor is responsible for many of the most popular and praised films of Hollywood's golden age, including “Camille,” “The Women,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Adam’s Rib,” “Born Yesterday,” and “A Star Is Born.” The films often deal with truth, identity, and the self-deception. His flamboyant, all-male, Sunday afternoon pool parties are legendary in queer circles. Although Cukor did not come out publicly, he did not deny his homosexuality within the film industry; and he fought against the homophobia in the studios. The studio once hid from the press his being mugged by sailors while out cruising. He turned down directing “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” because the gay content was to be removed.

Frank Kameny (middle) and the first gay march on Washington, DC1965: Frank Kameny, a WWII vet that fought the Nazis, organizes the first gay demonstration march in front of the White House. Seventy demonstrators show up. Kameny refuses to quietly accept his fate for being fired by the US government for being a homosexual. In 1966, he coined the slogan, "Gay is Good." He spearheaded a new period of militancy in the homosexual rights movement of the 60’s and 70’s. In 1971, Kameny becomes the first openly gay candidate for the US Congress. He also worked to remove the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association's manual of mental disorders in 1973. In 2009, the federal government finally apologizes for firing him in 1957.

Tobias Schneebaum
1969: Tobias Schneebaum, a writer, artist, and explorer published his memoir "Keep the River on Your Right". It described how a mild-mannered, gay, New York Jew wound up living, and passionately loving, for several months among the Arakmbut, an indigenous cannibalistic people in the rainforest of Peru. Wanderlust compensated for his perceived outsiderness in 1950’s America. In 1955, he won a Fulbright fellowship to study art in Peru. There, he vanished into the jungle and was presumed dead. Seven months later, he emerged, naked and covered in body paint. Schneebaum's work raises tantalizing questions about the role of the anthropologist, the responsibilities of the memoirist, and cultural attitudes toward sexuality and taboo.

Stonewall Bar 19691969: Stonewall Rebellion in NYC. On that night the police set out to raid a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, on the pretext they were just enforcing state law that made it illegal to serve alcohol to known homosexuals. The riot that ensued is often cited as the first instance of American gays and lesbians fighting back and taking a stand for gay liberation. The term “Stonewall” has become the international symbol of gay resistance and liberation. LGBT history is now commonly marked as being before or after Stonewall. Beginning that night, the lives of gays and lesbians, and the attitude toward them in the larger US culture began to change rapidly. People began to identify in public as homosexuals, demanding respect. Just as the 1967 Six Day War showed the world a new image of a strong, proud and self-reliant Jew, Stonewall had a similar galvanizing effect on the gay community.
Alan Ginsberg appears on the second night of the Stonewall Inn riots to tell the crowd, "Gay power! Isn't that great!... It's about time we did something to assert ourselves." One month after the riots, NYC’s first ever “Gay Power” rally was held in Washington Square. Marty Robinson and Martha Shelley spoke. The speeches were followed by a candlelight march to Stonewall Inn. Five hundred people showed up.

1969: Elliot Tiber, an artist and screenwriter, is responsible for issuing the permit for holding Woodstock Festival in Bethel, NY. In an attempt to save his parents’ motel from floundering, he offers to hold the festival on the surrounding land. He introduces concert promoters to Max Yasgur, whose dairy farm becomes the site for the festival. A few months earlier, he was at the Stonewall Inn during the riots. This led him to embrace his sexuality, which he had kept a secret even from his own family. Tiber's memoir, Taking Woodstock, was adapted as a 2009 movie by Ang Lee.

Marty Robinson1970: Marty Robinson, Jim Owles, Arthur Evans, and others form the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) after breaking away from the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). Robinson popularized an activist tool he called “zaps”. Zaps were direct, non-violent actions to confront oppressors. It forced gay and lesbian concerns onto the public agenda for the first time. Among its early achievements was stopping the routine police raids on gay bars and having the first gay rights bill in the world introduced into New York City’s Council.

John Schlesinger1971: John Schlesinger was an English film and stage director and actor. By exploring the complexities of human relationships, his films made it possible for later filmmakers to bring controversial subjects into the mainstream. Schlesinger dealt with homosexuality in "Darling", "Midnight Cowboy", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", and "The Next Best Thing". He earned his third Oscar nomination for the psychological drama "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" starring Glenda Jackson, Peter Finch, and Murray Head. It was one of the first mainstream films to deal with homosexual themes with sensitivity and perception.

1971: Dennis Altman, an Australian scholar and writer, joins the emerging gay liberation movement and conceives the first book that describes and theorizes it, “Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation.” The book launches him into a career as a “public homosexual,” activist, and spokesman in Sydney and in other parts of Australia. Altman is also an active member of organizations that are dedicated to creating a better life for homosexuals, serving on the Australian National Council on AIDS and other international organizations including the AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific.

Morty Manford with his mother Jeanne Manford1972: Morty Manford, who was at Stonewall Inn the night of the riots, marches in the '72 Gay Pride Parade with his mother, Jeanne. He has become a pivotal figure in the growth of the gay movement after Stonewall as an ideologist, public speaker and organizer. A few months after the parade, both of his parents become outspoken movement activists, and were co-founders with him of Parents of Gays, the first support group of its kind and forerunner of the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Star of David1972: In Los Angeles about a dozen gay Jewish men and women come to an ad hoc meeting to form the “Metropolitan Community Temple”. In 1973 they rename their synagogue Beth Chayim-Chadashim. It is chartered by the Reform Jewish movement in 1974 as not only the world's first gay and lesbian synagogue but also the first gay religious organization of any kind to be officially recognized by an American national body. In London, the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group, JGLG is formed in '72.
Today there are about thirty gay-specific synagogues in North America. Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in NYC was founded in 1973. South Florida's Congregation Etz Chaim in 1974; Philadelphia's Congregation Beth Ahavah in 1975 and Chicago's Congregation Or Chadash in 1976. Congregation Sha'ar Zahav was established in San Francisco in 1977.

Marc Rubin and Pete Fisher1974: Marc Rubin and Pete Fisher were a pioneering activist couple that were leaders in New York's Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) and were part of the Lavender Hill Mob, a precursor to ACT UP. As one of the first out gay teachers, Rubin helped found the Gay Teachers Association in 1974. With assistance with Lambda Legal they filed a lawsuit to win domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian public school teachers. The suit dragged on for six years, and was settled in negotiations with Mayor David Dinkins giving such benefits to all city employees. Rubin and Fisher were together for more the 35 years until Rubin’s death in 2007.

David B. Goodstein1974: David B. Goodstein buys the LA Advocate, building it from a local newspaper into the largest circulating gay magazine in the world. Three years earlier he had been fired from his investment job for being gay. He harnessed his anger and energy to the gay rights movement and was instrumental in attaining the passage of California's consensual sex legislation in 1974, and, together with Steve Endean, founded the Gay Rights National Lobby in 1976, and HRC in 1980.

Harvey Milk1977: Harvey Milk becomes the first openly gay man elected to a public office in the United States. Milk didn’t get involved in politics, gay activism or become open about his sexuality until after age 40. Yet, Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: "What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us."

Rabbi Allen Bennett1978: Rabbi Allen Bennett allows himself to be outed in the San Francisco Chronicle, becoming the first out gay rabbi in the US. He was Congregation Sha'ar Zahav’s first rabbi. He officiated at Harvey Milk’s funeral and gave the eulogy. During the first years of the AIDS epidemic, he was the synagogue's spiritual leader. Other important causes he was involved with include interfaith concerns and civil and human rights.

Martin Sherman1979: Martin Sherman’s play “Bent” opens on Broadway and is nominated for a Tony Award in 1980. This play is the first to deal with the treatment of homosexuals by the Nazis during World War II. The play was the first time that popular culture had acknowledged the fact that the gay men were victims of the Holocaust.

Larry Kramer1980: Larry Kramer, playwright (The Normal Heart), author (Faggots), public health advocate and LGBT rights activist, witnesses the first spread of the disease that became known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) among his friends, and he co-founds the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), which has become the largest private organization to assist people living with AIDS in the world. Later, when he felt GMHC was not doing enough to stop the epidemic, he founded ACT UP in 1987 that took a more striking and militant approach to activism.

Dr. Joel Weisman1981: Dr. Joel Weisman, a Southern California gay doctor, writes a report with immunologist Martin S. Gottlieb about their male patents, all gay, suffering from similar symptoms: drastic weight loss, pneumonia, and fevers. Their findings in the Centers for Disease Control's “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”, was the first to describe this new pandemic in the medical literature that would eventually be known as AIDS. Dr. Weisman became a national advocate for AIDS research, treatment and prevention.

Harvey Fierstein1981: Harvey Fierstein'sTorch Song Trilogy” debuts on Broadway and runs for almost three years winning him a Tony Award for best play and actor. The play introduces theatergoers to a world in which gay people make and keep commitments to one another instead of despairing over their homosexuality. It champions a gay man’s longings for love and family. Fierstein scored again by writing the book of the musical adaptation, "La Cage aux Folles," earning a third Tony in the process.

Rabbi Lionel Blue1981: Rabbi Lionel Blue was the first British rabbi to publicly declare his homosexuality and published “Godly and Gay” in 1981. He started life as a bitter, angry, Marxist atheist. Later as a rabbinic student in the 1950's, he had a crisis of faith and ran off to Amsterdam. After spending 3 months in gay saunas and cafes, he had a transformative experience. Inspiration from God in the form of the ‘10 commandments of gay life’ leads him back to his studies. He has been open about his sexuality since the 1960s. He met his partner in 1981 through a personal ad in Gay Times. He is widely respected in the UK as a journalist, broadcaster (Radio 4’s Thought of the Day) and author (Godseeker’s Guide, 2010).

Richard Berkowitz1983: Richard Berkowitz, a former S&M hustler, in conjunction with fellow activists Dr. Joseph Sonnabend and the musician Michael Callen, publish “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach,” which is widely acknowledged to be the first “safer sex” material on record. Berkowitz dared to suggest that a gay lifestyle of excess was not liberating us but killing us. He called for safer sex practices without giving up on sex altogether. “He made safe sex sexy,” despite being criticized and despised by the gay community at the time.

Martin Duberman1986: Martin Duberman is a historian, biographer, essayist, playwright, academic, and gay-rights activist. He is an astute commentator on gender and race issues and a pioneer in modern GLBT studies movement. He was the founder and first director (1986-96) of the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies at the CUNY Graduate School, the country’s first such research center. He has been passionate about making visible the queer lives that have been hidden from history. He is the author and editor of more than twenty books including “Stonewall”, “Paul Robeson”, “Left Out”, and “Cures: A Gay Man’s Odyssey.”

Barney Frank1987: Barney Frank comes out and is the first gay congressional representative to do so on his own volition. He has become one of the most prominent openly gay politicians in the United States. Frank is one of the brightest and most energetic defenders of civil rights issues. Speaking about publicly coming out, he said "I'm used to being in the minority. I'm a left-handed gay Jew. I've never felt, automatically, a member of any majority." In 1988 he founded the National Stonewall Democrats, a grassroots network that connects LGBT Democratic activists.

Jean-Paul Aron
1988: Jean-Paul Aron was a French philosopher, teacher, journalist and author. He was the first public figure in France to reveal that he had AIDS and thereby changed the public perception of the disease and those who suffered from it. A self-proclaimed dandy, he said it was the perfect word to describe his approach to life. “Dandyism is the apotheosis of the different” he said in an interview. His audacious 1978 book “Le Pénis et la démoralisation de l’Occident” (The Penis and the Demoralization of the West), written with Roger Kempf, examined repressive middle-class attitudes toward masturbation and homosexuality in nineteenth-century France.

Jonathan David Katz1989: Jonathan David Katz becomes the department chair of the first Gay and Lesbian Studies Department in the US at City College of San Francisco. He was the first tenured faculty in queer studies in the country. Katz was the first artistic director of the National Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco and has published widely in the United States and Europe. He continues to work in both fields of queer history and art history.

Jonathan Danilowitz
1989: Jonathan Danilowitz worked for El Al Israel Airlines, in Tel Aviv. When the airline refused to recognize his same-sex partner as his common-law spouse, as was common with opposite-sex partners, he sued the airline. His court action became one of the most publicized civil-rights cases. It went through three court sessions including the Israeli Supreme Court that in 1995 concurred that the discrimination was illegal and obliged the airline to grant partner benefits. The Supreme Court ruling is considered to be one of its most important decisions, and is featured in the Museum of the Court in Jerusalem.

Roy F. Aarons1990: Roy Aarons an American journalist, editor, author, and playwright, founded the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA). The association is dedicated to unbiased coverage of gay/lesbian issues in the media. Membership consists of journalists and students in print, broadcast, and online media. Aarons believed that coverage of the gay community, as with other minorities, required sophisticated training of journalists. He began to lobby journalism schools to include gay issues in their diversity training.

Tony Kushner1992: Tony Kushner, playwright (Caroline, or Change) and screenwriter (Munich, Lincoln) receives the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play, “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.” New York Times theater critic Frank Rich called it "a searching and radical rethinking" of American political drama and "the most extravagant and moving demonstration imaginable" of the artistic response to AIDS.

David Geffen1992: David Geffen, a powerful and wealthy self-made Hollywood media mogul, comes out after years of hiding his sexuality (including dating and almost marrying Cher) when being honored for his extraordinary financial contributions to the fight against AIDS. Geffen has developed a reputation as a prominent philanthropist for his publicized support of medical research, AIDS organizations, the arts and theatre.

Michael Tilson Thomas1995: Michael Tilson Thomas is appointed the music director of the San Francisco Symphony. He is one of the most prominent American conductors of his generation. He is the first gay conductor to achieve such distinction without masking or hiding his sexuality. He has pushed audiences to rethink the relationship between classical music and homosexuality by celebrating gay composers and commissioning works that explore the experiences of gay men and lesbians. He is also the creative force behind The Thomashefsky Project, founded to preserve and communicate the contributions of Yiddish theater to American cultural life.

1996: Franklin D. Israel, a gifted architect, is honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles just months before dying of AIDS at age 50. His work, influenced by the great modernist architects, contributes to the creative and heterogeneous culture of Los Angeles. Israel believes in additive design and juxtaposing innovative structures with existing buildings. Initially he found work in Hollywood designing sets for Paramount movies: "Night Games" and "Star Trek." Later he helped create the image of a new LA by designing headquarters for numerous movie production companies as well as distinguished residential projects for people in the entertainment business. He began educating people about living with AIDS and attributed some of his imaginative freedom and openness as a designer to his experience as a gay man.

1998: Steven Cohen (aka Princess Menorah) wins the premier South African art prize for his ‘ordeal art’ and is called South African’s most significant cultural figure by the Johannesburg Star newspaper. His performance art and choreography incorporates his own and others’ bodies to create ‘living art’ that references sculpture, contemporary dance, and drag to address issues related to Judaism, homosexuality, racism, and ethnic identity. He began his career as a collage silk-screen print artist focusing on controversial images of apartheid, anatomy, and sexuality. He is regarded as one of the most inventive and militant artists on the art scene.

Rabbi Steven Greenberg1999: Rabbi Steven Greenberg challenges tradition and becomes the first Orthodox rabbi ever to publicly declare his homosexuality. This has made Greenberg a focus for criticism and praise, as well as a symbol of the growing voice of the Jewish gay movement. He was featured in the acclaimed 2001 film "Trembling Before G-d." His 2004 book “Wrestling with God & Man: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition” won the Koret Jewish Book Award and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.

Moises Kaufman2000: Moisés Kaufman, a playwright (Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde), director and founder of Tectonic Theater Project, premieres “The Laramie Project.” The play is about the reaction to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. Kaufman valued and applied his yeshiva schooling to his theatre work by applying the principle of considering situations from various perspectives. One of his signature traits as a writer and director is the recognition that every dramatic experience may be viewed in multiple ways.

Ari Gold
2000: Ari Gold releases his debut album. He is believed to be the first openly gay American R&B or pop singer to be out from the beginning of his career. Gold regularly addresses both his being Jewish and gay has spent most of his life combating anti-Semitism and homophobia in the music industry. A former Orthodox kid from the Bronx and a successful child vocalist of jingles and cartoons, his pop music ranges from R&B to techno-dance. “One thing that influences my feelings about [being openly gay] is the concept of hiding and the history of Jews having to hide who they were... yet they still found ways to practice their beliefs. It was a very powerful message to me.”

2001: Remy Charlip, 71, performs “A Moveable Feast” that Dance Magazine will list as one of the “12 Shocking Dances of the Past.” Dressed in a yellow raincoat and hat, Charlip is lifted high above the crowd and carried along by a dozen muscular naked men to Wagner’sLiebestod.” Charlip’s diverse career includes performing John Cage, being one of the founding dancers of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, participating in the original Living Theater, co-founding The Paper Bag Players, serving as head of the Children’s Theater and Literature Department at Sarah Lawence College, and directing The National Theater of the Deaf. He is an award-winning writer and illustrator of more than 38 children’s books, which he claims helped to support his other pursuits.

Uzi Even2002: Uzi Even is sworn in as the first openly gay member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. He had been kicked out of the Israeli army for being gay. In 1993, Even led the successful campaign to end Israel’s ban on gay and lesbian service members. Even and his partner adopted a teenage gay son whom they are raising together.

Mark Leno2002: Mark Leno, former rabbinic student, is one of the first two openly gay men to be elected to the California Assembly and the first elected to the state senate. In 2005 and 2007, he authored bills that would legalize same-sex marriages. These bills became the first of its kind to pass a legislative body in the United States. But Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill each time.

Paul Colichman and Stephen Jarchow of HERE! network2002: Paul Colichman and his straight business partner, Stephen Jarchow, found HERE!, America’s first GLBT dedicated cable TV network. In 2008 they completed the acquisition of the "Advocate", "Out" and other gay publications and websites. Colichman said, "Gay liberation started in 1969 in New York with the Stonewall riots. There came a point in history where we said enough is enough. We're going to start to fight. It's been a 30-year fight. It is the civil rights movement of our generation."

Bryan Singer2003: Bryan Singer, openly gay movie director who's well-known among fans of the science fiction and comic book genres for his work on the first two "X-Men" films and "Superman Returns." He has gone on record as saying that growing up as a member of several minorities has influenced his movie-making storytelling. His films "X-Men" and "X2" show themes of persecution and intolerance that parallel growing up gay and growing up a "mutant" in the way that both are unseen and misunderstood.

2003: Evan Wolfson, an attorney and gay rights advocate, founds Freedom to Marry, an organization which campaigns for the right of same-sex couples to marry. Wolfson, who many consider to be the father and leader of the same-sex marriage movement, authored the book Why Marriage Matters; America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry, which Time Out New York magazine called, "Perhaps the most important gay-marriage primer ever written..." He was listed as one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Mitchell Gold2004: Mitchell Gold, furniture company CEO and gay rights activist launches "Faith in America" (, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate people about the harm caused by religion-based bigotry. He also compiled a book called "Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America", which asks Americans to awaken to the pain being inflicted on gay teens by a society that has been led to believe that such affliction is somehow morally or religiously justified.

Michael Lucas2004: Michael Lucas, a gay porn actor, director and the founder of Lucas Entertainment, a gay-adult-film company, becomes a US citizen. Lucas uses the recognition porn has given him as a platform to speak out against drugs, unsafe sex, child exploitation, anti-Semitism, religious oppression of gays, and a host of other social problems. Growing up, Lucas experienced the anti-Semitism of the Soviet Union, which led him to form a strong connection with his Jewish identity and the state of Israel.

Ari Shapiro2005: Ari Shapiro, radio journalist, wins the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize for his investigation of methamphetamine use and HIV transmission. He was the first NPR reporter to be promoted to correspondent before age 30. Has covered the Justice Department and the White House. Has performed with ‘Pink Martini’ a band that “every gay man is required to play as background music during champagne brunches and cocktail parties that involve canapés.”

Elliot Kline2005: Elliot Klein, of blessed memory, attended our first Seder with his daughter. Elliot’s career of fundraising (Stanford Medical Center, California Arts Council, Opera San Jose, California Council for the Humanities, Lawrence Hall of Science/UC Berkeley, and Jewish Family and Children's Services) came out of his passion for social justice. He knew and practiced two of the essential Jewish values, the path of ‘derkh eretz’ of civility and kindness to everyone and ‘tikun olam’ – improving and repairing the world around him.

Itai Pinkas
2005: Itai Pinkas, an Israeli LGBT activist, politician and environmentalist, married his partner Yoav Arad as part of a campaign to compel Israel to recognize same-sex marriages. Their request to have their Canadian marriage registered by the Interior Ministry was denied. However, in 2006, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled the couple was entitled to register their marriage in the Population Registry. Pinkas also initiated the first Israeli monument to honor the homosexual victims of the Holocaust. In 2008, he was awarded a "Green Globe" from Israel’s environmental community for his work as chairperson of the Dan Region Association of Towns. The award recognizes significant pro-environmental advancement in Israel each year.

Eytan Fox
2006: Eytan Fox, an openly gay Israeli film director, is the first recipient of the Washington Jewish Film Festival's Decade Award, given to a filmmaker whose work has made a significant contribution to Jewish cinema over a period of at least ten years. Many of his films contain themes of homosexuality, as well as the effect the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has on interpersonal relationships. Fox and his partner, Gal Uchovsky, a writer and journalist, have collaborated on producing and scriptwriting on Fox's movies: “Yossi & Jagger,” “Walk on Water,” and “The Bubble.”

2007: Harvey Brownstone, Canada’s first openly gay judge, officiated at the marriage of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, whose marriage triggered the US Supreme Court to over turn key parts of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA). He is a sitting Justice of the Ontario Provincial Court and is also a bestselling author, “Tug of War: A Judge’s Verdict on Separation, Custody Battles, and the Bitter Realities of Family Court,” and host of a television talk show, “Family Matters,” on issues involving family law.

Jared Polis2008: Jared Polis, internet entrepreneur (, ProFlowers), becomes the first openly gay man elected to the US House of Representatives as a freshman for the state of Colorado. He is the first gay parent in Congress. “I think it’s important to live one’s life openly and honestly, and I certainly do that. I treat it as I would my religion. If people ask, I’m happy to tell them about it,” said Polis in a recent interview.

Bruce Vilanch2009: Bruce Vilanch, one of the most sought-after jokesmiths in the entertainment industry, writes and contributes to his 20th consecutive Academy Award telecast. In addition to his appearances on stage, screen and TV, he has been a tireless proponent of Jewish and GLBT causes. Vilanch performs regularly at benefits, pride events, and remains strongly committed to the cause of AIDS research and education.

Dori Spivak
2011: Dori Spivak, an Israeli LGBT rights activist and jurist, was appointed to the bench of the Tel Aviv Labor Court. He is the first openly-gay judge in Israel's judicial system. He is the former chairman of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), and legal advisor to the Israeli GLBT community. Spivak is a Harvard graduate who lectures in Tel Aviv University’s law department, has been involved in several high profile gay rights cases.

2012: Nate Silver is named “Person of the Year” by Out Magazine. Other honors include Time's “100 Most Influential People of 2009” and Rolling Stone's “100 Agents of Change.” Silver is considered today's leading statistician through his innovative analyses of political polling. For the 2008 presidential election he predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states. In the 2012 election he correctly projected the winner of all 50 states. His reputation began as a baseball statistical analyst where his mathematical model is used for forecasting baseball player performance. "I've always felt like something of an outsider. I've always had friends, but I've always come from an outside point of view. I think that's important. If you grow up gay, or in a household that's agnostic, when most people are religious, then from the get-go, you are saying that there are things that the majority of society believes that I don't believe."

2012: Fred S. Karger ran for the Republican nomination for president making him the first openly gay and Jewish presidential candidate from a major political party in American history. He is a political consultant, gay rights activist and watchdog, and former actor. He used his organization Californians Against Hate to draw attention and expose the mega-donors to California’s 2008 Yes on Prop 8 campaign: the Mormon and Catholic Churches, the National Organization for Marriage and other corporations and business people.

Activists, artists, businessmen, doctors, poets, politicians, rabbis, teachers, and writers. What an amazing Seder table it would be to have these men around it. In reality, there probably is not a room big enough to hold them and their egos, agendas and attitudes. But they all exemplified Jewish values in a gay context of giving back to the community and working to make the world a better place.

Honorable mention – A few more of my favorite gay, Jewish playwrights and theatre composers: Howard Ashman, Jon Robin Baitz, Marc Blitzstein, Charles Busch, Fred Ebb, William Finn, Richard Greenberg, Lorenz Hart, Moss Hart, Jerry Herman, William Hoffman, Arthur Laurents, Andrew Lippa, Craig Lucas, Paul Rudnick, Marc Shaiman, Stephen Sondheim.

[A list of some prominent LGBT Jews.]


Esther said...

Great list! Some of the names were definitely new to me.

Chag sameach, Happy Passover to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this a great deal. Although I'm not Jewish I knew almost all of the names and deeds. It shows the universality of our fight for equality.

Anonymous said...

Pete Fisher wasn't a school teacher; my father was. Pete was a Columbia University Poly Sci gradaute student.

GuyDads said...

Thanks for the correction, 5/4/09 Anonymous. Are you Marc's daughter?

michaelj72 said...

i enjoyed reading this and it made me proud as a writer because some of my favorites are there like ginsberg and kushner. and feirstein made that most amazing play torch song; and cranky larry kramer too. a great complex and powerful group to honor

Anonymous said...

disgusting, im not surprised

Anonymous said...

Great list, but where are all of the amazing Jewish LGBT women and trans people who led the way? I hope you put those two lists together next.

Anonymous said...

Michael Lucas is not a hero, he is a prostitute and pimp on a grand scale. That does not make him a hero!

Ami Horowitz said...

Great list and great blog. I am glad I came across it and I will be adding it to my blog role :)

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