Purim was the one day I wasn’t in disguise | AJN

OPINION

Purim was the one day I wasn’t in disguise

From Purim to the Pride March.

By DASSI HERSZBERG
March 17, 2022, 11:16 am

ON Purim – a day when it is customary to hide your true identity – I found mine. As the fifth child in a family of eight, I struggled with my own identity both within my family and our closed ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel community.

Conforming to the strict dress codes expected by my family and surrounding community did not agree with my core perception of self.

Back then, I was considered what you’d call a “tomboy”. I loved to be active. I loved running. I loved climbing trees. I felt absolute discomfort in skirts, stockings (no matter the weather) and “girlie things”.

Riding a bike for girls was not allowed due to modesty codes, but I still managed to get some time on my brother’s bicycle every now and then and I loved it.

George was my favourite character in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novels. With her short black cropped hair, her competency and her sense of adventure. I loved how everyone accepted her. She was “one of the boys”. I wanted to be George.

As a child, I didn’t have the language nor did I understand that my resistance to wearing skirts wasn’t only about the sense of feeling stifled from a religious perspective. It was also taking away my capacity to understand and explore my identity. My visceral rejection to the clothing wasn’t only because I didn’t understand the religious expectations. It wasn’t that I was a rebel. It just didn’t feel like I was a girl like the other girls around me.

After age three, I could no longer wear pants. That’s the age girls begin adhering to dress codes. Compulsory long sleeves and high-necked tops. I felt discomfort and suffocated. My ability to understand my identity was stifled.

Looking back at my childhood, Purim was the only day I could dress to match the way I felt. To be able to wear a pair of my brother’s pants for the day and dress up as a “boy” dresses, was always the highlight of the year for me.

It felt like a sin yet gave me a sense of liberation. Just for the day.

I now understand that my younger self’s sense of freedom in wearing boys’ clothing had a lot to do with my identity as non-binary.

I believe it was actually a positive saving grace that sexuality and the concept of gender non-conformity was non-existent. There was no language around for such expressions or conversations. That kind of subject matter was never discussed.

Nobody in my family or community could accuse me of being “evil” – at least that part hadn’t been tainted for me.

All of us wear masks at times, to hide ourselves away. Masks protect us. We are forced to wear masks to fit in with society.

But my experience was feeling forced to be dishonest. It’s a strange contradiction, not revealing who I was, was the mask I needed to wear – for self-preservation and protection.

Clothing is not just clothing. It tells a story. Clothing can be used as a “mask”. Clothing can be used to enhance. Clothing can be used as a statement of self-expression. Wearing a skirt feels so incongruous with who I am. Then again, there are days when I feel more feminine. And on those days, I feel a lot more comfortable wearing a skirt, wearing a pretty top and sometimes even putting make up on.

But on those days, when it is my choice to wear more typically feminine clothing, I am wearing them because I am being true to the essence of myself. Not because it’s being forced upon me by religious values.

Every Purim, I personally celebrate the recognition of finding my identity. It falls on my birthday and as such is my true “anniversary”. Purim is also a day when I celebrate my younger self’s sense of exhilaration, striding out of my childhood family home, dressed as a boy.

In a similar way, I felt absolutely elated when I marched under the banner of Pathways Melbourne with the Jews of Pride parade for the first time, wearing the clothes I wanted to wear.

Being surrounded by a diverse group of Jewish and non-Jewish people, each with their own senses of identity – all of us accepting of one another as a colourful member of our broad community. Each with our own story and history of how we “arrived” together.

Dassi Herszberg is a member of the Pathways Melbourne advisory panel and a qualified art therapist and counsellor. For further information, visit pathwaysmelbourne.org

Jewish sessions @ Queer Screen 2022

Queer Screen

Enjoy these Jewish films at the Mardi Gras Film Festival, running from February 17 to March 3 2022. Session and booking details online.

IN THE IMAGE OF GOD

Included in the QueerDoc Shorts session (available On Demand) is the screening of In The Image of God:

The fourth generation in his family to be born intersex, Jewish Rabbi Levi was assigned the female gender at birth and grew up thinking he was sick and defective. “In the Image of God” tells the story of his struggles and transitions, culminating today in a life as a religious leader and an LGBTQI+ activist living happily in Los Angeles with his wife.

PAST CONTINUOUS

Screening in Sydney as part of the Oz Doc Shorts session is Past Continuous:

At the age of 72, Ilan and Oscar finally have the right to join in a holy matrimony underneath the chuppah in a synagogue in Sydney. Now, with identical rings and official recognition, Ilan and Oscar are preparing for a journey into the grim past which still pains and troubles them and which, despite the many years that have passed, they still bear within them.

This is a story about an inspiring couple who managed to stay together against all odds.

Directed by Kineret Hay-Gillor, this short-form documentary is told in English and Hebrew with English subtitles.

Queer Sessions @ JIFF 2022

Jewish International Film Festival 2022
March 2 – April 4, 2022

Full programme here.


TWO

In her moving debut feature, Israeli director Astar Elkayam tackles the physical and emotional challenges two women face when they decide to start a family. Initially optimistic, Bar and Omer embrace the process, eagerly combing through a catalogue of potential donors and facing the insemination process with humour. After Omer repeatedly fails to become pregnant, a sense of failure gnaws at them, threatening to undermine their relationship.

Mor Polanuer and Agam Schuster (Your Honour) deliver outstanding performances, realistically capturing the toll that the IVF process takes on the young couple.

SUBLET

From acclaimed Israeli director Eytan Fox (Walk on WaterThe Bubble), Sublet is a poignant depiction of the transformative power of love through a cross-generational encounter.

Michael, a travel columnist for The New York Times, takes on a rental apartment for a week’s assignment to discover the real Tel Aviv. He sublets an apartment from Tomer, a twenty-something gay film student who offers to act as his guide. Tomer’s carefree life of partying and casual sex are an affront to Michael whose life experiences have led him to more conservative views on love and relationships. Over five days together, the two find they have more in common than they thought, and form a bond that emotionally liberates them both.

TAHARA

This poignant and comic story traces the coming-of-age of two Jewish teenage girls—one white and straight, and the other Black and queer. Set in Rochester, NY, the film begins at the funeral service of their former Hebrew school classmate who suddenly commits suicide. A complicated romance unexpectedly arises as best friends Carrie and Hannah (played by Shiva Baby’s Rachel Sennott) navigate their feelings about this tragedy and themselves, and try to make sense of their teacher’s well-meaning but misguided advice about grieving.


jiff-2022-program

Past Continuous – Melbourne film screening and Q&A discussion

Plus61J Media proudly presents the Australian premiere of Past Continuous

Past Continuous tells the story of Sydney couple Oscar Shub and Ilan Buchman. In 2018, Shub and Buchman became Australia’s first same-sex couple to be legally married in a religious ceremony. 

Made by award-winning documentary filmmaker Kineret Hay-Gillor, the film chronicles Shub and Buchman’s relationship – beginning in Tel Aviv in 1971 – their eventual marriage at Sydney Emanuel Synagogue, and a past that still holds painful memories. 

Join Oscar Shub, Ilan Buchman and Kineret Hay-Gillor in a post-screening Q&A followed by drinks and nibbles (all inclusive for $15 general admission).

Thu 17th Mar 2022, 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Classic Cinemas
9 Gordon St, Elsternwick

Book tickets here.

AJN Letter to the Editor: “Sondheim’s Sexuality”

It would be remiss to recount the life of the legendary playwright Stephen Sondheim (AJN 03/12) without also acknowledging that he was a gay man who only came out at the age of 40.

He met his partner Jeffrey Romley in 2004, whom he described as a great joy in his life.  They married in 2017 and it was in his husband’s arms that he died. Although he did not have children, he said if he had his time again he would definitely have been a parent, admitting he fell victim to historical stigmas around gay men parenting.

The erasure of Sondheim’s personal life and sexual orientation is disappointing, as they are just as important as his professional achievements.  Had he been married to a woman, it would have been noted along with the duration of their relationship.

Michael Barnett
Co-convenor, Aleph Melbourne

Australian Jewish News; December 17 2021

SOURCES

LGBTQ NATION: Legendary gay composer & Broadway genius Stephen Sondheim passes at 91

ABC Radio National – The Music Show: Jeremy Sams remembers Stephen Sondheim, and Braille music with Ria Andriani (42:22)

31st Melbourne Queer Film Festival – The Jewish & Israeli experience

We present the films in the 31st Melbourne Queer Film Festival that will appeal to a Jewish audience

MQFF 2021

The 31st Melbourne Queer Film Festival runs from November 18 to 29 2021. The following is a selection of films from the festival program that contain Jewish content, relevance, or are from Israel. The full program can be viewed here.


The Swimmer

90 Mins

Erez, a rising star in the Israeli swimming scene arrives at a godforsaken training camp held in a boarding school where the winning athlete gets a coveted ticket to the Olympics. There he meets the beautiful and talented Nevo, who awakens long repressed desires in him, throwing his Olympic chances (and libido) into turmoil. This attraction is complicated further by their stern swimming coach who does not believe in fraternizing between competitors and is warned to stay away or risk his Olympic dreams. Will Erez act upon his feelings for Nevo and risk losing everything he has strived for becomes the urgent question at the heart of this vibrant and engaging film. Speedos, water, desire… The Swimmer is a winning romantic drama that will leave you cheering right up to the finish line.

Year: 2020 | Country: Israel | Genre: Drama/Romance | Theme: Gay | Language: Hebrew/English Subtitles | Premiere: Australian | Director: Adam Kalderon | Courtesy: M-Appeal

  • Fri 19 Nov | 9PM | Village Cinemas Vmax 10
  • Tue 23 Nov | 6:30 PM | ACMI Cinema 1
  • Sat 27 Nov | 2:30 PM | Cinema Nova Cinema 8

[PDF archive of MQFF page]


Ma Belle, My Beauty

[This film is not specifically Jewish but features a prominent Jewish character]

93 Mins

Lane, Bertie and Fred once shared a polyamorous relationship in New Orleans. Lane loved Bertie, Fred loved Bertie, they had a balance that worked… until it didn’t, and Lane vanished from their lives. Two years later, Bertie and Fred have gotten married and are living at Fred’s family home in the countryside of southern France. When Lane unexpectedly shows up in Bertie’s seemingly idyllic new life, she finds her former lover much different than she remembers. Bertie is disillusioned in her jazz career and clearly alienated in this small, white, European town. However, their spark is quickly ignited and when Lane attempts to recreate their old, carefree dynamic, complications arise. This is compacted further by Lane’s increasing flirtations with Noa, a sultry young artist and former soldier. Winner of the audience award at Sundance Film Festival, Marion Hill’s debut feature is a sensual, carefree delight.

Year: 2021 |Country: France/USA | Genre: Drama/Romance | Theme: Lesbian | Language: English | Premiere: Australian | Director: Marion Hill | Courtesy: WaZabi Films

  • Fri 19 Nov | 6:30 PM | Cinema Nova Cinema 8
  • Sun 21 Nov | 9PM | Cinema Nova Cinema 1
  • Sat 27 Nov | 7:30 PM | Village Cinemas Vpremium 11

Virgin My Ass

17 Mins

Ophir and Harel are best friends, but that could all change when Ophir asks for a special favor.

Year: 2021 | Country: Israel | Theme: Gay | Language: Hebrew/English Subtitles


Great Freedom

116 Mins

In post-war Germany Hans is imprisoned again and again for being homosexual. Due to the notorious paragraph 175 his desire for freedom is systematically destroyed. The one steady relationship in his life becomes his long-time cellmate, Viktor, a convicted murderer. What starts as animosity develops over the years into something called love. Director Sebastian Meise asks you to imagine a world where love is forbidden by law and punished with imprisonment. What sounds like a dystopia was a reality for gay men in Germany right up until the late 60s. Bolstered by a magnetic and soulful performance by Franz Rogowski as Hans and rightfully winning the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival this year, Great Freedom is a stunning drama that is destined to become a queer classic.

Meise’s film is an exquisite marriage of personal, political and sensual storytelling – Variety

Year: 2021 | Country: Austria | Genre: Drama/Romance | Theme: Gay | Language: German/English Subtitles | Premiere: Melbourne | Director: Sebastian Meise | Courtesy: Madman Entertainment

  • Sun 21 Nov | 5:45 PM | Village Cinemas Vpremium 9
  • Wed 24 Nov | 8:45 PM | Cinema Nova Cinema 8
  • Sat 27 Nov | 9:30 PM | ACMI Cinema 1

Publisher snaps up writer Roz Bellamy’s memoir ‘Mood’ | OUTinPerth

Publisher Wakefield Press has announced the acquisition of world rights to Roz Bellamy’s Mood, a memoir exploring the intersections of mental illness, queerness, gender diversity and Jewish identity.

Wakefield Press associate publisher Jo Case says that when she noticed Bellamy was writing a memoir, she was intrigued, and thought about asking to read it. She’d admired Bellamy’s essay in Growing Up Queer in Australia (Black Inc.), and their essay exploring queer and Jewish identity in Living and Loving in Diversity, an anthology published by Wakefield Press in 2018 (edited by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli).

Roz Bellamy is a first-generation Jewish Australian who grew up in a progressive family, attending an orthodox school. Roz, who identifies as nonbinary, met their wife, Rachel, as a university student, as the pair made their first tentative forays into queer culture – and fell in love – through a Buffy the Vampire Slayer online message board.

Publisher snaps up writer Roz Bellamy’s memoir ‘Mood’

Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021: James Ostroburski OAM | J-Wire

Queen’s Birthday Honours – the Jewish list for 2021

June 14, 2021 

MEDAL [OAM] OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA IN THE GENERAL DIVISION

James OSTROBURSKI, St Kilda East VIC 3183

James Ostroburski

For service to the community through charitable organisations.

Philanthropy

  • Founder, Ostroburski Family Fund.
  • Founding Member, New Generation of Giving Program, Victorian Division, Philanthropy Australia, 2013.
  • Deputy Chairman and Co-Founder, Surgeons Impact Fund, since 2018.
  • Member, Arts Philanthropy Review Panel, Victorian Ministry for the Arts, 2014

Melbourne Recital Centre

  • Patron, since 2013.
  • Member, Amplify Program for Emerging Artists, 2015.

Dancehouse

  • Chairman, 2014-2017.
  • Director, 2013-2018.

The Arts

  • BoardBank Volunteer, Australian Business Arts Foundation, 2009-2011.
  • Governor, Arts Centre Melbourne Foundation, 2013-2016.
  • Trustee, Bundanon Trust, 2014-2016.
  • Director, Australian Chamber Orchestra, 2015-2020.
  • Director, Institute of Creative Health, since 2016.
  • Director, National Theatre, since 2016.
  • Director, Festival of Jewish Arts and Music, since 2020.

Other

  • Director, Jewish Museum of Australia, 2015-2020.
  • Non-Executive Director, Cannvalate, current.
  • Chairman, Nexus Global Youth Summit, 2015-2016.

Banking

  • Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kooyong Group, since 2017.
  • Head of Medical Finance, Grimsley Wealth, 2015-2016.
  • Investec Bank (Australia), 2010-2015.
  • Credit Union Australia Ltd, 2009-2010.

James Ostroburski started his philanthropic journey at a young age when a sense of community and making an impact was instilled in him and says that his communal involvement is part of his day-to-day life, not something he does separately.

“I think that it is wonderful to be recognised for something I do out of love of community and it is very humbling. The Awards system is important because it recognises people who quietly, or otherwise, support the communities in their lives.

“I am somewhat surprised to be recognised at my age. It is a great way for other young Australians to see that they can make a difference now and not wait until they retire” he told J-Wire.