So it’s like this. All these amazing and interesting stories have been piling up on my desk. They feature innovative initiatives, grass roots activism, making a real difference – all this stuff that is both interesting and frankly, well… inspiring. The one thing that stood out from all of them was that they were all led by women. As a result I decided to write a series of posts celebrating these achievements and the awesome women behind them. Why? Ordinarily I don’t really contemplate gender. But given the continued gender disparity in wages and leadership positions in the Jewish community, I figured why not? Someone’s got to do it, if not me then who? If not now then when? We are blessed to have a wealth of talented women doing cool stuff for Israel and the Jews. For example, the default in all these discussions is Elie Winkelman of Challah for Hunger. Right now, despite her young age, Elie could probably run most Federations better than their current executives. This isn’t meant as a diss to our fantastic crop of Federation leaders. This is meant to reflect the breadth and scope of Elie’s talent. See where I’m going with this? And I don’t even pretend to know every major female player… there are just so many that I’ve come across that I just had to give them props. If you know anyone you think we should feature, just visit our contact page and let us know!
Our first featured woman is one that is near and dear to me. Sarah Weil is a neighbor of mine and a good friend. Originally hailing from Fresno CA, she a resident of Jerusalem and a Masters student at Hebrew University. Sarah is also a lesbian and while she loves living in Jerusalem, she noted that her community’s social calendar centered on Tel-Aviv. There she found a wealth of activities by and for Lesbians. The problem was that these tended to be big, brash parties that didn’t totally reflect her sensibilities and did not take place in Jerusalem. The few events that did take place in Jerusalem were either super serious or merely imitations of what was going on in Tel-Aviv. Thus, a year ago, with little fanfare, no budget and no organizational support, Sarah and a small group of like minded friends began Jerusalem’s Women’s Gatherings (I do their posters for instance).
Every month or so Sarah would organize an event at a Jerusalem different bar – Casino De Paris, Video, The Mikveh, Uganda etc. These are low key, warm affairs attracting a wide variety of local lesbians as well as their friends – gay, bi, straight and everything in between. Israelis, Americans, Palestinians, Orthodox, Reform, Atheists, professionals, students, right wing activists, left wing activists – you name it – they all attend. Heck, some people even make the shlepp in from Tel Aviv. Can you imagine? Anyone, let alone a lesbian, from Tel Aviv coming to party in Jerusalem – on purpose??
All this was made possible thanks to Sarah and her crew’s shrewd use of social media and local grass roots activism – I mean, they don’t even have a web site!! They have a Facebook Group, not even a page – and promote the Women’s Gatherings via Facebook Events and posters/postcards. What’s funny is that other promoters advertise their LGBTQ events on Sarah’s group’s page. There are now events that are like Sarah’s Women’s Gathering going on every week in Jerusalem, organized by other pubs independently of Sarah. If it was me, I’d be furious and a knee or two would feel my wrath. But not Sarah. She told me she got into this to create a scene, comfortable places for Jerusalem Lesbians to gather – and the more events the better, even if they are building on her success.
Now it’s one year in and the Women’s Gathering is about celebrate its first anniversary at Basher, a newly opened, trendy wine and cheese bar on Agripas near the shuk. The event is going to take place this coming Wednesday, January 9th at 9 pm – you can get all the details at the event page – see who is going, etc. etc. One year later, thanks to Sarah and her crew, Jerusalem is a different, better place. And we don’t have the municipality, random NGOs, philanthropists, the government or incubators to thank for it. Just little Sarah and her buddies, reaching out to the world from their little corner of Nachlaot.
Sarah was recently featured on a three page spread in Yediot Jerusalem. The story is in Hebrew and not otherwise online. Check it out here for the cover page and here for the rest of the article. It’s easy Hebrew and worth a click if only for images of Sarah’s cat Yiftachi who insinuated himself into every shot.