Big Apple, Little Time


I flew to New York City last night on the red eye, and am leaving today at 1:00. I will be in the city that never sleeps, not sleeping, for 30 hours. I am here for a quick catch up with my Aussie Posse. A remarkable group of friends from Melbourne, Australia. We met at a wedding and this is our third year together to welcome in the holiday season. They are like family and I love them. By family of course I mean they are my ridiculously entertaining and attractive drunk uncles.

I don’t know if it is all Australians, or just this group in particular, but they can drink. They perfectly time the ordering of their drinks so that as they take the last sip of one cocktail, the next one arrives without skipping a beat, or a sip as it were. They are wonderful human beings and being with them makes me happy. It also makes my liver want cry. I love a cocktail, but these people are on a whole other level. They drink three drinks to every one of mine.

I arrived yesterday at 7:00 am and have not slept. I arrived, met a friend for breakfast, did a little shopping, then a bit of work, then lunch with another friend, then the debauchery began. We had a private area at the rooftop bar at The Standard Hotel. It was gorgeous and the service was perfection. I drank 3 cosmos, and no good can ever come of that. Particularly since the truth is I lost count after 3. I drank like it was my job and I was employee of the month.

We stayed out until only about 11, then I came back to the hotel, while the Aussie Posse went to a nightclub. I took a shower, put on my super cute pajamas, and crawled into bed. As I started to doze off, the nightclub seemingly relocated to the hotel. It started off as a couple of people talking quietly in the living room, then it became a few more voices, then it became a full on rave. There were over 100 attractive, young, gay men in our penthouse and I was amazed.

I was inspired by their beauty and their bravery to live their lives out loud. By out loud of course I mean with no clothes on. There was a whole lot of naked happening and I marveled at all of it. People were everywhere and I must say as the one old lady in a sea of young gay hotness, these men had impeccable manners. As they continuously came into the wrong room and found me in bed, they apologized, offered to get me water, and told me my hair was fabulous.

Eventually I gave in and embraced the fact that I was not going to get any sleep, so I joined the party. I chatted to a lot of people, got eyelash tips from a beautiful man in a dress, learned how to tape my boobs for perfect cleavage, and saw more bits and bobs than I have ever seen in my entire life, because apparently one’s bits are an important piece of wardrobe when you are a young, fabulous gay man in New York City. It was an evening of wonder and enlightenment.

I’m happy around this special group of people. I feel safe and pampered. They are generous of spirit and my time with them makes me see the world in a new way. They work hard, and play harder. They are unapologetic about their excesses, while remaining humble. Jayson and Stephen are the poster couple for relationship goals, and should either one of them decide they wanted to shake things up and marry a Jewish old lady, I’d push and claw my way to the front of that line.

Justin is the social director of the group and I love him like a son. Andrew is the Grande Dame and nothing but kindness. Laura is my soul sister and I want for her all the thing she wants for herself. I am blessed to be a part of this family and cannot speak of them without a shout out to my beloved Gamble, who brought us all together. Even though it is kind of nutty to travel so far for such a short time, I am very happy I came to celebrate Jayson’s birthday in the big apple.

I was meant to join everyone for a Drag Show brunch at 2 and take a flight home at 8:30 tonight, but I’ve decided to take an earlier flight and head back to LA. This experience made me feel young in some ways, but old in others. I’ve never been a stay up all night kind of person, and so this has taken a toll. I am tired, and probably still drunk, so I need to get home so I can go to work tomorrow without looking like I’m in need of some serious medical attention.

I learned something new about myself over the past 24 hours, which is always a good thing. I discovered I want to come back in my next life as an attractive gay man, with a loving and supportive family, and a dentist as my husband. Thank you to Jayson, Stephen, Justin, Andrew, Claudio, Laura, Jacek, and Kassidy for an amazing time. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and cannot wait until we are all together again. Safe travels my darling friends. Be safe and keep the faith.

Shira Banki’s parents urge public to attend Jerusalem Pride march


The parents of Shira Banki, the 16-year-old girl who was killed in a stabbing spree at last year’s Jerusalem gay pride march, have called on the public to participate in this year’s event.

“After Shira’s murder, there were many voices saying that even though they don’t agree with the way of life LGTBQ community members live, and moreover they resist the concept of the Jerusalem Pride March — they still cannot accept violence as a legitimate demonstration of disagreement,” Ori and Mika Banki wrote Wednesday on Facebook.

“To all of these voices, and everyone who feels and thinks that way — we expect to see you march this year and in the years to come,” they wrote.

The 15th Jerusalem Pride march, which is being held in memory of Shira, is scheduled for July 21.

The Bankis invited march participants to place flowers at the site where their daughter was stabbed and 10 others were injured by Yishai Schlissel, who had been released from prison several weeks before the parade after serving 10 years for a similar attack on the Jerusalem Pride march in 2005. In June, Schlissel wassentenced to life in prison and ordered to pay compensation to Shira’s parents.

“Marching in Jerusalem’s Pride March is not just about showing support to the LGTBQ community, it is also about supporting ideas of tolerance and equality for all. To us it also means standing in resistance to violence as a way of solving any dispute or argument,” the Bankis wrote.

They noted Shira was not a member of the LGTBQ community, but that regardless of sexual orientation, “we all deserve to be treated respectfully certainly not with violence or disrespect.”

Concluding the post, the Bankis wrote: “If we won’t stand up against them, the next murder is yet to come. If you care for a better society, a better Jerusalem and Israel — you must march with us at this year’s Jerusalem Pride March.”

The march is produced by the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, a nonprofit organization for the LGTBQ community of Jerusalem and surrounding areas.

Gay pride parade draws 200,000 to Tel Aviv


Approximately 200,000 people, including many tourists, gathered in central Tel Aviv for the city’s 23rd gay pride event.

The event, whose theme this year is women in the gay, lesbian and transgender community, kicked off Friday morning at Gan Meir, a park that houses the Tel Aviv Municipal LGBT Center. A representative of the center presented an award to journalist Ilana Dayan and to Ilana Shirazi, an organizer of lesbian marriage ceremonies.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai then gave the signal for the Gay Pride Parade, which features a procession with floats and music terminating at a beach party in south Tel Aviv.

Among the first-time foreign participants this year in the parade is Buck Angel, a transgender male adult film producer, actor and motivational speaker from California. “This is my first time in this side of the world,” he told Ynet. “It’s exciting to see the gay community being accepted in the Middle East, and it’s generating change.”

Elsewhere in the region, homosexuals — gay men especially — are subject to legal persecution. Countless homosexuals have been murdered in the region.

Same-sex marriages are not performed in Israel, where Jewish marriage is the purview of the Chief Rabbinate. Muslims and Christians have corresponding religious bodies.

Last year, Yishai Schlissel, after being released from prison for stabbing several people at a 2005, Jerusalem gay pride parade In 2005, stabbed victims at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, killing a 16-year-old participant and wounding several others.

Despite these incidents, violence against homosexuals is relatively rare in Israel, which is rated by many LGBT publications as one of the world’s best and safest travel destinations.

Also taking part in the parade were members of a week-long LGBTQ mission to Israel sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America. During the mission, which officially ended Thursday, more than 100 participants met with leaders of Israel’s LGBTQ organizations, LGBTQ leaders from Israel’s political parties, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. Participants included Stuart Kurlander, an attorney and former president of the Washington, D.C.-area Jewish federation, and Matt Nosanchuk, a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department and former White House liaison to the Jewish community.

Tel Aviv celebrates gay pride


Tel Aviv launched gay pride festivities Friday.

Rainbow flags and balloons festooned the city’s streets and an array of celebrities and politicians addressed the crowd of thousands.

Among the speakers were Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro. Wearing a shirt featuring a rainbow flag, the symbol of the gay community, Shapiro told Ynet that the United States supports the rights of the LGBT community in Israel and worldwide.

A parade culminated with a beach party.

Anti-Israel group setting up battle with plans to rejoin Toronto gay pride parade


The activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is planning to return to the gay pride parade in Toronto, setting up another battle with Jewish groups and the city.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid withdrew from last year’s Pride Toronto parade after city officials demanded assurances that the group would not take part amid rumblings that funding to the parade could be withdrawn.

“We decided we didn’t want to be the scapegoat for Pride not getting funding from the city, but this year we feel it’s time to go back,” QAIA spokesman Tony Souza told the Toronto Star on May 15. “It so happens that the issue we’re talking about is controversial, but that doesn’t mean that the work that we do, which is basically for justice for people, should not be celebrated.”

The Pride Toronto festival, to be held June 22 to July 1, will publish a list of groups in early June that have registered to participate. If a complaint is filed, which is likely in this case, a panel of legal experts will render a final decision on whether QAIA can march.

Some Toronto officials and Canadian Jewish groups object to QAIA because they say linking Israel to South African-style apartheid is odious and inaccurate. The groups note that Israel is the only Middle East country where homosexuality is tolerated.

Howard English, senior vice president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said he hopes the Toronto City Council “keeps in mind the hateful nature of QAIA’s messaging and the extent to which it’s divorced from the reality of public opinion among the people of Toronto.”

In March 2011, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told the Canadian Jewish News that “taxpayer dollars should not go toward funding hate speech.”

The city has recommended that the council allocate $1.6 million to the Pride festival.

Toronto mayor threatens to withhold gay pride parade funding


Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he will withhold more than $100,000 in city funding to the annual gay pride parade if an anti-Israel group again is allowed to participate.

Ford, who was elected on a right-wing, waste-slashing agenda last November, told the Canadian Jewish News last week that he will cut funding to the annual Pride Toronto event if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is allowed to participate in this summer’s parade.

“Taxpayers dollars should not go toward funding hate speech,” Ford told the weekly, repeating a pledge he made while campaigning for the mayor’s post.

Pride Toronto received $123,807 from the city last year.

To counter the presence of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in last year’s parade, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Canadian Jewish Congress marched in solidarity with members of Kulanu Toronto, the Jewish community’s main gay advocacy group.

The loss of city funding would be a blow to Pride Toronto, which emerged from last year’s festival with a debt of nearly $110,000 due to alleged financial mismanagement and the loss of a $400,000 federal grant, reported Xtra, a Toronto newspaper for gays and lesbians.

Candidates for U.N. Secretary-General post consult with U.S. Jewish leaders;


Candidates for U.N. Secretary-General Post Consult With U.S. Jewish Leaders
 
As the U.N. General Assembly opens, diplomats vying to be the world’s top peacekeeper are taking time to consult with American Jewish leaders. At least three of the favored candidates to replace Kofi Annan as U.N. secretary-general have met in recent months with leaders of the U.S. Jewish groups that routinely deal with the United Nations.
 
“It’s a recognition that we’re part of the equation and the political calculus,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, who acknowledged “several” meetings with prospective candidates: “It’s clear that no candidate can win without the support of the five permanent members, and there is thinking that American Jewry would have some impact on the thinking of the United States.”
 
The United States, Russia, France, China and Great Britain are the five permanent members wielding veto power on the U.N. Security Council, the body that recommends a candidate for secretary-general to the General Assembly for confirmation.

Annan’s term lapses at the end of the year, and Jewish leaders are considering the disappointments, as well as its highlights. Many of the issues that characterized the last part of Annan’s 10-year term — the Iranian nuclear threat, the aftermath of the Lebanon War and the prospect of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks — will be high on the Jewish agenda the week that world leaders arrive to address the General Assembly during its opening session.
 
“We want to gauge the international mood toward Israel post-summer conflict and get a sense of whether there’s any traction of rumors of resumption of peace talks,” said Harris, who said his organization planned 60 meetings with world leaders this week and next. “We’ll be talking about the challenges of anti-Semitism.”
 
After two Africans in the job — Annan is from Ghana; his predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was from Egypt — the assumption is that an Asian will get the job. Of the declared candidates, Shashi Tharoor, a U.N. undersecretary-general backed by his native India, and Surakiart Sathirathai, Thailand’s deputy prime minister, have met with Jewish groups. Another candidate, Ban Ki-Moon, South Korea’s foreign minister, has also met with Jewish leaders and is in the process of setting up a second meeting. Community leaders were loath to endorse a particular candidate, but Tharoor made a favorable impression.
 
“We should take him seriously as a candidate,” said Shai Franklin, director of international organizations at the World Jewish Congress. “He was instrumental in putting the Holocaust on the U.N. agenda.”
 
Celebrating 350 Years of British Jewry
 
Trafalgar Square filled with celebrants this week to mark 350 years of British Jewry. An estimated 25,000 people on Sunday visited Simcha on the Square, the centerpiece of the yearlong anniversary celebration.
 
In the weeks leading up to the celebration, increased security was necessary due to the recent rise in anti-Semitic activity in Britain. Also, the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) cancelled its participation to protest the involvement of London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a vehement critic of Israel who has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.
 
The involvement of Livingstone’s office wasn’t a recent decision, but it led AJEX to decide on Sept. 14 to boycott the event. In light of the controversy surrounding the mayor, Livingstone had been pulled from the celebration schedule months ago, to be replaced by his deputy, Nicky Gavron. AJEX’s last-minute decision to withdraw likely was due to a Sept. 5 press release from Livingstone’s office proclaiming the mayor’s personal support of Simcha on the Square.
 
Despite these 11th hour glitches, the event “went beyond our dreams,” Auerbach said. “To see beautiful signs up in Trafalgar Square, we just couldn’t picture in advance how that would make us feel. To have our event there in that setting, one of the most iconic spots in Britain, and to see Jews of all sects and other people all mingling and having a good time there, I think it was the best possible way we could have shown how the Jewish people have integrated into British society.”
 
The festivities included live Jewish music on the main stage, which was placed in front of the National Gallery.
 
Rallies Call for Action on Darfur
 
An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people gathered in New York to urge the United States and the United Nations to end genocide in Darfur. Sunday’s rally, which drew Jews from across the United States, was organized by the Save Darfur Coalition. North American Jewish groups have taken the lead in advocating an end to the massacre of Darfur residents in Sudan by government-allied Arab militias.The rally featured musical performances by Suzanne Vega, Citizen Cope and O.A.R.
 
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright headlined a list of 20 speakers.”All the sides in the Darfur conflict are predominantly Muslim,” Albright said. “But this is not about politics, this is about people.” She added: “We need to tell the United Nations that this is what it is here for, and President Bush has to make it clear to the United Nations that the United Nations has to get in there.”
 
Rallies took place in 31 states and 57 cities and 41 countries, as well as in Jerusalem, according to David Rubenstein of the Save Darfur Coalition.
 
Neo-Nazis Win Local German Parliament Seat
 
German Jewish leaders called extremist gains in German state elections “alarming.” Voters on Sunday in the former East German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania gave the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany 7.3 percent, passing the 5 percent threshold necessary to have a seat in the state Parliament.
 
The state is the fourth to have right-wing extremist parties in their local parliaments in a reunified Germany. Many observers say that high unemployment in eastern states plays a role in turning voters to the right.

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