As Baltimore’s Jewish community grapples with the need for greater diversity and inclusion among its organizations, congregations and schools, leaders and institutions are presenting programming geared toward the LGBTQ Jewish community.
This Sunday, Jan. 17, at 3 p.m., Beth Am Synagogue and its partners, JPride Baltimore and the Gordon Center for Performing Arts, will present a virtual “community conversation” about “Aimée & Jaguar,” the second entry in the Reservoir Hill congregation’s LGBTQ film series. The series began last month.
Prospective participants can obtain a link to watch “Aimée & Jaguar,” as well as the other films in the series, at the JCC’s website, where they can also register to participate in Zoom conversations to discuss the films. The series is open to all Baltimore area residents.
Released in 1999, “Aimée and Jaguar” chronicles a lesbian romance that takes place in Berlin during World War II.
“The film’s use of poetry and classical music is especially evocative,” said Justin Fair, a Beth Am congregant who wrote the JPride grant that funded the film series. “[The main character of] Felice strives to live a dynamic double life in an increasingly cruel, desperate society. … Viewers will surely see some parallels to [today].”
In contrast, the 2001 film “Kissing Jessica Stein,” which will be discussed as part of the series on Feb. 21 at 3 p.m., “is a modern American romantic comedy that explores queer identities,” said Fair. “The film is light and fun and filled with humorous writing. Great for Valentine’s Day!
“The January and February ‘community conversations’ will each allow participants to discuss two very different films in two very different eras, highlighting the different ways the Jewish, queer, women protagonists navigate their lives,” he said. “It’s a terrific opportunity to discuss a shared love of innovative, accessible filmmaking. [The films feature] great writing, pacing and direction, with different style films from documentary to drama to comedy, with interesting angles and design choices.”
“The Sign of Love,” the final film in the series, will be discussed on Mar. 14 at 3 p.m. An award-winning Israeli documentary released in 2017, “The Sign of Love” stars and was directed by Elad Cohen, a gay and deaf man who mourns the disintegration of his family of origin. The film is a first-person account of the co-parenting experience and explores what it truly means to be a family.
“This film is a must-watch as we are fortunate to have a talk-back with the director,” said Fair. “It’s a wonderful way to finish the film series.”
A gay man and Jew of color, Fair credits Beth Am’s leadership for its receptivity to progressive programming such as the film series.
“I’m very grateful to be a lay leader and to have the opportunity to reach out to leadership and say, ‘This interests me and it’s needed in the community.’ It wasn’t a hard sell. We’re embracing the diversity in our community.”
The film series is the precursor to the Queer Jewish Arts Festival, which will be presented by the Gordon Center and Baltimore’s Iron Crow Theatre this spring. So far, plans for the festival include two play readings, a musical experience, a panel of queer Jewish artists of color, and a lecture on the evolution of queer theory in the arts. Additional details about the festival will be forthcoming.
For information about Beth Am Congregation’s film series and the Queer Jewish Arts Festival, visit jcc.org/gordon-center/queer-jewish-arts-festival.