Interview with Susan Dempsey for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Susan (she/her) is a Jewish woman, born in St. Catharines, ON and living in Victoria. She identifies with the lesbian community, but confides the idea of a sexuality without boundaries is something she’s getting more used to. Susan shares about her parents’ and their respective upbringings and livelihoods as mostly assimilated Jews in Chicago and Toronto or Southern Ontario. She talks about chosen family like her klezmer bandmates in the Klezbians, coming out to her family, and when she realized herself that she was a lesbian. She reflects on her childhood and growing up aware of political events like the JFK assassination. She talks about eventually finding the field of psychology, studying in St. Catharines, working in peer counseling initiatives and non-profits. Susan talks about relationships and reconnecting to the Jewish community through feminist and/or lesbian Seders after negative experiences and ambivalence. She talks about the Klezbians and feeling valued to queer and Jewish communities, wondering about the place for young people in current Jewish community, and wishing she was more proud to be Jewish and out throughout her life.
Interview with Syd Lapan for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Syd is a Jewish lesbian born in Denver, CO and currently residing on Gabriola Island. She talks about her family’s transition from a well-to-do background in Eastern Europe to starting over again in American midwest. She talks about her and her sister meeting a half-sister that her mother had put up for adoption at the time of WWII. Syd talks about going to university and being taken under the wing of a lesbian couple that she remained friends with for 50 years. She also talks about a gay friend who introduced her to gay activism. Syd talks about her varied education, and moving to Canada with a Canadian partner after attending Queen’s University. She talks about misogyny she experienced as a woman in the tech industry. Syd talks about the Jewish lesbian community in Denver, and also encountering antisemitism in the lesbian community. She talks about how music runs in her family, and how she reconnected with music through choir and the Klezbians. Syd talks about her profession as a private investigator and a significant relationship in her life with a woman named Carolyn. Syd closes by reflecting on her activism and the importance of following one’s heart.
Interview with Lauren Nackman for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Lauren (she/her) is a Jewish lesbian, born in Middletown, NY, and residing in Victoria, BC. Lauren retraces her family history from Eastern Europe to the Bronx in New York, and touches on the intergenerational legacies of immigrant life seen in her parents and grandparents. She talks about her siblings and memories of coming out. Lauren recalls going to university in Virginia where she realized she was gay in a place not safe to be openly out, prompting her to co-found a group for lesbians on campus. Lauren talks about moving to Oakland with her then-girlfriend, and working with a women’s need clinic, attempting teachers college, but ending up in LA working in the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center which introduced her to gay activism. She talks about attempting to reclaim Judaism multiple times but not being inspired by the services and experiencing financial barriers to participating. She talks about moving to BC, and becoming active in lesbian Seders where the Klezbians were formed. She talks about marrying her partner Michelle when they moved to Canada. She talks about her parents growth in acceptance of her being gay. She talks about being thankful to be part of a history that aided present-day queer acceptance and closes with reflections on queer and Jewish community.
Interview with Shaira SD Holman for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. SD identifies themself overall as queer, but also as a butch dyke and genderqueer. SD talks about being raised as a secular and cultural Jew. SD talks about growing up in LA to a single parent and eventually moving to Rock Creek, BC becoming a cowboy on the countryside. SD shares about being ‘out’ as queer in high school and eventually going to Emily Carr for arts upon moving to Vancouver. SD talks about not feeling at home in Vancouver’s Jewish community as compared with the working class Jews in LA or their Jewish leatherdyke community in San Francisco. SD talks about their late wife Catherine, and how they were each others’ sanctuary where Catherine was encouraging to their arts endeavors. SD talks about the Pride in Arts Society, and creating the Queer Arts Festival. SD also talks about opening the SUM Gallery as a place for queer artists to be themselves and kickstarting queer recognition in Vancouver's arts scene. SD closes by giving the advice that life is not a sprint, but a marathon; to keep learning, and remember the history that comes before you.
Interview with Nancy Rosenblum for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Nancy (she/her) is Jewish lesbian born in Los Angeles, California and currently residing in Nelson, BC. Nancy reflects on her parents’ lives in LA and her family’s origins in the Eastern Europe. She talks about her family’s entrepreneurship in the American fashion industry. Nancy talks about finding family in the Jewish lesbian community and how she realized she was a lesbian in her early 20s. Nancy talks about discovering filmmaking in high school and eventually going to California Institute of Arts for photography and filmmaking. She talks about two prominent art shows she did: one in protest of mainstream media’s normalized portrayal of violence against women; and one photographing the lesbian community of 1980s LA. Nancy talks about her partner of 36 years who is also a professional photographer and how they ended up in Nelson, BC. Nancy compares her experience being a Jewish lesbian in LA to Nelson. Nancy talks about the changing acceptance and assimilation of the lesbian identity, where the trans community experiences the most backlash today.
Interview with Shira Macklin for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Shira (she/her) is a Jewish lesbian woman, who was born in Estevan, SK and currently residing in Vancouver. Shira shares about her family origins in England and Russia, and growing up on the Canadian prairies. Shira tells the story behind how she realized she was a lesbian, coming out to her university aged children, and discovering lesbian community in Winnipeg. Shira talks about finding spirituality after experiencing a plane-jacking in India, which led her to the Diamond Approach spirituality school in Colorado and eventually Vancouver. Shira talks about her youth including education, awareness of the Holocaust and early investment in zionism. She talks about her relationship and career histories, and her involvement in Or Shalom. She reflects on women’s/lesbian Seders in Vancouver, and the relationship between the Jewish and queer communities.
Summary: Interview with Ira Rogers for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Ira (he/him) is a gay Jewish man, born in Manhattan and currently residing in Vancouver. Ira describes his parents’ history and some of his early memories in New York City, and in Los Angeles with family friends. Ira describes coming out at 21, two years after Stonewall, and how it was largely met without resistance in the Jewish community in NYC; a contrast to his time living in Nashville as a songwriter and musician. He talks about his transition out of pre-med in college to major in music at Brooklyn College and how his 19 years in Tennessee allowed him personal and career growth. Ira explains how he was prompted to move away from Nashville to find a place that aligned more with his queer, liberal Jew identity and eventually settled on Vancouver. Ira talks about being married to a woman, while still wanting to explore his queer sexuality and how this complicated their relationship. He then talks about his current partner of over 17 years that he met soon after moving to Vancouver. Ira closes with reflections on being gay and Jewish, and the advice that one’s care, compassion and kindness can be the keys to fulfilling relationships alongside being oneself.
Interview with Ann Daskal for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Ann identifies as a ‘bisexual, non-monogamous celibate’ and describes connection to genderfluidity and the lesbian identity. Ann was born in Joplin, MO and currently resides in Vancouver. Ann talks about her changing relationship with the Jewish community and Judaism from a child in the American midwest to present. She talks about her parents’ lives in Missouri, Michigan and California amongst others, with family history in Eastern Europe. Ann talks about her school experiences, including moving away to Wayne State University where she enjoyed the independence and the culture of the ‘60s, including rock concerts and hitchhiking across the US. Ann discusses how they came to Vancouver and the political action they encountered, including the women's movement and WAVAW. Ann talks about same-sex marriage at Or Shalom, as well as an event with the lesbian theoretician Sandra Butler at Temple Sholom. Ann reflects on involvement in the group called the Glowing Alefs, and in lesbian and/or feminist Seders.
Interview with Marsha Ablowitz regarding her uncle Max Dexall for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Marsha recalls what she knows of Max (he/him) and his family who originated as farmers in and around Antopol, Belarus. He immigrated from Belarus to Vancouver with siblings in attempt to avoid Russian pogroms. Marsha describes how Max was well connected in the gay and Jewish communities, including stories of meeting gay men at gender-segregated synagogue meetings and how the community had hoped to make a Jewish gay synagogue in Vancouver similar to San Francisco. Marsha also discusses how Max continued in the family shoe store business where he was very successful and offered a safe space for the queer community including gay men and drag queens. Marsha shares the story of how Max would meet his life-long partner George at the store and discusses their relationship dynamic, including caring for the queer community in Vancouver. Marsha goes on to relish stories Max had shared about his time as a drag queen, different men he encountered and how he would get recognized wherever they went based on his reputation from his shoe store.
Interview with Marsha Ablowitz for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Marsha (she/her) is a Jewish lesbian born in Vancouver. Marsha discusses her family’s origins both in Canada, and as immigrants from Europe. She tells stories of her immediate family in Winnipeg and Vancouver. She talks about her heterosexual marriage, and how she didn’t realize she was interested in women until after getting married. She explains her little exposure to queer Jews outside of her uncle Max, and how she experienced discrimination more through racism against her husband, than through anti-Semitism or homophobia in the community. Marsha talks about being aware of the Holocaust and Jewish issues as a kid, being involved in Jewish youth groups into her twenties, and eventually becoming a social worker. She describes her community initiatives within Jewish community organizations, teaching women’s self defense classes and empowering women and LGBT communities. Marsha closes the interview by talking about Quirk-e, a queer writing collective she is presently involved in, life with her partner Maribel during COVID, and her connection to feminist counselling and women’s health movements across Canada.