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 Jonathan Lerner 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. Jonathan (he/him) is a gay Jewish man, who was born in Toronto and currently resides in Lantzville, BC. Jonathan shares about his family history briefly, how he knew he was gay and how he came out to acceptance from his mom and sister. He talks about pursuing theater in post-secondary education, and how he volunteered within Hillel and other Jewish campus groups. He talks about being the first openly gay president of the Jewish branch of fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and what campus life was like for a gay Jew. Jonathan talks about how Hillel came to be involved in Vancouver Pride in 2010 and how more Jewish organizations came to participate with time. He recalls Yad b’Yad, a group for queer Jews and allies, and their difficulties with Vancouver’s Queer Film Festival, anti-zionism, antisemitism and the concept of pinkwashing; a conflict that directly declined Yad b’Yad’s perceived safety in the community and their success as an organization. Jonathan recalls organizing a community vigil for lives lost through homophobic violence and being part of CIJA’s LGBTQ Advisory committee. Jonathan closes by reflecting on how the queer Jewish experience has changed over time and life lessons that have come from this time.
Interview with Selina Robinson 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. Selina (she/her) is a Jewish politician who is the mother of a gay son. She is an NDP representative and Member of Legislative Assembly of BC residing in Coquitlam. Selina talks about growing up Jewish in Montreal, and Richmond, BC where the Jewish community was much smaller. She talks about organizing community-led Jewish education in Burquest that focused on inclusion of all sects of Judaism during the ‘90s. Selina talks about working for Jewish Family Services, and their attempts to make safe spaces for gay Jewish kids and their parents. She talks about guidance from her son Aaron, who is similarly pursuing queer Jewish community initiatives. She also tells an anecdote about Aaron’s coming out and how his leaving for university worried her about his preparedness for the world at large. Selina talks about Aaron being openly Jewish growing up and creating positive spaces for him to share his Jewishness with non-Jewish peers, but the difficulties of not knowing the perfect way to parent a queer kid as a straight parent. She also talks about Aaron inviting her to Shabbat dinner with Pride Colours and how proud she was. Selina talks about how Jewish organizations can become more welcoming to queer Jews by including queer Jews in their leadership and becoming more self-reflective.
Interview with Val Fishman 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. Val (she/her) is a Jewish lesbian born and living in Vancouver. Val talks about her family history originating in Eastern Europe, through Scotland to Canada and how her family became quite assimilated from Jewish culture in North America. Val talks about her parents’ anti-fascist activism and her own work within the Women’s Movement in BC. She reflects on finding spirituality through Wiccan or Pagan practice and how this intertwines with her Jewishness despite not being the common Jewish experience. Val talks about when she realized she was a lesbian, the difficulties of coming out, and only finding out she was of Jewish heritage at 30. She talks about her growing involvement with the Jewish community in Vancouver, including the Jewish Caucus of a BC women’s organizations. She talks about how her sexuality, class and culture intersects in Jewish, queer and/or women’s spaces and what could make these spaces more comfortable to occupy. Val closes with how gay culture has changed, the importance of looking to older individuals for wisdom, and how she came to her magic name, Ashtare.
Interview with Caryl Dolinko 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. Caryl is a Jewish lesbian, born in Edmonton, Alberta and currently residing in Vancouver. Caryl recalls her parents and grandparents livelihoods in the theater and furniture industries and origins in Eastern Europe. She talks about being a tomboy from a young age and coming out at age 25 to the acceptance of her family. She also talks about the difficulty finding space to be a lesbian and Jewish at the same time up until the mid-2000s and how Vancouver Pride has sometimes been a conflicting place to be Jewish. She recalls travelling stories, including her time in Israel, England and Japan, and her various jobs alone the way. Caryl talks about the Lesbian Phone Tree in Vancouver, a network of lesbians phone calling one another with community updates and how it helped her found a queer women’s softball league. She talks about working with Vancouver Pride in the mid-2000s and growing it towards what it is today. She talks about financial barriers to Jewish community, becoming a part of the Jewish community in Mexico, and how being a Jew has become more important to her as she has aged.
Interview with Pat Johnson 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. Pat (he/him) is a non-Jewish gay man who is a prominent figure in Jewish journalism in Vancouver. Pat talks about how he was introduced to Jewish culture and community throughout his education, including taking Jewish Studies at McGill, and political organizing on campus. Pat talks about returning to Vancouver, pursuing journalism school and writing for Xtra which eventually introduced him to the Jewish Western Bulletin. He talks about his 25 year history of working for the JWB, now Jewish Independent, including the story of how he came to co-own the paper. Pat talks about the changing attitudes to LGBTQ and interfaith issues within Vancouver’s Jewish institutions, and Jewish institutions participating in Vancouver Pride. Pat and Carmel discuss a vigil Pat organized for Carmel’s cousin who was murdered in Israel for being gay. Pat talks about experiencing anti-Zionism within the Queer Film Festival community. He also talks about Jewish Family Services and their attempts to offer queer programming. Pat closes by reflecting on the most significant works of his career and academics he admires.
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.