The Miles Nadal JCC is thrilled to announce the first-ever Queer Jewish Incubator Cohort! The Queer Jewish Incubator is a new gathering space for LGBTQ+ Jewish people in the GTA to grow queer and Jewish connections while building stronger ties to the LGBTQ+ Jewish community. The incubator nurtures LGBTQ+ people as the visionaries, storytellers, guides, weavers, and disrupters currently missing – and needed – within our Toronto Jewish communal context.
We are excited to share the six amazing individuals participating in Queer Jewish Incubator this year. During the spring and summer of 2022, QJI will bring together these individuals to support them in initiating an ‘exploration’ growing the participant’s connection to queerness and Jewishness or strengthening the fabric of queerness and Jewishness in Toronto.
Many of these projects are artistic in nature. The MNjcc is proud invest in queer Jewish artists, as well as provide a platform to strengthen queer Jewish artists in our community.
For a list of events during Pride month, please click here.
Meet the GJI 2022 Cohort:
Cailan Bodnar is a queer, Jewish artist based in Tkaronto. She has found joy and life through the arts in many mediums: music, performance, writing, and visual art! She focuses on work through the lenses of compassion, wisdom, and time, which are values she holds close in her personal life. She’s found a lot of importance in connecting with her Jewish identity and is very grateful for the wonderful people in this incubator who are helping her do exactly that.
EXPLORATION: In my exploration, I want to investigate the personal relationships that Jewish people have with the Earth and the land that they are on. As someone who is both a settler on this land and newly connecting to my Jewish identity, I want to explore how I can respect and give back to the land that I’m on in a way that is connected to who I am. Through interviews and community collaboration, I will be creating a multi-media project using videos, paintings, and physical objects that hold significance to the participants.
Sadie Epstein-Fine (they/them) is a second-generation queer, genderqueer, Jewish storyteller. Sadie has trained in directing, playwriting, performance and dance and their work reflects and is a fusion of that training. They are an author/co-editor of Spawning Generation: Rants and Reflections on Growing Up with LGBTQ+ Parents (Demeter Press, 2018). Sadie, in partnership with Bilal Baig and the Eraser ensemble, is publishing their multi-disciplinary, immersive, TYA show Eraser (Playwrights Canada Press, 2022). They are currently developing Sugar Plum about the experience of growing up as a queer ballet dancer, as well as Uncle Gabe is Having a Baby, a children’s book about trans pregnancy.
EXPLORATION: I have always thought that one of Tevye’s seven daughters must be queer. If they continue to rebel and rebel, is that not the final rebellion? I call this play “Other Daughter.” In order to write Other Daughter I am looking to immerse myself in Jewish (specifically Yiddish) theatre. More specifically, what is queer, Jewish theatre history?
Gael Nissim Cohen is a Jewish, trans disabled refugee. Nissim is atypical in all possible directions. Nissim is shameless and studies all that crosses his path. Some of his central passions include medicine, history, and religion.
EXPLORATION: I am developing a short documentary – an exploration of the intersectionality of diversity in Judaism and its history around the world, art, and identity in all sorts of forms. I want to bring silent stories that can be heard in the corners of old houses, the keys that unlock doors to work, prayers and tears. These are the people I love, this is who I am. “I am who I am” – Isaias ha Navi
Toby King is a poet, performer, and educator born and raised in Tkaronto. She is currently studying Theatre and Critical Equity Studies at the University of Toronto and teaching at the Danforth Jewish Studies afterschool. They are an executive of the U of T chapter of Peace Now and a co-conspirator on an upcoming project entitled ‘Queer-Sanhedrin’. She is a lover of stories, a seeker of justice, and a student of Torah. They are deeply invested in the unimaginable and inevitable Queer-Jewish Future.
EXPLORATION: I am gathering and archiving Queer-Jewish wedding ceremonies, interviewing folks who crafted them, and creating a video artwork and resource from what’s been shared on Queering the Jewish wedding. If you have had, have officiated, or are planning a Queer-Jewish wedding or union ceremony, please feel free to reach out!
Sheri Ahava Cohen is a retired Social Worker, a Community Activist, Artist and Philanthropist. In 1998 Sheri founded the Adult Learning Disabilities Employment Resource Centre (ALDER) in Toronto. Sheri is an entrepreneur, building community through dialogue and supporting various initiatives in Jewish and non-Jewish communities. Sheri lives and works from an Anti-Oppression Lens. She shares her narrative through her creative work. Please see sheriahavacohen.com for more of a description.
EXPLORATION: I recently came out as Queer. The coming out process is exhilarating, alive, unleashing, challenging and at times, difficult to navigate. I want to connect with older Jewish LGBTQAI2+ who have come out or are in the process of coming out. I am looking to start a new havurah/group for (age 50+) to explore topics like understanding our culture, sexuality, gender (pronouns and beyond), relationships and partnerships, and other topics decided by the group.
Ola Skudlarska is community health worker who loves working with grey areas and productive tension. They are focused on disrupting power dynamics and respectability in the social services, and working with people experiencing alternate realities. They work in the homelessness service sector and have experience in LBGTQ and anti-homophobia education, sexual health education and peer mental health support. They find community at the DJC and Narayever as well as the Winchevsky Centre.
EXPLORATION: I am planning a Street Outreach Sukkot event to animate and inspire a radical Jewish response to homelessness and support our unhoused neighbors. This event embodies “Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov” “How lovely are our tents and encampments.” This action will be an art installation, a community gathering, a meal serve, and primarily a point of connection and awakening. This event will incorporate activist speakers, as well as liturgy and ritual. This is an opportunity to build community amongst radical Jewish activists and social service workers, as well as with the street involved folks we support to express love for our faith, culture and communities.
About LGBTQ+ AT the J
Mission: LGBTQ+ at the J strives to be the heart of Toronto’s LGBTQ+ Jewish community, providing queer Jews opportunities to gather, celebrate and thrive. We aim for the full inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ+ Jews across Jewish communal institutions, in Jewish life, arts and cultural initiatives, and informal and formal education and more.
Vision: LGBTQ+ at the J fosters rich and diverse LGBTQ+ Jewish life in Toronto through dynamic programming – focused on social events, advocacy and education. We aspire to be a resource, safer space and home for all LGBTQ+ Jews across the spectrum of identities and affiliations. We intend to offer social and networking events and to provide opportunities for queer Jews to engage with Jewish holidays and traditions. We will partner with Jewish community organizations – including synagogues, schools and summer camps – to make their spaces and services more inclusive for LGBTQ+ Jews.
Looking to connect more to the community or have questions? Feel free to reach out to Cara Gold, firstname.lastname@example.org