Shanah Tovah, Here’s 36 Influential Jewish LGBTQ Women & Non-Binary Humans!

Last night marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which marks the start of the Jewish High Holiday Season, previously known to me as a child as “a very short time period in which I was forced to wear a dress and panty hose more than once.” Today we eat apples & honey, sound the shofar, and enjoy festive meals. The ten days that span the High Holidays are a time for reflection and introspection on the past year, particularly on all the things we did wrong that we need to repent for, as well as planning for the year ahead. Next week, for Yom Kippur, we eat absolutely nothing and then we eat a lot at once and also we think about how so many people we love are dead. So this week, I bring you a look at just some of the MANY incredible Jewish LGBTQ ladies & non-binary people who have done cool things in the world and will continue to. Next week, we’ll look at just some of the incredible Jewish LGBTQ ladies who did cool things in the world and then died. It all goes with the theme.

7.2% of U.S.-based Autostraddle readers (and 6% of all our readers) are Jewish, according to our most recent Reader Survey, which’s a lot — according to the Pew Research Center, only 2% of Americans overall are Jewish. (Even more surprising is that whereas Pew found 70.6% of Americans are Christian, only 14.4% of U.S. Autostraddle identify that way.) From Gertrude Stein to Ilene Chaiken and Anne Kronenberg to Roberta Achtenberg, Jewish women have been at the forefront of so many LGBTQ+ cultural and political movements and communities. Covering the breadth of our contributions would take endless volumes of books. Instead, I’ve made you what I might consider a leaflet.

My goal with this list is to showcase a range of Jewish-American LGBTQ women and non-binary people — people from a range of professions, ages, passions, backgrounds, denominations, political beliefs, fame levels and lifestyles. It’s not a list of the most famous, most important, most influential, or most inspirational. It’s not a “look which famous queers are Jewish!” list. (BUT if it was — did you know that Suze Orman and Peaches are Jewish? I did not!)

The requirements for this list were “public figures who have openly discussed their Judaism and their sexual orientation or gender identity in internet-accessible conversations” — requirements that were met by hundreds of people! So I just went for variety with a dash of the arbitrary. The inclusion of a person on this list should not be seen as  an endorsement of any political or other ideologies ever expressed by said person.

Okay, now that we’ve gone over the rules, let’s begin.

Evelyn Torton Beck, 84 // Professor, Scholar & Activist

Beck, born in Austria, is a child survivor of the Holocaust and the editor of the groundbreaking book Nice Jewish Girls: A Lesbian Anthology, published in 1982. As a founding member of the National Women’s Studies Association, she helped start its Jewish and lesbian caucuses. She’s written extensively about homoeroticism in Kafka’s work and Frida Kahlo’s bisexual identity. In The Disappearing L, Bonnie J. Morris writes:

“By 1981, I was well acquainted with Jewish feminists who talked about feminism and Jewish lesbians who talked about lesbianism — but where were the Jewish lesbians who actually referenced their Jewishness? And that is why Evi Beck’s book, Nice Jewish Girls, was like an explosion of chocolate. It was a sweetness. It was a luxury. And we couldn’t get enough of it. We had to have more.”

Joan Nestle, 77 // Historian, Author & Activist

Joan Nestle’s seminal lesbian experience was with a girl named Roz, the daughter of a Kosher butcher in Queens. 55 years later, Joan Nestle is a living lesbian legend, best known for founding the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn and for editing The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader. In the preface to her 1987 anthology A Restricted Country, she wrote of her work as an activist and a historian:

“…my body made my history—all my histories. Strong and tough, it allowed me to start work at thirteen; wanting, it pushed me to find the lovers that I needed; vigorous and resilient, it carried me the fifty-four miles from Selma to Montgomery. Once desire had a fifties face; now it is more lined. But still when I walk the streets to protest our military bullying of Central America or the Meese Commission on Pornography or apartheid in South Africa and here, my breasts and hips shout their own slogans. As a woman, as a Lesbian, as a Jew, I know that much of what I call history others will not. But answering that challenge of exclusion is the work of a lifetime.”

Lillian Faderman, 77 // Historian & Author

Surely the most widely read lesbian historian I can think of, Faderman’s Odd Girls & Twilight Lovers is just one of many queer retrospectives on American and European history. In My Mother’s Wars, Faderman aims to understand her mother’s life as a Jewish immigrant in 1930s New York who had lost her family in the Holocaust.

Barbra Casbar Siperstein, 75 // Businesswoman, Politician & Activist

In 2009, Siperstein became the first openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee, appointed by then-chairman Tim Kaine. Siperstein changed her legal name to Barbara in 2007, and in 2008 participated in a ceremony at her New Jersey synagogue to change her Hebrew name, too, to Baila Chaya. Her Rabbi suggested the naming ceremony, citing the 2003 Conservative movement ruling on the status of transgender persons. She was a superdelegate for Hilary Clinton in 2016.

Rachel Wahba, 71 // Writer &  Psychotherapist

Rachel Wahba with Judy Dlugacz at Olivia’s maiden voyage, 1990, via

Wahba, a Mizrahi/Sephardic Egyptian-Iraqi Jew who was born in India and grew up “stateless” in Japan, is a psychotherapist and writer who serves on the Advisory Board of JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa). In the ’90s, she co-founded Olivia Travel with her then-partner and now ex-wife Judy Dlugacz, listed below. She’s now the director of Special Projects for Olivia. “Growing up a Stateless Arab Jew for over 20 years,” she writes, “I am compelled to tell the story of Jews from Arab lands, and our 3,000 year history in the regions that are now Jew-free…. I aim to demystify and integrate the history of Mizrahim (Jews from Arabia and North Africa), into not only the Middle Eastern narrative, but also to correct the European/Ashkenazi dominance of the Jewish People. It is my aim to teach that we are in fact a multicultural People.”

Fran Lebowitz, 67 // Author, Public Speaker & Chain-Smoker

Lebowitz, the “modern-day Dorothy Parker,” has been an atheist since the age of seven, but describes her Jewish identity as “ethnic or cultural or whatever people call it now.” Her father wouldn’t let her get a Bat Mitzvah ’cause she was a girl, which Fran was cool with ’cause “if you’re asking me was there any time in my life I wanted to go to school more, I would have to say no.” In the same interview where she said that, she told the New Jersey Jewish News, “I don’t really know how to describe it, the idea of people thinking of themselves as Jews, calling themselves Jews, feeling Jewish their entire lives, without once believing in G-d or going to synagogue or practicing any part of the religion. I can’t think of another religion of which that is true… I think it’s strong in me the sense that I feel like a Jew. I think of myself as a Jew. But I am well aware there are many Jews who do not think of me as a Jew.”

Rebecca T. Alpert, 67 // Professor, Writer & Rabbi

One of the first female congregational rabbis, Alpert says her beliefs were transformed when she read a Sabbath prayer book that referred to G-d as “She.” Books she has written or appear in include Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball, Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation and Like Bread on the Seder Plate: Jewish Lesbians and the Transformation of Tradition. She contributed “Finding Our Past: A Lesbian Interpretation of the Book of Ruth” to Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story.

Susan Freundlich, 65 // ASL Interpreter, Photographer, Performing Artist, Activist, Non-Profit Consultant

Freundlich is credited with pioneering the presence of American Sign Language Interpreters at music performances, starting with an event at Harvard in 1975. In 1983, People Magazine profiled Freundlich’s employment of a “combination of dance, mime and American Sign Language to open up the concert experience to the country’s nearly 20 million hearing-impaired.” The initiative to get ASL interpreters onstage at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival also began with Susan. She served on the board of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival as well as for her LGBTQ+ inclusive synagogue in Oakland.

Judy Dlugacz, 64 // CEO of Olivia Travel

Bonnie J. Morris, in her book The Disappearing L, wrote that “this movement of woman-identified music began with Jewish leadership.” Young lesbian activist Judy Dlugacz founded Olivia Records in 1973, an independent record label that sold over one million albums by women artists for female fans, creating a network for lesbians to meet each other and bond over the soothing soul-sounds of lesbian folk-rock music. Jewish artists associated with Olivia include Alix Dobkin, who said during a set at Michfest, “Jews and lesbians have much in common: we were never meant to survive.”

In 1990, Olivia began its transition to Olivia Travel with a “concert on a cruise.” Now it’s the premier travel company for the lesbian community and the longest-running lesbian company in the world! Dlugacz is also a political activist and philanthropist who served on Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign’s LGBT Leadership Council.

Susan Feniger, 64 // Chef, Restaurateur, Cookbook Author, Radio & TV Personality

Susan Feniger, along with her longtime collaborator Mary Sue Milliken, have opened numerous influential restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, most notably The Border Grill. Feniger starred in the cooking show Too Hot Tamales, appeared on Top Chef Masters, and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Restaurant Association. She considers her Jewish upbringing central to her love of food and cooking, telling Tablet that she’s “not religious, but I love being Jewish.” Tablet continues, “Jewish holidays in particular have provided Feniger with the chance to hold on to her Jewish background, while reinterpreting time-honored foods through the lenses of other culinary cultures that inspire her,” hosting Seders, break-the-fasts and Rosh Hashanah meals at her restaurant Street.

Lesléa Newman, 62 // Author

AP Photo/Steven Senne via

Lesléa Newman is best known as the author of Heather Has Two Mommies, a nice book for children about love and acceptance that has thoroughly terrified right-wing anti-gay lunatics since its publication in 1989. She’s actually written and edited over 70 books and anthologies, including October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepherd (2013) and Good Enough To Eat (1986).

“I always thought being raised as a Jew was a really good training ground for being a lesbian,” Lesléa Newman said at a Keshet event in Boston. “First of all, I was surrounded by strong Jewish women that really ruled the roost, community was very important, social justice was very important — not just for our community, but for the world — and I just felt like when I came out as a Lesbian, those were still my values.”

Judith Butler, 61 // Writer, Philosopher & Gender Theorist

When Judith Butler, the most widely read and influential gender theorist in the world, was 14, she got in trouble at synagogue for being too talkative and her punishment was to take a private tutorial with the Rabbi. She was delighted by the opportunity, which turned out to be her introduction to the philosophical thinking that would guide the rest of her career. She even took after-school classes on Jewish ethics ’cause she loved the debates. Of Hungarian-Jewish and Russian-Jewish descent, most of Butler’s maternal grandmother’s family died in the Holocaust. Regarding her activism around the occupation of Palestine, Butler told Haaretz, “As a Jew, I was taught that it was ethically imperative to speak up and to speak out against arbitrary state violence.” She has been politically active in the LGBT, feminist and anti-war movements and is an executive member of the Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Susan Gottlieb aka Phranc, 60 // Musician & Artist

Phranc, who introduces herself as “the All-American Jewish Lesbian Folksinger,” was a key figure in the 1970s/80s Los Angeles punk scene as well as the electropunk and Queercore movements. She was a founding member of That’s Nervous Gender, a proto-industrial synth-punk group comprised of two gay Chicanos and one androgynous Jewish lesbian, which she left to join post-punk new wave band Catholic Discipline. These days she’s doing more visual art and exhibits at the Craig Kull Gallery in Santa Monica.

In an interview with The Wisconsin Jewish Chroncile in 1989, Phranc said her religious practice was traditional — “I don’t go to temple a lot, but I light the Sabbath lights, I say my prayers, I say my Sh’ma.” Of visiting an LGBT synagogue while on tour, she said, “It was great, I felt a sense of family being away from my own family but singing the same tunes and saying the same prayers. You can be a Jew anywhere in the world — it’s great that you can find a community.”

Robin Ochs, 59 // Bisexual Activist, Teacher, Professional Speaker and Workshop Leader

Robin Ochs is a bisexual superhero who says the diverse New York neighborhood she grew up in made her “aware of economic injustice, racism, sexism and anti-Semitism from a very early age.” She recalls seeing her best friend harassed for being Jewish while she was overlooked, “because they assumed, incorrectly, that I was not Jewish because I had blonde hair, blue eyes and a ski-slope nose.” She’s the editor of The Bisexual Resource Guide and the anthology Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the WorldHer interest in acting began when she was a child, doing Purim Plays at her Michigan synagogue. and he’s a founder of the Boston Bisexual Network and the Bisexual Resource Center and she’s gotten a billion awards for the work she does AND she identifies as “Jewish but not religious.”

Sarah Schulman, 59 // Novelist, Playwright, Historian & Activist

I interviewed Sarah Schulman about her book Conflict is Not Abuse earlier this year and y’all liked it a lot ’cause it was so good! So go read that. If you already read it then you know that she’s the co-founder of MIX: NY LGBT Experimental Film and Video Festival, the US Coordinator of the first LGBT Delegation to Palestine, the Co-Director of the ACT UP Oral History Project and, in 1992,  was one of five co-founders of the legendary direct action organization Lesbian Avengers. She has published ten novels and six nonfiction books including Israel/Palestine and the Queer International (2012). Schulman was turned on to activism around the Israel/Palestine conflict by Judith Butler, who she’d reached out to for input after a friend told her to decline an invitation to speak a the University of Tel Aviv. Schulman is on the Advisory Board of Jewish Voices for Peace, which “opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression” and is “inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for International Law and a U.S. Foreign policy basd on those ideals.”

Chai Feldblum, 59 // Lawyer, Professor and a Commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Did you know that the lead drafter of the Americans with Disabilities Act was a Jewish lesbian named Chai Feldblum! Chai attended the Yeshiva High School for Girls and comes from a long line of Orthodox Jewish rabbis, once wanted to be a Talmudic scholar, but instead she went into law. She graduated from Harvard Law, taught at Georgetown and serving as the Legislative Counsel to the AIDS Project of the ACLU. Feldblum was the lead drafter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and under Obama became the first openly LGBT person to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “My parents valued education and doing good,” she told The Washington Jewish Week. “I learned those commitments as a young Jewish girl.”

Rabbi Debra Kolodny, 57 // Religious Leader & Activist

Kolodny came out as bisexual in 1984, and has been advocating for worker’s rights as well as women’s, environmental, peace, racial justice and LGBTQ causes since 1981, when she initially came out as a lesbian. “I thrive in complexity and multiplicity,” she told Tablet, “which is why I particularly love being in interfaith settings.” She is the editor of Blessed Bi Spirit: Bisexual People of Faith and has served in directorial, executive and advisory positions at ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, Nehirim and Binet USA. Following the legalization of same-sex marriage, she carried the torch for queer faith leaders to use the resources gathered in that fight and devote them towards new struggles — specifically, towards Black Lives Matter. Along with Muslim and Christian leaders, she organized a queer clergy retreat in Portland in 2015 to tackle the isse, telling Tablet, “As an ally, I can’t think of another issue where my time and my energy and my resources need to be allocated.”

Currently, she’s leading Portland’s UnShul, an organization that “engages the Jewish soul with the best that Portland has to offer,” leading spiritual gatherings “on the hiking trail, the dance studio, and in the homes of its members…. we meet you where you want to be and celebrate an embodied approach to Judaism through dance, song, meditation and connecting with nature.”

Lisa Kron, 56 // Actress & Playwright

Lisa Kron’s interest in acting began when she was a child, doing Purim Plays at her Michigan synagogue! In 2015, Kron and Jeanine Tesori became the first female writing team to win a Tony Award for Best Original Score, for Fun Home. Kron’s father is a Holocaust survivor whose parents were killed in a concentration camp. Her play 2.5 Minute Ride weaves together personal stories including one of her pilgrimage to Auschwitz with her father. Her story “Lesbians at Temple” appears in the anthology Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish: The Heeb Storytelling Collection.

Joy Ladin, 56 // Professor, Poet, Scholar & Writer

Ladin is the first openly transgender professor at an Orthodox Jewish institution and is now the head of Yeshiva University’s Writing Center. She has published five books of poetry and one memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders.

“What really drew me to Judaism was that, like many trans kids, I had an intense sense of G-d as a real, living, constant presence,” Ladin said in a 2014 interview. “And Judaism — not Jewishness as in ethnicity, but Judaism in general and the Torah in particular was really the only place in my world that there was any talk about G-d, representation of G-d, sense of G-d…. traditional Judaism is extremely gender divided. However, the Torah includes one really genderless character and that’s G-d.”

Judy Gold, 54 // Comic, Writer & Actress

Emmy-award winning comic and TV writer Judy Gold is very lesbian and very Jewish and did an off-Broadway show called 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother. Regarding whether or not she feels more gay or more Jewish when she wakes up, Gold told Michael Musto:

“I always feel Jewish. I get up and my back hurts, I’ve got to go to the bathroom, I’ve got to have a coffee. I’m a Jew. I don’t wake up and go, “Oh, my G-d, that girl’s hot.” It’s “I gotta put some beans in the coffee thing. Should I make oatmeal? I need to go to the gym–no, I don’t feel like going.” I wake up like an elderly Jew in assisted living.”

Jill Soloway, 52 // Writer, Director and Producer

Jill Soloway, a co-founder of the East Side Jews Collective, created the groundbreaking Emmy-winning show Transparent, which centers on a super-queer Jewish family in Los Angeles and will debut its fourth season TOMORROW. Every season has a big Jewish holiday at its center and Soloway told Hadassah Magazine that Season 4 will center Succot and joked that “by Season 8 we’ll be big into Lag B’omer, I guess, and season 11, Shemini Atzeret.”

Prior to Transparent, they worked on Six Feet Under, Grey’s Anatomy, and The United States of Tara. I Love Dick, a co-creation of Jill Soloway and Sarah Gubbins, based on the book by Jewish author Chris Kraus, was released on Amazon this year.

“This TV show allows me to take my dreams about unlikable Jewish people, queer folk, trans folk and make them heroes,” Soloway said of Transparent in her Emmy acceptance speech.

Paula Vogel, 65 // Playwright & Professor

Indecent, Paula Vogel’s play about the controversy surrounding the Yiddish play God of Vengeance, a love story between two women, earned Jewish director Rebecca Taichman a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play. It also spurred a journey of self-discovery for Vogel, who I (and perhaps also you) know best from her Pulitzer-Prize-winning play How I Learned to Drive. “More and more my Jewish identity is emerging and I think in a way that I don’t want to see happen for young children,” she told Playbill in a video interview. “My Jewish identity has been formed from anti-Semitism in my childhood. That isn’t the way we should be identifying ourselves… we should be proud and proclaiming our identity as Jewish Americans and as immigrant Americans. I’ve spent an incredible seven years working on this and it’s been a privilege to be in touch with that part of my family.” She then goes on to do a “dayenu” situation to describe Indecent‘s road to Broadway and it made me cry. You should watch the video, maybe it will make you cry too.

Rebecca Walker, 48 // Writer, Activist & Speaker

The daughter of legendary writer Alice Walker and New York lawyer Mel Leventhal, Walker is the author of the NY Times Bestseller Black, White and Jewish as well as Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence and has published extensively in magazines. At 22, she introduced the concept of Third Wave Feminism to the world in an article for Ms. Magazine. She told Kveller that although she’s been a Buddhist for about 15 years, “I feel that my Jewishness is so much more cultural than religious.” She says she peppers her conversations with her son with Yiddish words, continuing, “I feel like I’m bridging an old world connection there, because my grandmother’s mother was from Kiev, and she always used — from mentsch to tuchus to meshugeneh — a breadth of Yiddish words.”

Sandra Lawson, 47 // Personal Trainer, Future Rabbi & Songwriter

Sandra Lawson, a former military police officer turned personal trainer, has big plans for 2018: she hopes to be ordained as one of the few (if not the only) Black openly lesbian Rabbis. She was turned on to Judaism through a personal training client, who invited her to his Restrictionist Synagogue, where she immediately felt at home — much like she’d felt attending holiday gatherings with a Jewish girlfriend in Atlanta many years back. In 2011, with the help of a GoFundMe campaign, she became the first LGBTQ person of African-American descent to enroll at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Pennsylvania.

She told Forward about her morning running routine: “I have the Bee Gees on my iPod, and the next thing is Modeh Ani. I’m being chased by zombies and the Shema would come on. It’s Saturday morning, [I’m] wearing a Superman shirt, running, being chased by zombies, and I sing along.”

Julie Goldman, 45 // Actress, Comic, Writer

Julie Goldman is a wildly successful Jewish butch lesbian comedian whose work addresses the intersections of all those identities. She’s the co-host of Dumb Gay Politics, a podcast she hosts with her writing partner Brandy Howard, with whom she starred on Bravo’s The People’s Couch, Autostraddle’s In Your Box Office and Johnny McGovern’s Gay Pimpin’ podcast. She starred in The Big Gay Sketch Show on Logo and has appeared in Faking It, The Mindy Project, The New Normal, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Sopranos.

“I think that when you’re a member of a community that is historically oppressed, or on the fringe, or maybe just not the majority, I think that offers you a really good sense of humor,” she told Get Out Mag. “I think that especially with Jews, all you are doing is questioning, complaining, talking and yelling and everything, and getting picked apart, and nothing is good enough, and it’s negative, but it’s positive. Everything is crazy, and I think that makes for a really good sense of humor.”

Sally Kohn, 40 // Journalist, Community Organizer & CEO of Movement Vision Lab

Sally Kohn is a persistent target of right wing trolls and anti-semites for existing squarely at a number of contested intersections: Jewish, liberal, lesbian, butch, outspoken. She was Fox News’s token liberal for several years and now appears on CNN and MSNBC and writes for outlets like The Washington Post and USA Today. Her grassroots think tank, Movement Vision Lab, aims to “make the world safe for liberal ideas.”

“I was raised in a fairly anti-religion family so the extent to which I embrace or distance myself from my faith isn’t an act of reflex but choice,” Kohn wrote in The Daily Beast. “I choose Judaism to the extent I feel it is a force for good and justice in the world.”

Rebecca Kling, 33 // Artist, Activist & Educator

Kling explores gender and identity through solo performance pieces and educational workshops and believes that “sharing accessible queer narratives with a wide audience is a form of activism, and that understanding combats bigotry.” In “Uncovering the Mirrors,” she explored her relationship with Judaism and ritual and ceremony, broadly speaking, telling The Heroines, “How we think of ourselves comes in part from all these ceremonies in our lives: Birthday celebrations, graduations, and — in Judaism — Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I wanted to look at the ways in which ritual can negatively impose identity, but also the ways in which it can allow us to choose our identity or explore it more organically.” Her writing has been published all over the damn place and she published her first book, No Gender Left Behind, in 2013. Currently, she’s the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Community Storytelling Advocate.

Monica Raymund, 31 // Actress

In 2016, the bisexual actress tweeted, “my father is white & Jewish. My mother is brown & Dominican. I’m proud of my heritage on both sides. Their love inspired me.” Raymund, who was raised Jewish and had a Bat Mitzvah, grew up in Florida, went to Julliard, did a lot of theater work and now is best known for her roles on TV shows The Good WifeChicago Fire and Lie To Me.

Rebecca Sugar, 31 // Animator, Director, Screenwriter, Producer & Songwriter

Rebecca Sugar became the first woman to independently create a series for Cartoon Network when she brought the incredible Steven Universe into our collective lives, thus setting off a rapid torrent of emails to Autostraddle about if we were going to write about Steven Universe. (We do!) Previously she worked on the series Adventure Time, which was also kinda queer. She was Bat Mitzvah’ed at Temple Micah in Washington DC, and still lights Hannukah candles with her family over Skype.

Sarah Hymanson, 30 // Chef

via kismet

Sarah Hymanson and Chef Sara Kramer both grew up in Secular Jewish families and met at Kramer’s restaurant Glasserie in Brooklyn, which Hymanson landed at after opening the NY outpost of Mission Chinese with Danny Bowien. Together, they moved to Los Angeles and started Madcapra, a casual falafel shop in Los Angeles’s Grand Central Market, which generated enough buzz to lead into a second Middle Eastern-influenced restaurant, Kismet, which opened last year in Los Feliz. They’ve appeared in literally every food magazine and website ever within the past year, including making The Jewish Journal’s 30 Under 30. They did a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood earlier this year, and Hymanson told The Miami Herald she’d always been impressed with PP’s outreach to LGBT people.

Denise Frohman, 31 // Poet, Writer, Performer and Educator

Self-declared ” NuyoJewricanqueer” Denice Frohman is the is the 2013 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, 2014 CantoMundo Fellow, 2013 Hispanic Choice Award winner, and 2012 Leeway Transformation Award recipient. Her work has appeared on ESPN, in the Huffington Post, and garnered over 7.5 million views online. She has a Master’s in Education and works with The Philly Youth Poetry Movement and has been featured at over 200 colleges and universities; hundreds of high schools, non-profits, and cultural arts spaces; and performed at The White House in 2016. Her work looks at intersections of race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality and the “in-betweeness” that exists in us all, drawing from her experience as a queer woman from a Puerto Rican and Jewish background, in an aim to “disrupt traditional notions of power, and celebrate the parts of ourselves deemed unworthy.”

Michelle Chamuel, 30 // Singer, Songwriter & Producer

Michelle Chamuel, who was a working musician with a few albums under her belt before rising to fame on season four of The Voice, was raised by Jewish parents who came to the US as refugees from Egypt in 1967. In an interview last year, her girlfriend Mary Lambert talked about celebrating both Jewish holidays and Christmas, and said that “it’s been neat to have an interfaith household.” It’s pretty neat to imagine, too!

Gaby Dunn, 29 // Writer, Actress, Comic

Gaby Dunn is a writer, journalist, YouTuber, actress, and comedian who just released a book, I Hate Everyone But You, with her comedy partner, Allison Raskin, who is also Jewish! So they make a lot of Jewish jokes and Jewish-themed or adjacent videos. However, in a sharp departure from Jewish stereotypes, Gaby hosts a podcast called BAD WITH MONEY. Everybody loves it! In addition to publishing everywhere including New York Magazine, Playboy, Women’s Health, Glamour and Jezebel; Gaby’s got a story in The Jewish Daughter Diaries, an anthology about being loved too much by your mother. Gaby’s Bat Mitzvah theme was Outer Space and she entered the party in a rocket ship constructed out of paper mache, wearing her Space Camp astronaut jumpsuit.

Mal Blum, 29 // Musician & Writer

Mal Blum has released six albums, is currently on tour with Mary Lambert, and is the unofficial A-Camp mascot. Their last album, You Look A Lot Like Me, was “mostly just first-person narratives about depression set to punk music,” released by Don Giovanni records. One time, Marissa Paternoster called them “the Jewish James Dean.”

Hari Nef, 25 // Actress & Model

Nef played Gittel in Transparent and Bex in Assassination Nation, was the first openly transgender model signed to IMG Models, walked the New York Fashion Week runway, appeared on the cover of Elle Magazine and in commercials for L’Oreal Paris True Match AND was a spokesmodel for Everlane’s 100% Human Campaign. When asked by Interview Magazine in 2015 if she “identifies herself with any group,” Nef responded, “I identify with anyone who logged online in elementary school and never logged off. I identify with American Jewish kids who never knew what it was like to be persecuted for their religion. I identify with transgender women. I identify with Sad Girls.”

Bex Taylor-Klaus, 23 // Actor

Bex is a rising star who has played regular and recurring roles on The Killing, Arrow, House of Lies and Scream. Their mother told the Atlanta Jewish Times that Bex got involved with LGBT rights advocacy “right around her Bat Mitzvah,” which was held at Camp Barney, the Jewish summer camp Bex attended as a kid. “On Fridays, I can be with my family by Skype or FaceTime for Shabbat,” Bex told The AJT in 2014 about her life in Los Angeles. “I have my siddur on my desk, my tallis on my shelf, and on the High Holidays, I go to be with friends of the family.”

Jazz Jennings, 16 // TV Personality & Activist

Jennings, the youngest person to become a national transgender figure when she came out on an ABC News Interview at the age of six, is an honorary co-founder of the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation and a founder of the Purple Rainbow Tales. Her YouTube series “I Am Jazz” got her a TLC show by the same name. She’s also been a spokesmodel for Clean & Clear. “Jennings” was a psuedonym chosen by her family to keep their privacy guarded. “Our last name is a very Jewish, very long last name,” her mother told The Miami Herald in 2015.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3211 articles for us.


  1. I really enjoyed this and learned a lot, thanks for putting this together Riese!

    (also, even though I’ve distanced more from her work in recent years for a variety of reasons, my heart fluttered a bit when I saw that you included Rebecca Walker! So, double thanks for that.)

    I wish all of our Jewish ‘Straddlers a fulfilling High Holidays season (I don’t know enough Hebrew or Yiddish to say that properly, I think, but I hope that all of y’all feel my heart in the right place).

    • Thank you! You can say “Shana tova” for this holiday specifically. It literally means “good year,” and translates to something like “Happy New Year.”

      You can also say “chag sameach,” which is a more generic “happy holiday” and suitable for all Jewish holidays.

      (Note that, just to make it hard, the ch’s aren’t hard like in “cheese”, but are a special Hebrew sound that’s more like an h with spitting. You can just pronounce them like h though.)

  2. I love this so much and am only offended that I’m not included in this list. Shana tova, Riese & everyone else who celebrates!

  3. I just want to say thank you for putting these articles together about strong LBTQ people in our community. The world is chaos right now and it’s hard to stay positive, but then I read these articles about strong women and it makes me feel a lot of hope.

    On another note, my wife converted to Judaism a few years ago so I would like to unofficially add her to this list. She is currently staying home with our twin girls and just being an overall amazing human being.

    Shana Tovah my Autostraddle family!

  4. Shanah Tovah Riese, and all my fellow Jewish ‘Straddlers! This is a great list that I am going to immediately share with everyone I know.

    • Ma’am I know you probably get this all the time but you raised a lovely young woman who is kind and extremely talented.
      Congratulations and shana tova

  5. I am very into this article and surprised to find out who is Jewish(like Gaby Dunn). Thank you for this article. I hope you have a beautiful new year. Thank you also for creating autostraddle and giving Jewish women and trans queers a safe space to exist!

    In a related note I was on tumblr earlier and a post came up talking about Olivia Records: “The Collective was trans-inclusive and even helped trans women access trans medical care. TERF icon, Janice Raymond discovered this and began a campaign against Olivia and the trans member of the Collective. This resulted in numerous death threats to the Radical Feminist members of the collective and credible armed death threats against the trans woman. Moreover, TERFs threatened to financially destroy Olivia Records for being trans inclusive with a boycott.

    Even though Olivia voted to remain a trans-inclusive space, the trans woman left the Collective to avoid further TERF violence and disruption to the Collective.”

    So to find that that Olivia Records was started by Jewish lesbians just warms my heart even more!

  6. I know you said no celebs, but can I suggest Carrie Brownstein and Annie Leibovitz
    on this list? Also, Deborah Brin, one of the first openly lgbtq Rabbi’s and one of the few women Rabbi’s when she first started in the 80s(?). I also think Annie

    • oh, i didn’t say no celebs! i just said it wasn’t a list of the MOST FAMOUS.

      carrie brownstein was originally on here, but i couldn’t find her talking about being jewish anywhere and it was only mentioned once in her entire memoir. I know that she is jewish but i wanted to include people who i knew still felt some connection to their faith or to judaism culturally. maybe she does and i just couldn’t find it!

      • Rabbi Brin is/was/it’s complicated because money? rabbi of the Renewal congregation here in Albuquerque!

  7. I love this. I love any Jewish content, and specifically that this focuses on queer women who’ve talked about their Judaism–I’ve met lots of queer Jewish women but most of them tend to keep the two separate, sadly. I find it very hard to bring them together. So thank you!

  8. Love it, I had no idea some of these people were Jewish. There’s an interview today with Gaby Hoffmann in NewNowNext in which she talks about being attracted to women – but I was surprised to learn she’s actually not Jewish.

    • i know! i actually google “gabby hoffman jewish” as i was making this post b/c i was like “why is she not listed anywhere as being jewish” and then i was like “HOW IS SHE NOT JEWISH!?” her hair struggles and her overall hair volume on transparent have always really made me feel seen

  9. Also Robbie Kaplan, Edie Windsor’s lawyer! She gave a very beautiful speech at Edie’s funeral that tied together some Jewish teachings with gay civil rights, and Edie’s life:

    Even Moses, who managed to liberate the Jews from Pharaoh and lead them to Israel, all the while making them into a free people, couldn’t enter the Promised Land? Really? In order to make myself feel better, I like to think that this story is a way of saying that no human being ever gets to complete the work of liberation.

    (Read the whole thing, it’s beautiful.)

    • Also, another quote from that eulogy that is off-topic but so great that I need to share:

      Edie was never shy about describing the two maxims that she and Thea lived by: “Don’t postpone joy” and “Keep it hot.” While I had no issue with “don’t postpone joy”—in fact, it’s a lesson I have tried very hard to keep in mind ever since—“keeping it hot” was a different story. My reason was because every time Edie spoke in public, inevitably, someone in the audience would ask her to elaborate about exactly how she and Thea “kept it hot.” I cannot remember the details—I think I may have blocked them out—but suffice it to say, Edie’s answers to these questions made me blush. And given that we were filing a case that had the potential to go all the way to the United States Supreme Court, I didn’t want any of the justices thinking about Edie’s sex life—no matter how “hot” it was.

      But when I asked Edie to promise me that she wouldn’t talk publicly about sex, she made it very clear that she did not agree with my strategy. Ultimately, she agreed (albeit reluctantly), but in order to seal the deal, I had to promise Edie that all bets were off the minute the case was over. We won the Windsor case at 10:03 a.m. on June 26, 2013. I can assure you that Edie was publicly talking about sex before noon.

  10. Thanks for this list, many of the names were new to me so it was both interesting and illuminating!

    I know it must be tricky to get a balanced selection of people while constantly dreading what weird shit people might all-caps complain about them, so thank you for all your efforts and I look forward to the next list because I totally love dead people.

  11. This warms my heart and is much needed. The New Year has not been kind to me. The past two days have been awful for my family. It’s encouraging to have this sort of content. Shana tova!

  12. My fried brain misread “fame levels” as “farm levels” in the introduction and now I just really want there to be, like, different levels of farming one can achieve and/or strive for, like a D&D character or some such.

    “Yes I am a Level 3 queer organic farmer and mage.”

  13. A great list except for Fran Lebowitz, who is, and has been for a long time, a transphobic POS undeserving of any recognition whatsoever.

  14. BARUCH HASHEM. I’m a queer religious Jew and this year has been pretty tiring for us, so thank you so much for posting this! Can’t wait for the next installment.

    If y’all haven’t heard of them, Keshet is a Boston-based org working for more LGBTQ inclusion in Jewish life. They have kickass safe space stickers and I Love Nice Jewish Girls/Boys/Queers gear that you should most definitely wear to next year’s Pride.

    G’mar chatimah tovah, lovelies. <3

  15. Sarah Hymanson and Chef Sara Kramer both grew up in Secular Jewish families and met at Kramer’s restaurant Glasserie in Brooklyn, which Hymanson landed at after opening the NY outpost of Mission Chinese with Danny Bowien.

  16. Susan Feniger, along with her longtime collaborator Mary Sue Milliken, have opened numerous influential restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, most notably The Border Grill. Feniger starred in the cooking show Too Hot Tamales, appeared on Top Chef Masters, and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Restaurant Association

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