Northampton Jewish day school hosts drag queen Shabbat ceremony

Jenayah De Rosario
Jenayah De Rosario (second from left) and friends. Facebook photo

The goal of the event was inspired by the national, San Francisco-based Drag Queen Story Hour, whose mission aims to “capture the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and give kids glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models.”

This story hour happened at “Sparkle Havdalah: A Drag Queen Story Hour” last Saturday at the Lander Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, Massachusetts. Along with a more traditional havdalah ceremony marking the end of Shabbat with music, a braided candle, grape juice and spice bags, the occasion featured local drag queen Jenayah De Rosario, who read “Sparkle Boy,” the story of a youngster who enjoys waring glittery clothes, written by Jewish children’s author Leslea Newman.

Newman also attended the event, where she read two more of her books: “Here Is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays” and “Heather Has Two Mommies.”

K–6 attendees were also treated to a workshop where they created sparkly spice bags and crowns, plus a photo booth with costumes and face painting.

“We live in a community that is progressive, has many LGBTQ families and really celebrates people being themselves and not being stuck with really rigid ideas of what gender needs to look like, so it felt like a really natural fit for our community,” Amy Meltzer, the school’s director of family engagement, told the national Jewish newspaper The Forward, which went on to report:

The area, which includes Smith College, Mount Holyoke College and the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts, has a national reputation for being LGBT-friendly. The event is co-sponsored by a range of Jewish institutions in the area, including the school and Congregation B’nai Israel of Northampton along with Gan Keshet Preschool, Abundance Farm, PJ Library of Western Massachusetts and the Upper Pioneer Valley, and the Beit Ahavah synagogue. The Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which runs PJ Library and is headquartered in nearby Agawam, is providing funding.

Prior to last Saturday’s “Sparkle Havdalah,” Meltzer told The Forward she hoped to attract families in the area who might not otherwise attend a Jewish celebration and that she was expecting about 100 kids to attend.

“People have certain stereotypes that a Jewish community might have a narrower approach to understanding gender, so it’s a message that we’re a welcoming community and an inclusive community,” Meltzer said.