Hamsa drag show brings packed crowd in a “first” for Hillel

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Students performed on tables for the Jewish community at the Hamsa drag show. Maya Rosenberg/Mitzpeh.

By Maya Rosenberg
For Mitzpeh
@mayarosenberg_

It had all the elements of a drag show: flashing lights, a skintight catsuit, thumping pop music and most importantly, a queer, Jewish drag queen.

Hamsa, this university’s Jewish LGBTQ and Allies student organization, hosted a drag show at Hillel. While Hamsa has hosted ice cream socials and karaoke nights in the past, presenting a drag show was new for the group and for Hillel.

“I think that the drag show brings something new, something people have never been to before,” Avi Alpert, a senior computer science major and president of Hamsa, said. “I think there’s no explicit educational value, but intrinsically, the drag show itself will expose a lot of students to elements of queer culture that they haven’t been exposed to before.”

Alpert was the star of the show, performing as “Aveira,” his drag queen persona. Aveira lip synced to mashups of popular Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande songs, infused with comical soundbites from Aveira herself, poking fun at the food at Hillel’s “Fried Fridays.”

“There are a lot of queer Jews who are sort of uncomfortable at Hillel,” Mo Goldberger, a sophomore computer science major and unofficial MC of the event, said. “I hope this event shows that Hillel is a place for Jewish queer people to come.”

There were almost no empty seats at the drag show, which Goldberger said was a “first” for Hillel.

“Drag shows are really funny because straight people in gay settings are always so uncomfortable,” Goldberger said. “I’m like ‘Oh we have to make an extra effort to make straight people feel comfortable here, and it’s like I feel uncomfortable in your space all the time.”

The audience, which took up almost every seat, was comprised of both Hamsa members and allies there to support Aveira.

“First and foremorst, Avi, or Aveira, is a close friend of mine, and I want to be here to support him and just support the queer Jewish community in general,” senior government and politics and psychology major Tamara Soleymani said. “I want to show them that as someone like me who is Orthodox, I still love them and accept them. I want them to feel welcomed by the straight community and by our community in general.”

The show, which lasted for about 30 minutes, blended drag and Jewish culture together through Aveira’s music, stand up and even her name; Aveira translates to “sin or transgression against G-d in Hebrew.

“I mean, it’s a very sacrilegious name. I guess you might say drag is a little sacrilegious so it works kind of [nicely],” Goldberger said during the show. “That’s why I say this is a straight up Aveira performance.”

Aveira’s costumes, which ranged from a black catsuit paired with sparkly heels to a nun costume complete with a cross and veil, matched the comedic and sarcastic theme of the show. Alpert said that Hamsa events usually have an explicit educational component to them, but the drag show was purposely more “comedic and fun.”

“This event is more social and fun time,” Alpert said. “But I hope it’ll teach people the significance of drag or just LGBT community building and gatherings in general.”

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