Play on Words: An Alternative Forward

By Beth Schwartzapfel

Published January 23, 2008, issue of January 25, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When members of San Francisco’s Congregation Sha’ar Zahav receive their synagogue’s newsletter, they get a copy of the Forward. The Jewish Gaily Forward, that is. Founded in 1977 as a synagogue for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual Jews, together with partners, family and friends,” Sha’ar Zahav has the unique position of being a gay synagogue in what is arguably the nation’s gayest city. So it’s only fitting that its newsletter should evoke its Jewish-ness… with a twist.

“We always want to take creative energy into all of the elements of how we present ourselves,” said Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, editor of the JGF, as the newsletter is affectionately known. The newsletter is “changing the name of a Jewish institution in a way that’s sort of fun and positive and reminds people why change is needed in the Jewish world. We have to make sure that people of various sexual identities are included in mainstream Judaism.”

Like most synagogue newsletters, the JGF runs profiles of its members and reports on community events and initiatives. The publication features a rabbi’s column and a page for naches. Unlike most synagogue newsletters, the JGF also runs such pieces as “Transgender Celebration Shabbat a Wild Success!” and “CSZ Queer Torah Study Project.”

Kaiser, whose day job is senior editor of Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, says the newsletter’s title is actually a double double-entendre. In addition to being a play on the title of this paper, it’s also a nod to an old gay joke. While out for a drive, some friends come to an intersection. “Should we go straight?” asks the driver. “Heavens, no!” answer the passengers. “Go gaily forward!”

Unfortunately, Kaiser says, the original Forward has less reach in the Golden State than it used to, and as a result, not everyone among her readership gets the other joke of the newsletter’s title. “Today on the West Coast, people don’t really get it so much,” she told The Shmooze. “But when you explain it to people, they think it’s hilarious.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.