“You’re now a gay American Jew? Are you a Jewish American gay? Are you an American gay Jew?” Jayson Littman pondered his multiple identities. Is it possible to be all three simultaneously?
For Littman, it’s a rhetorical question. The 35-year-old financial consultant hosts parties in New York City, where the scene is decidedly gay and Jewish.
Littman created his events group, He’bro, in 2007 after he realized that there were few social outlets for gay Jews. There were Jewish organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals that offered spiritual experiences, but he felt that secular gay Jews needed and wanted to meet each other in nonreligious settings. His first party, a “Jewfest” at the Vlada Lounge, in Hell’s Kitchen, was meant to be a small affair with some 30 people, but word spread through Facebook and 250 people showed up.
Today, the parties — which are funded through door admission at Manhattan clubs — can easily attract hundreds, sometimes more than 1,000 people, and last until the early hours of the morning. The events are loosely themed to Jewish holidays: Sederlicious occurs just before Passover; High Homodays marks Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and Jewbilee is on Christmas Eve. Each party brims with Jewish inside jokes. There’s a dry erase board at High Homodays, tagged with the phrase “I Repent,” on which guests can write down their sins. At one Jewbilee there was a “Man-orah” of male dancers. Most guests are secular Jews who consider the parties a rare outlet for their religious identities, Littman said. But some Orthodox Jews come, as well.
“We’re not doing gay work in the Jewish community,” Littman said. “We’re doing Jewish work in the gay community.”
He’bro has gained a rapid following. Littman’s parties are known not only across the country — people come from as far away as California, not to mention cities close by, like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Boston — but also in Israel, where He’bro has admirers in Tel Aviv’s dynamic gay social scene. (Littman also helps contribute to that scene by leading gay Jewish Birthright trips.)
“If you’re a young, gay Jew moving to New York and you’re looking to get into the scene, Jayson Littman is the one to know,” said Micah Jesse, a 26-year-old entertainment writer. For gay Jews, Jesse said, He’bro is like “the gay bar mitzvah we never got to have.”