Tomorrow's edition of The Forward features a report on the large number of gay men and lesbians who exhibit an interest in Yiddish culture, including especially klezmer music.
The author, New York attorney Kathleen Peratis, asks:
Never heard of the Queer Yiddishkeit movement? Until last summer, neither did I.Peratis suggests some possible explanations for this connection:
Then, an Israeli friend told me he had learned from his (straight) daughter, a doctoral student in women’s Yiddish literature at Berkeley, that a large proportion of her colleagues are gay. Really? Interviews over the next several months of past and present YIVO staff members, klezmer performers, Yiddish scholars and others confirmed it: Gay Jews have flocked to Yiddish and klezmer.
The affinities between gay people and Yiddish, and especially bundist, culture are, when you think about it, obvious: both are staunchly secular, cosmopolitan, progressive and often marginalized. “Queer Yiddishkeit gives me permission to go back to the world of my grandparents without leaving myself behind,” juggler Sara Felder said.She also writes that the association is not exactly recent, pointing to articles from the 1980s and 1990s that make a similar connection. But it goes back even farther, she says:
“It’s about alienation from the Jewish religious establishment,” said Alisa Solomon, a former staff writer for The Village Voice. “There’s a kind of analogy people make with the marginalized status of Yiddish itself. It’s an outsider stance.”
The presence of gay people and gay themes in Yiddish culture, however, is not new. Queer Yiddishists tell us, for example, that Yiddish cinema in the 1930s contained “encrypted messages” on homosexuality — think Molly Picon in her trouser role in “Yidl Mitn Fidl,” what Eve Sicular calls “cross-dressing in the service of family values.” She refers to the “gay subtext of Yiddish cinema during its heyday, from the 1920s to the outbreak of World War II, which reveals distinctly Jewish concerns of the time” such as “conflicted identity, passing, and same-sex attachments.”Now I know why I spent Thanksgiving weekend last year reading Michael Wex's fascinating book, Born to Kvetch.
On another topic entirely, the March issue of Details magazine -- which appears on newsstands on February 27 -- reports that
America's most desirable managers all have one thing in common: homosexuality.In the article, correspondent Danielle Sacks cites a recent academic study:
What could all this mean? Perhaps it means that when you mutter under your breath something about your boss being a "first-rate c**ks**ker" (this is a workplace-friendly blog), you're really expressing your admiration and envy of him.
In The G Quotient: Why Gay Executives Are Excelling as Leaders . . . and What Every Manager Needs to Know, author and USC business-school professor Kirk Snyder argues that gay bosses embody a style of personalized attention that allows high-maintenance Gen Xers and Yers to maximize their performance. "Gay executives tend to look at how each individual brings unique abilities, and they see their job as figuring out how best to take advantage of those skills," he says.
In fact, during Snyder's five-year study of American executives, he stumbled on some startling findings: Gay male bosses produce 35 to 60 percent higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale than straight bosses. This is no small achievement: According to human-resources consulting firm Towers Perrin, only a measly 14 percent of the global corporate workforce are fully engaged by their jobs. And the Saratoga Institute, a group that measures the effectiveness of HR departments, found that in a study of 20,000 workers who had quit their jobs, the primary motivator for jumping ship was their supervisors' behavior.
So what makes gay bosses different? It may have to do with the way they survived high school. "Gay people are constantly having to dodge and weave and assess how and where they're going as they grow up," says Snyder. "And that manifests itself as three huge skills: adaptability, intuitive communications, and creative problem-solving." In other words, your boss is cool with your leaving a little early one day a week to pick up your kid from school, or happy to offer a learning experience that helps you close a crucial deal.