Events: ‘Purim Off Ponce’ gives LGBT twist to Jewish hol­i­day.

Themed cos­tume event cel­e­brates Jewish hol­i­day, ben­e­fits Rain­bow Cen­ter

GA Voice - - News -

An an­nual mas­quer­ade ball ben­e­fit­ing the non-profit Rain­bow Cen­ter and the work it does for the LGBT com­mu­nity, Purim off Ponce prom­ises a fes­tive evening Feb.16.

Part of the Jewish Fam­ily & Ca­reer Ser­vices, the Rain­bow Cen­ter has served the lo­cal LGBT com­mu­nity for 12 years. Purim Off Ponce – held ev­ery year to com­mem­o­rate the Jewish hol­i­day — is the largest an­nual fundraiser for the or­ga­ni­za­tion, which has grown in at­ten­dance ev­ery year

Re­becca Stapel-Wax, pro­gram di­rec­tor of the cen­ter, prom­ises a night full of fun, food and drink, and a di­verse crowd rang­ing from 21 – 83, with a dis­tinct LGBT slant. Pa­trons also tend to be both Jewish and non-Jewish.

“That is the essence of what Purim is sup­posed to be about,” Stapel-Wax says. “No dif­fer­ence be­tween peo­ple and no judg­ment.”

Ev­ery year there is a “Purim off Ponce” theme and this year’s is “Par­adise.” Many of the at­ten­dees will wear themed cos­tumes, although it is not re­quired.

For the first two years, the event was held at the night­club Paris on Ponce, but since that time it has moved to an­other lo­ca­tion: the Callan­wolde Fine Arts Cen­ter. Once known as Purim On Ponce, the event name changed with the venue.

Each year dur­ing the fundraiser the Rain­maker Award is given to some­one who has given of them­selves, ei­ther fi­nan­cially or from a vol­un­teer ba­sis, and done out­side work as well, says Stapel-Wax. The 2013 re­cip­i­ent is 83-year-old Sylvia Gross, a com­mu­nity ally.

Gross is a long­time mem­ber of Con­gre­ga­tion Bet Haverim, a syn­a­gogue serv­ing the LGBT, Jewish com­mu­nity, led by openly gay Rabbi Joshua Lesser. When Gross’ son came Purim Off Ponce Satur­day, Feb. 16, 7:30 – 11 p.m. Callan­wolde Fine Arts Cen­ter 980 Bri­ar­cliff Road At­lanta, GA 30306 www.pu­ri­moff­ponce.com out in the ‘70s, she sup­ported him. And now she sup­ports two grown gay grand­sons as well.

“There are not many 83-year-olds who are as open, ac­cept­ing and pro­gres­sively think­ing,” Wax said in a state­ment.

“With her de­light­ful danc­ing, she has been the life of the party at ev­ery Purim Off Ponce since its in­cep­tion in 2007. The Rain­bow Cen­ter is thrilled to cel­e­brate Sylvia’s life and the lives she has touched at Purim Off Ponce 2013.”

Among the en­ter­tain­ment line-up this year is the Mike Veal Band and Sadie Hawkins, an ae­rial artist who has cre­ated a Jewish star as her ap­pa­ra­tus. The Ar­morettes will re­turn this year as will the pop­u­lar Dames A’Flame bur­lesque dancers.

“We are very ex­cited about the en­ter­tain­ment,” she says. “The Ar­morettes have been do­ing this the last three to four years.”

Wax ex­pects a crowd of more than 300 peo­ple at the event and is al­ways en­cour­aged to see new faces each sea­son.

Purim is a Jewish hol­i­day that stems from the story of Queen Es­ther. The queen was afraid to come out be­cause she was Jewish but by do­ing so, she saved the fate of the Jewish peo­ple. Be­cause of when the hol­i­day takes place in 2013, the fundraiser is held ear­lier this sea­son than in pre­vi­ous years.

Among the ser­vices that the Rain­bow Cen­ter pro­vides are anti-bul­ly­ing and ac­cep­tance train­ing. In 2012, the cen­ter reached more than 1,200 in­di­vid­u­als. Much of their ac­tiv­ity through­out the year in­volves outreach. Last year, for in­stance, Stapel-Wax helped spear- head a large pres­ence at At­lanta Pride, work­ing along­side 16 or­ga­ni­za­tions in all.

Deal­ing with LGBT is­sues can be a strug­gle for those of any re­li­gion, but Stapel-Wax says be­ing LGBT and Jewish can pose spe­cific prob­lems.

“Coming from a con­ser­va­tive per­spec­tive, there can be more dif­fi­culty in the res­o­lu­tion,” she says. “In terms of op­pres­sion, the Jewish com­mu­nity is not im­mune.”

Tick­ets to the event range from $36 to $50 in ad­vance and $75 at the door. The event is for ages 21 and up only.

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