We are overjoyed to write to you while still basking in the glow of Sunday’s fifth annual JQ Awards Garden Brunch. This year’s event at Dr. and Mrs. Maddahi's beautiful Beverly Hills home was our biggest and best yet. Our honorees and presenters were inspiring, our volunteers helped create a gorgeous atmosphere, and the schmoozing was magical. We are also thrilled to announce that we raised over $140,000 to support JQ's programs and services.
The 2018 Awards Garden Brunch honored three outstanding members of the JQ community for their vision and leadership: Lynn Bider, who received the JQ Community Leadership Award; Jacob Hofheimer, JQ’s first transgender and teenage honoree, received the JQ Trailblazer Award; and Maria Shtabskaya, honored with the JQ Inspiration Award.
“We are thrilled to recognize the most inspirational role models, leaders, and activists in our community at this year’s event,” JQ Executive Director Asher Gellis said in his introductory remarks. “Our three honorees are not only exemplary role models but they represent so many of the finest elements of the JQ community.”
Guests at the brunch included Jay Sanderson, President and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Richard Sandler, Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, Chair of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Julie Platt, New Roads School Head of School Luthern Williams, Tzivia Schwartz Getzug and Gary Braitman of the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund, as well as longtime supporters of JQ and the honorees. JQ's 2017 honorees Courtney Mizel, Liana Chaouli, and Howard Rosenman attended, and we were eager to celebrate the great success of Rosenman’s critically acclaimed film “Call Me By Your Name.” Representatives from Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin and Los Angeles County’s Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl presented the 2018 honorees with commemorative scrolls to recognize their awards and accomplishments.
“We are thrilled to be able to join JQ today for this important event and to recognize these inspirational honorees,” Stephanie Cohen, Supervisor Kuehl’s District Director for West/Metro Los Angeles, said. “As the first openly gay person to be elected to the California Legislature, Supervisor Kuehl understands the importance of JQ’s work and to ensure that our LGBTQ+ constituents receive the support they need.”
The guests enjoyed hilarious comedy from the Awards Garden Brunch host, top LGBTQ+ comedian Dana Goldberg, who slayed with her timely and topical humor about being an LGBTQ+ Jew during these divisive times. Throughout the event, attendees bid on amazing prizes in the silent auction benefiting JQ’s lifesaving services and programs. The Pellas, Jewish a capella's most popular and experienced ensemble, entertained the guests with renditions of classic songs customized for the honorees, including Born This Way for transgender honoree Jake Hofheimer and Thank You for Being a Friend for community leader and ally Lynn Bider.
And the brunch itself, catered by Someone’s In The Kitchen, kept the attendees well-fed and happy. Of course it wouldn’t be a true brunch without classic brunch cocktails including Mimosas and a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Throughout, guests mingled with old and new friends in support of the diverse contributions that JQ makes to the Jewish LGBTQ+ and ally communities.
As the program began, attendees took their seats under a white tent - itself the symbol of holiness and inclusion - creating a sacred space for the stories of the honorees and presenters, who spoke about the life-saving work of JQ International. From the Teen JQSA (Jewish Queer Straight Alliance) to community-building holiday parties, from Shabbat dinners and the JQ Helpline to programing specific to the Persian LGBTQ+ community, JQ’s offerings cultivate a safe, embracing community for people to be their authentic selves while openly growing in their faith.
“I would never have imagined when I came to the United States in 2004 that I would be an inspiration for anyone,” Inspiration Award honoree Maria Shtabskaya said. “I want other LGBTQ Jews to know you are not alone. There is support here for you, a place you can feel comfortable. Be brave, get involved, ask for help, learn about those who came before us and paved the way for us.”
The honorees spoke from their hearts, sharing their personal stories about finding purpose in JQ and in supporting and participating in the many services and programs we provide, emphasizing why JQ’s presence is so critical to the rich fabric of Los Angeles Jewish life. As each honoree shared, it was evident that JQ has not only made an impact on the LGBTQ+ and ally community but on the greater Jewish community at large through its efforts.
“As an ally for the LGBTQ community in Los Angeles, what I’ve learned in the last four and a half years from being involved with JQ, is the only way for anyone to be an ally is to make as many positive changes as possible,” Community Leadership Award recipient Lynn Bider said. “I’m standing here because I want you to know how important this vibrant and growing organization is to Jewish and secular communities alike.”
If you were at the event, you know how special it was. If you couldn’t make it in person, we hope you’ll join us at future programs and in supporting the work that we do.
Whether you were there or not, we feel you with us: you are the reason we do what we do every day. You can help continue the celebration by contributing to the work that JQ does all year to promote safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ Jews, where they can be both LGBTQ+ and Jewish.
We are so grateful for your partnership in helping JQ continue to thrive.
2018 Awards Garden Brunch Co-Chairs