Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
It seemed obvious to me that Celebrate Bisexuality Day is supposed be a celebration and featuring a list of notable Jewish bisexuals on the Keshet blog seemed like a great way to do that.
As it turns out, easier said than blogged. My local library didn’t have any card catalog listings for “famous bi Jews.” There’s definitely stuff out there on the Internet, but searching for information on bi Jews isn’t as easy as finding stuff on gay Jews or LGBT Jews in general.
The sampling below is far from comprehensive or complete, but it is our contribution towards celebrating bisexuality, bisexuals, and the notion that there are, indeed, a lot of notable bi Jews out there – if only we remember to look.
It’s important to include the person who actually wrote the book on bisexuality.
Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics
garnered major praise for its hopeful tone and smart challenge to all sorts of bi-stereotypes. (She also got a lot of deserved praise for writing a book about bisexuality, period.)
This comedic lady is out, loud, and proud. Raised in a Jewish household, she even lived on a kibbutz for a short time in her late teens (wonder if they thought she was funny?). It’s not everybody who can tell David Letterman on live TV, “I know Madonna and I know Sean Penn and I’ve been with both of them!”
This famous composer and conductor not only had the distinction of leading symphonies at the most prestigious opera halls across the world, writing the music for such musicals as West Side Story and Candide — he also conducted the inaugural concert of the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv! Though Bernstein’s relationships with men were well known, he also married a Chilean actress with whom he had three children. According to many accounts, their marriage was happy, so we’ve included him here! Bernstein was also a collaborator with another artist on our list, Jerome Robbins.
This sweet-toned crooner and actor has the distinction of being black, a convert to Judaism and reportedly bisexual (his relationships were the subject of speculation). It’s a testament to his immense abilities and talents that despite belonging to a minority-within-a-minority, he was immensely popular as a singer and an actor.
This frankly dark novelist is very straightforward about her bisexuality, though her Jewish roots — explored along with the rest of her family history in her memoir
The Mistress’s Daughter
— make for more complicated writing fodder.
What’s a list of famous bi Jews without a rabbi? Rabbi Debra Kolodny wrote the seminal book on bisexuality and faith, Blessed Bi Spirit: Bisexual People of Faith. She is the Executive Director of Nehirim and was previously the spiritual leader of Pnai Or in Portland, OR and led ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal for nine years.
The proud mom of kids she’s choosing to raise Jewish (the children’s father, Nixon’s exDanny Mozes, is Jewish), Nixon has been the Pride Shabbat speaker at the New York LGBT synagogue, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah. After breaking up with Mozes, Nixon made waves not only by dating her (female) partner, and becoming an outspoken advocate for same-sex marriage, but for such public statements as, “I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.” Try not to be star-struck when you see her in shul on the Upper West Side of New York.
s – or Jerry Rabinowitz, as his parents called him – was an award-winning dancer, director, and choreographer. Though probably best known for his stunning choreography in West Side Story, Robbins also worked on a number of Jewish-themed Broadway hits, including
Fiddler on the Roof
. Robbins’s long-term relationship with actor Montgomery Clift is known, and he’s often referred to as bisexual.
Though she cla
imed to have never been inside a synagogue until she was in her twenties, Sontag was Jewish and actually examined the Yom Kippur War in her 1974 piece, Promised Lands.
Although we know about a number of Sontag’s relationships with women, including her decade-long relationship with photographer Annie Leibovitz, Sontag was not very public about her sexuality, telling Out Magazine, “Maybe I could have given comfort to some people if I had dealt with the subject of my private sexuality more, but it’s never been my prime mission to give comfort, unless somebody’s in drastic need. I’d rather give pleasure, or shake things up.”
r of acclaimed author and activist Alice Walker is a noted writer in her own right. Her 2002 memoir,
Black White and Jewish
, explored many aspects of her identity, including what it means to be biracial – and bisexual. For Walker, fluidity is key to understanding herself, and that extends to her sexual orientation, as well.
That’s our short list! We know it was brief — so tell us who we forgot!
Pronounced: ki (short i)-BOOTZ (oo as in book), Origin: Hebrew, a collectively owned and run community in Israel.
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.