Gay Jewish owner of San Francisco civic engagement space faces weekly protests

The Lucy Parsons Project protesting outside of Manny's

Manny’s Cafe, a civic engagement space in San Francisco’s Mission District, has been facing an onslaught of protest.

Backstory

Manny Yekutiel, the space’s owner, is the gay son of an Afghan refugee. He opened the doors to the community space in November 2016. Since then, it’s been a hub for cultural and intellectual discourse. It has been a host to speakers from many social justice causes, including Black Lives Matter. Visitors are also welcome to peruse the space’s bookstore for titles from authors like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Howard Zinn. The food at the space is prepared daily by Farming Hope, a non-profit employing the homeless.

The protest

Still, this hasn’t stopped a San Francisco-based advocacy group The Lucy Parsons Project from demonizing the space. The group meets every Wednesday since December to protest Manny’s. The reasoning? Manny Yekutiel is a ‘Zionist gentrifier.’

The group’s signs include slogans like ‘Zionists out of the Mission,’ ‘Free Palestine,’ ‘Manny’s = homelessness,’ and more.

The Lucy Parsons Project describes themselves as a ‘radical black queer direct action group fighting anti-blackness in the Bay Area.’

This group has called on the public to ‘boycott Manny’s and its “woke-washing” of the Mission.’

In a letter to the media, the group said, ‘the proprietor of Manny’s, Emmanuel Yekutiel, has unequivocally espoused racist, Zionist, pro-Israel ideals that we will not tolerate or accept in our community. We will not tolerate gentrifiers and Zionists attempts at invading and destroying our community through “woke-washing!”’

In Manny’s own words

‘I worked on both the Obama and Clinton campaigns and, after 2016, was struck by the thirst for civic engagement. Here was a citizenry, with their hands raised, looking for a starting place for action and unsure of how to begin — that’s what 2016 inspired. Seeing this problem, I gathered a community to build a physical civic events space called Manny’s at the corner of 16th and Valencia streets in San Francisco,’ Yekutiel wrote in a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle.

‘We’ve had elected officials and advocates in the space, artists and poets and change-makers coming in to teach and to learn. The space is fulfilling a real need.’

‘Amid this remarkable coming-together of people from all walks of life, there also have been fringe activists who’ve gained an outsized voice demonizing Manny’s online. The far-right has attacked the business and me when they’ve disapproved of a guest speaker. The alt-left has pushed vitriolic lies and hatred on social media. Claims such as the space is a Zionist takeover of the Mission has emboldened people to walk in off the street and demand to know if the owner is Jewish.’

‘The building has been vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti [and] is the target of weekly protests. The business has been ideologically extorted: tell us if you’re a Zionist so we can try to drive you out of business. Given the mission of Manny’s, we have invited these individuals into the space for dialogue, but their goal is to shut down discourse, not engage in it.’

Manny’s story

‘I’m a religious Jew and proud of it. My father escaped persecution in Afghanistan and journeyed, partly on foot, to Israel to reunite with family who had previously escaped oppression and found safety there. My little sister was almost blown up by a suicide bomber at a bus stop in Jerusalem,’ Yekutiel explains.

‘As a liberal American Jew, I have complicated feelings about Israel. I do not support everything that its government does (nor everything our American government does). Israel and the United States have provided my family with safety when other countries haven’t. But that doesn’t mean I support the ending of innocent life. My hope for the Israeli and Palestinian people is to soon live in peace with mutual recognition in sovereign and safe borders. This complex issue is a perfect example of the need for high-quality discourse.’

‘What bonds ideological absolutists on the left and the right is precisely what inspired the building of this new space — the opportunity to reverse corrosive incivility and to have vibrant discussion about complicated subjects,’ he says. ‘The ugliness of online discourse has made people hungry for the constructive in-person dialogue we are fostering at Manny’s.’

Anything else?

Manny Yekutiel is not the only liberal LGBTI Jew who has faced backlash due to assumed support of Israel. In 2017, Jewish lesbians were asked to leave the Chicago Dyke March because they had a Star of David on their Pride flag. The organizers deemed them ‘Zionist’ and thus unwelcome. Wendy Sue Biegeleisen, one of the founders of Dyke March, called the action anti-Semitic.

Author: Rafaella Gunz

The post Gay Jewish owner of San Francisco civic engagement space faces weekly protests appeared first on Gay Star News.

I critiqued Manila’s All Stars Snatch Game and the Internet was not happy

Last week, I wrote a piece for Jewish women’s website Alma about how Manila Luzon’s impersonation of Barbra Streisand rubbed me the wrong way. Since its publication, there has been a lot of blowback — including from Manila herself.

My Snatch Game reaction

As a Jewish woman, I was taken aback by Manila’s impression of Streisand’s nose. While Streisand’s nose has always been one of her defining characteristics, Manila took it to the extreme. Instead of trying to resemble the shape or size of Streisand’s nose, she donned a giant beak-like prosthetic that honestly looked more like anti-Semitic caricatures than Streisand. This stereotype of big nosed Jews has been around since at least the 13th century. It was used in Nazi propaganda during World War II.

I never claimed Manila to be an anti-Semite, nor did I assume she did this intentionally. In fact, I acknowledged that Manila is a Streisand fan and probably didn’t mean any harm by this impersonation. I also said that impact matters more than intent. And boy, was there impact.

Responses from fans

Among the first to respond to my article (and my Tweets on the subject) were cisgender gay men. In fact, one of them wasn’t even Tweeting about Drag Race except to attack me for being ‘too sensitive.’ However, some of the most visceral responses came from female-presenting fans of Drag Race, calling me a ‘bitch.’ I was not the only one who was on the receiving end of this vitriol. Other Jewish women who took issue with the impression were also bombarded with Tweets telling them to shut up, get over it, watch a different show. There was a lot of what I assume to be non-Jews deciding for us what is and isn’t offensive.

Screenshot of a Twitter conversation between a Manila fan and someone offended by the prosthetic nose

Anti-Semitism

It is clear that there is not a lot of understanding among the Drag Race fan community on anti-Semitism or how it works. Firstly, Judaism is an ethno-religion — not simply a religion. Jewish people belong to our own distinct ethnic group, what Hitler called ‘the Jewish race.’ Even non-practicing Jews like myself are subject to anti-Semitism. So what really struck me was the fundamental lack of care when it came to anti-Semitism (intentional or not) on RuPaul’s Drag Race. There have been countless thinkpieces about the show’s transphobia and racial bias. Queens themselves have even taken stands on these issues. But for some reason, when I brought up anti-Semitism, I was balked at.

Misogyny

Another thing that struck me was the misogyny expressed in response to my perspective. As mentioned previously, I was told I was ‘too sensitive’ and ‘too dramatic.’ I was called words like ‘bitch.’ I think this needs to be addressed. While I don’t believe drag to be inherently misogynistic, there is a huge misogyny problem among cis gay men. This seeps into drag in small ways, such as the way my opinion was treated by Drag Race queens and fans alike.

Responses from queens

Some queens responded to my article. For instance, Jewish RPDR alum Alexis Michelle. Alexis Michelle didn’t personally find the nose offensive, and that’s fine. Things like this are intra-community discussions (and it’s basically part of Jewish culture to express disagreement). But at the end of the day, it’s really not for non-Jews to decide for us what we can and can’t find offensive.

In the comments, however, I saw many people making personal judgments about me, including other Drag Race queens like Pandora Boxx.

Screenshot of a fan claiming I'm just a 'straight white girl'

Screenshot of RPDR queen Pandora Boxx agreeing that I only wrote the article 'for attention'

I can’t imagine people making similar comments if a black person was offended by a queen in blackface, for instance. There was also a lot of ‘whataboutism’ when it came to other problematic things on the show, such as Trinity’s impersonation of Caitlyn Jenner. Of course things like that (as well as Gia’s Asian stereotype) offended me, too. But I am not trans nor Asian. When writing opinion pieces, I try to stay in my lane — and anti-Semitism is in my lane.

Manila’s reaction

Ultimately, this controversy came to Manila’s attention. She made an apology — which I would love to include here, but it was on Instagram Live and no longer exists. It was an imperfect apology — with statements like ‘I have Jewish friends’ and ‘sorry if you were offended.’ Still, I don’t expect drag queens to be the arbiters of morality by any means. I was just happy to see Manila acknowledge this. So I messaged her on Instagram to let her know. What I didn’t expect was for her to reply.

Manila replies to my message thanking her for her apology by asking me to retract my articleMy explaining my POV to Manila and asking if she wanted to be quoted for this articleManila asking me if I'm Jewish

Her response to me, in my view, was pretty hostile. First, as mentioned, I never said she herself is an anti-Semite. Just that the big beak nose is an anti-Semitic stereotype. I then offered her a platform to issue a statement on this. She replied by asking me if I’m Jewish. When I responded, she read my message but didn’t answer. I messaged her again to see if she’d like to provide a quote for this piece. And again, she read it but did not reply.

I don’t think Manila even read my article, just responded to the headline. And I’m left wondering whether she actually cares about rectifying the harm she caused. Back on her original season, she got flack for using an offensive Asian stereotype in one challenge. Queens on the show, like Shangela, called her out for this. Still, she won the challenge and wasn’t forced to grapple with the criticism. Likewise, Manila won the Snatch Game episode on All Stars. And again can’t seem to fully confront the questionable choices she made.

Call-Out Culture

Look, I’ve been ‘called out’ on the Internet before. It’s not fun. I know it can put you on the defensive, which is how Manila seems to be acting. But at the end of the day, Manila is a public figure. And I can’t say I’m not disappointed in her reactions to my perspective.

Bitter feelings

This whole experience has really shown me that as much as I love RuPaul’s Drag Race, as a queer woman, I’m simply not welcome in that community. Though RuPaul himself has denied misogyny and transphobia, this whole community is set up explicitly as a space for cis gay men and continues to operate as such.

@discoxbloodbath

Author: Rafaella Gunz

The post I critiqued Manila’s All Stars Snatch Game and the Internet was not happy appeared first on Gay Star News.