Cancer kept Angel Moses busy. Before even completing the five-year treatment for breast cancer after she was diagnosed in 2003, the disease recurred in the original breast and a new cancer developed in the other.
The Chicago resident first found she had the disease when she was just 38. Her age and the occurrence of her second cancer were factors that suggested Moses had hereditary breast cancer. She opted for testing and discovered that she did indeed carry a so-called Jewish gene mutation — BRCA2 — which dramatically increased her risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.
A furtive acknowledgement—a man’s nod, to be precise—ultimately landed Brian Samuel Epstein, the gay, eldest son of a prominent Jewish family in Liverpool, England, in jail. He was the victim of garden-variety police entrapment at a time and place when two men holding hands in public was enough for a cop to arrest them on suspicion and take them in for questioning. In his own written account of the incident, which occurred in 1957 and was included in Debbie Geller’s book of oral history, In My Life: The Brian Epstein Story, Epstein, then 23, enumerated the charge: “For persistently importuning various men for immoral purposes.”
March 8 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. release of The Birdcage, the iconic Mike Nichols remake of La Cage aux Folles starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane about an openly, joyously gay couple from South Beach, Florida and the complicated marriage of their son to the daughter of a conservative politician.
What made this movie such a blockbuster in 1996? Was that because its light-in-the-loafers, limp-wristed protagonists were neutered enough to be non-threatening to the masses? It certainly didn’t hurt that the cast was packed with big-name actors who infused their roles with hilarity and warmth. Some say the movie reinforced tired stereotypes. Others suggest it offered positive images that ultimately helped move the needle on marriage equality. Twenty years later, one thing is certain: The Birdcage took gay representation to bold new places at a pivotal moment in the struggle for LGBTQ visibility and civil equality—and for that, it deserves to be celebrated.
When Dar Williams first wrote the song “The Christians and the Pagans,” about a solstice-celebrating lesbian couple who visit devout Christian relatives during Yuletide, she intended the folk-pop tune to be a humorous respite from tortured holiday gatherings. “The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch/ Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, ‘Is it true that you’re a witch?’ ”
When the Forward first wrote about Harvey Singer two years ago, he shared his trials of being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. The Rochester, New York, resident opted for a full mastectomy, only to be diagnosed with prostate cancer 18 months later. Recently, we learned that Singer faced yet another monumental health scare after we spoke with him in 2014.
Singer recalls that after taking several prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests, which is the standard way to detect prostate cancer, he noted that his test results were steadily rising. Although a PSA test alone cannot confirm evidence of cancer, the higher a man’s PSA level, the more likely it is that he has prostate cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Moreover, a continuous rise in a man’s PSA level over time may also be a sign of prostate cancer.
It was with some trepidation that Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls stepped onto the set of the Amazon series Transparent. Creator Jill Soloway had invited Ray, along with her folk-rock act’s other half, Emily Saliers, to play themselves, performing their fan-favorite “Hammer and a Nail” in an episode largely set at an all-women music festival, which the show’s central character, transgender woman Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), attends with her two daughters. Read more
Having grown up within the Orthodox Jewish enclave of Midwood in Brooklyn, Rifky Tkatch, a social psychologist, knew that many in her community did not like to talk about cancer.
Yet it wasn’t until she conducted focus group interviews with Orthodox Jewish women in Detroit in 2011 that she uncovered barriers to screening that stunned her. Many participants believed that God was more likely to perform a miracle related to a disease that had not been diagnosed. Once a disease, such as cancer, was detected, they said, the likelihood of a miracle healing was significantly reduced.
Read more in the Jewish Daily Forward.
A coalition of politicians from both sides of the aisle are deeply concerned about new recommendations for breast cancer screening. They, along with patient advocates, say the new guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force will fail to protect populations with a hereditary predisposition, including Ashkenazim, one of the groups at higher risk for the BRCA 1 and 2 genetic mutations linked to breast, ovarian and other cancers.
On their new release, One Lost Day, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, otherwise known as the acoustic-guitar-based duo Indigo Girls, take listeners to rural towns with expansive skies and throttled dreams. Flavored with Tom Petty-esque riffs and enfolded in heartland poetry and stately balladry, the songs feature the simmering politics of race and poverty. There are a fair number of mortalities—a dying marriage, the death of childhood innocence, and the passing of a family elder. The feel is mercurial, unsettled, as if to say that after more than three decades of socially conscious musicianship, Saliers and Ray, who began performing folk-rock as high-schoolers in Decatur, Georgia, are still pricked and prodded by inequity in its various incarnations. Read more in Slate
Nestled alongside an idyllic lake, the Ravensbrück concentration camp, 50 miles north of Berlin, was constructed in 1939 specifically to house women.By the end of the war, 130,000 women from 20 European countries had been led through its entrance, often unaware of the danger inside.
Most of the camp’s inhabitants weren’t Jewish; rather, they were considered inferior because they were prostitutes, lesbians, political resisters, “work-shy” or “asocial.” Roma (Gypsies) and Jehovah’s Witnesses—the latter had only to renounce their faith to be freed—were also imprisoned there. All were considered “useless mouths” by the Nazis, worthy of brutal treatment. More than 30,000—some estimate as many as 90,000—women perished there from starvation, disease, gassings, hanging, torture, or execution by shooting.
A new initiative offering subsidized screening for cancer-causing BRCA mutations in Ashkenazi Jews — including those with no family history of cancer — appears to be splitting cancer specialists.
“It cannot wait,” says the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movie Selma, which opened nationwide last Friday. King is pleading with President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act. It’s a trenchant scene whose message is not lost on Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who is also depicted in the film. Lewis, now 75, is still an idealistic agitator whose sense of urgency for dismantling discrimination has long extended to gay rights.
Myriad Genetics may have lost its singular hold on the market for BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing in May 2013 when the Supreme Court ruled against the patenting of genes, but few outside the science and medical communities are aware that Myriad continues to possess a repository of patient data from BRCA testing that it does not share with researchers outside its own lab.
The Jewish Daily Forward
There’s no blueprint for the cultural process in which to mourn the death of a dog. So I wonder: How do I commemorate the 15-year life of Peeps, my Bichon Frisé?
On March 4, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a move many found surprising, closed his speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.