Jodie Foster’s speech at The Golden Globe Awards Sunday night was rambling, provocative and prompted strong reactions. She seemed to come out as a lesbian, upending one of Hollywood’s oldest open secrets. And she made an ardent, funny case for respecting her privacy. Some people loved it. Others did not. Based on my Twitter and Facebook feeds, lots of folks struggled to follow what she was trying to convey. But I found Foster utterly comprehensible. And the justification of her desire for privacy, for her right to keep private whatever part of her personal life she wishes, reminded me a great deal of Debbie Friedman.
Debbie died two years ago, on January 9, 2011, when she was 59 years old. Her second yartzeit, which fell this week, will be honored with a singalong tribute on January 24 at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College, which posthumously named its cantorial school for Debbie.
When Debbie died, and even before she had been buried, gay activist David Levy made public a part of Debbie’s life that she had neither advertised nor hid: That she was a lesbian. Anyone close with Debbie knew she was gay. Levy’s decision to invade her privacy offended me, as I wrote at that terribly painful time.
I would love to have been able to chew over with Debbie what Foster said at the award show. I think she would have related strongly to it.
When I was growing up in Canada, I always looked up to Israeli teenagers. I was fortunate to spend my high school summers in Israel and participate in programs together with Israeli teens, which served to intensify my admiration for them. I thought they were strong, bold and courageous for both getting drafted to the army and living in a country without American jeans and sneakers and where movies came out only months after their American debut.
Although I am now over twice the age of a regular Israeli soldier, and Israel today is not lacking in the way of materialistic culture, I still admire Israeli teens. Far more than many North American youth, they seem to have the courage of their convictions. None so much as the gay and lesbian Israeli teens who visited San Francisco’s Jewish community last week as part of the Out in Israel LBGT Culture Festival sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest and the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation together and other local organizations.