JQY, short for Jewish Queer Youth, is an organization dedicated to providing a community for young Jewish LGBTQ people, fighting “to ensure the emotional and physical health and safety of these individuals,” with a specific focus on Orthodox and Hassidic communities. One of the ways the organization raises funds is through events like tonight’s Purim party.
“Do you know the story of Purim?” Ronin asks me as I make my way into his apartment. I know it just barely, and as he dons his lumberjack gear, he narrates it to me. Purim celebrates the day the Jewish people were spared from slaughter at the hand of the evil Haman by Esther, Queen of Persia. To celebrate, the Megillah, the story of Esther saving the Jews, is read aloud. Costumes are worn on the holiday, which is why it’s often mistakenly called “Jewish Halloween.” Rather, it is said that we dress up because God “disguised” himself in the events that led to the sparing of the Jews in the Purim story. “You’re also supposed to get so drunk you can’t recognize anyone,” Ronin says mischievously. Eating tons of delicious, jam-filled triangular pastries called hamantaschen is also part of the festivities. Ronin pins his blue and white yarmulke to the top of his head while Josh swipes glitter into his own beard. We listen to Jewish a cappella group The Maccabeats sing “Purim Song” on YouTube. Ronin, who grew up in a conservative home with a rabbi father, is close to his family and regularly attends Jewish events, queer and not.
We make our way to the train and Ronin proudly dons his newest purchase, a combination knit scarf, mittens, and hat made to look like a unicorn. Josh looks at him endearingly and smiles.
Ronin is bubbly and warm, but there’s also a strong, focused sense of justice running through his life. Not that the two are mutually exclusive. By day he works at The Council of State Governments Justice Center where he oversees a program helping the previously incarcerated with mentorship, fatherhood, family, and community reentry. He has been working in community justice professionally since 2007, when he started in his native Colorado as a Detention Officer and Juvenile Bond Commissioner.
Ronin’s friendly nature is in full force at the JQY event, where he seems to know everyone. He and Josh effortlessly mix and mingle with people dressed as cowgirls, kings, Power Rangers and leather-bound scuba divers. They nosh on hamantaschen and sip a fruity spiked punch, making their way around the room while the DJ plays Britney, Madonna, and more. Eventually, they begin to dance and…they just don’t stop.
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