Ottawa’s queer Jewish community were stepping out in style to mark Purim, aka, the “Jewish Halloween” recently at Arts Court.

More than 50 people flocked to the venue near the Rideau Centre to share their love for the creative arts and community.  

Purim is based on the Biblical story of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai who foiled a plot to annihilate the Jews of ancient Persia. The day of deliverance is celebrated with joyful community events, food and costumes. 

Amelia Blazer, a queer Jew and an active participant in the group Independent Jewish Voices Canada, described the holiday as “The Jewish Halloween.”  

Drag King Julian Skull performs at the Purim Variety Show at the Arts Court in downtown Ottawa, on Monday, March 18. [Photo © Tanya Gandhi]

“This is one of the only fun and recreational events that is both proudly Jewish and anti-Zionist that I have found in Ottawa,” Blazer told Capital Current.  

The night featured a variety show hosted by Cameron Jette, also known as Boy Vey, in the Ottawa drag community. Jette founded the Disability Drag Collective and Wheelie Productions, an event-planning company. The 26-year-old non-binary drag king uses a mobility aid that he speaks about freely and proudly, hoping to promote accessibility and tolerance. 

As much as the Queer Jewish community is small in Ottawa, it is mighty. And I wanted to showcase those people and this art that they’re making.

Cameron Jette (Boy Vey), founder of Disability Drag Collective and host of Purim Variety Show

They first hosted a Purim event in 2020 — the Purim Drag Show — right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This year, Jette opted to do a variety show. “As much as the Queer Jewish community is small in Ottawa,” they said, “it is mighty. And I wanted to showcase those people and this art that they’re making.”  

There were several different performers and vendors at the show, with fun games to get people involved as well as a charity raffle raising money for the people of Palestine.  

Volunteer Morgan Mercury and attendee Amelia Blazer showing off the “arm’s-length” raffle tickets purchased by Blazer in support of the Palestinian Charity at the Purim Variety Show on March 18. [Photo © Tanya Gandhi]

The Israel-Hamas war, sparked by an Oct. 7 terror attack in Israel that left more than 1,000 people dead, has seen an Israeli counterattack kill more than 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza.  

Inclusion was a strong theme portrayed throughout the show, with a large sign on stage advocating “Ceasefire” in Gaza.  

The show consisted of four acts. Maggie Harder, the comedian, Noah Boonav, the singer, Julian Skull, a drag king, as well as Jette hosting and performing at the very end.  

Members of the audience, who wore mandatory face masks to protect public health, expressed their appreciation of the show with chuckles heard throughout the venue.  

“I feel so seen,” said Blazer, when asked about her experience at the event. “The sense of community and shared experience is so strong here.”  

The vendors at the show included Garbutch and Vagaybond, an Ottawa-based small business that sells buttons, shirts and stickers. They were also handing out free Naloxone anti-overdose kits to anyone who wanted one.

Their tables were not just a display of merchandise, but also a way to spread awareness, said Jette.