Dear Editor,

As Jews, we are taught the basic Jewish value of loving your neighbor as yourself. V’ahavta l’reacha kamocha. This doesn’t mean that we agree with everything someone says or believes. But it most certainly means that we are always and unequivocally there to support and respect one another and never cause harm.

There have been many rumors circulating about an upcoming event that we are hosting at Café Alma in honor of Pride Month. We feel it has now gotten to the point where we’d like to offer some insights and clarifications. 

Café Alma is hosting two separate events on July 2nd. There will be a Story Hour in the afternoon and a Drag Dinner in the evening. The Story Hour is a Tea Party, geared towards kids 5 and under, where a professional drag entertainer will read a story and lead arts and crafts activities. The Drag Dinner is Independence Day themed, and will feature a full vegetarian dinner spread as well as live entertainment from four drag entertainers. This is advertised as a family friendly show since we strive for everything held at the cafe to uphold our values as a family friendly environment.

We understand not everyone sees eye to eye on every issue and are more than willing to have constructive dialogue that would lead to mutual respect and understanding rather than destructive rumors and lashon ha’rah.

Having been called an “accomplice to child abuse” and threatened with angry protests is 100% harmful, hurtful and incredibly misinformed.

This especially hit home for us after attending the JCRC annual meeting last week where the theme was “Working Across Differences.” What a beautiful concept to guide us through our daily lives; yes, we are different, but let’s focus on where we are alike and can work together versus emphasizing where we disagree. We will always stay true to our values of inclusivity, tolerance and respect.

For those of you who have been to the cafe, support it, and call it home, we want you to know how much we appreciate each and every one of you for coming to Café Alma and contributing to our continued success. We want all of our guests to feel welcomed and loved, and sincerely apologize if any of you felt marginalized by our decision to host this event.

We have always strived to maintain our mission as a community connector, inclusive of all walks of life, and celebrate the beauty in the diversity that all people, and the Jewish Community specifically, inherently bring. Loving your neighbor means supporting the LGBTQIA+ individuals within and outside the Jewish community.

While we are a Kosher café, owned and run by observant Jews, Café Alma is also a private business, catering to the Pleasant Ridge and Greater Cincinnati communities that far outreach the scope of just the Jewish Community. Not to mention that about 80% of our staff also identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. We are a safe haven for them, and we show our undeniable support to them and their community. It deeply saddens us, the blatant unacceptance in OUR community where there are so many queer identifying individuals.

It is important for us to explain a few points in regards to this upcoming event:

This is a PRIVATE EVENT. After business hours. So whoever does not wish to be there, does not have to be. We host many events at Café Alma and encourage you to be a part of those in which you connect with more.

Story Hours for kids are very popular throughout the country. The storyteller uses the art of drag to promote reading while teaching individuality, empathy, and acceptance. The costumes and stories are both extremely kid friendly and encourage a fun environment for storytelling and crafts. There are absolutely NO scantily clad costumes and children are NOT being encouraged to dress in drag.

The 4th of July Drag Dinner is also completely PG from the costumes, to the music, to the entire atmosphere. This was a way to not only honor Pride Month but celebrate the 4th of July in a way that’s accepting of ALL Americans, from all across the diverse spectrum of society. The drag artist spearheading this event with us explained it most beautifully: “drag shows are like movie theaters; the theater can show rated R movies and G movies, all in the same theater, and those buying tickets to those movies know exactly to which movie they are entering.” So again, NO burlesque costumes and NO kids specifically encouraged to come in drag.

We firmly believe that NO parent ever has malicious intent for their child, and therefore, would NEVER knowingly put them in harm’s way. I trust the discretion of every parent who decides to buy or not to buy tickets to either of these events and if they do, they’ve made the mature and thoughtful decision to do so. 

The fact that cross dressing is asur (forbidden) in the Torah is irrelevant. We have transgender staff. Our employees do not dress according to the laws of tzniut (modesty). This has NEVER been an issue. For those expressing that a Kosher establishment should not be allowing this kind of activity, these drag entertainers are NOT Jewish, and have NO requirement to uphold Jewish Law. We are also NOT only targeting a Jewish audience. Not to mention that gossip and slander are serious sins in Judaism.   

We find it immensely heartbreaking that Jews have targeted other Jews who are upstanding people in this community, trying to do their best. It’s embarrassing to call ourselves “a light unto the nations,” when we act like this.

We would like to invite anyone who wishes to have a conversation about the matter to contact us directly if you’d like to make your views heard. We are more than open to listen. We also invite you to educate yourself on this subject, and we truly appreciate everyone who has called to ask directly from the source what this event is all about, before making rash judgements or assumptions. We should always strive to work with one another, not against one another, across our differences.    

Lainey, Yair, and the Café Alma Team

Cincinnati, OH