Gay, Jewish artist Josef Palermo specializes in intermedia work that challenges social constructs and redefines Tikkun Olam. He is also one of the names behind A Wider Bridge’s upcoming “Beyond the Bridge” event in Washington, DC.
What first inspired you to get involved in activism?
Josef: Without a doubt, my Judaism inspired me to get involved in activism. In college, I was really engaged in activism on the crisis in the Darfur region of what is now the Republic of South Sudan, where a genocide was taking place for many years. As Jews, we are told to heed the call of “never again” when it comes to crimes against humanity, so I coordinated tzedek campaigns with my campus Hillel group to help raise awareness and inspire action on these issues. I think pursuit of tikkun olam is an imperative for the Jewish community and the world in which we live. It’s definitely something that inspires my work as an artist, too. I want my work to transcend societal constructs and bring the humanity back to the humanities.
How did you first get involved with a Wider Bridge?
Josef: They commissioned me for my first internationally-focused community arts project last summer to creatively interpret the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in Israel and Palestine for audiences back home. As an artist, I was curious to find cultural connections to our queer communities here in the United States with those I encountered in the Middle East, and I wanted to create some kind of project for A Wider Bridge to highlight the things that relate to all of us who exist beyond the global heteronormative hegemony. Upon my return to DC, I presented the distillation of my experiences abroad as a one-night-only salon-style “happening” titled TAKE OFF THE MASC, curated around my own interests in the concept of a global LGBTQ community and the masculinity paradox gay men struggle with in our collective culture worldwide.
You are now involved with planning the Beyond the Bridge cocktail reception, what is this event about and who should think about attending?
Josef: Yes! I’m on the host committee for the Beyond the Bridge reception, and our event takes place on Saturday, March 19, from 8:30 to 10:30pm at Acadiana in Mount Vernon Square. This will be an informal kick-off to AIPAC’s annual conference, opening the following day, and we’ve assembled a great group of speakers to talk about the latest in LGBTQ advocacy in Israel and around the world. We’ll also have an open bar, selections from Acadiana’s amazing Cajun-Creole menu, and live entertainment that I’m keeping under wraps for now. Come see what it will be!