Launched with brilliant, glittery fanfare in 2013 in the erstwhile Cobalt space, the 2019 Mr. Nice Jewish Boy Pageant is bigger, flashier, and with lots more shmear.
Set to take place on August 4th at U Street Music Hall, the Pageant features four contestants competing for the title and the tiara – and a grand prize from VIDA. Nice Jewish Boys DC, an LGBT Jewish social organization based in Washington DC, is organizing the event.
“Now in our fourth year, this amazing event just keeps getting bigger and better,” said Ben Rosenbaum, President of Nice Jewish Boys DC. “The Mr. NJB Pageant is a chance to showcase our community and the amazing individuals who make it so special. This is our largest event of the year and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.”
The DC community has welcomed the pageant as a smashing success. Proceeds from the event benefit Keshet, one of the largest nationwide LGBTQ Jewish organizations that provides support, education, and resources to LGBTQ Jews of all ages. The event raised more than $4,000 for the organization, said co-organizer and 2017 runner-up Jeremy Gilston, “and we’re hoping to top that this year!”
Mr. Nice Jewish Boy 2018 winner and 2019 co-organizer Jeremy Sherman said that there’s “no doubt that the Mr. NJB Pageant is a wildly entertaining event, but it’s so much more. Mr. NJB Pageant has become one of DC’s premier events for the Jewish LGBTQ+ community. It celebrates the community’s spirit, talents, and ability to come together for a greater cause.”
Contestants begin the show by seeking to wow the audience with a choreographed dance number. Following that, they undergo a rigorous interview from a panel of distinguished judges from the Jewish community, including at least one Jewish mother. Contestants finish with the talent portion. In the past, these have ranged from a rap about Bubbe to doling out homemade chicken soup.
Beyond bragging rights, this year, the contestants are competing for a VIDA Fitness full-year all-access gym membership with access to the pool and rooftop facilities, valued at about $2,000.
Also new this year: a performance by celebrated New York City-based Orthodox Jewish drag queen Lady SinAGaga.
“People in D.C. may not be familiar with Lady SinAGaga, but she is smart, funny, talented, and a Long Island-born former yeshivah boy turned drag queen! She is kind of New York City’s next Miz Cracker, who became a famous RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant,” said Gilston.
The event will also include a silent auction with donations from local businesses; all of these proceeds will also benefit Keshet.
Though they have big heels to fill, the four contestants participating in the pageant this year are promising to slay the stage themselves.
First is Adam Gerstenfeld, a research analyst at an education nonprofit. He said that he should be the next Mr. Nice Jewish Boy “because I’m just a small town boy trying to make it in the big city.” Just as importantly, Adam says that he calls his mother every day. And “as Mr. Nice Jewish boy, I would offer to call Jewish mothers who don’t feel that their sons ring often enough.” To drive the point home, his special talent is a magical traditional Shabbat meal. He also claims that he can cure hiccups. Adam reports that as a summer theater camp kid, he once ripped his pants open in a competition attempting a split. There’s no word on whether there will be a repeat performance.
Next is Ben Gersten, a research scientist focusing on cancer drugs with a side hustle teaching Hebrew school. He claims that he should be crowned because of his backstory, having survived gay conversion therapy and then later getting a degree from Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). He also claims to be great with Jewish moms. They can “count on me to chitchat about The New York Times over coffee, make sure their sons are eating, and to always bring a host gift.” Watch out when it comes to games, though, because “you can bet your tuches I’ll beat you in Jeopardy,” he says.
The third contestant is Jordan Aronowitz, who is following his roots as an accountant. “But I’m a cool accountant,” he says. “I visit Navy bases to say hi to the boys in uniform.” He claims that he should win the crown because of his Jewish geography: he’s from Great Neck, New York, went to college in California, and is now an accountant in DC. He also notes that he’s a “buxom bombshell with a big personality and long eyelashes.” Since moving to Washington, DC, “the Jewish community has been my favorite part.” He also claims that he calls his mother on the daily.
Last but certainly not least is Larry Komrower, a coordinator of international education and study abroad programs. He, too, proclaims skill in the kitchen, but with a “killer” challah to match. Beyond being “nice, Jewish, and a boy,” Larry says that his deep involvement in the NJB community over the past several years proves that he should take the crown. Plus, he can “throw down a good showtune,” not to mention that he can do so in any of the four languages he speaks. “It has been refreshing to find a group in which I could make friends who are both gay and Jewish,” he says. His best friend and adorable pet Corgi agrees, “Larry has what it takes, WOOF!”
Mr. Nice Jewish Boy 2018 Runner Up and 2019 co-organizer Zach Levine is excited for each of these contestants, concluding that they are all winners for getting this far: “Participating in the Mr. NJB Pageant was, by far, one of the best decisions I have made since moving to the District. It introduced me to a Queer and Jewish community in DC I never knew I needed.”
General admission tickets are $25 and limited VIP tickets come with a meet-and-greet with Lady SinAGaga.
About the Author: Evan Caplan hails from the second Jewish homeland (New York). After serving in the Peace Corps, he’s a longtime DC resident and onetime Jewish Guy of the Week. Evan is the Washington Blade food columnist when not at his day gig. Evan was also the runner-up in 2013. He won points for telling the Jewish mother judge that he would provide all the kosher meat that her vegetarian son would ever need.
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