Last year, comic Leah Forster made headlines when two New York Orthodox kosher certifying agencies threatened to revoke the license of restaurants that booked her to perform.
Last weekend, she did her act at an Orthodox congregation in the District.
Between those times, Foster, who is Orthodox and gay, revamped her act.
In the past, Forster focused on growing up in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood. She didn’t mention her sexuality. Instead, she threw her comic spotlight on the intricacies of Orthodox Jewish life.
But on Saturday night at Ohev Sholom — the National Synagogue, Forster, 36, gave her audience of 250 a look at what it was like growing up as a lesbian in her Orthodox community.
“Once it was already slapped on the cover of the Daily News, I figured there’s no more hiding it and decided to spin it tastefully into the ‘Story of my Life,’” she told WJW about her new approach.
She described for her Washington audience what it was like growing up without really understanding her sexuality, including her elementary school crush on one of her female teachers.
But there were riffs about her mother, food, romance, her hatred of sleepaway camps and early theatrical struggles, like the fifth-grade play in which she had to share her single line — “Wow!” — with others.
She teased her host, Ohev Sholom Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, about his bright pink suit and talked about the marriage lessons she took after high school and the resumes the girls prepared for matchmaking — right down to when a girl had been potty trained, she joked.
And there were a few mother-in-law jokes. During her first marriage, to a man, she said the only thing that she and her husband’s mom could agree on was that she wasn’t right for him.
District resident Carol Wayman said she came to the show more for the solidarity than the comedy.
“I’m not that familiar with [her situation] to be honest,” Wayman said. “I just thought a Jewish lesbian comic, I want to support her.”
Wayman was accompanied by other members of Nice Jewish Girls, a group for LGTBQ women.
AJ Campbell, the group’s leader, said she also had grown up in an Orthodox community, so she felt a connection with Forster.
“We were very excited [when we heard she would be performing here], Campbell said. “We all were like, ‘We gotta go support her.’ There’s a rift between the gay and Jewish community, particularly the Orthodox community. So the fact that she’s blazing a trail, the least we could do is come out and buy a ticket.”
Herzfeld said that his synagogue’s hosting Forster also was about more than comedy.
“We wanted to show her support when we felt like she was being bullied by rabbis because of the fact that she is gay, and there was an attempt to take away her livelihood,” Herzfeld said. “It’s obvious she is very, very, very talented and [we think] her message is obviously an important one for Jewish communities to hear.”