You Should Know… Avi Alpert / Aveira

Drag queen Aveira (Photo courtesy of Avi Alpert)

Aveira is a “shamelessly Jewish” drag queen who aims to make even the most open-minded rabbi blush. Aveira’s alter ego is Avi Alpert, 23, who performs comedy, lip syncs and song parodies under his drag persona, whose name is Hebrew for “sin.”

Raised Modern Orthodox in Florida, Alpert is a graduate of the University of Maryland. He lives in Washington and works as a software developer. He is a member of Nice Jewish Boys and attends services at Ohev Sholom — The National Synagogue.

How did you get into drag?

For many Jewish drag queens, Purim was their first experience with drag. So Purim freshman year in college, I asked one of my friends who was a makeup artist to put me in drag. And that’s when Aveira was born. And then I slowly got into it and I did my first big in-person show at the Maryland Hillel in November of 2019.

What do you like about drag?

In drag I’m a little more confident. I’ll take more risks. On a day-to-day basis, I’m not trying to be a super-controversial or shocking figure. I’m just a normal person. But as Aveira I can make political statements and social commentary on my community in drag that I wouldn’t feel comfortable enough doing outside of drag.

How would you describe Aveira?

Avi Alpert (Photo courtesy of Avi Alpert)

My drag identity is closely related to Judaism. I want it to be a little sacrilegious and provocative, but also meaningful. I really like to incorporate talmudic, Torah and biblical references into my drag performances and comedy.

Why is Judaism so integral to your persona?

Judaism is so important to me. I wanted to showcase that, and specifically make a difference in the Orthodox community, because a lot of homophobia is really from lack of exposure and ignorance.

When I did perform at the University of Maryland Hillel [in 2019], I wanted to really target the Orthodox audience to show them what queer culture was all about. A lot of people in the Orthodox community have never really been to a drag show. So I did the show and then a lot of Orthodox people came and really enjoyed it a lot.

As a gay person, what was it like growing up in a Modern Orthodox community in North Miami Beach, Fla.?

South Florida had a really vibrant [Orthodox] community, and there was just no one like me in terms of being gay. There was no one I could really look up to in the community. It was a pretty taboo subject. So I switched out of Jewish private school after 10th grade to public school to see what the real world was like.

But I did end up going to a yeshivah gap-year program in Israel after high school. I really enjoyed that. I reconnected with my Judaism a lot in Israel during that year before college. And that’s when I came out as gay. That was a really amazing experience. Everyone was really supportive. And I felt super liberated to be able to go into college totally being myself.

Last September, you released a music video parodying Cardi B’s song “WAP.” What did you set out to accomplish with your Rosh Hashanah version, “Apples Dipped in Honey”?

Part of it is to be scandalous and provocative. I think it shocks people when someone who’s gay and a drag queen knows so many talmudic, very niche references, that you would have to basically had gone to a yeshivah to know. So when religious people see that it changes their perception of gay people. They might have a preconceived notion that gay people don’t care about Judaism, don’t know about Judaism or hate Judaism. So for me, I have a video to prove to them that that’s not the case.

And then, of course, filming it in my Orthodox community [in Florida] and seeing people’s look of horror — that was a part of it as well.

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