Associated material: Records of Chutzpah are located in the ArQuives: Canada's LGBTQ2+ Archives.
General note: The OJA has a copy of Harvey Brownstone's article "I Now Pronounce You Wife and Wife," which was originally published in the fall 2014 edition of Reform Judaism Magazine. The article mentions Chutzpah and may be of interest to researchers.
See administrative notes.
Harvey Brownstone was born on 24 July 1956 in Paris, France and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. His father was a social worker who worked at the Hamilton Jewish Community Centre for thirty-five years and was director for twenty-one years (from 1967–1988). Brownstone obtained his LLB degree from Queen's University and was appointed a provincial judge with the Ontario Court of Justice in 1995. He was the first openly gay judge appointed in Canada. He resides in Toronto.
Howard Levine was born in Toronto on 29 June 1947. He earned his bachelor of arts (political science with urban planning) from the University of Waterloo and his master in environmental studies (urban planning and public transportation) from York University. From 1973 to 1975, he worked as a consultant with Peat, Marwick and Partners. From 1976 to 1982, he worked as an area and general planner with the City of Toronto's Planning and Development Department. From 1982 to 1988, he was sole proprietor of HJL Consulting. From 1988 to 1994, he served as councillor for Ward 14. After serving his second term as city councillor, Levine returned to HJL Consulting.
Brownstone, Harvey, 1956-
Canadian Jewish Congress
Canadian Jewish News
Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives
Casey House (Toronto, Ont.)
Cecil Community Centre (Toronto, Ont.)
Church of the Holy Trinity (Toronto, Ont.)
Chutzpah (Toronto, Ont.)
Congregation B'nai Kehillah of Toronto
Eggleton, Art, 1943-
Hawkes, Brent, 1950-
Hudson, Rock, 1925-1985
Holy Blossom Temple (Toronto, Ont.)
Keshet Shalom (Toronto, Ont.)
Levine, Howard, 1947-
Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto
Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre
Primrose Club (Toronto, Ont.)
Queen's University (Kingston, Ont.)
Robinson, Svend, 1952-
Royal Ontario Museum
Temple Emanu-El (Toronto, Ont.)
World Congress of Gay & Lesbian Jewish Organizations
York University (Toronto, Ont.)
0:00.20 Harvey Brownstone and Howard Levine introduce themselves.
0:00:27 Harvey discusses what it was like coming of age as a gay Jewish man in Ontario. Harvey grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, where his father was the director of the Hamilton JCC. His mother had a French-imported ladies' wear store. After coming out to his parents in the 1970s, he moved to Kingston, Ontario, where he attended Queen's University.
0:03:13 Howard discusses how his experience was different. He was born and raised in downtown Toronto. His father died when he was a teenager; his mother got sick soon after. As a result, Harvey was largely on his own. He went off to Waterloo for university and then York for graduate school. It's around that time he came to terms with who he was.
0:05:05 Howard discusses a gay Jewish group, B'nai Kehillah, that existed before Chutzpah. It met at the Church of the Holy Trinity, an Anglican church in Toronto.
0:06:19 Harvey and Howard discuss what Chutzpah was, when it started, and how they became involved.
0:09:40 Harvey discusses a trip Chutzpah took to the Royal Ontario Museum, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were being exhibited. It was on this trip that Harvey "really met" Howard.
0:10:10 Harvey discusses how he and Howard came to the conclusion that Chutzpah could be more than "just a place to meet."
0:11:11 Harvey discusses the impact the AIDS epidemic had on Chutzpah's focus. Harvey explains that after American Actor Rock Hudson's death, AIDS was front page news in big cities like Toronto.
0:12:03 Harvey discusses the decision to have Friday night Oneg Shabbats in the late 1980s. Initially, these were held at the Cecil Community Centre on Cecil Street in Toronto. Howard used his position as city councillor to make this happen.
0:13:14 Harvey discusses why the Cecil Community Centre was not an ideal location for the group's services. Howard, therefore, approached the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre and got the group a room for Friday nights.
0:14:52 Harvey discusses Chutzpah’s decision to join the World Congress of Gay & Lesbian Jewish Organization (today, World Congress of GLBT Jews).
0:15:40 Harvey discusses the group's decision to attend a World Congress of Gay & Lesbian Jewish Organizations conference in Amsterdam.
0:17:40 Harvey relates an event hosted by the then mayor of Amsterdam, in which the mayor laid a wreath with a pink triangle to honour gay victims of the Holocaust. Harvey and Howard discuss being moved by this.
0:18:50 Harvey mentions some of the things that came out of the Amsterdam conference.
0:20:05 Harvey and Howard discuss Chutzpah's decision to host a conference in Toronto. The conference, which took place in 1990, was held at the Primrose Hotel.
0:23:16 Harvey and Howard discuss the decision to invite Svend Robinson, Canada's first openly-gay member of parliament, to speak at the conference.
0:23:38 Howard interjects to explain that he was never "out" while on city council. Despite this, he "did a number of things," including getting benefits for same-sex couples and proclaiming Pride Day in Toronto. Howard notes that Art Eggleton, Toronto's mayor at the time, was opposed to proclaiming Pride Day.
0:24:37 Harvey and Howard discuss the Toronto conference some more. Harvey discusses a group of five women cantors who performed at the banquet. The group included Elizabeth Bolton, a cantor at Temple Emanu-El, and Ruth Slater, a cantor at Temple Anshe Sholom.
0:26:50 Harvey and Howard discuss the lack of press coverage for the conference. An exception was the Canadian Jewish News.
0:28:30 Harvey and Howard discuss some of Chutzpah's other initiatives: having a booth at Pride, selling corned beef sandwiches to raise money, and selling rainbow yarmulkes. The group also marched in Pride with a banner.
0:28:56 Harvey discusses Chutzpah's support for Pflag (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). He notes that many gay Jews found the most traumatic part of coming out to be the issue of the parents.
0:29:48 Harvey and Howard discuss the mainstream Jewish community's response to the AIDS crisis. Howard says it was in denial. He also discusses his involvement with the Canadian Jewish Congress' Community Relations Committee and Bernie Farber inviting him to join the committee.
0:31:15 Howard discusses how things have changed. He says Chutzpah dissolved because it wasn't needed anymore.
0:32:55 Harvey expands on Howard's point that there was no more need for Chutzpah.
0:33:30 Harvey and Howard clarify Chutzpah's timeline: Harvey joined the group in the mid-1980s. It lasted until the mid-1990s. At that point, it transformed into Keshet Shalom. That group became defunct in the early 2000s. That's when Howard donated his records to the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (now the ArQuives).
0:34:14 Harvey and Howard discuss how they never agreed that Chutzpah should have become Keshet Shalom (a congregation). They discuss their reasons for not wanting to be a congregation.
0:35:43 Harvey and Howard discuss how many members Chutzpah had at its peak.
0:36:11 Harvey and Howard discuss Chutzpah's relationship with the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto and Brent Hawkes, one of the church's pastors. They also discuss an unnamed member of the church, a reverend, who identified as both Jewish and Christian and who attended several of Chutzpah's Friday night services.
0:39:28 Harvey and Howard discuss the lack of antisemitism they encountered in non-Jewish gay and lesbian communities.
0:40:28 Harvey and Howard discuss the presence (or lack thereof) of Chutzpah ads in the Jewish press. They note that the Canadian Jewish News did cover the Toronto conference.
0:41:59 Harvey and Howard discuss issues facing the Jewish LGBT community in 2019. Harvey mentions the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community as one area of concern. He also discusses elevated rates of suicide among gay youth.
0:45:56 Howard discusses the isolation of gay and lesbian Hasids.
0:46:22 Howard discusses the viewpoint of Toronto's established Jewish community today.
0:47:34 Harvey and Howard share their final thoughts.