Fighting for LGBT rights, Israel — and for the right to party.
When Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel “The Great Gatsby” opened in May, Jayson Littman was one of the first in line for tickets.
After all, Littman himself is a thrower of fabulous Gatsbyesque parties, although he eschews the Jazz Age protagonist’s air of mystery in favor of letting it all hang out as the proud king of New York’s gay Jewish nightlife.
But that wasn’t always the case. He attended yeshiva in Washington Heights, and after graduation spent time in Jerusalem, which was where he started to realize he was gay. He made a good faith effort to repress his feelings, even doing five years of “reparative” therapy, which claims to “cure” homosexuality. In Littman’s case, it made him realize that he was never going to change.
“I took on something I learned in my Orthodox childhood: turn towards God in times of struggle,” he said. “When I stopped being Orthodox, I became more Jewish.”
And he came out. He established a career in financial services with such big names as J.P. Morgan, Bank of America and PricewaterhouseCoopers. And he founded “He’Bro,” a party production and promotion business.
He leads Jewish LGBT trips to Israel and turns his identity as a gay Jew to good advantage: pushing for the inclusion of LGBT Jews in community organizations that have been slow to include them — and standing up for Israel in LGBT circles critical of the Jewish state.
Now he’s working part-time for A Wider Bridge, the non-profit organization that tries to build connections between LGBT Jews and Israel, although he pays the bills by working as a financial services consultant.
“We live in a world where Israel is being delegitimized in every way,” Littman said. “That happens in the LGBT community. Jewish organizations don’t know how to respond because they’re still figuring out how to respond to gays in general. I needed to embrace all of my identity and not replace one closet with another.”
Fun facts: Littman is a certified Spinning instructor who teaches at gyms around Manhattan. He adores peanut butter and doesn’t know how to use chopsticks.