‘Bashert,’ Ari Gold Style

The gay pop star and provocateur reclaims the Jewish concept in a new show.

07/12/2012
Special To The Jewish Week
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Forty days before a male child is conceived, according to the Babylonian Talmud, a voice from heaven proclaims the name of the female with whose soul this boy’s soul will eventually unite. This is the concept of bashert, the idea that each of us is foreordained to find a particular mate. In Sir Ari Gold’s one-person show, “Ari Gold’s Bashert,” the word is used to sum up the gay pop star’s attitude toward his career, in which he unabashedly celebrates both his Jewish and homosexual identities. Directed by Joey Murray, the show premieres next week at the annual New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF).

Reared in an Orthodox family in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx, Gold was discovered at the age of 5, when he was heard singing at his brother’s bar mitzvah. At the age of 6, he recorded a children’s album for CBS and went on to perform children’s voices on more than 400 television jingles. He attended Ramaz on the Upper East Side, and then went on to Yale and NYU.

Gold released his first album, “Ari Gold,” in 2001, but it was his second album, “Space Under Sun,” released in 2004, that vaulted him to stardom; he appeared on magazine covers around the world and toured with Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper and others. Gold’s “knighthood” and title were conferred by the Imperial Court of New York, an organization that raises funds for LGBT causes.

Melissa Etheridge, Boy George, Elton John, George Michael and other 1980s pop singers came out of the closet after their careers had reached their peaks. But Gold prides himself on having been openly gay from the start of his career. And unlike the other stars, whose music typically explored heterosexual relationships, Gold uses his homosexuality as a major theme in his work.

Indeed, in the provocative music video, “My Favorite Religion,” Gold chafes against Jewish sexual proscriptions by laying tefillin on both arms like leather bondage straps and removing his prayer shawl to expose his naked back and backside. And in his song, “Bashert,” he croons about a gay lover who makes him “feel God,” and know that “You were made for me.”

Some modern scholars view the concept of bashert, as Gold does, in homoerotic terms. Naomi Seidman, who teaches at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, emphasizes that bashert in Yiddish literature (especially in S. Anski’s play, “The Dybbuk”) can refer just as much to the bond between two fathers seeking to unite their future offspring, as it can to the unborn children themselves.

Although it has taken longer to do so than other Yiddish words, bashert is starting to enter the English language; it has been heard on television shows ranging from “Sex in the City” to a recent episode of “The Real Housewives of New York City.” In seizing on the word bashert, Gold said, he was drawn to the idea of “using the Old World language of Yiddish to speak to the more modern concept of gay identity, and to the idea that everything is meant to be.”

“Ari Gold’s Bashert” runs at the 45th Street Theatre, 354 W. 45th St. Performances are Wednesday, July 11, at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 14, at 10:30 p.m., and Sunday, July 15, at 4:30 p.m. For tickets, $20, visit www.nymf.org.

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