NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The show was kosher, the food was kosher, but apparently the comedienne wasn’t.
Her act was canceled at two Brooklyn restaurants, and the comic says it’s because she’s lesbian, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Tuesday.
For a decade, Leah Forster built a rare reputation in her ultra Orthodox Jewish community as a comedienne.
“I put out like 10 albums, DVDs. I sold out shows. I sold out 1,500 seats a night,” Forster said.
A few years ago, the community learned she was a lesbian, but she still lives in the community, keeps kosher, runs a business and performs on the side.
“I wasn’t coming to you and saying with my gay flag, saying to you ya know?” Forster said.
Her act is clean and doesn’t mention her sexual orientation.
Fans asked for a New Year’s show, so she organized one. Tickets at $80 a pop sold out at the kosher restaurant Garden of Eat-In in Flatbush. But then the owner told her on the phone his business was at stake. The kosher-certifying rabbi was threatening to revoke his kosher certification.
The owner wouldn’t speak with CBS2, but the rabbi allegedly said hosting Forster would violate Torah law. Another kosher spot, Orchidea in Borough Park, took on the show, but then the rabbi threatened to de-certify it, too.
“Some people in my community look at me like I have cancer,” Forster said. “The way they talk to me is like … come back,” Forster said, getting emotional.
No one from Orchidea would go on camera, but a spokesperson told Rozner over the phone that if a rabbi feels you are violating their guidelines, they have every right to pull your license.
But the spokesperson also clarified that guests or contractors are not typically asked if they are gay or straight.
“The owners of the restaurant are good Jews. They really are,” Forster said. “They’re just forced to do something they don’t even want to do, but it’s the only way they can stay in business.”
CBS2 called and went to two locations associated with the Vaad of Flatbush, the kosher-certifying organization. No one got back to us. One man who would only tell us his name as “Eli” said he agrees with the rabbi’s decision.
“We don’t like what’s happening here with the gays, deviant behaviors,” Eli said.
Adina Miles, who is known in the community as “Flatbush Girl,” is leading efforts to find another venue for the show.
“How does the call to action become acceptance, unconditional love?” Miles said.
“Just let me make people laugh,” Forster added.
The city’s commission on human rights would not confirm that it’s investigating, but said it’s illegal to discriminate against independent contractors based on sexual orientation.