The Mr. Nice Jewish Boy DC pageant, which had become an annual summer staple in DC before the COVID-19 pandemic, will return in person on Sunday, July 31, after a two-year hiatus.
The competition, known colloquially as the Mr. NJB contest, takes four people of Jewish descent and places them in a competition, where they will have to perform in a musical group or dance number, show off some of their personal talents, answer questions from a panel of judges and put the audience (who vote for their favorite contestant, with results comprising half of the final winner’s score) on their side.
In addition to the crown, the winner of the contest will win $250 in drink tickets to Pitchers, Adams Morgan’s popular gay sports bar, and a $250 gift certificate to Floriana, the popular Dupont Circle restaurant. Both Pitchers and Floriana are the main sponsors of this year’s contest.
“We have an app that is open to basically anyone in the community. We sent the announcement out to the entire NJB listserv and to every LGBTQ Jew we knew. In the application, we ask basic questions like, ‘Why do you want to participate?’ or ‘Tell us a bit about yourself’, or ‘What would be your talent?’ And from there, we try to select as diverse and representative a group of contestants as possible,” says Jeremy Sherman, the 2018 Mr. NJB winner and one of the contest organizers.
“We have four new contestants this year who have never been a part before,” adds Sherman. “Some of them hadn’t even been to a previous Mr. NJB contest, and some of them moved to DC during the pandemic, so they weren’t even here when we ran the last one.”
This year’s contest will be held at the Union Stage at the Wharf in Southwest DC General admission will be $30 per person, with VIP tickets costing $50 per person. Each VIP ticket entitles the bearer to a free drink ticket and two free tickets to a raffle, which includes over 30 fantastic prize packages from various local DC businesses that also serve as sponsors. Another sponsor, VIDA, has offered space in its dance studio for free so contestants can rehearse for their joint dance number before Sunday’s performance.
Proceeds from ticket sales, as well as the raffle, will benefit Keshet, a national LGBTQ+ Jewish organization that supports gay Jews and their families. Much of Keshet’s programming involves Jewish youth and teens and their families, including educational trainings, recreational programs, day programs, Sunday schools, and summer camps.
Organizers have also arranged for bartenders to whip up a special Mr. NJB-themed drink, with a dollar from each sale going to Keshet. Organizers hope to raise more than $7,000 for Keshet in total this year, which would dwarf the amount raised the last time the contest was held in person, in 2019. Contest organizers say those who can’t attend the contest in person but wish to contribute to the cause are welcome to donate to Nice Jewish Boys who will direct their donations to Keshet.
This year’s contest host will be local DC drag queen Venus Valhalla, who identifies as Jewish, and will make her first appearance in a Mr. NJB contest, where she will entertain the crowd with a few numbers of her own between stages. . of the competition
This year’s judges include Dani Stoller, a local Jewish actress and playwright based in Washington, DC; Ami Altzman, Director of Youth Programs for Keshet, the main beneficiary of the pageant, and Marci Chaves, mother of Alexander Chaves, former Nice Jewish Boys DC member and first-time pageant organizer, who will be flying in from South Florida for the competition . .
Particularly given the political attacks on LGBTQ rights nationwide and the resurgence of violence and anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States in recent years, the visibility of Nice Jewish Boys and the eventual winner of the contest speaks volumes about what Pride stands for. for those who are Jewish. and LGBTQ.
“Visibility has always been important for many communities,” says Chaves. “Obviously I am Jewish, queer, but also Latino. My family is from Colombia. This year, one of our contestants is from Puerto Rico and another of our contestants is African American. So being able to not only show our Jewish heritage, but also come out, be queer, speak out loud about it, and then show all the intersectionality that comes with it, really is a statement that we’re here, and we’re not going anywhere.
“It is important that we have that full house, all those raffles sold, all that money raised, so that people can see that we are not just one, we are many. And we are not going to sit still and be silent. We are going to celebrate and we will make sure you know it,” says Chaves.
“Mr. NJB is the one event each year that really showcases the power and strength of this entire community,” adds Sherman. “When we work together to put on this fabulous show and raise money, we do a great job. to show that strength, show that pride, show that power that we have as a collective queer Jewish community.”
As a former champion, Sherman says it’s interesting to see the four contestants go through the competition process from another angle.
“It’s fun to watch the contestants go through the motions to get ready to compete in this event,” he says. “Competition takes you a little bit out of your comfort zone. Many of the contestants don’t know each other very well and aren’t very good friends. Many of them don’t know how to dance or have never participated in a talent show before, or don’t speak much in public. So as a previous contestant, knowing what they’re going through, I love to see them grow up and have fun and participate in this great event.
“I also love how excited the entire community is about the return of the contest,” he adds. “Seeing a whole new generation of people learning about Mr. NJB for the first time, getting involved and buying tickets makes me so excited that a new generation of people will experience the event.”
The Mr. Nice Jewish Boy DC contest will be held on July 31 at the Union Stage on the Wharf, 740 Water St. SW. Doors open at 4:00 pm and the show starts at 4:30 pm Tickets are $30 per person and $50 per person for VIP tickets, which are limited. For tickets or more information, visit www.unionstage.com/shows/mr-nice-jewish-boy-pageant-2022. Follow Nice Jewish Boys DC on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NJB.DC or on Instagram at @nicejewishboysdc.