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Portrait of an Orthodox Israeli Drag Queen

Daniel Estrin profiles the man behind Rebbetzin Malka Falsche

Batya Ungar-Sargon
August 01, 2013
Shahar Hadar.(ODED BALILTY/AP)
Shahar Hadar.(ODED BALILTY/AP)

Tablet contributor Daniel Estrin has a gripping photo essay in today’s Associated Press, chronicling a young Israeli cross-dresser, Shahar Hadar, through the stations of his life. In addition to being a cross-dresser, Hadar is also an Orthodox Jew who tried, unsuccessfully, to escape his sexual orientation through marriage. Estrin pairs his characteristically thrilling story-telling skills with some beautiful photos to bring us the tale of the young man who davens by day, dresses in drag by night.

Hadar’s drag persona, Estrin tells us, is “Rebbetzin Malka Falsche”—Rebbetzin False Queen. Rather than separate his drag routine from his religious identity, Hadar weaves the two together in Rebbetzin Malka Falsche, an embodiment of Hadar’s own struggles:

“She blesses, she loves everyone,” said Hadar of his alter-ego, Rebbetzin Malka Falsche. The stage name is a playful take on a Hebrew word meaning “queen” and Hebrew slang for “fake.” Her philosophy, and Hadar’s, draws from the teachings of the Breslov Hasidic stream of ultra-Orthodox Judaism: embrace life’s vicissitudes with joy.

“Usually drag queens are gruff. I decided that I wanted to be happy, entertain people, perform mitzvoth,” or religious deeds, he said.

An encounter with a popular Israeli rebbetzin is what launched Hadar’s inner journey at age 19.

Estrin’s work for Tablet includes a profile of Yityish Aynaw, the newest Miss Israel. He has also reported a series of Vox Tablet podcasts, among them the award-winning report on Jerusalem’s light rail, and the story of a doomed relationship between two men, one Palestinian and the other Jewish.

Batya Ungar-Sargon is a freelance writer who lives in New York. Her Twitter feed is @bungarsargon.