Pride is this weekend, people! Being personally invested in both our Jewish and our queer communities in the Twin Cities, I searched for events happening in the Jewish community to celebrate Pride. What I found was that 23 Twin Cities Jewish organizations are participating in the parade and supporting the J-Pride booth. However, outside of the parade, within the community spaces of those organizations, the celebration of pride is lackluster.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The Jewish presence at Pride has come a long way. Twenty-three organizations are working with J-Pride, an organization that engages Minnesota-based LGBTQ Jews and allies to come together for social events, community gatherings, celebrations and educational opportunities by taking part in the parade and sponsoring their booth. Synagogues have taken out an ad in Lavender magazine, a Minnesota LGBTQ publication, and Adath congregation is encouraging people to join the the J-Pride Happy Hour. This is all fabulous, especially because it’s J-Pride’s 10th anniversary at Pride and the Jewish presence this year is a lot more vibrant than it once was.
Bringing LGBTQ Pride into the Community
Our Jewish community, synagogues and organizations need to step beyond supporting LGBTQ people in queer spaces and genuinely celebrate Pride in Jewish spaces. What is going on outside Pride? Not much. Shir Tikvah is giving a Pride blessing during regular Shabbat services on Friday night at 6:30pm and they posted an article about the six genders in classical Judaism on Facebook. Rabbi Davis has been leading some discussions about trans* inclusion at Beth El. That’s pretty much it.
I would like to see the Twin Cities Jewish community genuinely celebrate Pride. We can do better, and we must. Talking with Jews in their twenties who identify as LGBTQ over the past week, I’ve heard things like, “I just don’t feel like I’m Jewish and queer in the same spaces,” “When am I going to be celebrated for all that I am? ” and ” I spent my teen years feeling like there wasn’t really a place for me in the Jewish community. I’m not so interested in trying to make a space for myself — my whole self— now.” One 23-year-old Jewish medical student made clear that while he definitely feels support from the Jewish community for people who identify LGBTQ, he doesn’t feel Pride within our community. If the Jewish community wants to be relevant to this generation of Jews, the Jewish community has to do better.
What our local Jewish community should do for Pride
There are five things I think our synagogues and Jewish organizations can still do this weekend to celebrate Pride.
- Hang or stand rainbow flags outside and inside our buildings during Pride.
- Put up signs outside and inside our buildings that say “Happy Pride!” with Jewish symbols on them.
- Host a Torah discussion of the parshat hashavuah , the weekly Torah portion, from a queer perspective. Torah Queeries can help. This year it’s Chukat. There is plenty of material there. We can also come to Torah study prepared to broaden the discussion.
- Begin planning today for Pride 2016/5776. See below for some of my favorite resources.
- Whatever you are doing: Do it Loud and Proud!
We need to do whatever we can to make sure our members, the kids who grew up in our communities and our broader Jewish mishpocha — our family — can hear, see and feel the celebration in the local Jewish Community for all Jews during Pride and beyond.
- Congregation Beit Simchah Torah in New York is a great role model for ideas.
- The Union for Reform Judaism recently blogged about 18+ ways our community could be more Prideful.
- Keshet is a great resource for all things Queer and Jewish.
- Ritualwell has some helpful blessings and rituals.
- Lambda Legal and many other organizations are working to end discrimination.
Have more ideas for this year or next? I’d love to hear and share them. Please post your comments on Facebook to keep the conversation going! If you are at Pride this weekend, June 27-28, get out your rainbow kippahs, throw around some glitter, and stop by that J-Pride booth. I’ll be there Sunday morning. I wish you Chag Pride Sameach!
Growing up a Jewish kid on a horse farm west of Saint Louis, with a B.A. from Grinnell and work experience in outdoor, experiential education, Amy Ariel moved to Saint Paul in 1999. As a lawyer, youth worker, educator, author, and volunteer, she has been intensely involved in the Jewish community in the Twin Cities. Her middle-grade chapter book Friends Forever won the Gelett Burgess award for Religion in 2012. Amy lives in Saint Paul with her wife, Liddy Rich, and their dog.
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