New York's Gay Pride Weekend Bigger — and Jewier — Than Ever

Bill De Blasio Speaks at Shabbat To Kick Off Festivities

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By Brian Schaefer

Published June 27, 2014.
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(Haaretz) — The most outrageous snapshots from any given Pride parade tend to be the most popular – six-foot drag queens (seven, if you count heels and hair,) chiseled go-go dancers in mini-Speedos, loads of glitter. It is an event that has come to be defined by party boys.

But ahead of New York Pride this weekend, many Jewish groups in the area are using the event to bring attention to political and social issues. They are doing so with the help of guests such as Bill De Blasio, the mayor of New York, and activists from Africa, which has been a region of particular concern in recent years as countries like Uganda and Nigeria pass sweeping anti-LGBT legislation.

De Blasio will deliver the keynote address on Friday night at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the world’s largest LGBT synagogue and a pioneering Jewish presence in the New York Pride Parade. De Blasio, who will be introduced by the actress and congregation member Cynthia Nixon, joins a long line of cultural and political leaders who have addressed the Jewish LGBT community on the eve of Pride. Past speakers include the playwright Tony Kushner and nearly every mayor, except Rudy Giuliani.

“It’s kinda the place to be,” CBST head rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum told Haaretz. “Every politician wants to be there.”

Rabbi Kleinbaum, who invites the speakers, anticipated 600 attendees for the event, which will take place at Cooper Union College. She also noted that on every Friday night in June, there are Pride Shabbat services to be found somewhere in the city.

A spotlight on international injustice

Meanwhile, across the river in Livingston, New Jersey, Temple B’nai Avraham will begin Pride celebrations with a talk about the struggle for LGBT rights in Africa by a Kenyan LGBT activist who goes by the pseudonym “Ken” to protect his identity back home.

Ken’s stop in New Jersey comes complements of the American Jewish World Service, a human rights organization that has long championed LGBT rights – among other pressing issues – in the developing world. The event follows Ken’s meetings on Capital Hill with members of Congress, Shabbat services at a synagogue in Washington, D.C., and his appearance at events in Los Angeles and San Francisco.


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