Like many in the Jewish community, I was deeply troubled to see that the Chicago Dyke March kicked out three women for carrying pride flags adorned with the Star of David. The star, a proud symbol of Judaism, reportedly made some marchers feel “unsafe.” One ejected marcher told the Chicagoist, “Being removed from this march because of my visible Jewish symbol actually makes me feel unsafe.” I will wonder aloud if marchers would ever be kicked out of a pride event for carrying pride flags that include a Christian cross or Islamic star and crescent.
At pride events across the country, Jewish organizations and congregations march with pride flags that include the Star of David to represent LGBTQ and Jewish pride. It should go without saying that Jews who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer deserve to be supported, valued and included in LGBTQ events.
In my home state of North Carolina, NC Pride chose to schedule their 33rd annual LGBT festival on September 30, 2017, which is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of Judaism. Carolina Jews for Justice responded to this grossly inappropriate scheduling choice with a statement which read in part, “No group of people, Jewish or otherwise, should have to choose between our LGBTQ identities and the other identities that are important to us and shape our lives.” Would NC Pride ever schedule the pride festival on another religious holiday, such as Easter, Christmas or Eid Al-Fitr?
As the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill, Jill Madsen, told me, “It is very upsetting that this was the date selected for this year. For the past few years the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish community has had a large presence at the event – [We] hosted a booth and had a float in the parade. Last year alone we had over 100 people marching with us. We continue to encourage people to send letters [to NC Pride] as it is important they hear from the community. We are working with our community partners to host a separate Pride event in October connected to Sukkot, so there is still an opportunity for the Jewish community to join together and show our support.”
A longtime Jewish member of the LGBTQ community in North Carolina added, “I am furious. It would be awful any year. But given the kerfuffle over the Chicago Dyke March, and the rise of anti-Semitic expression during the Trump campaign and administration, it feels like a body slam. I am deeply disappointed.”
The NC Pride website states that “inclusiveness and acceptance are the real gifts that we give to one another when we participate.” However, not only is NC Pride holding their annual pride festival on Yom Kippur, but, as Rabbi Jen Feldman of Kehillah Synagogue in Chapel Hill noted, “Let’s take a step back and recognize that the Pride parade is held every year on Shabbat and therefore by its nature may not be truly inclusive of the LGBTQ Jewish community.”
As a longtime ally to the LGBTQ community, I have marched in pride celebrations and have supported LGBTQ family members and friends. I belong to a synagogue with a strong, public record on supporting the LGBTQ community and opposing HB2, the anti-LGBT statewide law. My synagogue and other local synagogues promote NC Pride in our newsletters and spaces. For example, at my synagogue, congregants are encouraged to participate in NC Pride and to practice “Tolerance. Equality. Family. Jewish Values.”
I am proud to be part of a Jewish community that promotes and embraces inclusion. I look forward to taking my children to pride celebrations and I expect to be included, not excluded, from Pride events. I strongly urge NC Pride and the larger LGBTQ community to be more inclusive, tolerant and respectful of their Jewish members and allies.
Peter Reitzes is a Jewish husband and father in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a person who stutters, a speech-language pathologist and writes on Jewish issues.