I was born and raised in Chicago where I received an incredible Jewish education and formed a community that aided me in becoming the person I am today. In my studies I was taught crucial biblical lessons such as loving the stranger, pursuing justice, and making everyone feel as if they have dignity. These lessons prompted me to come out to my community when I was 18 years old and was thankful to receive the same love and support as I did prior to my coming out.
With this love and support came the inevitable challenge as to how to merge my queer and Jewish identities. Queer synagogues, LGBT groups on college campuses, and LGBT specific text study spaces have aided in this growth. However, this has become increasingly challenging in recent months as rhetoric around the Israeli Palestinian Conflict has seeped into previously brave, apolitical, and intersectional spaces. What were once conversations about challenging liturgy and adapting rituals have turned into deep debates as to how one can be an advocate for the greater queer community as a Jew and how to be an activist from a Jewish lens as a queer person. These conversations can be unintentionally isolating and blind to the many intersections that exist within both the queer and Jewish communities.
The events that took place this weekend at Chicago’s Pride Parade and Dyke March further demonstrate an increased division and tension between these two identities. I was horrified to hear about what took place this weekend in the city I call my home. As a left-wing, observant, Jewish lesbian who believes in two equitable states for Palestinians and Israelis, I was even more repulsed. Being Jewish is why I feel comfortable within the queer community. The ability to address my questions about my identity in a faith-based context made me feel like I belonged and gave me the confidence to be a queer activist. At the same time, I oppose The Occupation, but feel a deep connection to the Jewish community and many religious sites within Israel. I, and many other left-wing queer Jews, should not have to chose between our queer and Jewish identities because of varying stances of two spaces we occupy. At the same time, we are in a unique position to hold our communities accountable. Being Jewish does not always mean that someone is a right-wing Zionist or blind supporter of Israel. The events that took place this weekend were anti-Semitic. There is no other way to address it. There is, however, validity in frustration with the tension between the two communities related to differing stances on Israel- I certainly feel it. The flag that was banned from the Pride Parade was a rainbow flag with a Star of David, not a flag of Israel. It was a clear statement about the pride one feels in their religion’s ability to accept them for who they are. This was not about The Occupation or Zionism.
Many within the Jewish community are taking remarkable and progressive steps forward to ensure that their queer members feel safe and welcomed. However, it is clear through contested conversations about funding, support, and partnerships that unconditional support for Israel has made this particularly challenging and there is tremendous room for improvement.
In the same breath, it is critical for the queer community to recognize that being a queer activist and supporting a pride movement means supporting everyone within that movement without judgement. This addresses a deeper issue about genuine intersectionality and inclusion within the queer community as there is a fine line between full inclusion and uncomfortable inclusion.
No side is at fault, but perhaps the events that took place this weekend should serve as a wake up call to reevaluate what genuine inclusion looks like.