April 2, 2020

Jewish Pride

Last week, joining thousands of others, my five year old daughter and I took part in Louisville’s annual Pride Parade. While it might lack the reputation of San Francisco, Louisville ranked eleventh (Los Angeles ranked eighth) of the 50 largest U.S. Metro Areas for people who identify as LGBT (Gallup survey 2015). The weather was gorgeous and the turnout (27,000) was the largest ever in the parade’s 32 year history.

When I told her we were going to be in a “rainbow parade,” my daughter insisted on wearing her Harry Potter costume from Purim. Rabbi Roxanne Schneider Shapiro of Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation suggested that I wear a shirt saying “Nobody Should Live in a Closet.” So I did. While unintentional, my daughter had brilliantly picked out a great costume. Who better than Harry Potter to remind us about standing up against obstacles and being your true self and a loyal friend?

Walking the roughly mile and a half through downtown Louisville as my daughter joyously handed out stickers and waved to the crowd, was me. Holding a rainbow flag with Magen David on it, I experienced my own kind of “pride.” I am not a member of the LGBT community and was very cautious of participating in this parade, lest I inadvertently commit a faux paus or engage in cultural appropriation. I am fully aware that this is not about me, but I was there to proudly show my daughter that joy and love takes on many forms. And, I was there as part of the Jewish community to show the LGBT community that we love and support you. Louisville’s own Rabbi David Ariel-Joel, a Jerusalem native, was the first rabbi in Israel to officiate at a same-sex wedding and remains instrumental in the continued success of his congregation’s Pride Shabbat and other activities (including participation in the parade) in June and year-round.

It is not lost on me that LGBT support remains controversial in the Jewish community, as it does in other religions. Someone I knew and recognized in the crowd later told me he was surprised that a religious organization would participate in Pride. Clearly, our presence caught him and others off-guard.

Deuteronomy 16:20 famously says “Justice, justice you shall pursue” and Genesis 1:27 says humans are all created in the Divine image. Both of these texts speak to the urgency of the Jewish community to embrace and love everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Pursuing justice is more than just lip service. As Jews, we must continually ask ourselves what are we doing to pursue justice? How are we working to make the world a better place? What are we doing to show that we believe in the divine spark in everyone? There are so many ways to do so, but I believe participation in Pride is an important one.

Amidst all the negativity in this country right now, the timing could not be more urgent. So last Friday, just before Shabbat, we “prayed with our feet.” My daughter is too young to understand what the “rainbow parade” was all about. Someday, she will. In the meantime, she is excited about doing it again next year. And handing out stickers. She told her friends all about it and is ready for them to join us. Jewish or not. LGBT or not. We can all “take pride” in being who we are and celebrating it.

Lisa Rothstein Goldberg is a Jewish educator and social worker. She lives in Louisville, Ky. with her husband their two young daughters.

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