I have experienced tremendous excitement this summer as a result of positive news for the whole LGBT community as well as the Jewish LGBT community. The accomplishments of the summer demonstrate that it does not have to be June in order to feel proud. Pride is something we deserve to have throughout the year. Pride is essential to our strength to continue our fight for equality.
The excitement began with the Op-Ed article from the JTA by Lynn Schusterman announcing that they will only consider funding organizations that have non-discrimination policies, which cover sexual orientation and gender identity and expression was a major call to the Jewish world to practice what it preaches. The response to Schusterman’s announcement was mixed, but Hebrew Union College’s President David Ellenson applauded Schesterman’s decision and responded to those who criticized it in writing. In his Op-Ed in the JTA he wrote, “I hold that the values and principles of empathy and justice contained in our tradition demand an alternative Jewish religious standpoint that would require the LGBT community receives the same privileges and entitlements enjoyed by heterosexuals…” Ellensons’s unequivocal support is indicative of our movement’s commitment to inclusivity and equal rights.
The summer’s events did not end there. At the end of July, for the first time in several years the Jerusalem Open House along with the Israeli Religious Action Center received a permit for the Jerusalem pride parade that allowed people to march several blocks through different neighborhoods ending at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament building. Why was this a big deal? In past years, the parade was subject to violence and threats severely limiting the celebration. In the words of Noa Sattath the associate director of IRAC, “For years people have claimed that Jerusalem is “too holy” a city for a Pride march.” This summer the Jerusalem LGBT community and its supporters were able to take to the streets to celebrate holiness, which in this context is being able to be loud and proud about one’s identity.
And then last week the California state supreme court voted Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. This decision is not specifically a victory for the Jewish community, but it is an integral part of the memento of the events of the summer.
In the spring, I delivered my senior sermon on parahsat acharei mot-kedoshim. I spoke about how a society moves from degradation to liberation. I suggested that we move through five different stages: fear, ambivalence, tolerance, acceptance, and then liberation. I believe we are stuck between tolerance and acceptance, but we are inching our way forward. This summer is certainly indicative of our desire to propel ourselves to a place of liberation.
This week marks the beginning of the Jewish month Elul, where we begin to prepare ourselves for the upcoming High Holidays. Beginning with the second day of Elul until Rosh Hashanah we are commanded to blow the shofar daily. The shofar blasts are meant to be a call to stir us to repentance. Let them also be a call to awaken us from complacency and move us towards action. The decisions by Schusterman and by the judge in California are decisions of change. Such decisions are not made easily. Just as personal change requires discipline and commitment so does change in laws and policies. We can take the excitement of the summer and carry it with us into the New Year. We can use the energy to continue to move us forward to a place of total acceptance and liberation.
To see the full text of Molly’s sermon please visit: