PRIDE in our Community
I am so proud our congregation is Celebrating Pride Shabbat. Reform Judaism was the first movement to champion LBGTQ inclusion. Our seminary, Hebrew Union College was the first rabbinical school in America to ordain LGBTQ rabbis and cantors. Inclusion is rooted in the Torah. “All humans are created in Betzelem Elohim, in the image of God.” The Book of Genesis is unequivocal. It does not say only Jews or only straight people are in the image of God. All human life reflects the Divine Spirit. I am proud that children in our congregation who have two moms or two Dads are never treated like second class citizens. Everyone is embraced as full members of our Misphucha (family.) Rabbi Zachary Shapiro, one of the leaders of LGBTQ inclusion in this country teaches there is a trajectory from tolerance to acceptance to inclusion to embrace. Where are we on this trajectory? When I visit other Reform synagogues around Westchester I frequently see signs of welcome and inclusion. I wish our congregation had a sign saying “This is a safe space for people of every sexual orientation and gender identity. All people are created in the image of God and are welcome here.” I encourage us to create a sign like this.
One of the oldest Jewish symbols is the Rainbow. Noah’s rainbow represents diversity and peace. All the colors of the rainbow co-exist side by side like a visual symphony. This is a model for us. We too can live side by side with others in respect. What we share should be a love for human dignity. In Hebrew we call this Kavod.
The country of Israel is a model of LGBTQ inclusion. Tel Aviv hosts the largest Pride Parade in the Middle East, annually attracting hundreds of thousands of participants and supporters. Unfortunately, this has come at a price. In 2015 at the Jerusalem Pride Parade 16-year-old Shira Banki was fatally stabbed along with six others on King George Street just a few blocks from my office at the Hebrew Union College. The murderer had been released from prison the week before, having been jailed for stabbing people at the Pride Parade a few years previously.
I pray for a day (Bayom hahu) when inclusion will be natural. Imagine a world in which we did not need to set aside time to remind ourselves of the mitzvah of acceptance of diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity.
Tonight, Rabbi Sandra Lawson, a leader of the LGBTQ community will be our guest and teacher. A huge thank you to Karyn Gallant and Judy Fensterman, leaders of our Temple’s LGBTQ inclusion task force, for making our PRIDE Shabbat a true reflection of our temple community at its best.
We are all created in the Divine image. Please join us as we gather under the rainbow of inclusion and celebrate Pride Shabbat. It’s a Mitzvah!
Rabbi David Wilfond