Tonight, as we commemorate Pride Shabbat, I think of the good,decent, and loving men and women for whom this month of June has great personal and enduring meaning.
It was in June of 1969 that the Stonewall Riots occurred. They began when police raided the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village in the early hours of June 28th. Customers,employees and bystanders had reached a tipping point at that time,fed up with the harassment they continually suffered under the cover of discriminatory laws and a lack of civil rights.
Since that time, I would like to believe that our society has become more accepting and enlightened about the LGBTQ community, though we still have far to go in recognizing and affirming the sanctity of every human life, regardless of one’s sexual orientation.
So why is it important for all of us, as a Jewish community, to set aside a Shabbat in June to commemorate the struggle that still persists for those whom we have too often identified as “different?” Our Jewish tradition is, in fact, replete with the reasons for us to do so. Justice,mercy, and compassion call out from our thousands of years of history to identify with and take action on behalf of the LGBTQ population, not only because an estimated 10% is Jewish.
We were strangers in the land of Egypt, so we know very well what it feels like to be “strangers.” Yes, we Jews understand and know the heart of the stranger, we who were victimized by discrimination and violence so many times in our history. So are we “commanded” to understand and empathize and feel the pain of others who are oppressed. Our history calls upon us, as one congregation, to fight for basic rights and dignity of all people.
Why should we be holding such a special Shabbat? I think we find the answer in the words of the prophet Micah:“It has been told you, O man,what is good and what the Lord demands of you—to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with the Lord your God.” It is in that spirit that we, as a congregation, affirm the sacred dignity of each individual and encourage them to live out their own lives with dignity and within a compassionate community. Jewish justice and compassion demand nothing less from us.
I hope that you will join us at our Shabbat service this evening. It will be enlightening and challenging for each of us.