Harvey Milk once said; “Unless you have dialogue, unless you open the walls of dialogue, you can never reach to change people’s opinion.”
And that is one of the many things Pride Month does: opens dialogue, spurs conversation, and evokes change.
This year, Pride Month looked a little different. There were no live gatherings, no parades, no festivals or live concerts. But the impact of celebration was nonetheless as strong as prior years'. Conversations took place online, messages of support and solidarity flooded newsfeeds, and the community celebrated as it could -- including across our Jewish community.
Temple Emanu-El of Edison, Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick and Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan are among the many congregations that welcome the LGBTQ+ community with open arms and celebrated Pride with special Shabbats.
Janet Alder Suss, President of Temple Emanu-El, said; "Our annual Pride Shabbat each June reflects the importance of the LGBTQ+ community and allies to our congregation. Our history reveals a proud record of leadership in social issues and inclusive membership. We welcome individuals of any race, sex, ethnic background, physical capability, sexual orientation, national origin and marital status.” Check out Temple Emanu-El's Cantor Kohn beautifully singing a rendition of "I Am What I Am" at Pride Shabbat.
Rabbi Maya Glasser of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple conducted a beautiful and thought-provoking Pride Shabbat service. She spoke of the real-life journeys and experiences of LGBTQ+ Jews in our own community. She started by saying, “…we celebrate the infinite complexities within each one of us. We celebrate those who do not have to pretend, who have the courage to be who they really are, who can authentically show their inner selves.” Watch or read Rabbi Glasser's Pride Shabbat sermon.
Rabbi Melinda Panken of Temple Shaari Emeth led the congregation’s Pride Shabbat, recalling the congregation's long-standing commitment to inclusion and creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ Jews within its community. Cantor Wally Schachet-Briskin added to the service with beautiful songs of inclusion, like “True Colors.” Special guest, Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael, Director of Education and Training at Keshet, delivered the sermon. Drawing from the story of Korah in the parsha, Rabbi Buck-Yael distinguished sameness from equality as the basis for justice. Keshet is an organization that works with Jewish organizations and individuals nationwide for LGBTQ+ equality in Jewish life.
The entire service recognized the courage, joys, triumphs and challenges that the LGBTQ+ community faces. Rabbi Melinda Panken said “Our desire to be inclusive isn’t just a nice idea and it isn’t just a theory. It actually comes from seven foundational Jewish values that we teach our children from the earliest age.”
The seven Jewish values for an inclusive community Rabbi Panken refers to are:
- Kavod: Respect
- Shalom Bayit: Peace in the Home
- b'Tzelem Elohim: In God's Home
- Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh: Communal Responsibility
- Sh'mirat Halasho: Guarding One's Use of Language
- V'ahavta L'reiacha Kamocha: Love your neighbor as yourself
- Al Tifrosh Min Hatsibur: Solidarity
Historically taking place in June, Pride Month honors the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, widely considered one of the most important events leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States.
Today, Pride Month is a celebration of love. It honors the impact the LGBTQ+ community has had on the world and recognizes the progress that still needs to be made in the fight for equality.