In the book of Leviticus, one of the most well-known passages of the Torah begins: And the Eternal spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the whole community of the People of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:1-2)
We are all holy.
We are holy in our coming home and in our coming out,
In living with honesty, integrity, and openness to diversity.
K’doshim nih’yeh, ki kadosh Adonai Eloheinu
We will be holy, for the Eternal our God implanted holiness within us.
(taken from a passage in Mishkan Ga’avah, by Rabbi Nikki DeBlosi)
June is Pride Month, and we celebrate those in our community and beyond who identify as LGBTQIA+. Pride Month began as a commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, a response to the harassment and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community and the resulting police raids of the time. One such raid in Greenwich Village turned the neighborhood’s response from frustration to action, and the neighborhood responded with anger, protests, and eventually riots which lasted several days. This event was one of the galvanizing forces for LGBT political activism which eventual led to our modern LGBTQIA+ movement.
Sometimes, change requires righteous anger and strong action, although it’s not where our Jewish values demand us to start. We start with collaboration, remembering that every human being is holy, and move from there if necessary.
Every year, I remember the stories that my father-in-law told about spending the night in his father’s paperback bookstore in the middle of Greenwich Village during the riots. Knowing someone who witnessed the chaos and turbulence of the time – which represented how dehumanized people were feeling – makes it more real to me.
What I also think about every year is how the LGBTQIA+ community and others built upon the memory of the Stonewall Riots and created a time of pride and celebration. They knew that they needed to be louder and more visible in order to make a difference. From the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March in 1970 (a march, protest, and celebration) to our now established June Pride Month, they did make a difference.
As we celebrate Pride Shabbat tonight at Temple Emanuel Sinai, we do so in this spirit: to support and affirm our LGBTQIA+ loved ones and others; to celebrate diversity and how far we’ve come; most of all, to dedicate ourselves to continuing the fight. There is much work to be done.