Jewish Gay Pride Strong at Philadelphia Parade

Dignity characterized Philadelphia's Gay Pride Parade yesterday. Each group marching past the review stands at Independence Mall stood tall and in the thousands, reflecting a growing and strong array of social service, religious and artistic, family and corporate support for equality across the full range of gender. 

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice was on the scene with a substantial booth at the six hour Penn's Landing party into which the parade participants and observers poured. Why? Rabbi Janet Marder put the matter most succinctly to my mind in the October 1985 issues of the Reconstructionist Magazine: "Reverence for tradition is no virtue when it promotes injustice and human suffering." All afternoon long, Jews and non-Jews of all ages and gender orientations came over to appreciate and explore our Jewish presence. We could see representatives of Beth Ahavah, the Delaware Valley's only gay and lesbian synagogue, as busy as we, across the courtyard. 

The progress in GBLTQ acceptance in Jewish life is substantial, albeit incomplete and insufficient. Since the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College led the way with unconditional ordination of gay and lesbian students in 1984, all the movements, save for for Orthodoxy have found their way to inclusive rites and ordinations. A few summers back National Havurah Institute offered programming to raise awareness of the leadership, challenges and needs of transgender Jews. In Jewish Renewal inclusion has long been manifest and encoded within its ethical platform.
 
"I'm so glad you're here," was what we heard over and over at the parade yesterday. We're offering a free raffle through the end of June with one of the prizes a free commitment ceremony with trimming donated from the flowers, cake, clothes and more.
  
More after the jump.

Yes, Judaism is big on family and commitment, so it was a joy to hear many share that they'd already undertake a Jewish commitment ceremony with their local Philadelphia rabbi. And we often heard comments such as these: "Reb Goldie, did you know that our rabbi is out and she's amazing! and "Ours isn't a gay synagogue, our rabbi is gay. We're an everyone synagogue and we love our rabbi." 
 
Echoing in every moment, for me, was the memory of being a married student attending the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote back in the 1980s when gay and lesbian ordination was coming up for a vote in the moment. Accustomed to heterosexual privilege, my heart broke that a vote on the humanity and Jewish authenticity of those around me. As a student body we rallied together, making sure airfares were available to get all possible voters down to the decision-making body that would be meeting in Florida. How could a Jewish human's right to ordination could possibly be an issue if they were succeeding in their training and studies? Faculty and movement leaders held educational programs to help members prepare for the vote. Gay and lesbian ordination passed by an overwhelming majority.
 
The Reconstructionist movement report mentioned early in this report states: "Traditional Judaism spoke of the widow, the orphan, the deaf, and the blind as those most in need of protection. Justice for the vulnerable is a test of the ultimate values of a community or society. Jewish sources, prayers and rituals continually remind us that we were once vulnerable as a people, enslaved in Egypt. We speak of having been strangers in the land of Egypt .At various later points in Jewish history, we have been vilified and oppressed for no reason other than our identity as Jews. As a consequence, a major theme of Jewish tradition is the obligation to be sensitive to the needs of … those that society views as outcast. The Jewish people has a special concern about just and fair treatment …"
 
One of the many parade delegations is called PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. This year PFLAG was one of the smallest groups marching, which I find a cause for concern. Showing up and standing up for our neighbors' humanity, and in every extended family, the rights of those we love, is part of what it means to live a mitzvah-centered life. Next year, if you didn't this year, join us in "coming out" as Jews who do not accept discrimination as an acceptable way of life. 

Photo: Barry Bub.