In 2020, just as the pandemic was beginning to take hold of the entire world, the rabbinic arm of the Reform Movement (the Central Conference of American Rabbis, CCAR) published a ground-breaking new book: Mishkan Ga’avah: Where Pride Dwells, A Celebration of LGBTQ Jewish Life and Ritual. The book was published in time to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first pride marches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York, marking the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
Why did the CCAR and the Reform Movement feel it so important to publish this book at this juncture in time? The Reform Movement has spoken truth to power, fought for the marginalized and advocated on behalf of LGBTQ+ rights for decades. Even though so much has been accomplished, there is much more work to be done. Mishkan Ga’avah celebrates and affirms the achievements achieved on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community and frames it in a Reform Jewish context, with words of liturgy, poems, and prayers. From the CCAR’s own description of the book: “It is both a spiritual resource and a celebratory affirmation of Jewish diversity. It gives voice to the private and public sectors of queer Jewish experience, while reflecting the longtime advocacy of the Reform Movement for full LGBTQ inclusion.”
June is Pride Month around the world: from Israel to Africa, Asia to North America. It is a time to celebrate the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community and take action for the millions around the world who continue to face harassment and discrimination for who they are.
The Torah teaches us that it’s important to speak up for those who are not always able to speak up for themselves, to strive for justice, to speak truth to power, even if it is not always easy, and to fight up what is right and just. Speaking truth to power sometimes means challenging the norm when the norm treats human beings as “other,” or “less than.” There’s a vast difference between diversity and inclusion and liberation and justice. One enjoys the feeling of everyone’s embrace. The other embraces the fullness of everyone’s humanity. Embracing the fullness of everyone’s humanity is what the Torah means when it says in Genesis that we are all made “b’tzelem Elohim.” We are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
We live in a world that still does not fully embrace the fullness of the humanity of those in the LGBTQ+ community. We know too well that here in the United States, there’s a vast movement to even further destroy, erode and threaten the sanctity of their lives, limit or deny protections put in place to insure equal status and access to family benefits, healthcare, marriage, protection of trans children and so much more.
Pride Month is so important because it is a set time for all of us who have a voice to stand up speak out and advocate on LGBTQ+ issues in a Jewish context at a time when people are present. (We should be doing so all the time). It’s a time for us to show up in solidarity and show up. I have two nieces who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. One of them posted on her FaceBook, “why did nobody wish me happy Pride? Don’t you all know I’m gay? Don’t you love me?” (We tell her we love her all the time and accept her fully and completely no matter how she identifies or who she loves. Of course we do!). She reminded us: Pride Month is a time to say to our friends, family members and community: We love you, we support you however you need, we will stand up, speak out and advocate alongside you. Happy Pride!
Reform Movement Resources (including: Pride Shabbat, Inclusion, Liturgy and Text, Personal Stories, How to Take Action, Resources for Families, Reports, DEI).
Twilight People (by Rabbi Reuben Zellman)
As the sun sinks and the colors of the day turn, we offer a blessing for the twilight, for twilight is neither day nor night, but in-between. We are all twilight people. We can never be fully labeled or defined. We are many identities and loves, many genders and none. We are in between roles, at the intersection of histories, or between place and place. We are crisscrossed paths of memory and destination, streaks of light and swirled together. We are neither day nor night. We are both, neither, and all.
May the sacred in-between of this evening suspend our certainties, soften our judgments, and widen our vision. May this in-between light illuminate our way to the God who transcends all categories and definitions. May the in-between people who have come to pray be lifted up into this twilight. We cannot always define; we can always say a blessing.
Baruch Atah Adonai, haMaariv Aravim.
Blessed are You, God of all, who brings on the twilight.
Please join us for our Pride Shabbat this evening at 6:00 PM. Two members of our TBS community will share “What Pride Shabbat Means to Me.”
Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Sholom