We, Queer members of the Bay Area Jewish Community and our allies, are deeply saddened by events surrounding the “Jews March for Pride” contingent in this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade.
We wanted to march with “Jews March for Pride” because we are proud to be Queer Jews and allies. We felt excited and privileged to have a place in the San Francisco Pride Parade to celebrate our whole selves as Jews and Queers.
However, our sense of pride in the contingent was shattered when we learned that not only would the Israeli Consulate be marching with Israeli flags, but also that “inclusion monitors” would censor anything that deviated from the narrow message of “Jews support LGBT equality.” We see this as a contradiction. Support for the Israeli government is a political position that is not synonymous with support for LGBT equality, and is not synonymous with Judaism. Because these strong Israeli symbols would be dominating the contingent, we felt we could not in good conscious march without publically repudiating those messages. And although the planners reached out to include us, we felt excluded when any disagreement we voiced was declared “off message” and inappropriate.
This illusion of unity, at the price of silencing some members, is a deliberate trend that is plaguing the Jewish Community. Many Jewish organizations portray a unified front of support for Israel, and allow this single message to come at the expense of the diverse needs of our Jewish Community. In fact, we have a range of views on Israel/Palestine and our commitment to Jewish and Queer communities lies far beyond this single issue. We reject the dichotomy that ‘Pro-Palestine’ is synonymous with ‘Anti-Israel,’ and encourage space for deeper conversations about the complexities of these issues. Additionally, we refuse to let discussions about Israel detract from the many other struggles for justice our communities are engaged in.
Prior to the Parade day, we were not sure that we would be allowed to march at all. We arrived holding signs such as “No Pride in Occupation,” and “Feygele for Free Palestine,” and to our surprise, we did not get kicked out. We were met with a positive reception from many participants and observers of the parade, and a few hostile reactions. But the real consequences of our action have occurred in the days and weeks following the parade. Many of us have faced social sanctions in our personal and professional lives. Those of us who work in Jewish organizations have been harshly shamed in our workplaces and our political views have become a topic of discussion amongst our peers and supervisors. We feel vulnerable in the very community that had supposedly organized to support us as Queer Jews.
Rather than retreating to safer, less public expressions of our convictions, we are asking you to join us in resisting the silencing in our communities. Let’s seize this opportunity for discussions, programming and policy change, and push to create spaces where our voices are allowed and welcomed.
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