I’m not lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer. So why should I pay attention to Pride Month that celebrates LGBTQ people every June?
Maybe it’s because of my progressive, liberal orientation to life, passed down by my socially-active parents. Maybe it’s because I have gay neighbors, family members, and friends. Maybe it’s because mine was the first synagogue in Sarasota to elect an openly gay woman aspresident of the congregation.
Or maybe because it’s simply the right thing to do. Just as I celebrate my Black friends and neighbors during Black History Awareness Month.
Being an ally is crucial. I’m not Black but I know that every Black life matters. I’ve never experienced gun violence, but I know that guns are dangerous and should be regulated (just as cars are). I am past the age of reproduction, but I firmly believe in every female person’s right to make choices about her body, including whether or not to become or stay pregnant.
Being an ally is crucial, and having allies is crucial. I belong to a tiny minority in America. We Jews make up just 2.4% of the American population. This means that I and my co-religionists must rely on the support of others when we are persecuted and attacked. I live in a community that is generally supportive. And yet antisemitic attacks continue to happen, and my congregation still employs an armed guard to protect us every time we worship together.
I know what it’s like to be the only one in the room. I know what it’s like when someone makes an unthinking comment that cuts me to the core. I know what it’s like to be rejected, scorned, and even threatened with firing from a job because I don’t believe in Jesus.
And I know that every non-Jewish person who has supported me has given me a great gift; the gift of acceptance. Of understanding. Of openheartedness. Of allyship.
Being an ally is crucial when a group is under attack. And our LGBTQ fellow Americans are most definitely under attack, despite the many strides our society has taken in recent years. The new “don’t say gay” law in Florida led the valedictorian at a local high school graduation ceremony to use the ridiculous (and clever) metaphor of talking about his curly hair instead of the fact that he’s gay in his speech. It won him great acclaim. But it should never have been necessary.
As a Rabbi and religious person, I acknowledge that Judaism and Christianity have long had issues with homosexuality because of the verse in Leviticus, which reads: “You [a man] shall not lie with men as with women, it is toe’ay’va.” (Lev. 18:22)
The word toe’ay’va is usually translated as “abomination.” The Bible uses it to forbid many activities, including not keeping kosher, and not strictly observing the Sabbath. So maybe, just maybe, “abomination” is a terrible translation.
Without going into a long discourse, I will just say that progressive Judaism has come to believe that homosexuality is not a sin, not forbidden, and most definitely not an abomination.
Rabbi Denise Eger, the first LGBTQ rabbi to lead Reform Judaism’s rabbinical association, put it simply: “Religions across the board might have gotten things wrong about homosexuality but, for the most part, religious practice still helps you organize and live your life with a good set of values. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Indeed. Our religious leaders and institutions have much to offer, whether you’re gay or straight. This June, let’s offer our loving support and allyship to the LGBTQ people in our community. And when June is over, let’s keep being allies, all year, every year.