By Shelley A. Sackett
An ill wind blew across Lake Michigan at the June 24 Chicago Dyke March when three women carrying Jewish Pride flags — a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center — were asked to leave the rally by its pro-Palestinian organizers who claimed their flags were an unwelcome “trigger.”
Laurel Grauer, one of those ejected, told the Journal by phone, “one of the Dyke March Collective’s representatives told me this was an explicitly anti-Zionist march, and my flag was making people feel unsafe.”
Grauer has carried the same flag, which is from her congregation and celebrates her “queer, Jewish identity”, for over a decade. “The only difference this year is I was asked to leave,” she said.
The hint of trouble started before the march when Grauer noticed anti-Zionist comments on the Dyke March Collective’s social media pages and contacted Alex Martinez, its core organizer, to let her know she intended to march with her flag as she always had.
Martinez assured her that the march was not anti-Jewish and that there shouldn’t be an issue.
All was fine until the march concluded at a nearby park, where the rally continued with a bar-b-q and other activities.
Grauer stepped off the march and onto the green still holding her flag. “That’s when I was approached by several people telling me I had to put away my flag or leave,” she said.
“This is a community I care a great deal about,” Grauer said. “The way I had demonstrated my Jewish and gay pride for so long was being silenced because of some people’s conceptions of Israel.”
The annual Dyke March attracted some 1,500 people this year. It is billed as a more inclusive event than the larger Chicago Pride Parade, held days later.
In its official statement issued three days later, the Dyke March Collective reasserted its anti-Zionist platform.
“Zionism is an inherently white-supremacist ideology. We welcome and include people of all identities, but not all ideologies…We welcome Jewish allies and marchers who are as invested in liberation as we are,” the statement said.
“The Chicago Dyke March Collective is explicitly not anti-Semitic, we are anti-Zionist,” the statement continued. “The Chicago Dyke March Collective supports the liberation of Palestine and oppressed people everywhere.
“From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have to go!!”
Reaction from the local, national and international Jewish communities was swift and united, labeling the Dyke March’s action as anti-Semitic.
Locally, Robert Trestan, the Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional director, decried what he saw as a political litmus test designed to exclude Jews from what is supposed to be an inclusive event.
“They’re creating their own definition of Zionism to fit their political purposes,” he said.
Although disheartened by the experience, Grauer sees a silver lining. “People see there is more than one way to perceive a term or an identity, whether it be pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian, Zionist or anti-Zionist. I think it’s a touch point for a new conversation that needed to happen and maybe that’s why this story was picked up, and continues to be covered, by so many communities.
In stark contrast to the stormy Chicago march, a kinder, gentler ocean breeze wafted over the June 24 Salem Gay Pride March, where members of Beverly’s Temple B’nai Abraham and a new group, Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride, were among the over 10,000 participants.
Those interviewed had nothing but praise and gratitude towards North Shore Pride, the six-year-old nonprofit that sponsors the parade.
“What happened at the Chicago Dyke March is unsettling and I believe anti-Semitic and it demands our attention, but it is not what happens here,” said Temple B’nai Abraham Rabbi Alison Adler.
This is the third year the temple has marched as a Jewish organization and the second year members wore labels with the same rainbow Jewish star that has long been a symbol of LBGTQ Jewish identity and pride. No one has said anything about it except, ‘thank you,’” Rabbi Adler said.
Sandy Freiberg, a Beverly resident and Temple B’nai Abraham vice president, marched for the first time this year and found the experience encouraging and powerful, “in large part due to the fact that I was simultaneously celebrating my gay and Jewish identities,” he said.
All of which is music to North Shore Pride president and founder Hope Watt-Bucci’s ears.
“The premise of our organization is really building community with pride, so we’re all about inclusivity,” she said. She started North Shore Pride six years ago as a result of hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community.
North Shore Pride is purposefully apolitical. “We are all about unity,” Watt-Bucci said.
Rabbi Adler seconds that. “North Shore Pride’s theme this year was ‘Stronger Together’ — and they live by it,” she said.