Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism collide at Chicago Dyke March

By Shelley A. Sackett

JOURNAL CORRESPONDENT

 

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From left: Marlene Copland Dodinval, Co-Chair of the A Wider Bridge Metro Council, Laurie Grauer, and Donna Fishman, past President of the Chicago Northshore NCJW Chapter.

 

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.

 

JewishTribe4Pride

Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride, of the North Shore, participated in the Salem pride march on June 24.

 

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.

 

Temple B'nai Abraham Pride Parade 2016

 

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.

 

TBApridestar

The sticker worn and handed out by members of Temple B’nai Abraham which resembles the flag Laurie Grauer was not allowed to carry at the Chicago Dyke March.

 

 

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.

 

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North Shore Jews Pray with their Feet in Salem’s Pride Parade

 

By Shelley A. Sackett, Journal correspondent

 

Laura-Jillian

(L-R): Laura Shulman Bronstein and Rabbi Jillian Cameron with their “totes gay” tote bags.

 

The sixth annual North Shore Pride Parade and Festival will wind its way through Salem on Saturday, June 24, and for the first time, there will be an official Jewish North Shore group participating.

 

Even though the parade takes place on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest on which observant Jews refrain from various forms of labor, 30 people have committed to marching under a banner that identifies the group as “Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride” and includes the logos of its sponsors, InterfaithFamily and Cohen Hillel Academy. 40 more have expressed interest.

 

It all started at last year’s parade, in which Laura Shulman Brochstein, Rabbi Jillian Cameron and Liz Polay-Wettengel marched with their families. They were chatting on Salem Common, where the parade ends, lamenting the lack visibility from the Jewish community, despite what they knew to be a welcoming Jewish community for LGBT individuals and families.

 

They figured the likely reason was that the event took place on Shabbat.

 

Liz with Sign

​Liz Polay-Wettengel holds an equality sign at last year’s North Shore Pride Parade.​

 

“Because of our collective professional experience working for Jewish organizations over the years, we knew that for many, this was the barrier for participation,” said Polay-Wettengel, who lives in Salem and is National Director of Marketing and Communications at InterfaithFamily.

 

Brochstein is a social worker from Marblehead and the North Shore Outreach Manager for Jewish Family and Children’s Service; Rabbi Jillian Cameron, of Salem, is the director of InterfaithFamily/Boston.

 

“We thought, ‘What if we marched as individuals and not as an organization?’” Polay-Wettengel continued. Over lunch one day, the three decided that, as Jews in the North Shore community, they wanted their LGBTQ friends to know that the Jewish community supported them.

 

The three women organized an independent Jewish group, called Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride, creating an opportunity for North Shore Jews to march together, regardless of institutional or rabbinical support or opinions.

 

As a Jew, a rabbi and a member of the LGBT community, Rabbi Cameron can’t think of a better way to spend Shabbat on June 24 than marching with her North Shore community. “For me, this is a sacred act, an act of prayer, a way to seek out greater connection with my fellow human beings and with God,” she said.

 

Although Beverly’s Temple B’nai Abraham members will participate in the Pride Parade for the third consecutive year, they march with the Beverly Multi-faith Coalition. After their Shabbat morning services in the TBA chapel have ended, “We will pray with our feet (as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel described his experience marching for civil rights),” said TBA’s Rabbi Alison Adler.

 

“ I don’t see walking in a parade in support of equality and inclusion as a violation of Shabbat – just the opposite,” she said. “Shabbat is supposed to give us a taste of the kind of world we want our children and grandchildren to inherit, a world of equality, free of hatred. I am thrilled that there will be more of a Jewish presence this year under the Tribe for Pride banner.”

 

Rabbi Adler was instrumental in getting the North Shore Pride Board to change the night of the interfaith service preceding the march from Friday to Thursday. As a result, most North Shore rabbis and cantors will attend this year, leading a song together as part of the service.

 

Rabbi Michael Ragozin, of Conservative Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, applauds Rabbi Adler’s success and will attend and publicize the Thursday night event. However, he cannot do the same for Saturday’s parade.

 

“Shabbat and support for the LGBTQ community are two values that I hold dearly. Unfortunately, the North Shore Pride parade conflicts with Shabbat, and I will not publicize events that conflict with Shabbat,” he explained.

 

Rabbi David Meyer of Marblehead’s Reform Temple Emanu-el supports any of his congregants who wish to attend and participate in the parade, although he thinks it would be in poor judgment to have the Temple play an official role in a secular event that takes place on Shabbat.

 

“Although certainly not a traditional approach to Shabbat observance, sharing in the work of increasing civil rights, justice and peace in our community, nation and world is very much in keeping with Reform Jewish principles,” he said.

 

Rabbi Cameron welcomes everyone to march under the new Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride banner. “In life, there aren’t many parades, aren’t that many times we get the opportunity to show up and physically express the things which are important, which makes us who we are,” she said.

 

For more information, email northshorejews@gmail.com. or visit salem.org/event/north-shore-pride-parade/. To RSVP, go to bit.ly/NorthShorePride.