Is nowhere safe? The banning of Jewish symbols at the Chicago Dyke March is frightening. The apparent attempt to silence and punish those who reported on it only makes things worse.
All minority groups know the pain of exclusion. Both Jewish and LGBT+ communities have been the victims of hundreds of years of oppression and violence by hateful, fearful majorities. All over the world, we have moved human rights forward when we have stood together and fought together to tackle prejudice and hatred. So it’s hard to feel proud when minorities turn on one another, especially when I belong to both of those minorities.
Some of the discussion here is about the conflation of Judaism and Zionism, the murky waters where anti-Zionism and antisemitism become indistinguishable. Of course, the six-pointed star is used both as a Jewish and as an Israeli symbol. But identity is complex and multifaceted. Is it now unacceptable to some that Zionism — supporting the existence of the state of Israel — can form a legitimate and proud part of Jewish identify for some Jews? That this isn’t a shameful identity that must be discreet, hidden, invisible?
We must look inward too. If it’s shocking that a Jewish person could feel unwelcome at an LGBT+ event, it’s no less disgraceful if there are Jewish spaces where LGBT+ people cannot feel safe and welcome, and able to show ourselves — in dress, speech and behaviour. Perhaps this is an opportunity for UK Jewish communities to create dialogue with LGBT+ people.
Like Jewish communities, LGBT+ communities thrive on debate and discussion. Agreement isn’t always possible, and perhaps isn’t even desirable. There’s a lot to discuss. We pick away at ideas, turn them over, make them better. There are many ways to disagree. But silencing others, making them invisible by asking them to leave, or to lie about who they are, is always dangerous. In Pride marches, LGBT+ people learned to show our faces to the world without shame, and say: this is who we are. It’s shocking when we as LGBT+ people are unable to accept one another for who we are. Exclusion is a weapon of shame, and should have no place at Pride.
Benjamin Ellis is Chair of KeshetUK, which works in Jewish communities to promote LGBT+ inclusion