The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Sunday, June 23, 2024
The Jewish Observer

After October 7, Pride Feels Different This Year

This year, as in past years, the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville is coordinating our community-wide efforts at Nashville and Franklin Pride to show our support for LGBTQ+ people in Nashville in partnership with Jewish Family Service. 

Like everything else since October 7, this will not be a normal year for us at Pride. We are in discussions with our community security partners and with the Jewish Federations of North America about how Jews can stay safe during Pride amid a new wave of antisemitism within the LGBTQ+ community post-October 7. 

The organizers of these local Pride festivals have been incredibly supportive of our community and are taking our concerns very seriously. We are so grateful for them and their support. 

I wrote an op-ed in the August 2023 Observer explaining why our Jewish community comes together to support LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts.  

It is important this year for us to reaffirm our values and strategic priorities as it relates to Pride and LGBTQ+ inclusion. 

We will be at Nashville and Franklin Pride for the following reasons: 

  • To show the LGBTQ+ members of our Jewish community that we support them and that our community is affirming of them  
  • To show all our LGBTQ+ neighbors in Nashville and Middle Tennessee that we support them and that our community is affirming of them 
  • To create an opportunity for our LGBTQ+ Jewish community members to celebrate their joint identities within the LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities 
  • To create an opportunity for the LGBTQ+ allies in the Jewish community an opportunity to live and promote their values in a Jewish way with other like-minded members of the Jewish community 
  • To send a message with our presence at Pride that our community will not be deterred by anti-Jewish bullying, harassment, or intimidation 

We are firmly rooted in our values and our work speaks for itself. Pam Kelner and the whole team at Jewish Family Service have been offering adoption services for LGBTQ couples since 2003, making it the first and, at the time, only adoption agency in the state to do so. Pam was awarded Nashville Pride's Ally of the Year award in 2022. One of my favorite things about tabling for Jewish Nashville at Nashville Pride is to have LGBTQ+ couples come up to us with their kids and say, “We did our home study with you,” or, “We just became parents for the first time because of you,” which really says everything about the difference they are making in people's lives. Nothing says “faith and family values'' more than Pam and the whole team at JFS who work diligently to find loving homes for children and build genuine, deeply connected families.  

The Temple has been tabling at Pride for longer than Jewish Nashville has and continues to wear its LGBTQ+ affirming nature on its institutional sleeve. They have also been doing all sorts of activities to connect LGBTQ+ Jews to the Jewish community through great activities like the LGBTQ+ Seder during Passover. Of course, they are not the only synagogue who is welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ+ people and families, but from the clergy to the staff to the lay leaders to the members of the community, The Temple has been and continues to be a leader in institutional LGBTQ+ inclusion in our community.  

This institutional support comes after decades of advocacy by courageous individuals in our Nashville Jewish community who have been advocating for the LGBTQ+ people since long before it was in any way a popular position. From participating in Pride marches dating back to the 1970s, supporting gay people suffering from the AIDS crisis, and lobbying for our institutions to support LGBTQ+ people at a time when our institutions were not doing so, our community is peppered with brave people who continue to live their Jewish values loudly and proudly. 

I am grateful to the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville and to all the Jewish organizations in our ecosystem who partner with us in this effort. It is deeply heartening to see that the Jewish community of Nashville and Middle Tennessee will continue to live its values and be the warm, welcoming, and inclusive community that it is.   

No matter what anyone says, we do not support the LGBTQ+ community to make ourselves look good or to hop on the trendy issue of the day. We support the LGBTQ+ community because we believe that all people are created b'tzelem elokim (in the image of G-d), including those in the LGBTQ+ community, and we want to live in a community, city, state, country, and world that recognizes that divine spark in all of us. 

It is very tempting to focus on the voices in our communities that seek to divide us and to exploit our communal pain points towards partisan political ends, but my hope for this year in particular is that we can all remember that the LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities share the same individual and collective goals. Every one of us wants the freedom to live authentic, meaningful lives with dignity and to feel like we fully belong in our communities, in our families, and in our country.  

If anyone is interested in supporting this effort or getting more involved in LGBTQ+ inclusion work in the Nashville Jewish community, you can reach me at eitan@jewishnashville.org  

 

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