Dear TEE community,

After nearly ten years, I’m finally getting used to Rochester’s tradition of celebrating Pride events in July, rather than in June. As everywhere in the world, these events offer a unique space where LGBTQ+ Jews can celebrate their identities openly and affirm their place within both the community and the broader LGBTQ+ movement.

For many American Jews, Pride events represent an opportunity to honor the historical struggles for both Jewish and LGBTQ+ rights. The Jewish community has a long history of advocating for social justice, informed by experiences of marginalization and persecution. This historical context fosters a deep empathy and solidarity with LGBTQ+ individuals, whose fight for equality resonates with Jewish values of justice (tzedek) and repair of the world (tikkun olam).

Pride events also provide a platform for intersectional advocacy, addressing issues that uniquely affect LGBTQ+ Jews. These include combating antisemitism within the LGBTQ+ community and addressing homophobia or transphobia within Jewish spaces. By participating in Pride gatherings, American Jews can highlight the importance of inclusive practices in religious and cultural institutions, promoting a more accepting and diverse community.

Moreover, Pride events serve as a powerful affirmation of identity for LGBTQ+ Jews. The visibility and celebration inherent in these events allow individuals to express their full selves without fear of judgment or exclusion. This is especially important for those who have felt marginalized within either the Jewish or LGBTQ+ communities due to their intersecting identities. Pride parades, festivals, and related activities foster a sense of belonging and community, reinforcing the idea that one can be both proudly Jewish and proudly LGBTQ+.

I hope that this is especially true of our annual Pride Shabbat celebration. I haven’t been able to discover its history, but I imagine the first Pride Shabbat took place at one of the LGBTQ+ congregations. The fact that it is now observed throughout the liberal Jewish world, is a testament to the cultural transformation we have seen in a single generation. Pride is now a celebration of authenticity that speaks across orientations as well as a measure of how integrated LGBTQ+ people have become in our society.

At the same time, we are living in a moment when what we thought were basic rights are once again being challenged. This is, of course, especially true for trans people, who are being singled out for exclusion and legal segregation. These threats make it all more important for us to recommit ourselves to celebrating diversity, advocating for justice, and ensuring that all individuals can live authentically and without fear.

Through participation in Pride events, we reaffirm our dedication, as Americans and as Jews, to creating a world where everyone is valued and respected for who they are.

I invite you to join me for our three TEE Pride events: staffing our table at the Rainbow Seniors’ Picnic on Sunday the 14th, attending our Pride Shabbat service on Friday the 19th, and marching with us in the Pride Parade on Saturday the 20th (see our website for more details).

Happy Pride!

Rabbi Drorah Setel