Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jewish and Queer Community Leaders Join to Demand End to Anti-LGBT Rhetoric in Jewish Community

Jewish and Queer Community Leaders Join to Demand End to Anti-LGBT Rhetoric in Jewish Community

Activist Group Queer Rising Gathers Community for March and Rally “In God’s Name”

NEW YORK: Tomorrow night, on the eve of the 10th of Tevet—a day of remembrance on the Jewish calendar for those who have died in violence—a broad coalition including leaders from the Jewish and queer communities will gather to mourn those whose lives have been destroyed due to senseless hatred, and to demand an end to anti-LGBT rhetoric that is spoken “In God’s Name.”

The event, organized by grassroots activist group Queer Rising, will start with a rally at 7:30pm at the Parade Grounds of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. The group will then begin a march through the heart of the Jewish neighborhood in Flatbush, the site of recent homophobic activity. The event will culminate with a communal recitation of the Jewish Mourner’s Kaddish Prayer.

Featured speakers include Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), New York City’s synagogue for LGBTQ Jews; Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee and President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union – the first openly gay union leader; Idit Klein, Executive Director of Keshet who sponsored the “Do Not Stand Idly By” pledge campaign; and Rabbi Maurice Appelbaum, Rabbi of Orthodox Congregation Ahavas Israel in Brooklyn. Jake Goodman, co-founder of Queer Rising, will be emcee’ing the event.

In early October 2010, at the height of the news coverage of the spate of suicides by queer youth, New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino gave a pointedly anti-LGBT speech at a synagogue in Brooklyn in which he stated, “I don’t want [children] brainwashed into thinking homosexuality is an equal valid and successful option. It is not.” A video of the speech was aired repeatedly on major news networks, and included footage of Paladino’s Jewish audience applauding these comments in approval. Worse, the speech was actually written by Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the infamously homophobic fringe rabbi of Flatbush, Brooklyn. For many Jews across the country, the sight of people of their faith agreeing to these homophobic sentiments was a source of shame

“Many of us are deeply concerned about the rising tide of violence against LGBTQ people, here in the United States and all over the world,” said Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), New York City’s synagogue for LGBTQ Jews. “As Jews, we are horrified at the anti-gay bigotry coming in the name of Judaism at many of our youth, Jewish and non-Jewish.”

“It is sad to see Jewish leaders, rabbis who have amassed great knowledge of our holy Torah, ignore its holy words and teachings to preach hate against the gay community,” said Rabbi Maurice Appelbaum.

“When a rabbi says that gays are the cause of earthquakes, that gays desecrate the soil of Jerusalem, that gays are coming to pervert your children, I ask: what message does that send to a young, confused and isolated, gay, Jewish kid,” said Mordechai Levovitz, the co-Founder and co-Director of JQYouth, a social/support group for Orthodox queer youth. “It says, ‘We don’t want you.’ It says, ‘Leave the community.’”

Rafi Daugherty, a trans-identified Jew living in Israel, endured constant stigma and isolation when transitioning from female to male. “I have lost many religious friends. People have effectively and completely cut me out of their lives and the lives of their children.”

Speaking out against bullying and hate speech is a cause that crosses denominations of Judaism. The Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Renewal movements all have put out formal statements of tolerance and welcome to their LGBT members. In Orthodoxy, both the “Statement of Principles,” signed by almost 200 rabbis this past July, and a statement signed by the Orthodox Union unequivocally condemn harassment and hate speech against gay people.

Endorsing partners of “In God’s Name” include: Congregation Beith Simchat Torah – CBST, Keshet, Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of our Lives, Nehirim, Storahtelling, The Power Online, Project ACHIEVE and Columbia University Medical Center, Jewish Chicks Rock and OUTmedia.

For more information, interactive maps with detailed instructions and educational videos, visit Queer Rising’s website,

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