The Great Pride Parade Adventure
Pride. When we are aware of our own dignity and worth; when we feel deep pleasure from our own and others’ achievements; when we delight in who we are and what we do. Pride.
At its best, it’s inherently part of the Jewish make-up, the feminist fabric, minority’s manuscript. The Jewish people may be one of the world’s oldest surviving minorities; for thousands of years systematic attempts have been made to strip us of our pride … and yet … and yet … we are here, all of us standing, many of us wearing the mantel of our Jewish identity with … pride.
This phenomenon is not lost on us at JWA where we, and our supportive community, commit ourselves daily to the work of archiving, chronicling, sharing, celebrating, storytelling, engaging, remembering, reminiscing, writing, editing, critiquing, debating … Why? Because of pride. Because of pride in who we are and what we do. Pride in the women who came before us and on whose shoulders we stand, pride in our children whose little selves give us nachas, pride that at the end of the day, we can say: “I finished writing that page (on Judith Malina and her Living Theatre),” or “I debugged the back end (of MyBatMitzvahStory),” or “I secured the necessary funding (for this summer’s Institute for Educators).” It all traces back to pride. And passion. But most definitely pride.
Of course Jews are not the only minority group who have claimed and reclaimed its worth and identity, nor is JWA the only proactive and progressive Jewish non-profit that unabashedly displays its passion and pride. In honor of LGBT Pride Month, we salute Keshet, founded by our very own Women Who Dared honoree, Idit Klein, and spotlight 11 women who have worked for equity for the LGBT community.
This past weekend I had the glorious experience of attending my first ever Boston Pride Parade. I took my place not with the cheering spectators who thronged the sides of Boylston Street, but in the thick of it all, marching alongside my new friends from Keshet, a national organization that works for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews in Jewish life. With my trusty camcorder and budding film chops, I embarked on the Great Pride Parade Adventure and discovered both personal stories and national initiatives. For example, take the exuberant Asher, a young queer Jew who sports an “I Heart Nice Jewish Queers” T-shirt, and though a recent transplant from Milwaukee, is Boston’s community organizer. Or take Laurie, full of poise and insight, who in talking to me realized that for her, the link between Judaism, LGBTQ activism, and being transgender is … through the heart.
At one point, I was able to steal a few moments with Jayne Guberman, former Director of Oral History at JWA, and a founder of The Keshet Parent and Family Connection, a national initiative based on one–to-one mentoring of parents to parents. Though Keshet is launching a national initiative, it has chosen Boston as a kind of test case, and so it was extra exciting to march with Keshet at this year’s Boston Pride Parade.
One theme I definitely came away with was family. When listening to the many stories of Keshet members, I was reminded of JWA’s own efforts to chronicle the sometimes sticky process when a Jewish women comes out to her family, or when a young child of a lesbian couple tries to explain it to her friends. I thought to myself, if only this initiative were around when Gay Block, author, photographer, and videographer, received an unannounced visit from her mother, who upon hearing her daughter was a lesbian, arrived at her door with a cryptic story about her own past, heterosexual love affairs. I thought, as I listened to the stories of gay mothers, how easy and effortless it was for them on this surreal and celebratory day, for them to speak openly, to feel a sense of inclusivity, when just twenty-some years ago Lesléa Newman wrote the first-ever children’s book about a young girl, Heather, who has two mommies. In a 2010 "Jewesses With Attitude" blog, Leah Berkenwald toasted Heather on her fictional 21st birthday, exploring both the backlash and double-mommy-envy this book has generated over the last two decades. (Hillary Price, one of the 11 women JWA spotlights during LGBT Pride Month, remarks on this quirky phenomenon in one particular "Rhymes With Orange" comic strip.)
All in all, I had a great time marching, camera in hand, in Boston’s Pride Parade. Though my role was as a documentarian, I felt it… the pride, I mean. Pride in being a Jew, a woman, a supporter of Keshet, and part of the JWA team. Pride in this city and even this country. Pride that we have come as far as we have.
Yes, the parade was illuminating, but even more than that, it was so much fun! Please do check out the video; there are moments I know where you’ll catch yourself smiling. I mean, come on, who doesn’t like a parade? (And if you do, make sure you keep watching; the parade footage begins two thirds of the way in, at about eight minutes!)