Last weekend started out with an amazing and inspiring Shabbat dinner. For the past four years, JQ has hosted an LGBTQ and ally Iftar Shabbat. An Iftar is a Muslim break-fast meal eaten after sunset during Ramadan. In the spirit of breaking bread and fostering closer relationships between Jews and Muslims, organizations across the country Have been hosting Iftar Shabbats year after year. What’s so special about ours? JQ believes that our Iftar Shabbat is the only one celebrated in the world specifically for LGBTQ and allies.
I am so proud of JQ and our inspiring and welcoming community. We were and continue to be honored to have several synagogue partners, including Temple Isaiah, Adat Ari El, Kol Tikvah, IKAR, and Temple Israel of Hollywood. We had two special partners jois us at Friday’s event at Temple Isaiah: NewGround, a Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, and Muslims for Progressive Values. At JQ, we strive to advance LGBTQ inclusion in the Jewish world and Jewish acceptance in the LGBTQ community. At the same time, we aim to nurture a JQ community that values the inclusion of as many people as possible with differing opinions, political views, and faiths. We often do not agree with each other, but always respect each other and celebrate our ability to form a diverse community.
None of this detracts from JQ’s core mission as an LGBTQ and ally Jewish organization. In fact, our values of celebrating our diversity through social justice, community engagement, education, and leadership, help us truly learn what it means to be a Jewish organization. Our groundbreaking programming and relationship building has helped our community come together despite our differences, while we respect one another and celebrate our diversity.
At our Iftar Shabbat, an amazing Muslim man named named Hisham spoke eloquently about his struggle with his faith and sexuality. He shared a story of his family trip to Mecca and how that deeply that affected both his faith and sexuality as a gay man. When I looked around the room at the hundreds of people completely engaged in his story, I marveled at what we accomplished through this event.
After such a wonderful evening celebrating our differences as a means to foster inclusion, I read the news on Sunday with a heavy heart. In communities outside of Los Angeles, those differences we celebrated just hours before had become opportunities to exclude and even hurt people. From Chicago to Jerusalem to Poland, we continue to see disrespect and exclusion of people based on their faith.
JQ learned of the incident at the Chicago “Dyke March” on June 24 in which three people carrying rainbow pride flags with Stars of David were asked to leave the parade, as reported by Haaretz. In Jerusalem, the Israeli cabinet voted on Sunday to suspend its plan to create a new and permanent space for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. Later that day, a ministerial committee voted to move forward a bill to deny recognition of conversions performed in Israel but outside the state-sanctioned Orthodox system. In Lublin, Poland, local residents subjected a group of German Muslim girls on a Holocaust tour with their Berlin school to abuse.
My heart breaks for the anti-Semitism at Chicago’s “Dyke March,” the increasing intolerance of pluralism in Israel, and the racism directed at the German Muslim girls. Incidents like these make our work to create programs and services to create a healthy fusion of LGBTQ and Jewish identities as well as our interfaith efforts that much more important. At our Iftar Shabbat, we came together and healed a bit from the growing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the United States. We will continue to be ardent advocates working to bring unprecedented change at the intersections of LGBTQ and Jewish identities and to promote our interfaith and interdenominational values of inclusion and tolerance.
At JQ, our programming year starts with Rosh Hashanah and our fiscal year starts on July 1. JQ will continue to strive to fulfill our mission and be a resource for community members at all times. As we close out an unprecedented year of successful programs and services, I ask you to increase your support of JQ. We rely on you and your generosity to accomplish our groundbreaking inclusive and affirming work. Please donate today to make sure our successful track record for change continues into next year’s community building programs and life-saving services!