Jerusalem Pride attack is a call-to-action for all Jewish communities

I struggle with today’s violent attack on the Jerusalem Pride parade and in observing people’s responses in the past few hours.

Today’s events carry within them both the best and worst of Israel. The best continues to come through in early responses including strong and unconditional condemnation from the President, Prime Minister, the Chief Rabbis and the Mayor of Jerusalem. The worst of the Jewish people as well is also present in these hours in some coverage, like the headline of Yeshiva World: “Charedi Man Stabs 6 in Jerusalem Toeiva (Abomination) Parade.” All of this is part of our struggle and our work as an imperfect people, together with allies making progress in building tolerance and love, but also a people that includes those who continue to reject us — the LGBT Jewish community — shamelessly, in moments like this.

As someone who is quite clear in my love of the State and people of Israel, without discounting their flaws, I am proud of Israel for being a welcoming society that celebrates LGBT life and contributions. I’ve done my fair share of grappling with the issue of so-called “pink-washing.” We who love Israel and are proud of its LGBT culture should be nothing but proud about this nation’s legacy and should celebrate this wonderful aspect of Israel — without ignoring that a nation can be great in some ways and flawed in others.

I have no issue with pro-Israel organizations joining us in celebrating Israel’s LGBT record. But now we need them to step up today as well. I’m delighted to see many statements in the past few hours, including from the Jewish Federations of North America, ADL and the Union for Reform Judaism condemning this attack. Let me say this without equivocation: Any organization that has ever, or plans to ever, celebrated Israel’s inclusive LGBT character must today — unconditionally — condemn this attack and commit themselves to working for the full prosecution of the attacker and to work for justice for Israel’s LGBT community. Israel’s LGBT community needs you now in this moment of pain. Don’t fail them.

I’m troubled by some talk about how this person doesn’t represent “Torah True” Judaism and by the efforts of some noble souls within Orthodoxy to quickly put some distance between his actions and our community. Please. Slow down. Condemn him. Call this reprehensible. But also own that his hate was fostered in our community. His bigotry came out of a culture. His violence may be an extreme expression, but he didn’t come from nowhere. To use an imperfect metaphor: If the Charleston AME shooter was in some part formed by a culture that still flew the Confederate battle flag on the State House lawn, then we too — Jews, Orthodoxy, Haredim, and Israel — must reflect on and own our accountability in the formation of this terrorist.

Finally, and connected to my last point, do not forget the LGBTQ youth who are being raised in Haredi homes right now. I was one of them. I struggled in that world and I left that world. But right now there are kids hiding in deep closets — maybe even in the family of this attacker — who are exposed to this culture of rejection, who are terrified and lacking hope for themselves, who don’t have the space and permission and support to find their way to loving, caring and supportive Jewish communities who embrace them for their authentic selves.

Please commit yourself to helping them and those organizations that provide them with the support they need to get to a healthy life, like Footsteps, Eshel and JQY.

My heart is heavy today. For the victims, for Israel’s LGBT community, for Israel and for us all. It seems this attack is a repeat of actions and by the same attacker as 10 years ago. Let today become a “Never Again” moment.

About the Author
Jeremy Burton is the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC), defining and advancing the values, interests and priorities of the organized Jewish community of Greater Boston in the public square. He has been published widely, including in the New York Jewish Week, the Jewish Forward, Zeek, Sh’ma, and the Washington Post: On Faith. The JTA included him in their 2010 “Twitter 100” list of the most influential Jewish voices on Twitter.
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