Sunday, Oct. 11, proved to be an uplifting day with a slightly deflating landing.
On the positive side, I attended my first Atlanta Pride festival. The Atlanta Jewish Times was one of 44 Jewish organizations that joined SOJOURN in sponsoring the Jewish community tent, and, newbie that I am, I signed up to staff the tent at the same time as the parade. Next year’s to-do list includes either walking with 300-plus Jewish community members or staking out a good spot to watch and photograph the whole thing.
Because it was my first time, I don’t know whether the positive vibe was traditional or an extension of the celebration of the June Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in Georgia and the rest of the nation. But everybody was having a good time, even if they didn’t take up the pot-lollipop guy on his sales offer.
The Jewish community tent was perfectly placed for people watching, and that alone was a sport more entertaining than watching the Falcons win another game at the same time at the Georgia Dome. We also had one of the day’s great draws: a friendly black-and-white mutt named Max, whose presence may have been just as illegal as the pot-lollipop guy’s wares and definitely brought more joy to the masses.
Three native Israelis, including Yuval Bronshtein, who according to the Hendon Mob database is No. 7 all time among Georgia residents for career live poker tournament winnings with $1.31 million, stopped by the tent and talked about their crazy, awkward Uber ride to Piedmont Park. Their driver was a Palestinian, complete with a keffiyeh, and he refused to talk to the trio, one of whom, Itay Yarden, was sporting a Super Jew T-shirt.
My awkward moment came about an hour later when the tent was quiet while most people were along the parade route. A woman walking by the tent stopped and stared, but she hesitated before venturing inside, where Alice Wertheim from MACoM had taken up staffing duties in place of Max and his owner.
The passing woman finally decided to join us and walked up to me. I prepared to pitch the SOJOURN handouts and the email sign-up for all of the tent sponsors. I never got a chance.
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?” the woman asked, and, given the good mood and my communal obligations, I said yes and resisted the urge to point out that she had just asked a question.
“Do you find it’s harder to be gay or Jewish?”
She added that she wondered which caused me more discrimination.
I don’t think I paused too long before answering, “Well, I only know about one. I’m Jewish.”
No, that wasn’t the awkward part. Sure, it’s silly to assume that everyone at Pride is gay, but it’s not as if she was trying to set me up on a date.
The awkwardness came as she proceeded to explain her admiration for the Jewish people. Unlike some minority groups, we don’t complain about discrimination; we just get on with life.
How was I supposed to respond, especially at an event whose purpose was to loudly, proudly support the rights of a minority group whose members are likely to face more discrimination in a week than I’ve experienced in my life for being Jewish (being Southern, especially in New York, New Jersey and Michigan, is another matter)?
Perhaps proving the woman’s point, I just grinned, nodded, remained calm and carried on. But during an otherwise wholly enjoyable trip to Midtown, I can’t help feeling that I missed an opportunity to do — something. I don’t know what.
If you have any suggestions in case such a conversation ever happens again, send me an email.