Respect, Love, Peace and Fun at Pride
OpinionEditor's Notebook

Respect, Love, Peace and Fun at Pride

What I learned or confirmed during three hours at the Jewish community's booth at the festival.

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

We're going to need a bigger banner.
We're going to need a bigger banner.

The Atlanta Pride Festival is in part about breaking down prejudices, but working the Jewish community’s booth Sunday, Oct. 15, in Piedmont Park confirmed some things for me:

  • SOJOURN has earned respect in the wider community.

The Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity is, of course, the lead agency in Jewish communal participation in Pride, so its name and banner were front and center at the booth. Many people walking by signaled their approval of SOJOURN’s efforts, and several non-Jews stopped to praise the nonprofit’s work. At least one mentioned Executive Director Rebecca Stapel-Wax by name.

  • Visible, broad Jewish support is of incalculable importance to LGBTQ Jews.

Throughout the pre-parade morning at the booth, teens through seniors lighted up and said, “My people!” as they stopped by. Others who took copies of the LGBT Guide to Jewish Atlanta said they were bringing them to newly out Jewish friends.

  • You’re never too old to play with construction paper.

In addition to offering the guides, “safe space” stickers, hold-the-date cards for Purim off Ponce on March 3 (honoring Judy Marx and Billy Planer) and other information, the booth drew the attention of passers-by with the chance to trace their hands and write messages to decorate the space, just as parade participants were doing for the Jewish float.

Unfortunately, the fun stopped at cutting out the handy messages; that task was left to the not-so-dexterous booth staff.

SOJOURN is hosting a listening forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, for LGBTQ people to talk about their issues and interests as part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s reimagining process. It’s one of 13 opportunities for Atlanta Jews to guide the crucial work, which remained a mystery to morning visitors to the booth.

That Chicago event in June, during which three women carrying a rainbow flag with a Jewish star in the middle were kicked out, was the most publicized of several examples in recent months of progressive Zionists being made to feel unwelcome at LGBTQ rallies and marches that embraced the Palestinian cause in the name of intersectionality.

But Atlanta is not Chicago, and the Pride Parade, part of Atlanta’s 47th annual Pride Festival, is a mainstream, inclusive celebration of love much more than a place for radical politics. The parade wasn’t particularly welcoming for President Donald Trump’s supporters, but the presence of countless politicians running next month and next year showed that this wasn’t a revival of August’s Netroots Nation conference.

I didn’t catch all the three-hour parade, but what I saw didn’t include any anti-Israel signs, even among the Democratic Socialists of Atlanta.

In my three hours at the booth, no one stopped to make any anti-Israel comments. One woman wore a Code Pink shirt, declaring her support for Palestinian rights, but she stopped at the booth, grabbed a copy of the guide, nodded and walked on without a word.

A more gregarious visitor who took a copy of the guide said he’s Muslim, and Jews and Muslims need to spend more time together.

All that said, while rainbow Jewish stars were plentiful Sunday, I didn’t notice any Pride flags with a Jewish star in the center, the ones that supposedly made Palestinian activists feel threatened in Chicago.

  • We’re going to need a bigger banner.

SOJOURN had the sponsorship of 54 Jewish organizations this year, including the AJT. There’s always room for more LGBTQ allies, but not on the existing 6-foot Pride booth banner.

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