By Debbie Danon & Allison Zionts
It was our honour as two proud bi Jewish women, to curate this year's Pride Shabbat, Makor Hayim's third annual celebration of LGBTQI+ stories and contributions in our community.
Whereas at usual Kabbalat Shabbat services there is usually some gentle signposting and chatter between songs and offerings, we tried something new for Pride Shabbat.
We held silence between each part of the service, and invited people into a tapestry of song, both joyful and mournful, and stories from LGBTQI+ Builders' lives. Stories of identity, belonging, exclusion, fear, anger and seeking justice. Being in the presence of multiple generations of LGBTQI+ people with their diversity of experience and wisdom was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Voices that have been historically marginalised were front-and-centre. The silence served to allow each offering to land in its fullness, and stitch it gently to the wider picture.
'The beautiful thing is,' said Builder Ed Teeger at the end, 'Pride doesn't stop at Pride Shabbat at Makor Hayim. It feels totally normal to be accepted, included and loved in this way in whatever we do.' While like all communities, we have a way to go towards full inclusion and belonging, there's no doubt we all left feeling connected, enriched and inspired.
Here are two stories from Builders to give you a flavour Pride Shabbat...
Kalen (they/them), Builder
I haven’t always been proud of my identity, and I’ve spent many years of my life feeling ashamed of it. One of the defining moments of starting my journey with Judaism was realising that my queerness was sacred and something beautiful. I have always felt a tension between my connection with faith and my queer identity because many of the environments I have been in have taught me that the two cannot co-exist, but both Judaism and Makor Hayim have shown me they can! One of the things I love the most about Makor Hayim is the fact that I don’t need to make myself smaller and push parts of my identity down, I can be a proud queer non-binary Black person who is just as much a part of the community as everyone else!
Amy (she/her), Builder
My queer identity has always been strong, the way I was brought up queered much of what was the norm in living situations and family dynamics. I grew up in a squatted commune, and later a housing co-operative, that prioritised the needs of HIV+ gay men, at a time when this group were demonised and excluded from social housing. Although my parents are a cis man and a cis woman, in a relationship which presents as heterosexual, I was not raised to believe that this was in any way normal or expected.
I didn’t realise how radical this was, which came with its own set of challenges. I had deeply unrealistic expectations for the wider world. I didn’t have the same Pride as others I came to know, having not had to fight for my queerness. I felt distinctly unprepared when I moved into spaces that were less inclusive and accepting, everyone else seemed to have a rule book that I didn’t know about.
Queer spaces in themselves are of course not free from prejudice, and whilst there was a small Jewish presence in the commune, there was a Marxist dismissal of religion in general and left-wing antisemitic undertones rang quietly through. In this way, I never quite felt able to live as my whole self within the community, beautiful as it was in so many ways, I felt conflicts between my socialist, jewish, and queer selves. In joining Makor Hayim, I feel much more able to live all of my truths concurrently, and I would like to thank you all for that.
Are you Jewish and LGBTQI+, or committed to being an ally to the queer community? We'd love to welcome you to a service or event at Makor Hayim. Sign up to our newsletter here to keep up-to-date with our latest news and information.