Opinions & Commentary

Silence is a disastrous response to anti-Semitism

In banning three Jewish lesbians because they were carrying a rainbow flag with the Star of David, the Chicago Dyke March, which purports to value inclusion and celebrate pride in one’s identity, committed a heinous act of anti- Semitism.

How the Jewish community responds to this hate crime will have fateful results.

On June 24, Chicago Dyke March organizers said the Star of David rainbow flag, which the expelled women intended as an expression of pride in their being Jews and lesbians, made some other marchers feel “threatened” and “unsafe” because they interpreted it as an expression of Zionism, which, as supporters of the Palestinians, they consider an aggressive, imperialist ideology.

We strongly condemn this act of singling out and persecuting people solely because they are Jewish and simply wish to identify as such – the very definition of a hate crime – and call on the Chicago Dyke March to reverse its anti-Semitic policies.

We commend the groups that denounced the Dyke March’s banning of the Jewish Pride flag, such as the Chicago and national offices of the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League.

Especially praiseworthy are A Wider Bridge, a national group that works to bring closer the LGBTQ communities of Israel and North America, and the JCRC of San Francisco, for launching a petition demanding the Chicago Dyke March apologize as well as affirm the inclusion of all LGBTQ Jews, including those that support for the Jewish state.

Regrettably, the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, that area’s Jewish federation, and its Jewish Community Relations Council were relatively close-mouthed on the matter. They made no public comment other than a one-paragraph bit of boilerplate, distributed on social media and through their online, in-house newsletters, calling the expulsion “outrageous” and “shocking,” and noting the “blatant act of anti-Semitism … cannot be tolerated.” The post included a link to A Wider Bridge’s petition.

Perhaps, if like the Boston Jewish community, Chicago had an independent Jewish news source, the Chicago federation would have been compelled to comment on, condemn or even take action over the incident in a more public way.

We have lost considerable respect for Jewish Voice for Peace, which justified its support of the Chicago Dyke March’s anti-Semitism by absurdly arguing the State of Israel has “appropriated” the Star of David, thus robbing it of its symbolic value for all Jews.

Nor do we consider laudable the response of Keshet, the national Jewish LGBTQ advocacy group based in Boston. While Keshet made no official statement on the Chicago Dyke March debacle, a BuzzFeed article quoted its executive director as saying, “I immediately thought, ‘What does this mean for the place of LGBTQ Jews in the broader queer community?’”

We suggest Keshet should be answering, not asking, that question.

Finally, we must note the silence of our own Jewish federation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and its political action arm, the JCRC of Greater Boston, both of which have made considerable and valuable efforts toward including LGBTQ Jews in the wider Jewish community. We fear their lack of response reflects a desire on their part not to alienate non-Jewish groups that do not support the State of Israel with whom they have collaborated, and urge them to take an assertive stand against the Chicago Dyke March’s anti-Semitism.

The entire Jewish community – not just LGBTQ Jews – would do well to remember the Holocaust-inspired rallying cry of 1987, when the gay community mobilized against the federal government’s lack of response to the AIDS epidemic:

“Silence = Death”


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