Jewish Life 3 min read

Pride Month & Judaism: The History of Struggle, Protest, and Building Kehillah

By JCC Milwaukee June 4, 2024
Pride flag with Star of David.

Let the Good in me connect with the good in others, until the world is transformed through the compelling power of love.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Our greatest hope for a just society is to teach our children to respect one another, to appreciate our differences, and to recognize the fundamental values that we hold in common.

Former US President Bill Clinton

One of the Jewish values that guides the work of our JCC is kehillah (community). Building kehillah within the Jewish community is quite similar to that within the LGBTQ+ community, a connection that becomes especially evident during Pride Month.

June 1st officially marks the start of Pride Month – a time when we celebrate and recognize the LGBTQ+ community, honoring the pivotal events of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. The Stonewall Riots began on June 28th, 1969, in response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village. Angered by the relentless police harassment and social discrimination, the LGBTQ+ community took to the streets in protest, igniting six days of demonstrations that galvanized the gay rights movement.

Pride Month was first recognized by the federal government in June 1999 – 30 years after the Stonewall Riots – when US President Bill Clinton declared June “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.” Later, in 2009, US President Barack Obama expanded this to “LGBT Pride Month,” and on June 1st, 2021, US President Joe Biden further broadened it to “LGBTQ Pride Month.”

This June marks 25 years since our country officially recognized Pride Month. As we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, we also want to highlight the intersection of their experiences with those of the Jewish community, reflecting on the shared themes of resilience, community, and the journey for acceptance.

A common defining element is kehillah. Throughout history, Jewish people have built communities to find strength and support amidst bigotry and violence. Similarly, LGBTQ+ individuals have relied heavily on creating safe and respectful communities where they can live authentically, despite facing societal intolerance and discrimination.

This symmetry in experiences highlights the strength found in each community. For Jews, the comfort of community that shares your traditions and welcomes you and your family is paramount. For the LGBTQ+ community, finding a place of belonging is a necessity when the outside world tries to invalidate your existence.

Both communities find strength and comfort in shared traditions and experiences. Jewish rituals, holidays, and cultural practices foster a sense of belonging. Likewise, Pride Month, with its parades, events, and gatherings, reinforces the LGBTQ+ community’s shared history and the ongoing fight for equality and acceptance.

As we honor Pride Month, let us remember the importance of solidarity and support across all communities. By embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity, we create a world where everyone can live with pride.