“Pride” Grief, and the Realities We Face

It was such a joyful and celebratory day. We wore brightly colored clothing and tutus and painted our faces. And we proudly marched, representing Washington Hebrew Congregation, in the Capital Pride Parade this past Saturday, June 11.

This was the first time a delegation from Washington Hebrew Congregation marched in the Parade, and the excitement was palpable among the group of 20 children, teens, and adults who accompanied Rabbi Shankman. We began our afternoon at the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism with Rabbi Lustig, decorating signs and joining together for a prayer service. We sang the Shehechiyanu, thanking God for enabling us to participate and show our love and support on this special day; and we prayed for acceptance and inclusion.

The Parade itself was one big moveable party that welcomed everyone. Nearly 100,000 spectators of every age, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation celebrated and cheered for the 180 delegations that paraded with floats, music, and dancers. We were part of a segment that included other faith-based organizations. Proudly carrying posters with the Washington Hebrew Congregation logo (in rainbow colors, of course) and tossing candy by the handfuls to the crowds, we marched, danced, high-fived, and celebrated the entire way. Cheers from the crowd rang out – including from another marcher, who upon seeing our rainbow WHC logo signs, proudly proclaimed to his friends, “WHC?! That’s my synagogue! Rabbi Lustig did my Bar Mitzvah!”

Overnight, everything changed. After a Shabbat that concluded on such a jubilant high, the darkness to which we awoke on Shavuot morning was devastating. A lone gunman, armed with an automatic rifle, killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in the worst mass shooting in American history. It is LGBT Pride Month in America, and those at Pulse celebrated believing in the illusion of safety. As a congregational community that values diversity, individuality, and the LGBTQ community, we are heartbroken over this tragedy and outraged at this vile act of hate and violence.

Please join us at this Friday’s 6:00 pm Shabbat service. We will stand in solidarity with our nation, the victims of the shooting in Orlando, and their families. In solemn remembrance, we will read the names of the 49 victims as we recite Kaddish. Our task is to make real the words of our tradition – B‘tzelem Elohim – that “all are created in the image of God.” No community should have to confront such hatred and violence. We will lift up and embrace the diversity that makes each one of us unique.

May we continue to be God’s partners in creating a world of justice and peace. May we come together as a community with support and love in honor of the memories of those whose lives were taken in the name of hate. May their memories be a blessing. Amen.