Golda Meir made a quip years ago, “Don’t be so humble, you’re not that great…” and so with Golda on my mind I begin tonight with the story of my introduction to the 36 folks I am about to spend two weeks learning with…
I forgot about the proverbial closet door I was about to step out of until I was the last person to arrive at the Ema Restaurant in Jerusalem for dinner. After our hosts Ami Mehl and Irit Stopper with the Jewish Communities Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs introduced themselves I was the first person to be asked to introduce myself.
For many folks that live with an appearance like mine coming out with your identity in groups like this is optional. As a queer Jewish professional my work is to advocate or represent folks that are not predominantly celebrated or welcomed into community conversations so I don’t have the option of holding in my full truth. I should be used to being out the second I state the title of my job yet – my own internal fear surprised me as my voice quivered when I started with my name.
While thinking of the best approach to continue my vague introduction I slowly muttered that I work for the Jewish community in San Francisco followed by I work with the Federation and that rolled into saying that I work as a community organizer. Once I was ready I dropped the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer words that allowed my proverbial closet door to swing wide open.
Frankly, folks looked unfazed. Good. It eased my need for simplistic and optimistic generalizations, for now, in the city that the Police are currently trying to stop Jerusalem Open House from marching in the streets for a Pride parade at the end of this month, I will continue to believe that queer LGBT Jews are an integral and celebrated part of World Jewry.
After dinner, I make a new friend, Jonathan, who shares with me that he is gay and he marched in a Pride parade for the first time ever this last week with the gay Jewish community of London.
Thank g*d I am not the only lgbt queer person on this trip. Thank g*d for the blessing of being on this trip and thank g*d everyone seemed a bit oddly nervous when coming out with their introductions. Cheers to the humble beginnings of a journey with 36 folks representing 33 distinct global Jewish communities within 25 unique countries.
Favorite moment of the day: on the bus ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem I found the very last seat available at the back of the bus. I sat in-between two young soldiers with their big guns projecting from their hips. They were relaxed and spent an hour comparing their cell phone ring tones with each other. Although I had two deadly weapons on two sides of me I still fell asleep for the duration of the trip…