Last month marked a year since I started with J-Pride, and so much has happened in that time. My first exposure to J-Pride was as a participant. I went to one of J-Pride’s Chanukah Happy Hours and thought, “Wow! How cool! An organization working to gather together LGBTQ Jews!” Since then, and since taking on this role, it has been incredible to engage with so many people in the Jewish community and beyond, working to bring together LGBTQ Jews and their allies.
This year alone J-Pride has done a lot. Although many folks know J-Pride for our presence at Twin Cities PRIDE every year, we keep busy year-round. Just a few months ago we held our first ever J-Pride Community Summit. The J-Pride Community Summit brought together 75-plus participants to connect with one another and learn about standing up for themselves and others who they care about. In one day, we learned about how legislation and laws affect trans students, how taking deep breaths can change our reactions to a situation, and how to evaluate inclusion in our own individual communities.
For me, the most incredible part of the summit was simply looking around and seeing who was in the room. From teens to adults, educators to parents, rabbis to lay-leaders, our community showed up, and that was amazing. There were people in the room who had never been to a J-Pride event before, but who felt moved to join in the conversation. That’s a big deal!
We closed our day of learning by hearing from a panel of folks who have spent their lives working tirelessly to create more LGBTQ inclusive communities, both within Judaism and beyond. Hearing about how much they have done was an inspiration, and reminded me of the efforts that so many people before me have put into making the Twin Cities a place where I can be myself and walk down the street with my partner, proud of who I am.
This month is filled with all sorts of opportunities to lift up and celebrate the LGBTQ community. I personally see Pride as an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come, and to think about what progress there still is to make.
This year at Twin Cities Pride, we will be continuing our tradition of doing the hora down Hennepin and hosting a booth in Loring Park. Many folks, young and old, seek out our booth, and we will be premiering new stickers this year that share the message “Ally is a verb.” My hope is that these stickers will help continue conversations that were started at the J-Pride Community Summit. We want to spread the message that whether you identify as queer or not, being an ally means educating yourself, speaking up when you witness bigoted behavior, and taking action to make change.
Being a part of the first J-Pride summit was so incredible not only because of the events of the day itself but because I knew – and I know – that the summit was just the beginning. Having that many people show up in a room together because they are a part of the LGBTQ Jewish community or are invested in it gives me hope that the Jewish community will only continue to become more LGBT-inclusive. I hope you’ll join us to celebrate that community and energy at Pride this year.
Heather Renetzky is the J-Pride Program Coordinator at Jewish Family and Children Services Minneapolis.