Pride shabbat seeks to break down barriers to allyship

Jason Taper

It’s about more than just us.

At Texas Hillel, we’ve made it a goal this year to make sure we include programming with other student groups on campus. We strongly believe in inclusion and allyship — that no one who wants to be a part of our community or who wants to work with us to make a difference is turned away, and that instead we welcome with open arms anyone willing to help. We’ve partnered with organizations this year, especially in the interfaith community, in the hope that by facilitating dialogue between diverse students, we can foster a culture of understanding that allows us to work together to achieve common goals, such as a more tolerant and just society.

So on May 6, we’re hosting a Pride Shabbat, starting with a discussion with an Israeli LGBT activist about organizing strategies and ending with Shabbat services, discussion and dinner. We want to invite anyone — Jewish, LGBT, both or neither, to join us as we focus on allyship and intersectionality. There is no one whose identity is affected only by his/her/their circle, and everyone benefits from shared experiences. Historically, both Jews and the LGBT community have lived their own unique struggles and culturally defining moments, and we celebrate that. When smaller communities interact, we frequently discover that we had more in common than we previously could’ve imagined. The diverse community of UT-Austin sometimes finds it more comfortable to split into cliques and to attempt to make an insular experience out of our years here. But it is only when we step out of our comfort zones and awkwardly meet new people, appreciate new narratives and understand others’ lives that we truly grow.

But the Pride Shabbat isn’t just about understanding what it’s like to be LGBT and/or Jewish — it’s about moving forward. We unfortunately have been, and continue to be, on the receiving end of prejudice, with hate crimes disproportionately targeting both groups. We, and many others, know the sting of discrimination and hatred. That’s another reason we need to understand each others’ experiences; by understanding, we can move forward in a way we couldn’t before. Conversations lead to unity, and unity leads to progress. While we can’t affect social change in the course of a day, we can decide with intention to begin the work toward the social justice we all deserve. And, as Rabbi Hillel put it, “If not now, when?”

Taper is a Plan II and government freshman from Plano. Follow him on Twitter @jltaper.