About public Judaism and being Jewish in public, I’m posting the statement by Ellie Otra, one of the women kicked off Dyke March in Chicago for carrying a Jewish Pride flag. Personal and to the point, the statement appeared on her FB wall and has gotten some circulation online. The incident speaks to to litmus testing on the left as the way to separate bad Jews from good Jews and from everyone else. A magen David has no place on the left? Slipping easily into anti-Semitism, my own view is that anti-Zionism poisons everything with which it comes into contact.
Yesterday I was removed from the Chicago Dyke March. I am so upset that I’m no longer upset, so here is a faithful narrative of every event.
I wanted to be in public as a gay Jew of Persian and German heritage. Nothing more, nothing less. So I made a shirt that said “Proud Jewish Dyke” and hoisted a big Jewish Pride flag — a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center, the centuries-old symbol of the Jewish people. I snapped a picture before the March, and in retrospect my happy, proud smile breaks my heart.
I knew the March was a politically fraught atmosphere, so I went in very carefully. I ignored people side-eyeing me. I stayed away from Palestinian flags and Palestinian chants. I actively walked away from people who directly tried to instigate conflict. I thought maybe if I played by their rules, I could just be Jewish in public.
No such luck. During the picnic in the park, organizers in their official t-shirts began whispering and pointing at me and soon, a delegation came over, announcing they’d been sent by the organizers. They told me my choices were to roll up my Jewish Pride flag or leave. The Star of David makes it look too much like the Israeli flag, they said, and it triggers people and makes them feel unsafe. This was their complaint.
I tried to explain — no, no! It’s the ubiquitous symbol of Judaism. I just want to be Jewish in public. No luck. So I tried using their language. This is an intersectional march, I said. This is my intersection. I’m supposed to be able to celebrate it here. No, they said. People feel unsafe. I tried again to explain about the Star of David. I tried again to use their language, to tell them that not being able to be visibly, flagrantly, proudly Jewish on my terms makes *me* feel unsafe. This was what I said.
But it didn’t work. After some fruitless back-and-forth, during which more people joined the organizers’ delegation and used their deeper voices, larger physical size, and greater numbers to insistently talk over my attempts at explanation, at conversation, I recognized a losing battle and left sobbing.
I was thrown out of Dyke March for being Jewish. And yes, there were other Jews there, visible ones even, who weren’t accosted, who had fun, even! And yes, Israel exists in a complicated way. But in this case, it doesn’t matter what Israel does or doesn’t do. This was about being Jewish in public, and I was thrown out for being Jewish, for being the “wrong” kind of Jew, the kind of Jew who shows up with a big Jewish star on a flag. No matter how much I tried to avoid conflict, to explain. Oh, maybe there was a way I could have stayed, but rolling up my beautiful proud flag for them would have been an even bigger loss.
This was my community, where for four years I have shown up, stood up, and helped out, and I am broken-hearted.
(I do not want this to turn into a debate about Israel and Palestine in the comments. That is not what this is about. This is about being Jewish in public. Also, I have made this post public and do not mind sharing done respectfully.)