Hitting the Wall

Today is the 10th of Tevet. This commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia. On the  17th of Tammuz they breached the walls of the city. This cycle of terror culminated on the 9th of Av with the destruction of the First Temple and the conquest of the southern kingdom. In our liturgy, this fast day also commemorates other calamities that occurred throughout Jewish history around the 10th of Tevet.

In 1949, the Chief Rabbi of Israel declared that the day on which the first hurban (destruction) commenced should become a memorial day also for the last hurban. Two years later the rabbinate decided officially to turn the 10th of Tevet into a memorial day for Shoah (Holocaust)victims whose date of death is unknown.

Last night there was a rally in Brooklyn to remember all those whose names we might not even know who’s lives have been destroyed due to anti-LGBTQ violence.

We cannot just light a candle in their memory. It is not enough. In the name of Torah we need to speak out against violence. Today being a day to remember the nameless victims, more Rabbis need to sign their names to the Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community. And yet, that is still not enough.  We cannot stand idly by on the blood of our neighbors.  No one should be targeted or victimize because of who they are. Bullies still lurk at our gate. We need to do more. We need to stand up in the name of God to end this siege.

On this 10th of Tevet as we fast in memory of the people in Jerusalem who stood in fear behind that wall, I want to think about another stone wall. In 1969  there  were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid on homosexuals at the Stonewall Inn. This is frequently cited as the first instance in American history when people in the LGBT community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities. Historian Nicholas Edsall writes,

Stonewall has been compared to any number of acts of radical protest and defiance in American history from the Boston Tea Party on. But the best and certainly a more nearly contemporary analogy is with Rosa Parks‘ refusal to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1955, which sparked the modern civil rights movement. Within months after Stonewall radical gay liberation groups and newsletters sprang up in cities and on college campuses across America and then across all of northern Europe as well.1

On this 10th of Tevet I do not just think about shuttering in fear behind a wall. Today we need to think about what we can to do join together to stand up to oppression in front of that wall.  This is not just something to commemorate, we must also learn to celebrate; the Jewish community has a lot to learn from LGBT community.

Tzom Kal– Fighting oppression is hard, so I hope that fasting goes easily.

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