LGBT vigil held in S.F. for slain Israelis

Carrying flags and drawing supportive honks from passing motorists, San Francisco Jewish and LGBT communities marched in a candlelight vigil Aug. 3 for two young Israelis killed by a gunman in a Tel Aviv LGBT community center.

Approximately 100 people joined the procession, which began at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav on Dolores Street and ended in front of the S.F. LGBT Center at 1800 Market St., where speakers addressed the crowd.

Nir Katz, 26, a counselor at the Tel Aviv center, and Liz Tarboushi, 17, were killed in the Aug. 1 attack. Eleven others were wounded, four of them critically. Israeli police are still searching for the masked assailant, who entered the building and began firing indiscriminately. 

Sha’ar Zahav Rabbi Camille Angel (from left) with congregation president Alex Ingersoll and Martin Tannenbaum. photo/samuel franco

The San Francisco vigil was organized by several local Jewish and LGBT agencies and individuals, including the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation,  S.F. LGBT Center, Kol Tzedek–A Bay Area Coalition of Jewish Organizations for Justice and LGBT Rights, and Martin Tannenbaum of the LGBT Alliance.

“I’m so glad so many people are here,” said Arthur Slepian, 54, one of the marchers. Slepian, of San Francisco, visited the Tel Aviv LGBT center in May. “I think it’s important for the Jewish community and the LGBT community to stay connected to Israel,” he added.

As people gathered prior to the 6 p.m. march, Sha’ar Zahav Rabbi Camille Angel encouraged the subdued crowd to shmooze and seize the opportunity to become tighter as a community.

Chris Vaughn, 23, came out in the name of civil rights. “I’m appalled, shocked and not surprised, because hate crimes go on around the world,” said Vaughn, originally from North Carolina and one of many non-Jews in attendance.

“I’ve talked to youth, specifically trans youth, who’ve been severely abused, beaten,” Vaughn said. “People think that California is this liberal bastion, but it happens here, too.”

Marchers gathered behind an Israeli flag adorned with rainbow stripes. They exchanged handshakes, hugs and greetings with old friends and new acquaintances. Motorists honked their horns in support as they passed the swelling crowd.

“I’m here to stand with the community, [in] solidarity,” said Rabbi Gedalia Potash of Chabad of Noe Valley. “We have to learn to accept each other unconditionally — it’s much more than embracing diversity. Only then have we learned what it means to be a Jew, the true message of Judaism. Any violence smacks in the face of the fundamentals of Judaism.”

When marchers reached the LGBT Center, community leaders delivered impassioned speeches condemning violence and hate, and calling for compassion and strength.

Jewish S.F. Supervisor Bevin Dufty, speaking in an anguished voice, called the shooting “an attempt to intimidate us out of being who we are.

“San Francisco stands against everything that happened in Tel Aviv,” said the Jewish gay supervisor.

Angel led the Mourners Kaddish for those slain, and reminded the community, “This isn’t a Jewish issue, this is a human rights issue.”

In Washington, D.C., more than 200 attended an hourlong rally Aug. 3, during which an Orthodox rabbi spoke out against anti-gay rhetoric in the Orthodox community, and Martin Peled-Flax, the Israeli Embassy minister-counselor for domestic political affairs, called the murders an attack on Israel’s civil society as a whole.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s chief of police cautioned against a rush to judgment before investigators whittle down theories on the possible motive for the shooting.

In addition to a hate crime, investigators are checking to see if the attack may have stemmed from a personal quarrel or even terrorism.

j. wire services contributed to this report.