Reform Jews gather behind URJ banner at Pride Parade

Jews from around the Bay Area join to march behind URJ banner

Something was different at the San Francisco Pride Parade this year: For the first time in the event’s 44-year history, Reform Jews from around the Bay Area marched as one.

More than 150 people, representing some 20 congregations and various Jewish agenices, joined forces and walked together behind the Union for Reform Judaism’s banner during the June 29 parade.

The effort was organized by Rabbi Andrea Berlin of the URJ’s Western regional office and Alan Zeichick on behalf of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

“It massively exceeded expectations,” Zeichick said, noting there might have been more than 200 participants, but that counting was difficult. “We’re planning on doing this next year.”

American Jewish World Service marches with the contingent

Members and clergy from at least 14 congregations participated. From the East Bay, there was Beth Emek, B’nai Tikvah, Temple Sinai, Temple Israel, Temple Isaiah and Temple Beth Torah. From the North Bay, there was Rodef Sholom and Shomrei Torah. From San Francisco, there was Sherith Israel, Sha’ar Zahav and Emanu-El. And from points south, there was Peninsula Temple Sholom, Peninsula Temple Beth El and Shir Hadash.

They were joined by participants from Keshet, American Jewish World Service, Bend the Arc, InterfaithFamily, Shalom Bayit and the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, as well as other individuals.

“The idea came about because a number of synagogues in the Bay Area had historically marched by themselves in the parade,” Zeichick said. “Our idea was rather than give the message that a single synagogue supports LGBT, we should say that the Reform movement stands for something. It’s good for us and the non-Jewish community to see.”

Marching separately from the URJ contingent was a group of 75 from Camp Newman, which won a ribbon for “fabulous street act.” As they marched, the teens danced to Israeli pop music and staged mock same-sex marriage ceremonies underneath a mobile tie-dye chuppah.

Star of David pride flags photos/alan zeichick

A contingent from Camp Newman’s Avodah session (for rising high school juniors) was marching in the parade for a ninth straight year, said Samara Leader, director of the Avodah session.

Leader said the teens spent the weeks before the parade learning about the history of the LGBT movement and parallels to the Jewish people being marginalized and oppresed throughout history. She also said the LGBT movement is something kids can relate to because, as teens, they also face their own identity issues.

“It hits home that everyone is unique and that there’s something to be celebrated in each person, and everyone should be proud of who they are,” Leader said. “I’m proud to be a part of a religion and a camp community that stresses that who you are is not just OK but something to be celebrated.”

After the march, Zeichick said, “I feel incredibly proud of being a Jew.”