Jews march in S.F. Pride Parade
JCCSF contingent participants march in the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 25, 2023. Thousands of cheering spectators and participants packed Market Street and filled the city with rainbows. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

JCRC Bay Area’s leader expects ‘disruptions’ at S.F. Pride Parade over Gaza

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The head of JCRC Bay Area said he expects “disruptions” at this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade in the wake of a statement on SF Pride’s official social media account that there will be “no Israeli float.”

Although SF Pride posted a second statement two days later to clarify its position and address Jewish community concerns, Tye Gregory knows more controversy is inevitable due to the intensity of reactions to Israel’s war against Hamas.

“The Jewish community has marched in some form for a long time in this parade,” said Gregory, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area. But this year, “it’s pretty predictable we’ll have some disruptions at SF Pride.”

The parade, which draws hundreds of thousands of people, will take place on June 30 along San Francisco’s Market Street. It is the culminating event of a month of Pride activities. 

JCRC Bay Area and the JCC San Francisco will lead the “biggest contingent of Jewish organizations,” according to the JCC website, with a “celebratory float, performers and music.”

Conflict flared publicly after SF Pride’s June 4 post, which sought to respond to questions about whether an “Israeli float” would be part of this year’s parade.

“There is no Israeli float in the SF Pride Parade,” the post read. “SF Pride values the contributions of Jewish queer individuals in advocating for peace and acknowledge their enduring efforts. SF Pride is careful not to conflate Jewish groups and Jewish people living in America with the state of Israel.”

“The Jewish community has marched in some form for a long time in this parade.”

Tye Gregory, JCRC Bay Area CEO

While much of the trouble appeared to stem from the post’s wording and from questions over its intent, Jewish leaders in the LGBTQ+ community — including Gregory — have expressed concerns that their full queer Jewish identities will not be welcome at Pride events.

In the Bay Area, activists have been calling for a parade boycott because they see the JCRC’s participation — and its float — “as a symbol of oppression and a trigger for psychological trauma among those affected by the ongoing conflict,” according to KQED.

The June 4 SF Pride post continued, “We have welcomed and continue to welcome pro-Palestinian groups to the SF Pride Parade. If more are interested, they can join the Resistance Contingent,” which SF Pride describes as a group of organizations that will march on foot while “highlighting concerns ranging from trans rights, BLM, reproductive rights, immigration policies, and the continued profiling and persecution of Black folks.”

SF Pride got pushback from Jewish organizations and LGBTQ leaders, Gregory said, including state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco.

On June 6, two days after the initial statement, SF Pride issued a clarification that “no organizations or groups” were turned away from participating in this year’s parade activities.

“We want to be clear regarding the misconception that some groups were denied entry — that is emphatically not the case… absolutely all LGBTQ+ people and allies are welcome at San Francisco Pride, and that includes Israelis and Jewish people just as it does Palestinians and Muslims,” the second statement said. 

In a June 10 social media post, the JCRC said it appreciated the clarification. 

“Everyone should be welcome at Pride,” JCRC said, “and we are glad SF Pride chose to clarify that in a statement.”

Gregory is former executive director of A Wider Bridge, which aims to build relations between LGBTQ+ communities in North America and Israel, and said in a social media post that JCRC has a “warm relationship with [SF Pride] executive director Suzanne Ford. I do not believe she is anti-Israel, nor does she harbor any negativity towards the Jewish community.”

Gregory also told J., “We were honest with her about why this didn’t land well with the Jewish community. I don’t believe she has negative feelings about our community whatsoever.”

Some Pride events have been hostile toward pro-Israel LGBTQ Jews in the past. In 2019, the DC Dyke March in Washington barred the Israeli flag as part of a ban against nationalist symbols. This year, related marches in D.C. and New York have adopted the theme “Dykes Against Genocide.” In Philadelphia on June 2, protesters from Queers4Palestine brought the Pride march to a halt. Meanwhile, some LGBTQ Jews across the country are expressing reluctance to openly participate in their local Pride events for fear of discrimination or exclusion.

Ryan Torok

Ryan Torok is an L.A.-based freelance reporter and former Jewish Journal staff writer.