Shabbat Guide 12/18/20 by Micah Symons
I didn’t fast for Yom Kippur this year.
I won’t have the opportunity to sit in a sukkah this year.
I’m probably not going to attend services this year.
And that’s okay.
If the past six months dealing with COVID-19 have taught us anything, it’s that no plans are set in stone. The universe has a funny way of pulling the rug out from beneath us. In isolation from friends and extended family, we’ve experienced the polar extremes of sweet and sour.
Comfort and pain.
Especially nowadays, it’s important to remember there’s no right way to express your Judaism.
On Yom Kippur, we fast to practice self-denial and look inward. I’ve had half a year during this pandemic to get in touch with my spirituality and reflect on my life, so this tradition isn’t cutting it for me. In a way, we’ve been fasting from our regular lives, and we feel that discomfort with every Zoom Shabbat dinner and mask-donned grocery store run.
The day we swing open our doors and reconvene will be the most fulfilling “break fast” of our generation, but until then, we’re focusing on the emptiness in our spirits.
Similarly, with the pandemic, there’s no way I feel comfortable stepping foot into a sukkah, a space notorious for being small and in close proximity to people. Sure, it’s open-air, but I’m not removing my mask to take a bite of challah.
The rationale for visiting a sukkah is to remind us of escaping Egypt and the temporary shelters we donned as we thanked God for freeing us. In 2020, this reminds me of the people experiencing homelessness at Camp Teddy on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
Rather than step in a sukkah, I can donate supplies and money to support those who, like the Israelites in the book of Exodus, are seeking shelter in the wilderness and protection from a system that unfairly targeted them.
Like I said, this pandemic has offered all of us quiet time to reflect and get in touch with ourselves. This level of spirituality is unprecedented, and we cannot drown out our feelings and prayers with the bustle of everyday life.
If Jewish traditions fulfill you, that’s wonderful. I hope you find solace in your Yom Kippur fast or prayer in your sukkah. Me? COVID-19 has shown me the inherent Jewish values hiding in the world.
Find those values, and hold onto them. Wherever your heart takes you is a valid expression of Judaism.
51 years feels like an eternity.
In 1969, astronauts landed on the moon and the earliest version of the Internet popped up. For queer folks and allies during June, we also remember the Stonewall Riots, the linchpin of the modern-day LGBTQ Rights movement arguably began.
Before the Stonewall Riots, actions coded as queer were criminal offenses; if your clothes or demeanor were seen as too different from the typical Christian heterosexual person, you would be arrested. Being outed as queer could get you fired. By the end of the 1960s, several covert gay/lesbian clubs popped up around the country. The police routinely raided and arrested patrons of underground gay bars, and LGBTQ people had had enough.
On the night of June 28th, 1969, undercover cops tried to raid the Stonewall Inn, but those in the bar – especially trans people of color – refused to go. More police came, and a riot broke out. Some say bricks were thrown, others say drink glasses and rocks, but this was the breaking point. A mob of queer people shouted “gay power” and sang, causing the world to wake up and look towards this small bar in the middle of New York’s Greenwich Village.
That was an extremely shortened version of the full story (I’m reading Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman). It was a time of unrest, where the public wasn’t on the side of queer people, and things had to get loud and uncomfortable for change to come.
As a gay man, I’m in awe of what previous generations had to go through to be accepted and heard. And 51 years later, the world is waking up again, this time to police brutality and racial injustice.
No one has the luxury to remain silent anymore. It is our responsibility to stand up and support these protests calling for fair treatment and institutional change.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder. Just this week, Merriam-Webster is amending their definition of racism to better reflect the systemic issues faced by people of color. The tides are turning, and Jews/LGBTQ people know the feeling of the world against them and the need to speak up.
In the 1960s, Rabbi Abraham Heschel stood with MLK and other Civil Rights leaders. He famously said, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” Jews remember our past, so it’s troubling to see history repeating.
To the queer folks reading this, happy Pride Month. Let us remember the riot 51 years ago that changed the world forever, and support the ones going on now.
History will remember.
Written by yours truly,
Ross Weisman, Engagement Associate at Tribe 12
Interested in have virtual coffee with Ross? Set up a time like right now!