Though it regularly hosts a Shabbat every fourth Friday of the month, this coming June 26 at 6:30 p.m., the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation is adding rainbow into the mix with a Pride Shabbat celebration. Gillian Jackson is an organizer of the virtual Zoom event, she said AARC was inspired to put on this event and take other inclusive actions after Congregation leaders attended an event hosted last fall by Keshet — a Jewish LGBTQ advocacy organization.
“They set us up with a program where we made a plan for how we could be more inclusive and welcoming to our communities,” Jackson said. “We started planning for Pride Shabbat then, and so we had been planning on having this big event in person, but, unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that.”
However, just because the event will be a digital one, Jackson said there will be no shortage of LGBTQ-specific support. She said that in addition to the regular liturgy, attendees can enjoy poetry, music and a virtual Pride Parade slideshow.
“What we planned was that members of the community are just going to send in pictures of them at previous Pride events and, also, all of the parents at the religious school are doing Pride stuff with their kids and taking pictures,” Jackson said. “Actually today, with my kids, we’ll be painting Pride flags and putting them in the yard and talking about it, and we’ll take a picture and put that in the slideshow.”
But as far as inclusivity goes, Jackson said that this Shabbat will not be a “one-and-done” scenario. AARC is taking steps to make the physical space more welcoming to LGBTQ worshippers, too.
“Some other plans that we made were to change our policies to be more inclusive in terms of the language that we use and making statements in our bylaws that state that we don’t discriminate against people and that we are welcoming people and making an effort to do that,” Jackson said. “[We’ll also be] putting flags up and letting people know visually, because we think a lot of people have negative experiences with faith groups and not feeling welcome there.”