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Building ‘bridges of love’

By | 2009-08-13T09:00:00-04:00 August 13th, 2009|News|

People wave the gay community and Israeli flags as they gather for a rally in solidarity with victims of last week’s gay youth club attack at Rabin’s square in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009. Police are still searching for the masked gunman who emptied a pistol into the crowd of gay teens, killing two and wounding 11. (AP Photo/Moti Milrod)

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. – “Those who sow, who sow in tears, will reap, will reap, in joy.”
Taken from Psalm 126, those words, put to music and accompanied by two guitars, echoed through the elegant chamber of the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield Monday night, Aug. 10. It was there that nearly 80 people came together to stand in solidarity with their gay brothers and sisters in Israel, and to mourn the passing and celebrate the lives of 26-year-old Nir Katz and 17-year-old Liz Trubeshi, the two killed in the Aug. 1 shooting at a gay and lesbian youth center in Tel Aviv, Israel. Eleven others were also injured when a masked man opened fire in the basement of the center in what one Israeli lawmaker is calling the worst attack ever on the gay community in Israel.
For the local LGBT Jewish community in Michigan, it was an event that could not go without recognition.
“We could not let this horrific incident go unnoticed in our metro Detroit community,” said Gail Katz of the Jewish Gay Network of Michigan, the organization that sponsored the program. “We, as Jews, have an obligation to repair our world, tikkun olam, and therefore we have come together to build bridges of love, because as we have all seen, homophobia is alive and well within many countries and within many religions.”
Katz said that homophobic violence “is the result of the failure of societies to validate the feelings, identities and relationships of homosexuals. Harassment, slurs, insults, jokes and threats of violence are a daily struggle for lgbt folks, especially gay and lesbian teens. How tragic, that at a support group for gay and lesbian youth, a place where they can let down their guard and be validated as human beings, this horrific act of violence took place.”
Rabbi Aaron Starr of Congregation Shaarey Zedek said preparing to speak at the event was difficult.
“I opened the Torah and looked to some of my favorite biblical passages,” he told the crowd. “First I turned to v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I read it not once but twice and then leaned in and looked a little closer. You know, there is no asterisk next to that verse in the Torah. That command, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ does not mean love everyone but gays and lesbians; it does not list queer, bisexual, transgendered, those questioning or friends thereof as exceptions to the rule. … Today, we gather together as one family, gay and straight, Jewish and non-Jewish, to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel in denouncing all forms of violence, terrorism, hatred and bigotry.”
Dan Levy of the State of Michigan Department of Civil Rights also spoke at the event, focusing on the status of hate crimes legislation in the state.
“It’s being held hostage by a few anti-gay extremists in the Michigan Senate,” he said of the bill. “And it’s being held hostage with the silent nod of the leadership of the Senate.”
And so we see that Tel Aviv is suddenly closer than we realized.
“When something like this happens, even in as far away as Israel, it affects us all,” said longtime activist Peter Cooper following the program. “The kids in Israel could have easily have been the kids at Affirmations. We need to support each other.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.