Queer Jewish community supported, but more to do

Queer Jewish community supported, but more to do

'We, all of us, are enough just as we are'

Dayenu president Saul Flaxman with Remember the Yom coordinator Robyn Pakula at Bondi Beach. Photo: Shane Desiatnik
Dayenu president Saul Flaxman with Remember the Yom coordinator Robyn Pakula at Bondi Beach. Photo: Shane Desiatnik

The confetti has settled on another Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. Dayenu, Sydney’s Jewish LGBTQ+ group, is proud to have participated in the parade every year since 2000. Jewish groups were represented several times before this and we are grateful to precursor groups like Chutzpah and organisations like the Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria who took part years before Dayenu formed and who continue to advocate for the visibility and rights of Queer Jews.

Dayenu provides social events, advocacy and support for Jewish LGBTQIA+ people in Sydney and our partners, friends and families. We are an apolitical organisation, inclusive of people of all genders, and work to nourish the ongoing conversation across the spectrum of religious observance – from secular to reform and Orthodox. We demonstrate the vital contributions cultural diversity and diverse sexuality and gender identity bring to society.

This year’s Mardi Gras coincides with WorldPride, a global festival being held in Australia for the first time.

Our busy calendar has included our Mardi Gras Fair Day festival stall; special WorldPride Shabbat service and dinner cohosted with Emanuel Synagogue; and of course, our Mardi Gras parade float. We have also contributed to or helped organise other WorldPride events, including an interfaith meditation and prayer night; Queerfolk of Faith portrait exhibition featuring Dayenu’s own Kim Gotlieb; and the Sydney Jewish Museum’s Pride artworks and tours.

Our organisation’s name, a familiar refrain from many Pesach seders, is loosely translated as “Enough”. The word has numerous applications, but we use it to summarise our response – “enough” – to homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and genderism. We also use the term in another powerful way: to say we, all of us, are enough just as we are. We do not need to hide or change our identities to participate in Jewish community life if we wish to do so.

This year’s Dayenu parade float featured a giant menorah with Jewish drag queen Fifi Glamacox and colourful dancers taking on the role of candles and holding silver, sequined magen davids, banners and rainbow flags.

Approximately 80 people, including visitors from interstate and overseas, took part, dancing to music blending Hava Nagila and ’70s disco classic No More Tears (Enough is Enough). Our song drew an enthusiastic response from the audience lining the parade route and perfectly complemented our 2023 theme, Dayenu: Queer Jewish Community Says “Enough”.

As much fun as the parade and other WorldPride events have been, we are mindful of the very serious role these events have in raising awareness of the existence of Queer Jews. Our core aim in taking part is to combat misunderstanding and discrimination – both gender/sexual diversity-based discrimination within the Jewish community and the antisemitism that sometimes exists in the wider Queer community.

Perceptions of Queer Jews in the Jewish community have evolved rapidly since Jewish groups began taking part in Mardi Gras in the late 1990s. Even in the past two years, there has been a major shift, with most mainstream Jewish organisations in NSW now recognising and supporting Queer Jews (including those who are trans or gender-diverse).

There are wonderful initiatives happening across the community such as the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ LGBTQ+ Mentorship Program, JewishCare’s ongoing efforts to obtain Rainbow Tick accreditation and the fantastic work being done by Stand Up. National Jewish organisations such as the Australasian Union of Jewish Students are also more inclusive than ever, with AUJS appointing a designated Queer Officer, Eliezer Salpeter, for the first time in its history.

There are amazing opportunities to build on these diverse initiatives and that’s exactly what Dayenu hopes to do in the coming months, working closely with other organisations. We also hope to use the momentum generated by WorldPride to stimulate conversation and support across the Jewish community.

We will soon be partnering with the social media-based Holocaust remembrance and awareness group Remember the Yom and LGBTQ+ health advocacy body ACON for a Pink Triangle public art project. We are seeking 120 volunteers to form a giant pink inverted triangle at sunrise on March 30 in the southern corner of Bondi Beach. The community event, developed to foster solidarity and commemorate the shared persecution during the Holocaust and shared resilience of Jewish and Queer people, will be photographed from the air. We hope you will join us for that event or support Dayenu and the Queer Jewish community in other ways.

Saul Flaxman is president of Dayenu
To learn more about Dayenu, visit dayenu.org.au or fb.com/dayenusydney
To volunteer or to find out more about the Pink Triangle photo shoot on March 30, email remembertheyom@gmail.com

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