Recently attended the 70th anniversary celebration for Hashomer Hatzair, as a friend of the movement.
It was a fabulous event, full of ritual, tradition, community and celebration. The day was tinged with sadness though, as they announced they were entering a period of hiatus due to leadership uncertainties.
My connection with Hashy is mainly through the “Jews of Pride” contingent at the annual Pride March in St Kilda. Each year they attend dressed in their chultzot, bring their flags, dance like crazy, fill my heart with joy and bring tears of happiness to my eyes. I know they will continue to join us, one way or another.
I left the party at Bet Anielewicz, their home in East St Kilda, just as the Israeli dancing was starting. I wanted to stay on but had to be elsewhere. Od Lo Ahavti Dai started playing.
I took a moment to soak in the music before getting into my car. It did something to me. I was transformed to a time when I was learning Israeli dancing. I don’t remember when, but it was powerful. I felt so connected to my Jewish upbringing by this simple but catchy tune.
Right now, the Jewish community is struggling. We are in a world where we hear the footsteps of less friendly times. Those echoes seem to grow louder by the day and we don’t know if we can be ourselves as easily as we could yesterday.
We aren’t alone in this struggle, but our struggle is not a new one, and we know that eternal vigilance is required to fend off the antisemitism.
Since October 7 I have witnessed a new phenomenon. Many people and organisations familiar to me have been swept up with efforts to support Palestinian people. I can understand this, as the humanitarian response to the destruction in Gaza is sizeable.
What I can’t understand is why many of the same people and organisations have chosen to stay silent on or minimise the terrorism that Israel faced, along with Hamas’ plan to erase Israel.
My LGBTIQA+ community has in parts become increasingly hostile towards Jews and Israel. Yet those who enable this juggernaut claim not to be antisemitic, despite supporting initiatives that are nothing but. This saddens me deeply.
However, through my commitment to my Jewish community I know I can help bring a sense of hope, peace, love and optimism. Sunday, February 4 is when “Jews of Pride” comes to life at Melbourne’s Midsumma Pride March. A raft of new and returning community organisations will coalesce in force to show their support for rainbow diversity, amid a burst of Jewish culture and identity.
We are an unstoppable force of unity that is undeniably and unashamedly Jewish. We convey pride in standing for inclusion and acceptance, and pride in who we are as a people.
Fitzroy Street will resonate with familiar Jewish tunes and Israeli music that calls to a solidarity with our families and friends in Israel. Together with fellow contingent organiser Colin Krycer, we urge you to come along and show your support.
Be strong. Be proud. Be there.
Michael Barnett is co-convenor of Aleph Melbourne.
More info: jewsofpride.org.au