The demonstrators gathered at Dupont Circle in a call to put an end to hate crimes. They sought to show solidarity with the young victims and their families and to pray for the speedy recovery of those wounded in the shooting. Reform and Orthodox rabbis, policy makers, and community activists took part in the rally.
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Rabbi Toby Manewith, rabbi at Bet Mishpachah, a GLBT Jewish congregation which describes itself as an "egalitarian synagogue embracing diversity," spoke at the rally. She spoke about the transition from Tisha B'Av to Tu B'Av, from the holiday lamenting the destruction of the Temple and unfounded hatred to the to holiday celebrating love.
She urged those at the rally to let go of the anger and sadness they felt over the event, citing unfounded hatred as a recipe for more destruction. She claimed that the only way to build and grow and to ensure that such horrific events do not happen again is to love instead of to hate.
Photo: Kitra Cahana
Rabbi Manewith, herself a straight woman, said that there is no doubt a connection between the discrimination based on sexual orientation and discrimination based on religion, saying that both Jews and homosexuals have been forced to hide their identities throughout time for one reason or another.
She said that as it was once difficult to find work as a Jew, there once was also a need to hide one's sexual orientation in order to find work. Luckily, she said, there is more openness today, but the path ahead is still long.
Jews rallying together
Shira Frank, one of the rally organizers, told Ynet about the sentiments of the gay Jewish community following the tragic shooting: "After the incident in Tel Aviv, one thing was clear to us – we must act quickly to ensure that our community is safe."
She spoke of the connection between being a Jew in the United States and between being a lesbian in the Jewish community, saying that the Jewish community often has a more difficult time fully accepting gays and lesbians because the community places more emphasis on the family and having children, a need she said grew especially strong following the Holocaust, than the broader American public.
When asked if she sensed a change in the Jewish community's treatment of gays following the Tel Aviv shooting incident, Frank said that it is one of the first times that all denominations – Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, etc – have rallied together.
Frank said that the incident changed her personally, saying that it is now clear that if she will hide her identity, there will be no change in the status of homosexuals within the community. She said she feels the need to be a "soldier" in the struggle, which, according to her, is just beginning, to demand respect and equality for gays. She said that the incident spurred this change.
Yitzhak Benhorrin in Washington contributed to this report