I Love a Parade

The week is bracketed by two parades.  The first is on the holiday of Simchat Torah, when we complete the annual cycle of public Torah reading with the final verses of Deuteronomy and return to the beginning. After singing and dancing with the scrolls containing thousands of years’ worth of Jewish wisdom, we read the ancient story of the creation in Genesis: “And God saw everything God had made and, behold, it was very good.” (1:31) Recognizing ourselves in the first humans, we celebrate that each of us is created in the divine image; each of us is endowed with the potential to be very good and to reestablish a sense of wholeness to God’s creation.

Similarly, the week’s second parade is a celebration of our humanity. An estimated 300+ Jews congregate in midtown at the 45th Annual Atlanta Pride Parade to march with SOJOURN: Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender & Sexual Diversity, honored to be among this year’s grand marshals of the parade.

Students from The Weber School carry a banner just behind the SOJOURN float, while teachers and parents surround them. Our school principal carries the flag, twirling its rainbow every few paces as she did when marching in her high school color guard. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people line the streets of the parade route, applauding and shouting encouragement as we walk. We pass one child standing with her parents and holding a sign that reads “You’re Beautiful.” My daughter stops to tell her she is beautiful and thanks her for making our day.

pride protestors

There is a tense moment as we approach the corner of 10th and Peachtree. My heart drops into my stomach, even though I can barely see the hateful messages on their signs. They are totally silent and largely blocked from view by the “flowers” held aloft, and they are flanked by a long line of police officers, armed and ready to forestall any violence. One sign that partially obscures the hatred reads, “God loves me the way I was born.”

I acknowledge my disappointment that we need police protection on this joyous occasion. Remembering my last brush with police officers on the steps of the State Capitol, I realize the next time I see this cross-section of the Atlanta community we will, in all likelihood, be raising our voices in protest in order to be heard by the governor. When the legislative session convenes in January, when this parade is a memory preserved on Facebook, our fight against RFRA and for equal protection under the law for all citizens of Georgia—regardless of gender and sexual identity—will return to the fore. We’ve made great strides in the past nine months, but the future is still uncertain.

As we round the corner and begin the final approach to Piedmont Park, shouts erupt from the crowd and bring me back to this moment. Our collective cry of triumph, “We’re here!” is met with cheers, whistles and thunderous applause from parade watchers lining Peachtree Street.

This is pure joy: PRIDE.

pride rabbis and educators
Metro Atlanta Rabbis and Jewish Educators
Photo Credit: Michael Bennett
Photo Credit: Michael Bennett

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