I was driving to work this weekend when the skies opened, releasing 10 minutes of pouring, cats-and-dogs, hot summer rain. The reward for the monsoon-style weather was a gorgeous rainbow that stretched across the sky, bringing its palette of color to the otherwise monotonous black and grey highway. Look at that rainbow—It must be June!
This weekend began the month of June, which for cities around the world marks the celebration of Pride. Those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and their allies have been celebrating Pride in the month of June since the Stonewall Riots in 1969 as a way to honor those in the LGBT community whose contributions and advocacy were essential in the progress of equality. President Bill Clinton initiated the first Pride month in 2000 and President Barack Obama has continued this tradition for each June he has served as President. But Pride celebrations, marches, rallies, picnics and other events serve another important purpose. In fact, Pride lets us do something we don’t usually do: feel publicly proud for something very personal.
Most days of the year, being gay, like being short or being a Rabbi isn’t something I give so much thought. They fall into a list of adjectives that can be used to describe me, puzzle pieces of my overall identity. Even though being a Rabbi was an intentional choice, and a major use of my time and resources over the past decade (hello student loans!), it’s not something I actively acknowledge day-to-day. In fact, I usually only remember my unusual career when someone else recognizes it—sometimes it’s the stranger I meet on the plane, or the friend of a friend at a coffee shop, or the woman cutting my hair—they are amazed that they are meeting a female Rabbi.
In these moments, I have the tendency to become shy. I can dismiss their excitement by giving them facts, “There are over 600 female Reform Rabbis,” or by minimizing my work, “it’s a cross between a social worker, teacher and cruise director,” or by simply nodding modestly. But the truth is, two years and one month after I was ordained as a Rabbi in Israel, I still want to shout from the rooftops:
I AM A RABBI! HOW COOL IS THAT? WHEEEEE!
This feeling of exclamation, the heart-pounding excitement we all felt on Ordination day, this is why Pride matters. Pride parades and events give those in the LGBT community the opportunity to be outwardly proud. To wave flags, wear shirts, sing and chant and scream and cry and laugh, with others who feel the same way. Pride, like a good ritual, allows those who participate to pause, to name and to sanctify a moment in time.
I think we women rabbis could take a page from the Pride playbook—this profession has both its moments of wonder and its moments of challenge. I have felt so lucky to be supported by my fellow female clergy and have leaned upon them when I need a story, a pep talk or just some advice. We have all benefited from the guidance of our leadership and from the matriarchs of our movement upon whose paths we continue to forge today.
So where are the moments for Pride? Certainly, when we are gathered together in large numbers, it is easy to feel the swelling of emotion. One of my favorite memories from this past year’s CCAR Convention in Boston was the honoring of Rabbi Sally Priesand for her 40 years in the rabbinate during Monday morning t’filah. All of the women rabbis present stood as we heard the Torah chanted and I was amazed to look around and see so many of my female colleagues, many of us with tears in our eyes. In that moment I felt a pride for this calling and for the unique ways in which the rabbinate has been profoundly changed since 1972.
But Pride can also be celebrated on a smaller-scale. Outward Pride for our profession and community is one way we can sustain others and ourselves through the easy and challenging times. For me, this pride is felt each time I sit with one of my female colleagues over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine to listen, laugh and share. Pride for our profession and gender begins right where you are at this moment: reading this post. Let’s share our pride by sharing each other’s words on our own personal or synagogue blogs, on twitter and facebook and with members of our communities who would benefit from our words.
In a few weeks, I’ll be one of those flag-waving Pride goers. And though you won’t be able to see it, I’ll be waving another flag too—feeling all the Pride in the world as I continue to serve my People and God as a Rabbi.