How Good [Ma Tov]

Author: Neil Goldstein Glick
Published: June 22, 2016

How good is our tent when everyone comes and sits together; Neil Goldstein Glick writes about the support from his straight friends following the Orlando tragedy.

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We, the LGBT community weathered many hardships: from government criminalization of our bedroom life, to the Stonewall riots, to HIV/AIDS, to senseless acts of violence against our community for decade upon decade. Now we add Pulse Orlando to our collective memory.

Adversity brings out the best and worst in people. It can be a wake up call for some to get involved, to reach out to old friends, to help or support their neighbors or community. Then there are some who choose to denigrate and blame victims during such horrible moments.

This last week, Washington DC celebrated Pride with events all week long, across the city, culminating with the Capital Pride Festival on Sunday. Sunday was a sad day and defiant. There were more people than ever at the Festival to show that we are not afraid. It was an important statement the LGBT and greater community made by being out and about. Many people that would not have otherwise come to the festival attended to demonstrate the perseverance of our community and our supporters in the face of tragedy.

Not only did the festival attract the LGBT community. Many straight allies came to the festival to show their support. It was crowded, and it brought strangers and friends together. It showed that violent intolerance will not keep people away.

Friday night, my husband and I went to the 6th and I Synagogue, in downtown Washington, DC for the National Pride Shabbat. As we entered the sanctuary, I saw two of my AEPi fraternity brothers, Matt and Mitch and two of their friends. Matt and Mitch are heterosexual. They were coming to Shabbat to celebrate with the community.

I thought about the song Ma Tovu, “Ma tovu ohalekha Ya’akov, mishk’notekha Yisrael.” “How good are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel.”

The Jewish tent is wide and encompasses the beautiful diversity in our community. There are Jews of every color, shape, age, and orientation from every corner of the globe. Here on Pride Shabbat were two of my friends and fraternity brothers joining the tent of celebration. Our good Jewish tent is so large, that all LGBT Jews can find a space of comfort and community.

Mitch and Matt finally met my husband and we all sat together. Pride Shabbat brought us together in harmony it was the true essence of Shabbat – it was about joy, rest, and mutual respect. It was a welcoming Shabbat for everyone. Why did Matt and Mitch choose to come to the Pride Shabbat? Because their commitment and support for the LGBT community is about sitting together in our good Jewish tent.

It made me think about another heterosexual friend, Mick, a former Eagle Scout. Mick resigned his Eagle Scout commission because of their policies regarding gay Boy Scouts. He joined “Scouting for All.” He saw my own struggles in High School in dealing with sexuality. Because of that, he and his wife Pam are active in the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network www.glsen.org working to make schools safe for all children.

In times of crisis we see online postings of support from people, and it is comforting to know that the larger community has empathy and sympathy in our moments of grief.

Then there are those like Mick, Pam, Matt and Mitch, who walk with us all the time. Supporting equality is more than posting a picture online. Equality is joining our community in moments of sadness and celebration. By bringing their friends, they open up other people’s minds and awareness. Their actions show they respect everyone. This is dedication to the cause of equality and justice. These are actions of tikkun olam, repairing the world.

The LGBT community can count on these four people to stand up and demand that hate crime laws include the LGBT community. We know that they would speak out to their elected officials to support equality for LGBT citizens in housing accommodation and job protection. Did you know gays can still be fired for being gay in 28 states? Will you take a stand with your elected officials to support equality for all US citizens?

Repairing the world is not done with the loudest voices or the best social media comments. Repairing the world is taking intentional or unintentional action that shows you are an active part of that change. Taking action by participating in a Pride Shabbat or LGBT Pride Festival, makes a profound statement that you value LGBT people as you want to be valued. When heterosexuals sit with their LGBT sisters and brothers as one, our collective tent is strong, and no storm will blow it away.

How good is our tent when everyone comes and sits together. How good is our tent where everyone is welcome.