Arrested Gay Rabbis Speak Out

Following their arrest at the Manhattan protest outside Trump International Hotel on Monday evening, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Rabbi David Dunn Bauer published statements reflecting on their experience and expressing their feelings.

“Dear Friends, I am deeply grateful for all the good wishes on the occasion of my doing civil disobedience with 18 other rabbis,” read the statement from Rabbi Kleinbaum on Congregation Beit Simchat Tora’s Facebook page. “This is a very important statement that makes me proud to be Jewish, proud to be a rabbi, proud to be rabbi of CBST, proud to be a founding co-chair of T’ruah and a current member, proud to be praying and resisting the dictatorship which is threatening the soul of our country.”

“But let’s keep what we did in perspective,” the rabbi continued, “those of us arrested were white with excellent pro bono lawyers standing ready. Honestly, I can’t take credit for profound courage. I’m not facing daily bombings or fleeing in terror. I don’t face police brutality because I am black or brown. That’s real courage. But I will use whatever voice I DO have to speak in the name of my God and my tradition against the injustices being done.

“Non-violence, with its emphasis on never demonizing those who are our opponents, but always trying to bring them around with respect– non-violence with its emphasis on the ends don’t justify the means. As Gandhi said: ‘We have always control over the means but not over the end.'”

Rabbi Kleinbaum and Rabbi Bauer were arrested alongside 17 other rabbis, who had gathered as part of a conference hosted by T’ruah, the rabbis’ human rights group, protesting last week’s ban on refugees and nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries. Rabbi Kleinbaum promised to continue writing and teaching more about this event.

“Last night was homework,” Kleinbaum said. “Getting arrested with my colleagues was a sweet taste of the world we are entering, my friends. We were inspired and in deep connection through prayer and song and stories and study. Let’s be ready. May God’s blessings be with the refugees and immigrants who are fearful. May God’s love be with the Muslims and the Sikhs and the Hindus who are in fear today. May the Holy One surround those who are black or brown. May God be with the poor. May God be with those of us who are LGBTQ and facing uncertainty and homophobia. May shomer Israel be with us who are facing worldwide anti-Semiitism that is growing stronger.”

Rabbi David Dunn Bauer published an individual statement on his Facebook page, adding to the words of Rabbi Kleinbaum.

“The plastic handcuffs hurt, the feeling of being vulnerable and immobilized was genuinely upsetting,” he wrote. “I was grateful the police van was driven gently, because if we had been bounced around, there would have been no way of protecting ourselves from injury.

“We were arrested and kept together as a group, which meant we could keep ourselves company and always be aware that we had people waiting just outside the precinct door who knew our names, knew we were there, and would know when we got out. We were polite to the police who were immensely polite to us. I felt the privilege of being arrested while not myself infused with anger or fear or frustration. Being in a holding cell voluntarily, not forced by circumstances, didn’t give me the experience of many friends and colleagues who have been jailed and threatened.

“I did get to see, feel, and smell, the claustrophobia, the dirt, the powerlessness of being in a cell with just enough room for eight of us to be comfortable. The bang of a barred door being locked still gave me pause. When I needed to piss, I was escorted deeper into the precinct building to use one of the individual cells with open and dirty toilets. At that moment I realized just how much ugliness we were being spared in our group holding cells, and how much violence and degradation is built into our system.”