The Stonewall Seder is a ritual dinner in celebration of Jewish GLBT Pride — a sacred honoring of the connection between sexuality and spirituality. First celebrated by the Queer Minyan in Berkeley, the liturgy was adapted and adopted in New York at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in 1995, where it became a yearly event on the calendar, held just before Pride every June. Guest speakers in the past have included Congressman Barney Frank and Film Director Sandi Simcha DuBowski.
This year, the guest speaker will be the award winning playwright, actress and co-founder of the theater group The Five Lesbian Brothers, Lisa Kron. The dinner will be held the evening of June 17th at Cong. B’nai Jeshurun. And this year, the dinner is sponsored by the Marriage Equality Hevra, a synagogue group dedicated to strengthening faith-based support for equal marriage rights. Registration for this year's dinner is now closed.
So what’s a Queer Pride Seder like? Consider the objects on the seder plate:
Exotic Fruit Because sometimes we are called the “fruit” people. And while it is meant as an insult, tonight we take it as a blessing in disguise. A recognition of the breadth of God’s creation. And we take it as an opportunity to open up to the sweet, and the tart, in all of us.
The Pink Triangle Under the Nazis, homosexuals wore a pink triangle in the work camps, as Jews wore the yellow star. Today, gay men and lesbians wear this is a symbol of our commitment to justice for all. Rabbi Alexander Schindler has said: “A generation ago, many in this room would have been wearing the pink triangle as a badge of shame and a mark of death. Today, we wear it as a badge of honor and resistance and identity.”
Bricks & Stones We remember the bricks of resistance thrown at the police the night of the Stonewall riot. We meditate on the lines from Psalm 118: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and we ask what stones have we ourselves rejected. We remember that great Stone Wall, the Western Wall of the Temple, which has stood throughout centuries of triumph and tears. And we ask ourselves: what walls must we build anew, what walls must we tear down?
Colored Ribbons A symbol of the full Spectrum of our Jewish community, from Orthodox to Reconstructionist, from Ethiopian Jews to Burmese Jews — there are lgbt folk in every one of them. The ribbons remind us of the red and pink ribbons we wear in the hopes of finding cures for AIDS and breast cancer. They evoke visions of the Names Project quilt, the tzitzit we wear, the covenant that God made with Noah. They are all the colors of our inner lives, the common threads that bind us all together. Lastly they are a celebration of the gay love of flash and color.
The Bundle of Sticks: The Faggot To remind us of the men, bound together and burned at the stake for their love — and to remind us of the burning of women, called witches, because they chose to live their lives outside the realm of the patriarchy.
Two Challot The uncovered challah remind us of the sacred sensuality of our own bodies; that the physical world, which includes our bodies, is holy and nothing to be ashamed of. We acknowledge the deep spiritual nourishment of physical contact.
The Broken Ring A reminder that the relationship between the Jewish people and God has been spoken of as a marriage — and that marriage is reaffirmed every morning as we sing the words of the Prophet Hosea while putting on tefillin:
And I betroth you to me everlastingly,
And I betroth you to me with righteousness and justice,
And I betroth you me to with loving and compassion,
And you shall know The One
Yet GLBT Jews have been in exile from this Divine marriage, just as our deepest loving relationships with our partners have been condemned. Thus, this ring is broken in recognition that these sacred relationships, relationships that struggled without the support of families, and synagogues, (not to mention the state, which has refused to call these relationships what they truly are — marriage) by the fact of their exclusion from the full community of our people, keeps the Jewish people, and all people, from being a whole/holy community. But even though this ring is broken, our hearts and our devotion remain whole as we commit ourselves tikkun olam, the repair of creation.
An Empty Cup We recall those who did not live to see this moment, and those who are unable to celebrate openly their love and connection to God. We are angry with the spiritual emptiness that so many Jewish institutions offer to LGBT Jews. We reflect that our liberation is still incomplete — and know that we are part of a chain of generations who, while we will not complete the work, are still obligated to continue it, and thus help fill the cup, for the generations to come.
Registration for this year's Stonewall Seder is now closed.