An open letter to Chicago Jews: It’s not me, it’s you.

Let me first start off by saying to you, the Chicago Jewish community, that I love you.

By ASHLEY O'BRIEN
June 29, 2017 15:55
3 minute read.
Chicago

THE DOWNTOWN skyscrapers of Chicago rise against the backdrop of Lake Michigan.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Hiiiii you guys,

It’s me, Ashley, former resident of Lincoln Park, and originally from the predominately Jewish suburb of Buffalo Grove.

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Let me first start off by saying to you, the Chicago Jewish community, that I love you. It’s because of this community that I was free to grow up in a diverse, welcoming, accepting, Jewish environment (even with a traditional Irish-Catholic last name). I spent most of my life devoted to Jewish summer camp at JCC Camp Chi, which I credit as having instilled in me an incredible love of Israel and a desire to be an active member of the Jewish community at home and around the world.

I’m writing to you from the Jerusalem Post office in Tel Aviv, Israel. Those who really know me understand how incredibly bizarre this sentence would have been if I said it even three or four years ago. But alas, this is my new reality, and I love it. I have found in Israel what I have come to realize is so terribly absent in Chicago: a progressive, liberal, Zionist, Jewish culture.

(That's me... with the Zionist ears.)

We’ll save the debate over what defines ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’ within Israel’s own political spectrum for another time. For the moment, I’m focused on you, Chicago Jews. I know many of you are just like me; you are open-minded and accepting of all cultures, religions, and sexual orientation and identity.

That being said – WHAT THE F…

I’m sitting here in Israel waking up to the news that Jews were escorted out of the highly anticipated gay pride parade, one of the highlights of ‘Summer in Chicago’ for LGBTQ and all those who support the people who identify as LGBTQ and beyond, because they had a Star of David on their rainbow flag AND EVERYBODY IS PRACTICALLY SILENT.

I’m sorry, I don’t mean to yell, but come on you guys. The LGBTQ community and the Jewish community in Chicago have been allies for years, and now, at this critical moment, I see and hear nothing from the Jews and Jewish organizations in Chicago. The official organizers of the march defended their actions on the grounds that “The Chicago Dyke March Collective is explicitly not anti-Semitic, we are anti-Zionist. The Chicago Dyke March Collective supports the liberation of Palestine and all oppressed people everywhere.”

This statement bothers me for several reasons.

1. It suggests that anti-Zionism is separate from antisemitism. Well, it’s not. And if that was truly the case, why was the Jewish pride flag banned? It was NOT an Israeli flag that was banned. It was a gay pride flag that happened to have the same Jewish symbol as the flag of the Jewish state.
2. It suggests that Israel is ‘oppressing’ Palestinians, which, in my humble opinion, is a bunch of BDS B.S., but I’m open to this argument as long as you bring facts (and alternative facts don't count @kellyanneconway).
3. It suggests that Jews don’t fall under the category of ‘oppressed people’. Tell that to my great-grandfather’s family. Oh wait, you can’t; they were all killed by Hitler.
4. Flags with Muslim symbolism WERE allowed at the same march, but don’t worry, no one has ever been known to ‘oppress’ others in the name of Islam… *she wrote with heavy sarcasm*
5. Show me a country in the Middle East besides Israel where you can be openly gay without the risk of persecution. I'll wait...

A photo from the evening of the Gay Pride celebration in Tel Aviv. June, 2017

For my fellow Jews, Chicagoans, and friends within the LGBTQ community, I urge you to never remain silent on issues such as this. It is mere silence that hinders the existence of our very own people. As an advocate for human rights of ALL PEOPLE who want a world of peace, acceptance, and diversity, I vow to be LOUD.

B'ahava,
Ashley


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