by Doris Strub Epstein
The blue and white flags of Israel will fly proudly among the rainbow colours, as Kulanu, the main Jewish LGBT organization, joined by families, friends and other members of the Jewish community, marches in Toronto’s annual Gay Pride parade on Sunday.
“We are all so excited because this year we have a Tel Aviv beach theme float and an Israeli DJ, Erez Ben Ishay,” said Justine Apple, Executive Director of Kulanu, who is expecting a large Jewish presence, as more and more organizations and individuals participate with Kulanu in the Parade and events leading up to the Parade.
An interfaith event was organized for the first time during Pride Week and held at Metropolitan United church last Saturday. The purpose Apple said, was twofold; to highlight that faith and sexuality can co -exist and to “celebrate the incredible work that Canada’s human rights organizations are doing, bringing LGBT refugees to a safe haven in Toronto to escape the terrible persecution they face in their own countries.” More than 75 countries have outlawed homosexuality and at least five countries have laws that allow homosexual acts to be punished by death.
A havdalah service concluded the day , co-led by spiritual leader of Shir Lebenu, Dr. Aviva Goldberg and Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg from Temple Sinai. A first for Pride Toronto.
A panel discussion on Wednesday at the MNJCC, featured Shai Doitsh and Itay Harlap, leaders in the LGBT community in Israel. They shared their struggle and acceptance within Israeli society over the past 40 years. It was moderated by Arthur Slepian, Executive Director of A Wider Bridge, a pro Israel organization that builds bridges between Israeli and LGBT North Americans and allies.
When asked why Kulanu was silent on the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid group funded once again by City Hall, marching again in the Pride Parade, she stated firmly, “We will not let them distract us. The environment of the World Pride Parade should be warm, welcoming, safe and free from any hateful or toxic language.”
She made it abundantly clear where Kulanu stands. “Kulanu Toronto stands proudly with the Jewish and pro Israel community in Toronto and believes that attempts to demonize or delegitimize that community is detrimental and goes against our core Canadian values.”
“We want to invite everyone from the Jewish community no matter what their affiliation to join us at the Parade and stand up for Israel, which is one of the most inclusive societies in the world.”
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