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LGBTI Jews wary of the upcoming Chicago Dyke March

LGBTI Jews wary of the upcoming Chicago Dyke March

Jews marching at Twin Cities Pride in Minnesota, 2011

Many LGBTI Jews in the Chicago area are wary about the upcoming annual Chicago Dyke March (CDM). The event is to take place on Saturday, 23 June.


Last year at the March, a group of Jewish lesbians were asked to leave after marching with a rainbow flag that had a Star of David on it. The organizers justified their removal on the basis of the March being ‘anti-Zionist.’ However, the Star of David has been a symbol of Judaism since the 13th century—long before the creation of the modern state of Israel.

This situation at last year’s March garnered international media attention. In response, a Jewish founder of the Dyke March condemned the actions of the current leadership.

‘I am ashamed that an organization I affiliate with since it’s [sic] conception would embrace antisemitism and exclude a Jewish LGBTQ Organization. With the rise of violence, bombings, torture and murder toward both Jews and LGBTQ people world wide, the actions of Chicago – Dyke March MUST be condemned,’ wrote Wendy Sue Biegeleisen on Facebook.

This year’s event

This year, the organizers of the Chicago Dyke March have doubled down on their support for Palestinians at the expense of Israel and Jews who support it.

‘We are marching in La Villita, Little Village, again this year, to highlight and align ourselves with the struggles of brown and black and indigenous people here in the U.S. and in Chicago: undocumented folks, folks who deal with surveillance, incarceration, overpolicing,’ said CDM collective member Sarah Youssef at a 31 May fundraising event.

‘And really think about what that looks like here, what that looks like in Palestine, even though it’s unfortunately all too similar. I really hope [our] community is there to celebrate and to show our resilience and strength.’

Queer Jewish responses

‘I don’t want to go if there’s only going to be agitation,’ Laurel Grauer, one of the Jewish women forced to leave the CDM last year, told the Chicago Reader. ‘I feel like I’m a well-documented Jewish lesbian Zionist at this point so I don’t need to be in a parade for it for people to know.’

Dahlia St. Knives, a black trans Jewish woman, recently wrote an essay for Alma about why she doesn’t feel safe at the CDM.

In the piece, St. Knives discusses the aftermath of last year’s Dyke March, which included the organizers Tweeting out about ‘Zio tears replenish[ing] [their] electrolytes.’ St. Knives points out that the term ‘Zio’ is an anti-Semitic dog whistle coined by white supremacist David Duke. When this was pointed out to the group on Twitter, they deleted their Tweet and deflected any wrongdoing.

‘That response proves two things: First of all, the organizers of this event understand how hateful and vile their language is and was, but they do not care,’ St. Knives writes. ‘Secondly, they fall back on their collective identity as queer people of color in an effort to deflect from their own bigotry. Such a response to understandable criticism of anti-Semitism should make everyone wary of participating in their event, not just Jewish women.’

St. Knives goes on to detail the way Jewish leftists are treated in social justice circles:

‘Jewish people are more or less required to be subjected to a purity test with regard to their stance on the Occupation in Palestine. In no other circumstances within progressive communities can I think of examples of marginalized people having to denounce what a nation-state they have no connection with does. Jews, however, cannot simply march in pro-Palestine events or advocate for a Palestinian state. We must openly, loudly, and continuously disavow Israel, or we will be forcibly removed from any space that we share with progressives. We are guilty by association and must prove our innocence in order to be treated like human beings. Such behavior should not be tolerated at all, and the creation of special rules that apply only to Jewish people is inherently anti-Semitic.’

Feeling unsafe and unwelcome

‘Last year I was walking in to attend when I saw a friend crying,’ recalls 26-year-old Celia, who attended the CDM last year.

‘I was wearing my pride Magen David (rainbow Star of David) necklace and earrings and she wore a similar necklace and a rainbow tichel (head cover). She told me she witnessed Jews being harassed and removed and begged me not to go. I listened and left.’

Celia was also quoted in an article from The Advocate following last year’s situation.

‘I believe CDM is a selfish organization and does not truly stand for anything by engaging in this anti-Semitic hypocrisy,’ Celia, who is bisexual, tells GSN.

‘I am a two-state solution Zionist, meaning I believe both in the right to Jewish self-determination and the right for Palestinians to have their own self-determination. I hope for peace. So I am not opposed to CDM being pro-Palestine. But I am opposed to that stance indicating they must exclude Jews.’

‘The Magen David is our symbol,’ Celia states. ‘It predates modern politics by a millenia. Harassing and excluding LGBTQ+ Jews like myself because we wear symbols of our religion and pride is sick. Correlating that imagery to solely being about Israel is factually wrong and anti-Semitic. I have friends who were welcomed wearing rainbow Crescent Moon and Star flags or rainbow cross flags, as they should be. But my people were not allowed our flags. Either all religious symbology is allowed or none is. To ostracize Jews and exclude them from intersectionality is not intersectional at all. Calling us anti-Semitic names and kicking us out is, to me, antithetical to any pride event that proclaims intersectionality. They are saying Judaism and Zionism are the same thing, and this too is massively incorrect and ignorant.’

‘I don’t feel safe attending any pride festivities as a queer Chicago Jew,’ Ang, a 33-year-old non-binary bisexual, tells GSN.

‘The fact that the Magen David was portrayed as a hate symbol is horrific and unforgivable,’ they say. ‘My family members were forced to wear that symbol before Israel existed. Many Jews who aren’t even pro-Israel understand its importance and significance. The people who said it made them “uncomfortable” should have been the ones who were removed. When we tried to explain how awful and misguided this decision was, CDM just doubled down on social media, laughing at “Zio tears.”’

‘Basically I just want to be visible in the LGBT community as a bisexual Jew,’ Amoura, a 27-year-old bisexual Jewish woman, tells GSN.

‘I don’t want to let antisemitism intimidate me, or the Jewish community and I think refusing to be turned away from leftist, “inclusive” spaces is important,’ she explains. ‘Plus it’s just honest. I mean, my Jewishness is central to my identity. It’s part of how I identify. I’m not just bisexual, I’m a bisexual Jew. I’m not just a teacher, I’m a Jewish teacher. Jewishness is who I am and everything else compliments that.’

CDM’s flawed intersectionality

‘I feel unwelcome as a Jewish bi woman because CDM has made it clear they do not want me,’ Celia says.

‘They’ve made it clear their intersectionality does not include Jews, and therefore isn’t intersectional at all. I feel unsafe at an event where the organizers call Jews “Zios.” I feel unsafe, especially as a disabled woman, because I am visibly Jewish. I refuse to not wear my Pride Magen David at an event where others can freely wear their own symbolism but I cannot. I drape my wheelchair in a rainbow Magen David flag (not an Israeli flag, it has no bars) at Pride events to welcome Jewish visibility in queer spaces.’

‘I cannot go to an event where identity is supposed to be celebrated but mine is vilified. I do not feel safe as I fear being attacked for my Jewishness. I cannot in good conscious support an event that has invited racism so cozily.’

‘In a “Unite the Right/Jews will not replace us” society, we at least expected the left to be allies with us,’ Ang says. ‘Instead we were treated like dogs and forced out of our community for nothing more than existing as queer Jews. Fuck CDM, fuck Pride, and fuck anyone who equates the Magen David with hate.’

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