It’s Monday, the streets have been cleaned, the flags taken down and most of us are back at work. Who would’ve thought that this past weekend, London hosted a record-breaking London Pride festival with more than 300,000 people celebrating in the streets.
For me and the HotSaltBeef crew, Pride started Friday evening with a special pre-Pride Chavurah, hosted at West London Synagogue — a beautiful shul right in the heart of London.
The evening kicked off at 7pm with a joint Kiddush in Goldsmid Hall followed at 7.15pm by the Pride Shabbat Service led by six LGBT Rabbis – Rabbi Ariel Friedlander, Rabbi Anna Gerrard, Rabbi David Mitchell, Rabbi Indigo Jonah Raphael, Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah and Rabbi Mark Solomon — reflecting West London Synagogue’s diversity and all-inclusiveness.
Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah gave a wonderful sermon recounting the past 25 years since her ordination and the changes that the Jewish LGBT world has seen. It was a moving service and I felt like I have finally come ‘home’. As I looked around at the congregation I marvelled at the sight of the sheer number of Jewish LGBT members gathering in a synagogue to proudly celebrate who we are.
Every effort was made to celebrate being Jewish and LGBT with an added touch of flair… the way we like it… The London Gay Men’s Chorus made a special appearance during the Shabbat service and towards the end of the service we sang Odon nolam to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’.
As we all laughed, sang and clapped along, I couldn’t help but revel at the brilliance of combining the two songs: No matter what the world has thrown at us as Jews or LGBT people, we are still here. I Will Survive is no doubt our personal mantra.
Afterwards we enjoyed a dinner buffet, a comedy spot and a further performance by the London’s Gay Men’s Chorus. What an evening, we prayed, we laughed, we sang, we ate and I even had a Mojito! (well it was Pride!). I went home happy and proud.
Call me silly, but at 5.30am Saturday morning, I was ready to take the streets in my HotSaltBeef T-Shirt. It was a day on which I wanted to show the world how PROUD I am. While the downpour of Saturday added a bit of gloom to the celebrations, there was absolutely no dampening the spirit in the streets.
When I arrived in Baker Street (where HotSaltBeef met the other Jewish groups who joined the parade), what struck me first was the corporate sponsors supporting the LGBT community — standing alongside us in full force: Barclay’s, Google, John Lewis, PwC, Microsoft, Nando’s… the list goes on and on. Selfridges even had a neon sign in its window that read: Believe in yourself… It may not have been Pride-related but it was an important message with added weight for everyone who stopped to look at it on the day that we celebrated Gay Pride.
The HotSaltBeef crew marched with all the other Jewish LGBT groups who were even joined by some of our JLGBT brothers and sisters from Brazil, Argentina and Amsterdam. Yes, it may have rained and yes it got a little bit chilly, but it only added to the magic. No one was going to rain on our parade… the massive crowds cheering us from the pavement was so encouraging and their numbers got bigger and their cheers got louder the nearer we marched to Trafalgar Square.
The sun may not have shined but you couldn’t help feel the warmth from all their love and support.
As expected I did get verklempt, I thought of all the people we have lost along the way of this struggle and fight for acceptance, the ones that started all of this more than 40 years ago, and how they would have loved to see how their struggle was not in vain. Now we march with true Pride in our hearts and we have them to thank for it.
Yes, the celebrations are over, but we must continue to walk down the street with that same sense of belonging we had on Saturday: Smile at people, say hello and believe in ourselves.
In the meantime, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your Pride experience. The LGBT community celebrated all over the world this past weekend: World Pride in Toronto, Pride in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Paris, Istanbul and Singapore. Share your thoughts and photographs, we’d be happy to hear from you.
Until next year,
You can see all the photographs from the day and the Friday night pre-Pride chavurah over on our Facebook page