Judaism teaches that we are all made צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים‎, tzelem elohim, in the image of g-d. We all deserve humanity and dignity.

As a straight, cis-gendered ally, it’s important to me to demonstrate this belief by showing up. This was my sixth year marching with the Jewish Community Pride contingency.

I love being able to connect with people on the street and reach out with high-fives, cheers, and provide support for the LGBTQ community. I love having a contingency represent the Jewish community, showing that we are not only inclusive and welcoming, but we showed up to march to demonstrate that. And it’s easy to see the impact.

Parade watchers, thrilled to see us, shout “Shalom!” as they wave. Others see our signs from the march, including one with a rainbow flag and a Jewish star, and they’re surprised, but their voices are filled with gratitude. “There are Jewish organizations who care about the LGBTQ community?” they ask. “How do I find them?” Others stop at the festival booth and before leaving, they say, “Thank you so much for being here.” And as I see these heartfelt responses, I hope that our show of support might help a young Jewish boy find the courage to come out and feel safe in his own community, or inspire a Jewish or interfaith lesbian couple to become new members of a local congregation. I hope that it helps members of the LGBTQ community find a place in the Jewish community, too.

When Keshet (a national organization focused on making Judaism and Jewish organizations fully inclusive to the LGBTQ community) decided to close their Denver office at the end of 2015, it left a gaping hole in our community to do this important work – the advocacy part, community organizing, and creating programming and community for those who identify as LGBTQ.

I am so appreciative of many of our Jewish organizations that have stepped up to take on different roles – Judaism Your Way for continually leading the way in showing us how to make Judaism more inclusive, for Rabbis from many congregations vocally supporting gay and lesbian weddings, for JEWISHcolorado and Temple Emanuel continuing the tradition of the Queer Seder, and many others.

Jewish Community Pride festivities – including Pride Shabbat, the March, and the PrideFest booth – were a true communal effort, with contributions from many organizations and individuals, and some of our best participant numbers to date. I am glad the J was able to take a lead role in making sure it happened, even as we go through organizational change. It is still my hope that we can continue to help the community come together in support of full inclusion and advocacy.

Samantha Raizen Walsh, Assistant Director of Development