This is the first year I’ll be eligible for Medicare. I believe that getting older is a privilege that far too many do not enjoy.
But lately I’m feeling like the Jewish lesbian version of Rip Van Winkle who wakes up in a world that is practically unrecognizable in wonderful ways. It’s wonderful that it seems everyone is coming out with Pride, and it is glorious to be a witness to the ever-increasing rainbow of sexual orientations and gender identities gracing our newly redesigned streets in Wilton Manors. Living here is the reply to a question asked years ago by Adrienne Rich: What would it mean to live in a city whose people were changing each other’s despair into hope?
The meaning for me is less than what’s been accomplished in Wilton Manors than who has accomplished it — an amazing consortium of folks representing the range of human expression of gender and sexual identity. We built a safe, beautiful, and welcoming home for ourselves, encouraged new businesses to open here, always have more residents vying for elected office than there are seats, and we’re even getting a train station! All this from our people, we who had been vilified, discounted, and savagely treated based on a misbegotten religious argument created for social and economic benefit. We finally refused to accept their assessment of us, and instead created identities that featured our intelligence, beauty, and righteousness, and demanded and received recognition. We should indeed feel very proud of these achievements.
And now a few words of Torah. We all know that the first words in the bible are “In the beginning.” That’s how it’s been translated into English for over 600 years. However, when we actually look at the words of the text with the commentaries we understand that we’ve made an error in our translation. The first word in the Hebrew Bible is “Bereshit,” and a better translation of the opening words would be, “As God was creating heaven and earth were void and unformed…” The change is significant because it signals our realization that Creation had already started before the Bible mentioned it. In other words, heaven and earth were already present but their particulars weren’t yet formed. It also teaches that Creation is a process, and that process is ongoing. Creation never stops, and we are always evolving.
And so it is for us still. Our Pride is still evolving. We are finally hearing each other’s stories, and what life has been like living in each other’s orbit. We’ve been called to look more deeply into our words and actions, in order to be better and more effective allies to each other. We’ve had mirrors placed in front of us to have a better view of how we look to others. We’ve been handed the assignment to simultaneously acknowledge each other’s unique history and culture while insisting that ultimately we are united in our ongoing work of perfecting our world. We have been offered the hope that our work will lead to lasting change and enduring grace. Like Creation, we are not yet perfect and are still evolving. May our patience and resolve rise to the challenges that face us today and will tomorrow.
During this fabulous month of Pride let us celebrate like a Jewish wedding: may we each be blessed with joy and happiness, lover and beloved, gladness, jubilation, cheer and delight, love, friendship, harmony and fellowship. May there be heard, speedily and in our day, the sounds of joy and the sounds of happiness, and the sounds of peace throughout the streets of our city!