Australian Jewry’s gay community celebrates ‘bar mitzvah’

SYDNEY (JTA) – Australian Jewry’s gay community celebrated its "bar mitzvah" at the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.

About 80 members of Dayenu, Sydney’s Jewish GLBT group, wore rainbow-colored prayer shawls and pink kipahs as they danced around a giant pink Star of David emblazoned with the words "Mazel tov" on Saturday in front of hundreds of thousands of supporters.

The Jewish float at the annual gay festival has been a feature since 2000, with the exception of 2006.

"We look forward to a future where we can strengthen our place in the communal landscape of Sydney," Dayenu President Kim Gotlieb said. "There continue to be many people within the GLBT communities who experience difficulties with their families as well as youth who struggle at school, and then deal with not-so-great coming-out processes. There are also the issues of people remaining in unsatisfactory marriages – sometimes associated with the pressure to keep up appearances, and sometimes concerned about the estrangement from family and community, which can emerge once one comes out in later life.

"Many gay people have stepped away from Jewish communal life — some appreciate that this is the reason, others cannot be clear about their reasons. While it is true to say that attitudes to gays and lesbians have shifted radically over the years, there is still a real need for engaged conversations across these cultures. There is much to learn from the gay community if we only develop eyes and ears to find ways to relate to otherness with respect and open-hearted curiosity."

On March 1, a gay Shabbat service and dinner attended by about 75 people was held at Emanuel Synagogue, which has been supportive of Dayenu since 2000.

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