We’re Jewish Dykes. We’re Dyke-ish Jews. We don’t have to choose.
We love being Jewish and we love being Dykes. As with all identities there have been paths and twists and turns to reach that conclusion, we had to fight for them and we had to grow to love them, at this point it feels amazing to be able to say both of those things with certainty. Sometimes it feels like we had to come out twice in our Jewish communities, once as Dykes (or really over and over again) and again as self-loving Anti-Zionists.
For that reason, we dedicated time and energy to helping organize the Dyke March as specifically and explicitly Jewish Anti-Zionist Dykes. The Dyke March has been inclusive, supportive and encouraging of our Dyke-y Jewishness and Jewish Dykey-ness. From the first DC Dyke March meeting we’ve been out and proud queer Jewish dykes. Other DC Dyke March organizers have been open and responsive to questions, concerns and ideas we have regarding keeping the DC Dyke March a welcoming space for Jewish dykes. We knew from the start we wanted to be a part of an inclusive, celebratory, and safe as possible Dyke March.
Recently, a Zionist contacted the DC Dyke March with the deliberate goal of making it sound as though Jews are unwelcome at the DC Dyke March — a claim that erases us Jews who have been organizing so heavily. They contacted a number of news organizations including the Washington Post, and the pinkwashing organization A Wider Bridge. A Wider Bridge is the organization that accused the Chicago Dyke March of anti-Semitism in 2017 because of the group’s anti-Zionist stance. The goal of these groups seems to be to paint the DC Dyke March as a place that’s unwelcome to Jews because of our anti-Zionist views.
The claim is that we are banning Jewish symbols, which is entirely untrue. We are asking people to not bring nationalist symbols because violent nationalism does not fit with our vision of queer liberation. And because we need the march to be a space that is as welcoming to Palestinian Dykes as it is to Jewish Dykes. The “Jewish Pride Flag” seemed to only rise in popularity after the Chicago Dyke March — it was never a flag that we felt directly connected to, and it does not represent all Jewish Dykes. The flag is a Star of David placed in the center, superimposed over a rainbow flag, and is almost entirely reminiscent of the Israeli flag, swapping out the blue and white for a rainbow. The star of David itself only became publicly popular as a symbol of Judaism in the 19th century — it coincided with the First Zionist Congress choosing the six-sided star for the flag of the future Israeli nation state in 1897. That being said, the Star of David represents more than just Israel when not on a flag and can be brought to the march in many other forms without question. It is not the only symbol available to us. We welcome yarmulkes, tallitot, tefillin, rainbow pomegranates, Lions of Judah, Hamsas, chai, a menorah and anything that doesn’t directly replicate nationalist images and symbols.
Our Jewish values teach us that our struggles are interconnected and that our liberation is bound up with the liberation of all peoples, Palestinians included. When we hear allegations that the Dyke March is anti-Semitic for taking a pro-Palestine stance, we feel betrayed by the Jewish community. We choose to prioritize Palestinian lives and justice in Palestine over lazy symbols. The Dyke March is about welcoming our whole selves, not about welcoming the politics that harm members of our community. Nationalism is one of those harmful ideologies. As we help build the inclusive, welcoming space of the DC Dyke March, we feel extra proud to be feygeles with a lot of chutzpah — to be openly self-loving Anti-Zionist Dyke Jews.
When other Jews conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and anti-nationalism, it makes us angry and sad. It makes us feel like we are further from true liberation. To be a Jew is to have a history of trauma and oppression. We believe we can build a world where we fight against and end further trauma and oppression, not carry it on further.
The organizers of the Dyke March were incredibly supportive when we wanted to have nuanced conversations about the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism to further the goal of collective queer liberation. Stephanie Skora said it perfectly in her 2018 article, “Dyke March represents an unfettered quest for justice, and the building of community in diaspora. It is upheld by a deeply cherished shared culture, and ritually gathers around food, music, art, and joy.”
At every Dyke March meeting we have worn our stars of David and chai around our necks. We never felt like we had to hide that part of ourselves. Yet now we feel like we have to hide parts of ourselves, the parts of us that believe a better world is yet to come, in the Jewish community. We understand the pain and the hurt. We believe that the responsibility of that pain and hurt lies with Zionism. We are angry that Israel has taken Jewish symbols and converted them into symbols of nationalism and xenophobia. We are angry that it has created a hierarchy in which Jewish voices are more valid than others, where Jewish comfort is seen as more important than Palestinian lives. We are angry that it exploits Queers and Pride to pinkwash the occupation and settler colonial violence. We are sad that Zionism has stolen vibrant Diasporic and diverse Jewish identities from us, but slowly, and through tough conversations like these ones, we are taking it back.
Yael Horowitz and Rae Gaines are organizers with the DC Dyke March, happening on Friday, June 7.