While the modern world has the bittersweet claim of Juneteenth — the June 19 holiday that since late in the 19th century marked the end of slavery in the United States — celebrating emancipation is not new. The Jewish community has recalled its ancient Exodus from slavery in Egypt for centuries during Passover.
From April 19 to April 27, that Exodus will be again celebrated and retold, with a number of ceremonial trappings, such as matzo, the unleavened bread, which some stories say is the result of the fleeing Israelites not having time to wait for bread dough to rise as the Pharaoh’s army pursued them.
Celebrating a people’s escape from bondage is a celebration that can be shared, particularly through the Passover meal, the Seder. A local case in point was Washington’s first Stonewall Seder, held last Saturday, March 30, at the Human Rights Campaign building, thanks to the Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) program of the D.C. Jewish Community Center (DCJCC), The Center: Home for GLBT in Metro DC, and HRC.
From the ancient to the contemporary, freedom from oppression is a universal value that the GLBT community — or any other — can appreciate. And while Passover provides a time to reflect upon oppression faced by Jews throughout history, from slavery in Egypt to the Spanish Inquisition, to European-Russian pogroms to the Holocaust, it’s also a time to relate our common humanity.
In the D.C. area, conduits between the Jewish and GLBT community are easy to find, whether spiritual or secular. We look at three pillars of our local Jewish and GLBT fusion.