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New York’s Jewish Community Mourns Young Victims of Israeli Extremism

‘Rabbi’s condemning the violence while not condemning the community’s role in this hatred is unacceptable’

Jas Chana
August 07, 2015

Last week an Orthodox Jewish man stabbed six revelers at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, resulting in the death of teenager Shira Banki. A day after the stabbing, two Israeli extremists firebombed a Palestinian home, resulting in the death of a baby boy. On Thursday evening, in response to these horrifying events, hundreds of mourners came together show their support at a ceremony at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan’s West Village.

Outside the entrance to the auditorium, two large cards were placed addressed to the two victims, Banki and Daobasa, to be signed by the attendees, which would then be sent to their families in the Middle East.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, whom we profiled in 2013, announced to the crowd: “To those that are with us tonight from the Orthodox community, I personally am deeply moved.”

The service consisted of candle-lightings, the recitation of Kaddish Yatom and Mourner’s Kaddish, and the singing of Psalms by the CBST choir. A number of other rabbis and Jewish community leaders spoke, too, including Congressman Jerrold Nadler. The event was sponsored by 35 groups, a combination of gay and Jewish organizations. Each was asked to pledge at least $180 to an organization working to defeat homophobia, racism, and violence in Israel, including the New Israel Fund, Israeli Gay Youth, and B’Tselem.

“Now is the time to not only condemn [the attacks] but to support those fighting against them,” Kleinbaum said.

Mordechai Levovitz, director of the Jewish Queer Youth (JQY), an organization that provides support for gay Orthodox Jews, in his address to the audience referenced right-wing Israeli groups, like Lehava, who, despite condemning the attack continued to refer to the parade as as “abomination parade,” even after Banki’s death.

“Shira Banki was a victim of this very hate,” Levovitz said. “Rabbis condemning the violence while not condemning the community’s role in this hatred is unacceptable.”

A 15-year-old member of JQY named Sean Herzfeld also spoke to the audience, comparing his experience marching with JQY at this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade to Banki’s at the Jerusalem Gay Parade. “Three days after the Israeli Day Parade, I’d already resumed my usual teenage schedule including participating in school activities, extracurriculars, and hanging out with friends,” he said. “Three days after participating in the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, Shira Banki succumbed to her wounds on her hospital bed.”

He continued: “As an openly gay, Orthodox teenager this could have been me or many of my friends. And that scares me.”

Jas Chana is a former intern at Tablet.

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