Why this year’s NC Pride LGBT festival on Yom Kippur will be different

Thousands fill the Duke East Campus neighborhood in this Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 file photo, for the annual NC Pride march and rally.
Thousands fill the Duke East Campus neighborhood in this Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 file photo, for the annual NC Pride march and rally.

Organizers of this fall’s NC Pride have changed their plans, delaying the start of the LGBT festival to late afternoon and canceling the annual event’s parade.

Scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 30, the date for the annual event overlaps the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur which runs from sundown Friday, Sept. 29 to sundown Sept. 30.

Organizers apologized at first to the Jewish community for the date conflict, as the Day of Atonement is one spent fasting and in synagogue services rather than celebrating or on a float. However, after a backlash, NC Pride executive director John Short said the group would come up with a solution to the conflict so the Jewish community could participate.

NC Pride announced its solution on Friday after a month of discussion. Keeping the Sept. 30 date, the LGBT event will now be a street festival starting in the late afternoon and continuing overnight. Called “NC Pride @ Night,” the event will run from 4 p.m. Sept. 30 to 4 a.m. Oct. 1, with street festivals on Rigsbee Avenue in Durham and on Harrington Street in Raleigh.

Rigsbee Avenue will be closed from Corporation Street to Geer Street, a block that includes the LGBTQ bar called “the bar.”

Peter Reitzes of Carrboro said his gut reaction is to give Pride credit for trying, but still doesn’t think the revised event embraces inclusion of Jews.

“I was raised that you fast for 25 hours. A lot of Jews are going to be in synagogue until 8 or 9 p.m., and been fasting since the night before around sundown,” Reitzes said. “Clearly [NC Pride] is trying to be more inclusive. It’s just not perfect.”

Jill Madsen, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill, said that while everyone chooses to observe holidays differently, she estimated that sunset Sept. 30 will be around 7 p.m., so those who are being observant can’t break their fast until then.

Last year, the federation brought a group of more than 100 people to NC Pride’s parade. It was intergenerational, she said, from children to older adults. With Pride now at night, she doesn’t anticipate a large gathering, Madsen said.

“We appreciate them considering other options,” she said. The federation has already planned an event on another date that does not conflict with the Jewish community’s observance of Yom Kippur.

Jewish Federation event

The Levin Jewish Community Center will host an LGBT-supportive event on Saturday, Oct. 7. It will include desserts, beverages and a band at the JCC beginning at 7 p.m., which also includes a Havadalah service that concludes the Sabbath.

“We also have some teens doing a poetry reading. It falls during the holiday of Sukkot, which is our fall harvest holiday, and one of the practices of Sukkot is inviting someone into your home for a meal. So we thought, what a wonderful opportunity to open up our building and show our support,” Madsen said.

Rabbi Larry Bach of Judea Reform Congregation said that he’s excited about the LGBT pride event happening the weekend after NC Pride, and looks forward to being fully involved in NC Pride next year.

“It’s unfortunate there wasn’t more coordination and communication through this process,” he said. Bach said he appreciates the sentiment in moving NC Pride to night-time, but wishes there had been some communication beforehand. He hopes both events are a great success.

Short said that there won’t be a date conflict with Jewish holidays for several years, and that Pride’s march and parade will return next year. He said while the street festival starts at 4 p.m., there won’t be any performances until after sunset, when Yom Kippur ends.

“We think this is the best under the circumstances,” Short said about the schedule change. He said it will be free admission to the street festival on Rigsbee Avenue and he’s excited about having it at night.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan