Durham County

NC Pride organizers apologize to Jewish groups

Organizers of the annual NC Pride parade and festival are asking for forgiveness for this year’s event being held on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur: Saturday, Sept. 30.

Many Jewish people won’t be participating as a result.

“We’re just disappointed,” said Jill Madsen, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill.

“We’ve had a large group present the last couple of years, both a booth and a float in the parade. And this year we will not be able to do that,” Madsen said.

The Federation, based in the Charlotte and Dick Levin Jewish Community Center in Durham, had more than 100 marchers in last year’s parade around Duke University’s East Campus. Since LGBT people can be excluded from places of worship, NC Pride is an important event to show support for the community, Madsen said.

“Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. You fast for 24 hours. You’re in service for most of the day. ... It is not a day you’d be at a parade and on a float,” she said. “It’s very similar to Christmas, when kind of out of the woodwork people show up to church.”

Peter Reitzes of Carrboro has marched in Pride events with the LGBTQ stuttering support group Passing Twice when he lived in Brooklyn and Manhattan. A straight ally, he said Jews observe holidays differently, but for him, “every Yom Kippur we go to synagogue and we stand with fellow Jews. It’s the Day of Atonement.”

“I know Jews who are very observant, who are Orthodox, and those who are very left,” he said. “I don’t know any Jews who will attend this. I don’t know any Jews who will go to a march on our holiest day.”

Asking forgiveness

On its website NC Pride says the parade and festival has been held on the last Saturday of September for the past 17 years.

“Until this year, our date has not conflicted with the High Holy Days of the Jewish calendar,” it says. “As our event has become larger, the City of Durham, Duke University and other community events in the fall have planned around our event on that established weekend. Even so, we feel the need to recognize this year's conflict to our Jewish friends. Ask for their forgiveness and look forward to their participation in our event in future years.”

According to the website’s list of Pride history, the 2003 Pride was held Sept. 20 and the 2004 Pride was held Oct. 2.

In an interview, John Short of NC Pride said the October date was due to Duke University’s schedule. He did not recall why the 2003 Pride was held Sept. 20. As long as he remembers, it has been held on the last Saturday of September. They moved it from June to September in 2001, Short said, because of the heat.

Short said NC Pride is about 30 volunteers, and there are Jewish people on the volunteer committee.

“No one realized [the date conflict]. We’re kind of boxed in,” he said, referring to other events scheduled around Pride weekend. They noticed the conflict with Yom Kippur about a month ago, he said.

“I hope they will just forgive us,” he said. Short said the date was not done with malice, and he does not see a conflict with holidays for many more years.

Having to choose

The nonprofit Carolina Jews for Justice posted a statement on its Facebook page that called on community members to express their concerns to NC Pride.

“No group of people, Jewish or otherwise, should have to choose between our LGBTQ identities and the other identities that are important to us and shape our lives,” the Carolina Jews for Justice post stated.

Krisha Miller runs an LGBTQ alliance at Durham’s Beth El Synagogue called Kol Koloteinu, which means “all our voices.” Before noticing the conflict with Yom Kippur, she was planning a Pride shabbat – going to services in the morning and then to the NC Pride Parade. They have marched along with the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill and Judea Reform Congregation, among other groups.

“Sometimes people say you have so many holidays. But Yom Kippur is the one day we’re in synagogue all day long, fasting. Any other day we’d work around it, like we worked around it for shabbat,” Miller said. She thinks it is especially important for young people to see their faith community support NC Pride.

Miller hopes, since NC Pride is a weekend event, the parade could be moved from Saturday, Sept. 30, to Sunday, Oct. 1.

“Why not culminate in a big festival and parade Sunday afternoon?” she said.

Pulling a thread

Short said moving the parade from Saturday to Sunday would be complicated, because by pulling one thread, it all unravels.

“People are coming from all over for that Saturday. It’s easy to talk about, but the consequences are worse than the medicine,” he said, adding that he’s heartbroken it happened.

Durham Police Capt. David Addison of the special projects and logistics division said the department has not yet issued a permit for this year’s festival.

Applicants may choose any date, but requests to change a date should not be delayed. The larger the event, the more notice is requested, he said. The department processes about 300 special-event permits per year.

The Jewish Federation is now looking to coordinate a separate event after Pride, in October, at the Levin Jewish Community Center, Madsen said.

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