Jewish identity meets LGBT activism in “Breaking Down Stonewall”

The panelists at Breaking Down Stonewall listen to a question posed by an audience member / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

The panelists at "Breaking Down Stonewall" listen to a question posed by an audience member / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

In the first partnership between Sixth & I and DCJCC’s GLOE, a veteran, political panel of activists and allies spoke to a charged audience on Thursday evening.

Hearkening to a series of riots instigated in 1969, cited as a leading example of the LGBT community fighting against government-sponsored discrimination, this panel convened Anne Kronenberg, campaign manager in 1977 for famed gay, Jewish politician Harvey Milk, Dr. Dana Beyer, first transgender candidate for Maryland State Delegate, Robert Raben, who served Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and the Clinton administration before starting his own political advocacy group, and finally, Frank Kameny, referred to affably by the other panelists as “Moses,” for his long history in LGBT activism, starting by petitioning the Supreme Court in the ’50s after he was fired from his job based on sexual discrimination.

The evening was headed by Winnie Stachelberg, senior vp for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, who got to ask some ground-breaking questions to the panelists before turning the floor to the audience.

The night took on a very optimistic tone, to my mind. Kameny used his personal story, ending finally in an apology from the courts after 52 years, to highlight how far America had come. Kronenberg spoke of Milk’s influence of banding different minority groups together in his campaign. Beyer and Raben remembered the ultimate acceptance they felt from their families and their Jewish communities as a whole.

Although we didn’t have a lot of time for audience questions, they ran the gamut from how to counterbalance American Judaism’s seeming tilt to the right, to what messages these activists might have for young LGBT Jews. Panelists responded with both political idealism and frank, personal reflection. The audience, always enthusiastic, gave them a standing ovation at the end.

For more information on GLOE’s activities for the DC Jewish LGBT community, email Justin Lerner at justinl@washingtondcjcc.org. And stay tuned to Sixth & I—not only will they be featuring a reading with Rep. Frank next month, but we were also informed of their first same sex wedding to take place on Sunday! Mazel tov!

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