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|Atlanta Pride to overlap Jewish holiday|
|by Ryan Watkins|
|February 15, 2011 13:14|
When Atlanta Pride announced yesterday that this year’s festival will be held Oct. 8-9, several community members were quick to point out the scheduling conflict with the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
“When I first heard the news, I was terribly disappointed,” Rabbi Josh Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim said in a phone interview. “Yom Kippur is the most holy day of the year.”
Lesser said that James Parker Sheffield, executive director of the Atlanta Pride Committee, has reached out to Atlanta's LGBT Jewish community and will work toward providing Jewish-specific events that recognize the community at this year's Pride.
“I appreciate Shef and the Pride board examining all solutions. A mistake got made. They aren't shying away from the mistake. They're taking responsibility. We can be an example of two communities working together,” Lesser said.
One idea being tossed around is a “Break Fast” celebration held Saturday night in the park for Jewish Pride participants. The APC will also sponsor the Pride Seder service at Congregation Bet Haverim in June during Stonewall Week and will work toward bringing Jewish speakers to the festival the Sunday following Yom Kippur.
"This realization was an extremely difficult one for us, as it would have an impact on festival-goers and members of our own board and committee," Sheffield said in a media release. "The idea that any group may feel alienated from our event is extremely disheartening."
"APC recognizes that even with these initiatives that some may still feel upset over the date conflict, and understandably so. We are actively seeking to create something positive from this. It is our hope that when all is said and done, our time spent at the table together over this issue will lead to a stronger bond and long term partnerships between Pride and the Jewish community," Sheffield added.
Sheffield called for a meeting to discuss ways to include the Jewish community in this year's event. Lesser participated in the meeting.
Lesser said he understands the Pride Committee's desire to host the festival on a consistent date each year and added that moving the date was just not feasible. The Pride Festival now coincides with National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11.
Lesser, who has officiated the Atlanta Pride Commitment Ceremony in recent years, said that due to the activities surrounding Yom Kippur he would be unable to participate this year. The APC is exploring moving the Commitment Ceremony to earlier in the week to allow for Jewish participants who would otherwise be unable to attend.
Congregation Bet Haverim, as in past years, will have a booth at this year's festival, but it will be closed the Saturday of Pride, according to Lesser.
Lesser said he felt the Pride Committee was receptive to Jewish concerns.
“They heard it and got it,” Lesser said. “If we always demonize our leaders publicly for their mistakes, no one will step up to serve.”
After being celebrated the last weekend in June in Piedmont Park for most of its history, Atlanta Pride was forced to move in 2008 when city officials booted large festivals from the parched park.
Held over July Fourth weekend at the Civic Center, Pride attendance and finances suffered. The festival moved back to Piedmont Park for 2009, but over Halloween, to get around city policies that limited festivals in the summer season due to drought concerns. Like last year, the 2011 festival will take place during the second weekend of October.
Top photo: Rabbi Josh Lesser at the 2010 Atlanta Pride Commitment Ceremony (by Laura Douglas-Brown)
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