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BJ Visible and Vocal for Marriage Equality

By Amy Lavine and Dale Bernstein and Lisa Safier | Issue Date: January 2011

Part of the BJ contingent, including Roly, at the pre-March rally. Photo Credit: Ariel Schneider

From adults to babies, the B’nai Jeshurun community took to the streets on September 26 to send a loud and strong message that now is the time to pass marriage equality legislation in New York State. More than 130 BJ congregants and friends joined with Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon to participate in the 7th Annual Wedding March across the Brooklyn Bridge, organized by Marriage Equality New York and co-sponsored by the Marriage Equality Hevra. BJ was the largest organized group at the march, providing an extremely important religious voice in support of this civil rights issue.

“It was an honor to be part of the Marriage March because as far as I’m concerned everyone is entitled to marry, and no one has the right to tell them differently. I was so impressed with the number of people who attended.  —Roz Hochberg, BJ community friend

Participants marched across the bridge with colored umbrellas in hand as a symbol of solidarity with the LGBTQ community and the importance of everyone being “covered” by the law. BJ proudly marched under blue umbrellas!

“I was proud that I belong to a synagogue, B’nai Jeshurun, that had the largest group in the march. I signed up because I felt strongly about the rights of gays to marry.” —Carol Jackson, BJ member

The rainbow of umbrellas crossing the Brooklyn Bridge was both energizing and beautiful. People strolling by joined in, and it was exhilarating to hear our cheers echoed by the honking horns of encouragement from the roadway.

Part of the BJ contingent at the pre-March rally. Photo Credit: Channa Camins“It was very powerful for me to join with a group of BJ members in a common cause. I loved being in the diverse multiracial crowd, gay, straight, young, old all united for equality. It was empowering for both my son and I to hear the speakers standing up for civil rights and to see a large group of gay people from many walks of life standing up for themselves.” —Jamie Emhoff, Co-Chair of Panim el Panim and Marriage Equality Hevra member

Same-sex couples are relegated to second-class citizens when marriage rights are denied; marriage is the bridge to more than 700 rights in New York State, such as those that deal with property ownership, inheritance, and ensuring parental relationships for families.

Part of the BJ contingent at the pre-March rally. Photo Credit: Ariel Schneider

“My partner and I thought it important to be present at the Marriage March with our one- year-old son. It is our responsibility to let opponents of marriage equality know that we are a family.” —Jeff Levin, BJ and Marriage Equality Hevra Member

Last spring, the Marriage Equality Bill was defeated in the New York State Senate, despite approval three times in the New York State Assembly. The Wedding March was an important step in building momentum to achieve passage of the legislation this coming spring.

“I have always been proud to be a BJ member, but that pride certainly grew on that day. Marching alongside not only our rabbi, but also so many different members of our congregation: gay, straight, male, female, young, and old, I was so glad to be part of such a strong Jewish voice for such a worthy cause, and so happy to be a part of BJ—a congregation never afraid to speak up (and in this case, march) for what’s right.”—Aly Viny, new BJ and Marriage Equality Hevra member

There’s much work to be done so everyone in our community has equal protections under the law. The Marriage Equality Hevra invites you to join us. We meet the second Tuesday of each month, or you are welcome to be part of our mailing list and stay informed. Please contact either of the co- chairs: Dale Bernstein or Lisa Safier.

Dale Bernstein retired as the head of human resources for the NYSE and is the founder of UnCommon Human Resources, a firm providing strategic HR consulting to both for profit and not for profit firms. She and her husband Gary joined BJ with their two sons in 1996 and she co-chairs the Marriage Equality Hevra.
Lisa Safier is a Brooklynite who has been a BJ member for 12 years. She is co-chair of the Marriage Equality Hevra and works at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Amy Lavine has been the Foundation relations Officer for eight years at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village. She joined BJ in 1996 and works with Panim el Panim on its Task Force and on the Marriage Equality Hevra.