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Pride Week invites a Rainbow of Possibilities

Speaking to Kulanu at Toronto's Pride Week
By: Nelly Lalany
Published: July 4th, 2011 in News » Local
Members of Kulanu Toronto and other pro-Israel LGBT supporters gather at the opening ceremony of Toronto Pride week to raise the rainbow flag at City Hall in 2010.
On Saturday, July 2, I decided to spend the better part of a beautiful summer afternoon enjoying various events taking place on Toronto’s Church street as part of Pride Week. In biased terms, I argue that Toronto’s LGBTQ community is the most vibrant, beautiful, and accepting group of people.

It’s easy for us to assume that there were a bunch of drag queens, men in speedos, and butch women in suspenders at this street festival, but I’d like to remind everyone that Pride Week represents – and personifies - more than that tired cliché and unfair stereotype.

The minute you walk on to the closed-off street and inhale the sights, and sounds, and you are enveloped by the unique, non-judgmental and accepting vibes, you know this is a special event in a special place. Whether it’s the cops with smiles on their faces, or the brightly coloured and joyousrainbow paraphernalia that becomes part of our city during Pride Week, this is a time like no other; a time to embrace.

As I stroll down Church street with a big smile on my face and my SLR camera in tow, I stumble upon Kulanu (in Hebrew means “all of us”) Toronto. The only Jewish LGBTQ organization (in Toronto) involved with social, cultural, and educational activities associated with Hillel of Greater Toronto. This weekend, as they have in the past, they played an important part in the Pride Parade.

The community group organizes two to three events per monthconsisting of traditional Jewish celebrations and other social gatherings. It was founded in 2000 and continues to flourish, creatinging tradition for queer Jewish programming in the GTA.

I approached their booth and asked if I could have a few minutes with a friendly woman named Justine, who also happens to be Kulanu’s executive director since 2008.

We chatted about how the Jewish LGBTQ community was received by the straight Jewish community.

“I think in general there’s a positive feeling about it,” she explained. “In fact, we try and obviously amalgamate the two identities, you know LGBTQ and Jewish. We’re not pleased with anti-Israel rhetoric that’s been part of the parade in the last few years, [you know] it’s very unfortunate because it’s important that people understand the reality and the truth about Israel politically [that] it’s a democratic country. It’s the only country in the Middle-East that is inclusive of the LGBTQ people, the surrounding regions aren't.”

Justine’s love and enthusiasm for all things Kulanu is obvious.

“I’ve been involved since 2000 [since we began]. I just participated at first, I was a little bit nervous about coming out [but] since 2008, I’ve been the executive director and I absolutely love it, it totally fulfills me and gives me a tremendous sense of purpose. I am able to express both my Jewish and lesbian identity,” she says, unable to conceal a warm smile.”

“My family was not accepting at first, especially my mom who had a very hard time with it,” Justine continues. “My brother was fine with it from the get-go, but my little sister, whofound out in her teens, didn’t manage to wrap her head around it until her twenties. Anyway, she’s fine now and they’ve all made incredible strides. It’s a full circle and they support me one hundred percent, especially in my work with Kulanu Toronto. My mother is [now] looking for a girl for me!”

My next question is obvious. Tell me, Justine, do your parents prefer a Jewish girl?

“To answer that question quickly, yes.”

And what about you?

“Yes, I prefer a Jewish girl too!”

Related articles: Kulanu, Pride Week, Toronto, LGBTQ,
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