Student organizations Hillel and the Sexuality and Gender Alliance came together Friday night for Pride Shabbat, a religious service celebrating God’s day of rest, in an LGBT-oriented space.
Shabbat, or the Sabbath, is Judaism’s day of rest. Shabbat celebrates the biblical creation story and is observed just before sunset Friday evening, leading into Saturday night.
Pride Shabbat also celebrated the intersectionality of LGBT and Jewish community through readings by LGBT Jewish people.
“It’s kind of a Jewish Shabbat service, and it’s also going to have an emphasis on LGBT identities. We have a number of readings that will be happening by LGBT Jews and rabbis, and it’s presented by a lot of people who are from Hillel or SAGA,” club member and senior psychology major Chayym Kornhauser said.
Appalachian State Hillel is a student organization that helps members learn more about Jewish faith and culture. Globally, Hillel is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, with campuses ranging from Argentina to Poland.
Club president and junior philosophy major Marisa Fernandez said Hillel gives them the opportunity to explore their own heritage.
“I grew up in a multicultural household, my father was Latino and my mother is Jewish,” Fernandez said. “For me, Hillel is an opportunity to explore more of my identity that I wasn’t given a chance to when I was growing up.”
SAGA connects people of all gender identities and sexual and romantic orientations with social and educational opportunities. The club organizes App’s amateur and professional drag shows, participates in campus’ National Coming Out Day and Pride festival, and offers a safe, social space to its members.
Pride Shabbat celebrated intersectionality, offering a welcoming religious space to LGBT students and helping LGBT Jewish students celebrate multiple aspects of their identity.
“As someone who identifies as queer and also strongly identifies as Jewish, there isn’t necessarily always a space that’s intersectional for me,” Fernandez said. “It’s really meaningful that I can represent two sides of myself at the same event and feel included.”
Some LGBT students at last year’s Pride Shabbat, Fernandez said, expressed that this was the first time they had been accepted in a religious environment.
“It was very sad to hear, because I was thankful enough to feel always accepted for who I am in my space, but I know not everyone has that when it comes to religious background,” Fernandez said. “I think it’s awesome that we can kind of show people that religion doesn’t always have to be scary or intimidating or isolating.”
SAGA club president and junior graphic arts major Dalton Parry said last year’s Pride Shabbat was the first time he had felt accepted in a religious environment as well.
“Last year was the first time I’d ever felt welcomed in a religious space at all,” Parry said. “That’s exactly what it is for a lot of us. I’m not necessarily Jewish. I don’t know where I fall, but it’s a great event to come to and feel welcome at.”
Pride Shabbat featured a number of traditional songs and prayers before the fellowship concluded with snacks and socialization.