After expelling women who were carrying Jewish Pride flags last weekend during the Chicago Dyke March, organizers of the event have started a campaign to crowdfund a "self-care retreat." The $5,000 they are asking for would go toward taking "a much needed retreat to rest, re-energize & be in a space of pure love" after "organizers and supporters, mostly queer and trans folks of color, have received countless threats of violence and aggression."
These threats, though not documented or presented by the collective, most likely came after media and other sources from both the right and left called out the action during the march as anti-Semitic. In their campaign description crowdfunding site YouCaring, organizers said, "The CDM Collective creates a space, even if for just one gorgeous day, where people are seen, loved and celebrated for being queer, trans, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, intersex, black, brown, fat, kinky, undocumented, disabled." No explicit support was given to Jewish people.
Some participants in the march said they were forced to leave because they were carrying rainbow flags emblazoned with the Star of David, a symbol of Judaism. Organizers "were telling me to leave because my flag was a trigger to people that they found offensive," Laurel Grauer told Windy City Times. "Prior to this [march] I had never been harassed or asked to leave and I had always carried the flag with me."
Organizers, however, issued a statement saying Grauer and other women bearing the flags were expelled not because of the flags, but because they were "expressing Zionist views that go directly against the march's anti-racist core values." Zionism involves the support of a Jewish state in Israel, but some, including the march organizers, believe the Israeli government is oppressive of the nation's Palestinian residents. "The group in question was heard disrupting chants, replacing the word 'Palestine' with 'everywhere,' saying: 'From everywhere to Mexico, border walls have got to go,'" the statement continued.
In any case, the Dyke March's crowdfunding campaign has heightened the anger felt by some LGBT Jews. Faith Alana Alastair, vice president of the LGBT Pink Panthers Movment International, told The Advocate that as a queer and trans Jew, she's outraged by the campaign. "I think it's bullshit," She said. "There were ways to handle the entire situation that were ignored and overlooked, and claiming a need for a self-care retreat when they are the oppressors and abusers in this situation is disgusting."
As a self-identified pro-Palestinian Jew, Alastair "would have proudly marched with a pro-Palestine march like CDM clearly tried to be," she said. "However, they handled the entire thing with no regard to a marginalized group. They continuously doubled down on their anti-Semitism and instead of an explanation and apology, CDM offered denial, gaslighting, and oppression olympics politics."
Eri Svenson, a Jewish organizer for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, had a similar reaction to the campaign. "I support everyone's right to community care and want to acknowledge that the organizers of the CDM have received threatening and harassing messages this week," she said. "Anyone who would seek to exploit this moment to push anti-queer, anti-left, anti-Palestinian talking points does not speak for me. However, this does not negate that CDM's actions were anti-Semitic, and their latest appeal continues to contain lies both about what happened and the organizations involved."
As of Friday afternoon, the campaign had raised $561 from 24 donors, out of a $5,000 goal. One donor, Stacy Fox, wrote, "Thank you all for the incredible event this year, the countless hours you put into making it happen, and the incredible work you continue to do in Chicago year-round. Our love is stronger than their hate. For real."
Some Jews did not share that sentiment. "As a Chicagoan it's really painful, especially," said Celia Sax, an organizer for Planned Parenthood as well as various Pride and Jewish events. "It's demoralizing." Sax said the campaign puts salt in the wound. "It's an additional layer of dehumanization," she said.
Sax also was critical that the campaign funded a retreat rather than activism. "They could raise money for human rights, for reproductive rights, etc., but they are wasting it on self-care rather than any cause," she said. "That is beyond awful."
Ilana Cohen, a nonbinary panromantic asexual, also deemed the call for funds distasteful. "I can't even fundraise $1,400 for surgery on my service dog's eyes, and they want a retreat for being anti-Semitic," Cohen said.
The controversy around the Dyke March had raised big questions on where Jews stand in activist and queer spaces. Sax said the campaign sends the message that "their discomfort at being called out outweighs the pain of Jews in the LGBTQ community, apparently. It shows me they see us as less than human. That we are not vulnerable. Even though we're such a small, often unwelcome minority."
Svenson shared her opinion, saying, "Queer Jewish people, especially queer Jewish people of color, deserve full inclusion in intersectional, liberatory movements. Any movement that excludes or seeks to erase them is not intersectional and is not liberatory."