Shabbat Shalom: The struggle between two identities

Jun 20, 2024 | Article

By: Willie Recht
Chief Development Officer

Over the past few months, I have found myself in a constant struggle between my two most recognizable identities—as a gay man and as a Jew. As summer approached, I struggled internally with whether to attend Pride.

Often, I am eagerly awaiting the summer Pride season. It has been a time I have been able to celebrate freely who I am with a community that was fully supportive. I have marched proudly with family and friends (both Jewish and non-Jewish), helped start Pride Shabbat in our community over 15 years ago, and have even worked professionally for the LGBTQ+ community helping to secure marriage equality in our great state. This year is different. Very different.

I—like many other queer Jews—have not felt welcome in the community that is such a fundamental and crucial part of who I am. Either I am to be my queer self while either hiding or making excuses for my Judaism, or hold onto my Jewish identity and, at best, face hurtful questions, pushback, and misinformation. I have not wanted to defend my existence to those who – and I will give them the benefit of the doubt – attempt to differentiate antisemitism from antizionism. It is simply just too exhausting. But it hurts, too.

As Pride approached, I struggled with my decision to attend. My husband even sent me the link to march with the Jewish contingency through our local JCC. A few weeks ago, I decided that I would not attend, march, or participate in Pride this year. It was an awful choice to have to make.

About a week after that decision, I was invited to a fundraiser for a local Yeshiva and the keynote speaker was Gary Torgow, an orthodox man, Chairman of a large US bank, and current President of the Detroit Federation. He spoke eloquently and passionately about the state of the American Jewish community. He did not sugarcoat the severity of the situation we are in, but he also echoed a sense of responsibility that we as Jews still have, especially when we have a platform and relationships in our broader communities. He went on to explain that he was asked to Chair the local NAACP dinner this year in Detroit. “This is NOT the time to other ourselves,” he said. And that is all I needed. It made sense to me, an unexpected message from an unlikely messenger. And it changed an almost eight-month perspective that had kept me in a place of fear and isolation. I went home that night and signed my husband and me up to march in the Pride parade.

While I do not feel free of my fear, anger or exhaustion, I feel more open to the possibility that that I can—and should—hold space even when it might hurt. I will not other myself out of what is important to me – my community.

In this week’s Parsha, Be’halot’cha, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks describes that after a lengthy stay in the Sinai desert, “the Jewish people are about to begin the second part of their journey. They are no longer traveling from but traveling to. They are no longer escaping from Egypt; they are journeying toward the Promised Land.” I can’t compare my own struggle to that of a people, but I also can’t help but think that through this process, I may be traveling from my own desert to the “promised land” – one where I can be my whole self again. And so, as I march this Sunday, kippah on, I will feel as Rabbi Steven Greenberg once described as “twice blessed”.

Happy Pride and Shabbat Shalom.

Please email Willie Recht at with questions or comments.