Last year, violent anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric ramped up across the country and certainly here in Ohio.
As the parents of two young adults, Mordecai and Simkah took notice.
In their own religious community, the Jewish couple watched LGBTQ+ people face devastating rejection.
“We both have stories of seeing people put out of [religious]community,” Mordecai said “And in some cases, they took their own lives.”
After weeks of prayer and planning, the couple set out to LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations across Northeast Ohio with a homemade sign and a cooler filled with Kosher snacks.
They offered blessings, support and an extra dose of what they call “Kosher kindness.”
“Since we’re Jewish parents, we offer our blessing of health, prosperity and safety,” Mordecai said. “We speak it over them and most of them are in tears.”
“There’s a big gap and they don’t know where to go,” Simkah added. “So we wanted to show them that there’s a bridge.”
Repairing the world
Often, LGBTQ+ people are at risk for serious harm within religious communities — which Mordecai and Simkah have now witnessed firsthand.
“There was one young man who chased us down, crying. He was 25 years old. He wouldn’t let go of us,” Mordecai said. “I am a father of two, and I couldn’t imagine my kids going through that.”
The couple’s stance is controversial in some Jewish communities, including their own.
Some members of Mordecai and Simkah’s family and synagogue do not approve of their public support of LGBTQ+ people, which is why The Buckeye Flame agreed to withhold their last names.
In Judaism, the concept of tikkun olam suggests that Jews are not only responsible for their own moral well-being, but also have a much larger personal responsibility to “repair the world.”
Both Mordecai and Simkah call their new role a move toward repairing the deep harm and rejection many LGBTQ+ individuals have faced in their own families and religious communities.
“Many people have been denied blessings by their parents,” Mordecai said, which can be emotionally and psychologically devastating — particularly for the LGBTQ+ community, who are at a much higher risk for suicide, self-harm and addiction due to familial rejection.
“We wanted to show that there are religious people who can be trusted,” Simkah said. “Sometimes it’s just hard to find us.”
Kosher Kind Love
This Thanksgiving, Mordecai and Simkah opened their home to guests.
They prepared a full turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.
Then they sent out an open invitation on their Facebook page: “If you do not have a place for Thanksgiving, you are welcome at our table.”
Since June, their vocal support for LGBTQ+ people has birthed an important community.
Simkah started a Facebook page to keep in contact with the dozens of LGBTQ+ people the couple befriended at Pride events across Ohio.
The couple hopes the group — aptly named Kosher Kind Love — will continue to be a safe space for young LGBTQ+ adults to connect with one another around the complicated relationship between faith and queerness.
“If you need someone to talk to about ultra-religious parents, we’re here to help,” said Mordecai. “We’ll show up at your wedding, or we’ll go to the hospital with you. We’re not afraid.”
The couple also plans to travel to Pride celebrations near their home in central Ohio during the 2023 Pride season.
With their hugs and handmade sign, they plan to keep offering blessings and support to help LGBTQ+ people heal from all kinds of religious harm.
“We’re here with an open heart, to call on the phone or write an email who will really listen and be there,” Simkah said. “We’ll be your shoulder to cry on. Just ask.”This story was originally published by The Buckeye Flame and is republished here with permission.
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