Time Out

Notes from a flaming moderate

What Do Gay Pride, World Records, and Sabbath Have in Common

Religious tradition + inclusiveness = win/win.

In many parts of the world, being openly gay is still a challenge:

Westboro Baptist will disrupt a funeral over it.

Saudi Arabia and Iran will execute you for it—so will Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen.

But last Friday night on the beach at Tel Aviv, Israel, visitors and others celebrating gay pride week were specifically invited to participate in the largest Friday night (Sabbath celebration) dinner in the world.  Organized by a coalition of private and public sector players, the event was meant to promote the city, traditional Sabbath celebration, engender fellowship between religious, secular, young, old, gay and straight people—and have fun doing it. The event was an effort to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner ever.

A Guinness representative was on hand to make sure the dinner and its timetable conformed to stringent requirements.  Those were met, as were the requirements of Orthodox Jewish law. 

Tel Aviv’s Chief Rabbi spoke to the more than 2,000 people assembled.  The mayor was there, along with other notables. But mostly it was first come, first served—and a long waiting list of disappointed people who could not fit in to the Tel Aviv Port’s Hanger 11, where the meal was served.

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It was a world record-breaking lesson that much of the world would do well to learn: the challenge of diversity can be met without loss of tradition.  Conservative values and practices – whether religious or other – can co-exist…even flourish…along with liberal-style inclusion.  Reaching out across conventional divides can be mutually satisfying.

Oh, and here's a tip—good food and drink are allies in inclusion.  Guests at this historic event are reported to have consumed 600 bottles of wine, 74 bottles of vodka, and lots of chicken, meat and vegetables!

Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D., is affiliated with the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at the George Washington University.

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