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Zero Tolerance for Intolerance: Amichai’s words at LGBTQ Gathering in NYC

Hundreds filled the room at the NYC LGBT center this past Thursday, August 6th, for a Memorial and Solidarity Gathering in response to the attack on the Jerusalem Pride Parade just a week ago.

Organized by CBST and JQY, and co-sponsored by over 30 organizations and congregations in the NY area, this beautiful vigil brought together people from all denominations in prayer, song, words of consolation and commitment of accountability, compassion, action and healing.  

Present were religious leaders, including the Orthodox RCA, Congressman Jerry Nadler, and representatives of all LGBTQ Jewish organizations in the area. Lab/Shul is proud to be a co-sponsor of this event. Amichai Lau-Lavie spoke at the vigil and, along with Naomi Less and Hadar Noiberg, presented an Israeli song, Shir L’Shira, that has become the unofficial anthem this past week at LGBTQ events all over Israel. 

Here’s what Amichai said at the vigil – the story of the song and a call for zero tolerance for intolerance: 

Shir L’Shira

Why are we singing this song tonight  

This time last year, as the violence in Gaza and the South of Israel escalated, Shira Geffen, an Israeli filmmaker, stood up at the Jerusalem Film Festival and asked the audience for a moment of silence in memory of all the children who died during the violence – Arab and Jewish. She was booed. Not everyone present agreed to mourn Palestinian kids. It became a big sad media story about lack of tolerance and the lack of sensitivity to the needs and pains and complexity of Israeli reality. 

A year later we gather here in NYC to pause in memory of a young Jewish woman who was stabbed to death at a pride march. And I want to add the memory of a Palestinian baby who was burnt to death just a few hours later. Shira and Ali, two young innocent lives were killed because of needless hatred, two victims of two different battles for dignity, justice, peace and co-existence.  They died because of ignorance and intolerance.

When Shira Geffen was a little girl, way before she became a filmmaker,  her father Yonatan Geffen, one of Israel’s most famous song writers wrote her a song called Shir L’Shira – a song for Shira, a poem for poetry. 

This past week, with Shira Banki’s murder, this song has become the unofficial anthem of all gatherings and vigils of solidarity and memorial and commitment to change. 

We will sing this song in a moment – a lullaby to a little girl whose father promises her: I will build you a new and better world.

We will sing in protest and in prayer and with hopes. It’s an important thing to do. It’s the least we can do. 

But there is one more thing we can do: Make sure that nobody in our world – family, friends, workplace, school and facebook feed abuses another, uses hateful speech, calls for hatred or violence. 

We must insist: Zero tolerance for intolerance.

We all know people who make remarks, who incite, who insult, who ignore, who hurt – no matter if it’s racism, homophobia, political bias, gender abuse, anti this or that. 

It’s up to us to stop and stop it. 

We each can do this. With love and focus. For Shira’s sake, for Ali’s sake. 

Zero tolerance for intolerance. 

Let’s build a new and better world together, for Shira, for Ali, for us all. 

Amichai Lau-Lavie