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Roundup: Pride Celebrations, Rabbi Wall’s Invocation …

June arrives Thursday — and with it, Pride Month.

Westport Pride — our town’s LGBTQ+ organization — is celebrating with an array of activities.

June 1: Volunteers will install a temporary rainbow crosswalk at Taylor Place and Jesup Road. It’s sponsored by Dr. Nikki Gorman and Galia Gichon.

June 2: The Westport Public Schools’ Pride Coalition hosts celebrations at Staples High School, and Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools.

June 4: Westport Pride’s 3rd annual celebration (12 to 4 p.m., Jesup Green). The community-wide event includes a few speeches, performances by members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies, kid-friendly activities, vendors and food trucks.

Following the celebration, Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church hosts a Pride Eucharist (5 p.m.), in the courtyard. All are welcome to come together in a spirit of inclusivity and faith.

Temple Israel holds a Pride Shabbat later in the month, further emphasizing religious acceptance and unity.

June 15: Westport Pride and the Westport Book Shop present Jo Wenke, a prominent writer, social critic and LGBTQ+ rights activist. She shares insights from “The Human Agenda: Conversations About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” and her other works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry (6 p.m.).

June 17: MoCA hosts “All for Drag and Drag For All,” its family-friendly drag show “Light Up the Night.” Great talent — and food trucks (5 p.m.).

Throughout June, the Westport Museum for History & Culture will conduct an LGBTQ+ Oral History Project. Participants can book time slots for video or in-person oral history interviews with the museum’s staff. Email cmenard@westporthistory.org.

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One of the highlights of yesterday’s Memorial Day ceremony on Jesup Green was Rabbi Greg Wall’s inspiring, thought-provoking invocation.

Several readers asked me to reprint them. Great idea! Here they are:

Good morning friends,

I am truly humbled to be addressing you on Memorial Day, as I spent a great deal of my life ignorant of the significance of this day. When I was a child growing up in suburban Boston, Memorial day was the 30th of May. We would see parades of veterans, civic leaders, and even students marching to honor the fallen heroes of the United States Armed Forces. I was innocently unaware of the gravity of the day.

But in 1971, Memorial Eay was moved to the last Monday in May, and for me, like many Americans today, Memorial Day was now the beginning of summer, a day for relaxing with family, a day by the beach, or pool, or by the grill.

It wasn’t until much later, as a I developed an interest in the roots of my religious tradition and took my first trip to Israel, did I recognize the weight and intensity of a memorial day.

On Israel’s Yom HaZikaron, the solemnity of the day hits home, as just about every citizen has served in the army, most veterans have lost comrades, and  there are few families that have not experienced their own parents, children, sisters and brothers making the ultimate sacrifice.

My tradition records the words of a biblical King named Solomon, who said

טוֹב שֵׁם מִשֶּׁמֶן טוֹב וְיוֹם הַמָּוֶת מִיּוֹם הִוָּלְדוֹ׃/ Tov shem m’shemen tov, v’yom hamavet miyom hevvaldo.

“A good name is better than precious oil, and the day of death than the day of birth” (Eccl. 7:1)

Although there is an element that loses something in the translation, as the Hebrew words for “name and “oil” are related, there is a strong parallel in English.

There are two names a person has- the name they are given, and the name they make for themselves.

A person’s birth merits a given name, but only at the end of a life can we learn of the name a person has made for themself.

Hero is the name that is earned by someone rising above all odds for the sake of the greater good, disregarding what is normal, expected, or even reasonable. In other words, exhibiting the courage that is the greatest possible display of our humanity.

In the digital age, the advent of AI, of artificial intelligence is perhaps the greatest challenge to our awareness of the unique power of human intelligence.

The first technological innovation in human history, the ability to create and control fire, was a double edged sword, capable of elevating mankind’s potential to improve the world, or in the hands of tyrants and dictators, caple of unleashing horrible firepower on civilian populations.  With AI, we are witnessing the emergence of  a yet another double edged sword. Yes, we now have the seemingly unlimited power of data, the power to instantly access the recorded wisdom of the world, from wherever we may be, at any time, on any device.

But this technological sword can be also be used as the weapon of conventional wisdom, resulting in the dulling of the creative spirit, and extending a hand to mediocrity.

It is at these times is incumbent on us to recognize the absolutely unique human quality of heroic action. A computer is incapable of making sense of what all of us are uniquely capable of appreciating, especially on Memorial Day.

Today our lovely Westport Village Green is a sacred space to honor the fallen heroes who represent all faiths and backgrounds. Let us remember the contributions of those who gave their lives, knowing that in their sacrifice, they exemplified the highest ideals of service, honor, and love for their fellow human beings. In short, we remember their humanity.

In their memory, we find inspiration and a call to action—a call to foster understanding, bridge divides, and work collaboratively for the betterment of our society.

I’d like to acknowledge the members of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 399, who have dedicated themselves to preserving the memories of our fallen and supporting those who have served. We honor their unwavering commitment to service and their tireless efforts to ensure that the sacrifices of our heroes are never forgotten.

As we remember the fallen heroes, we also recognize the families left behind, who have shouldered the weight of loss and grief. We pray for comfort and healing for all those who have lost loved ones in service to our nation. May they find solace in the knowledge that their loved ones’ bravery and selflessness have left an indelible mark on our community and nation.

We also extend our gratitude to the men and women who currently serve in our armed forces, risking their lives to protect our freedoms.

The essence of memorial day is not beaches, BBQ’s or bargains. The essence of memorial Day is memory. As Nobel prize winner Elie Weisel said, “Without memory there is no culture, without memory there would be no civilization, there would be no future.”

Finally, I want to acknowledge all of the volunteers who worked so hard at organizing today’s events, everyone who marched in the parade, those we are about to hear from in this program, and all of you here on the Green. You keep the memory in Memorial Day, and thanks to our collective memory of the past, our  future is secure.

I’ll conclude with the words of the prophet Isaiah, who spoke of the day that “…Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more.”

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is a first: a pigeon.

Nancy Vener explains: “This double-banded homing pigeon stopped by and made himself at home in the middle of a family gathering this weekend. He just walked around the deck for 4 hours, had some water and left.

“Hope he won his race.”

  (Photo/Nancy Vener)

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And finally … today is the birthday of legendary clarinet player and bandleader Benny Goodman. “The King of Swing” was born today in 1909, and died in 1986.

 

 

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