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October 17: Spirit Day and Sojourn

October 17, 2013
spiritdayisthursdaySojourn, the Southern Jewish Regional Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity, founded by Rabbi Joshua Lesser, the leader of Atlanta’s Reconstructionist Congregation Bet Haverim, is the sole Jewish organization among eighteen faith-based organizations listed at the website for this year’s Spirit Day, October 17th. Founded in 2010 by teenager Brittany McMillan to oppose bullying and show support for GLBTQ youth, Spirit Day is observed by wearing purple (the color of the Rainbow Flag said to symbolize “spirit”). The White House acknowledged Spirit Day in 2011 with a blog post at and by turning its Facebook photo purple. President Obama also wore a lavender tie in honor of the occasion. Spirit Day has numerous celebrity and corporate sponsors. “I went to a traditional Jewish day school so I received loudly and clearly the message that homosexuality was a sin, which delayed my coming out and had me fear losing everything I held dear. On the other hand, I was given the messages that social justice was a precious value and that each of us had a part to play in restoring the world and reaching out to others. Similarly, the ability to question and think critically were spiritual gifts given to me in school. Together they were lifelines to reconstruct a contemporary Judaism building on a feminist reinvesting of Judaism that allowed me to find a way back to my spiritual life.” —Rabbi Joshua Lesser