STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Fifty years ago, Philadelphia was the site of one of the first demonstrations for civil liberties for gay and lesbian Americans.
Through Oct. 11, the National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall looks back with “The Pursuit of Happiness: Jewish Voices for LGBT Rights.” The exhibition celebrates and explores the stories of the Jewish activists that participated in the annual Fourth of July Reminder demonstrations at Independence Hall from 1965-1969. The Reminders protested discrimination and denial of personal freedoms and asserted that LGBT individuals had a right to, as the famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence goes, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
“The Pursuit of Happiness” includes a 1971 campaign poster for Frank Kameny, the organizer of the Philadelphia Reminder demonstrations and the first openly gay candidate for Congress. A World War II veteran, Kameny lost his civil service job in 1957 because of his sexual orientation, and appealed his firing to the Supreme Court in what’s believed to be the first case to argue for sexual orientation as a civil rights issue.
There’s also a “Lavender Menace” T-shirt that protested a perceived indifference by the National Organization for Women to lesbian voices within the women’s movement.
In a press release, Ivy Barsky, the museum’s CEO and Gwen Goodman Director, said: “The courageous story of the LGBT civil rights movement is a vital part of America’s ongoing search for freedom and NMAJH is proud to celebrate and share this history with the public’s active participation.”
Are there any special programs?
The NMAJH, located at Fifth and Market streets in Philadelphia, presents “LGBT Rabbis: A Cross-Movement Conversation” at 7 p.m. Oct. 7. The speakers will be author Rebecca T. Alpert, a religion professor at Temple University and one of the first women in America ordained as a rabbi; Deborah Waxman, President of Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, the first woman to head a Jewish congregational organization and the first gay rabbi in such a senior leadership position; and Aaron S. Weininger, an associate rabbi and one of the first openly gay students admitted to the Jewish Theological Seminary. Cost is $12.
NMAJH has also been compiling and sharing stories of LGBT Jews, and their families and friends, through a Tumblr site called “LGBT Stories: A Collecting Project.”
When is the museum open?
Tuesdays through Fridays hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Labor Day, it stays open until 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It’s closed for Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 14 (closing early at 3 p.m. Sept. 13) and Yom Kippur on Sept. 23 (closing early at 3 p.m. Sept. 22).
What’s the admission cost?
“The Pursuit of Happiness” is on the museum’s first floor, which is always open to visitors free of charge. If you want to see the rest of the museum, it’s $12 for adults, $11 for ages 13-21 and seniors 65 and older. After 5 p.m., it’s pay-as-you-wish.
How can I learn more?
NMAJH’s phone number is (215) 923-3811, and they’re online at www.nmajh.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.