My wife and I saw Milk earlier this month, a poignant film about Harvey Milk, gay rights activist, politician, martyr. Each of us recalled elements of the story: Orange County-born wife remembered the havoc state Sen. John Briggs caused; I remember Anita Bryant’s joyous, musical homophobia. Both nauseated us.
Watching the movie, one could not be but energized by Milk’s skillful marrying of passion, political activism, realpolitik balanced with values… by his ability to give hope to countless who needed hope.
Yet again, we find a Jew whose life, informed by the story of our people, steps into the forefront of an important social movement. From slavery to freedom, degradation to hope. Sure, Milk was a secular Jew, but, according to his nephew, his life was informed by our Jewish story:
As the Jewish Journal reports:
… Stuart Milk explains, that concern for the underdog stemmed from his uncle’s understanding of basic Jewish principles.
“He was 15 at the end of World II, and I can definitely say that he was deeply affected by the Holocaust,” Stuart Milk says. “So, yes, the Jewish sensitivity to civil rights absolutely had an impact on Harvey. In fact, he was the one who told me about how much support Jewish organizations and Jewish individuals gave to minorities. He often said that Jews feel they cannot allow another group to suffer discrimination, if for no other reason than that they might be on that list someday.”
“Furthermore,” he says, “Harvey was the first to tell me that in addition to the Star of David, which Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, there were pink triangles that gays had to wear, and that almost a million gays were put to death.”