Udi Behr began his Love and Pride
jewelry collection in 2005. The former Israeli paratrooper has lived through three wars and is now determined to promote peace by creating beautiful things.
Behr’s Love and Pride jewelry line doesn’t come without contributions. For instance, 100 percent of the proceeds from The Erase Hate - Matthew Shepard Pendant
go directly to the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Ten percent of all net Love and Pride love and pride sales go to Lambda Legal
, a national organization that advocates for LGBT rights through litigation and education in our court systems. He’s even launched a collection to honor the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury
I spoke with Udi about the influence violence has had on his creative work, what gay and lesbian couples should look for in a commitment band and when, if ever, is the right time to propose.
Ramon: Have you ever been a victim of violence or knew anyone that was?
Udi: Not that I recall, but I grew up around so much violence in Israel. Violence is something that is very familiar to me. People are violent in many ways: verbally and physically.
What’s the inspiration behind your jewelry designs?
I think inspiration is a broad word. The biggest tipping point in my life was when I realized that hate and violence can only be fought with love. I made a personal decision to fight hate.
It’s very hard for me to live with violence around me. My daughter went to school one building from the Twin Towers. That was when I understood that violence is constant. It starts from the top and spreads all over. When our government deprives some people of equality, that’s the beginning enticement for violence.
I think that our government today is in a passive behavior of excluding the community. Once you open the door to people as first class citizens and second class citizens, you open the door for violence.
How can we close the gap and facilitate change?
I think we are closing the gap. Things in the gay community are different today than they were 10 years ago. It has to be something a lot bigger than closing the gap in the gay community. We have to close the gap and respect other people.
You market your jewelry toward LGBT people. Many of your contributions go toward LGBT causes. Has this attracted any negative feedback?
I have a very good philosophy: I have to be true to myself. I really cannot care about what other people think. I’m sure people talk, but I don’t care. If somebody is not my friend or wrestles with what I’m doing, then they should not be my friend to begin with.
Tell me a little bit about the Erase the Hate pendant.
Matthew Shepard’s story touched me very deeply as a parent and as a person. He physically reminds me of my own son. I wanted to do something for the organization that would help them. So, I give [The Matthew Shepard Foundation] 100 percent of the proceeds. My dream is to sell 1 million pendants in 5 years to help put the organization in a financial position where they won’t have to spend so much time getting money.
What should gay couples look for in a wedding band?
It’s very personal. Couples should buy bands that represent both where they are today and what you want to last forever.
Is it ever too early or too late for gay men or lesbians to buy rings for their partners?
It’s never too late. It should come from your heart.