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Britain's 'Rainbow Jews' Look to Past and Future

Jewish Daily Forward Blog
February 12th 2014

“I see a lot of young Jewish gay people today who are very confident about being out. I see them on Old Compton Street wearing their Star of David like it was just a piece of jewelry. They think it’s fun,” Russell Vandyk says. “But they have to be aware that things weren’t always so easy. The danger is that people get too relaxed and comfortable. Actually, it’s a serious matter and one needs to be on guard, because at any time the wheel could turn.”

Vandyk, who was immersed in the struggles of the 1970s and ‘80s and was a key part of London’s Jewish Gay Group, is one of several individuals who recorded their stories for “Rainbow Jews.” This oral history project, the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, seeks to capture and preserve the testimonies of LGBT British Jews, encompassing the range of experience from the 1950s until the present.

The persons interviewed for the project include Lionel Blue, the first British rabbi to declare his homosexuality publicly, Abi Jay, the only known Jewish intersex person in the U.K., and Sheila Shulman and Elli Tikvah Sarah, the first openly lesbian rabbinical students. “We were putting together what it meant for us to a lesbian, to be a Jew,” Tikvah Sarah says. “We could see strong similarities because in both cases [we had] minority marginal identities.” Read more. 

Community leads the way in gay rights, says rabbi

The JC
February 12th 2014

An exhibition tracing the history of the Jewish gay community has opened at the London School of Economics.

Rainbow Jews, organised by Liberal Judaism, explores the relationship between the Jewish community and its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members, showcasing video footage, banners, books and artefacts from the past 50 years.

It shows how the community has been at the forefront of campaigns against homophobia during the Aids epidemic of the 1980s, and for same-sex marriage 20 years later.

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, said he was delighted to be involved with such “pioneering work”. He stressed that more was yet to be done to increase awareness. Read more.

Israel should “value dissent” and actively promote the “equality of minorities” say Liberal Jews

Liberal Judaism has submitted an uncompromising response to the Israeli Government’s consultation on the future relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.  In its submission to the consultation process, Liberal Judaism argues that:

“Israel’s founders recognised the value of the dissenting voice, challenging accepted ‘wisdoms’ and conventional practice, as a spur to innovation and development.To seek to limit dissent, therefore, to those that choose to make their homes in the land of Israel, is to miss an opportunity to strengthen the State.”

The paper says that the Israel which Liberal Jews support must “play a positive role in the world, sharing the prophetic vision and reflecting Liberal Jewish values.

“Our Israel is open to all, promotes equality, acts morally and ethically, and is committed to social action,” it adds, arguing that this is the clear intention of Israel’s founders as embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

The paper explicitly supports a two-state solution and a Palestinian state, also proposing a “permissive approach to Jewish and non-Jewish immigration” and  suggesting that the Israeli Government encourage inward investment in Israel’s non-Jewish communities by the Diaspora, as “a practical counterweight to the inequality which has been the accidental result of Diaspora investment in Israel’s Jewish community.”

The paper, which is likely to prove controversial in some circles, is part of a much broader consultation exercise being led by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on behalf of the Israel Government to gauge Diaspora opinion, so as to inform the drawing up of a formal constitutional framework that commits Israel to operating as a Jewish and democratic state.

UK’s views will be consolidated by the JLC following an invitation-only cross-community meeting on Sunday 9th February at which Liberal Judaism will be represented by chair, Lucian J. Hudson,  with board member, Gillian Merron in attendance.

To read the report in full, please click here.

Stephen Fry Supports Rainbow Jews Exhibition

30th January 2014

Actor and comedian Stephen Fry has urged his six million followers on Twitter to support Rainbow Jews, the first ever archive of LGBT Jewish history in the country. The archive will be launched at the London School of Economics on Thursday 6th February at 6.30pm.

His tweet reads:

"Show your support for the first ever archive of LGBT Jewish history in the UK Launch event 6/2/14"

Everyone is welcome to the launch on Thrusday 6th February - find out more by clicking here.

To find out more about Rainbow Jews, please visit http://www.rainbowjews.com/ or email project manager, Surat Knan on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

Rabbi Danny Rich: Syrian Refugees Must Be Allowed into the UK

January 22nd 2014

Last Thursday, Liberal Judaism’s Chief Executive, Rabbi Danny Rich was part of a delegation of rabbis who delivered a petition to 10 Downing Street, calling on the government to allow Syrian refugees into the UK. The petition was organised by the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE).

The other rabbis were Rabbi Sybil Sheridan (Wimbledon synagogue), Rabbi Lee Sunderland (Romford synagogue) and Rabbi Jeremy Gordon (New London synagogue). The delegation included JCORE’s founder, Edie Friedman.

Rabbi Danny Rich said: “The Syrian situation is a tragedy for more than just Syria. There are men, women and children who are surviving in appalling conditions and any civilised nation should seek to assist. For Jews, Jewish teaching demands that we find ways of alleviating the suffering and in the name of our faith we call on the British government to allow Syrian refugees into the UK.”

To read the letter, and to find out more, visit: http://www.jcore.org.uk/apps/blog/allow-syrian-refugees-into-the-uk.

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