This Friday night, hundreds of LGBT+ Jews and others will gather at West London Synagogue for a special service to mark Pride in London. The next morning, KeshetUK – the organisation working so no one has to choose between their Jewish and LGBT+ identity – will lead the Jewish contingent at the annual Pride in London celebration in central London. Rabbis, teachers, families and friends will together celebrate the progress towards equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Jewish and British communities.
For many years, Jewish LGBT+ people could not be open about who they were.
LGBT+ Jews were faced with the choice of living a lie, or coming out as LGBT+ and risking public shaming and ostracism.
Many lives were ruined, and much talent was wasted. One in three lesbian, gay and bisexual people of faith, and one in four transgender people of faith, still aren’t open with anyone in their faith community about their LGBT+ identity.
Even so, we can all feel proud that we live in a world where, increasingly, this no longer is the case.
Jewish LGBT+ people have made, and continue to make, important contributions to the Jewish and wider community.
Community leaders, business people, scientists and artists, writers and thinkers, social activists, rabbis and educators, parents and children – in every aspect of life, LGBT+ people are shaping Jewish life and lives, and enriching our whole society.
These contributions are something to be proud of. We are therefore excited to partner with Jewish News to showcase a selection of 10 LGBT+ Jewish people who inspire us. Diverse in their sexuality and gender identity, with different religious affiliations and none, this group is not a top 10. Instead, it’s a glimpse into how LGBT+ people contribute to the vitality of our communities.
This positive visibility is important. It’s still all too easy for Jewish LGBT+ people to feel that our community thinks there is something shameful about being LGBT+.
We read news stories about demands to boycott Jewish community centres for activities designed to support LGBT+ people. Young people tell us they fear bullying at school and their parents tell us they fear rejection from their synagogue.
Vandals and vindictive people seek to silence and sideline LGBT+ Jews and those who speak out in their support.
We have another message. In spite of all this, LGBT+ Jews are playing a proactive and positive part in Jewish life while embracing and expressing their identities.
Pride offers us an opportunity to celebrate what LGBT+ people have already achieved and reflect on the journeys still to come.
We celebrate our own freedom, and recognise that there are communities and countries where LGBT+ people still live in fear.
LGBT+ Jews are visible and vocal in so many areas of Jewish life. By valuing their contribution and making it visible, we honour our commitment to the principle that every Jew has a right to their heritage and faith, and has a place in Jewish life.
Those of us coming together this weekend are passionately proud to be playing our part in creating and celebrating community.
We know there will be others this weekend who still stand alone, and we call on our community to reach out with this message: we value you for the person you are, and there is a place for you in our family, our community, our world.