It’s Lionel Blue’s voice we remember

Rabbi Lionel Blue 6 February 1930 – 19 December 2016

The voice coming out of the radio on the way to work or school, filled with warmth, wit and wisdom. The honest voice, fully aware of his own flaws and willing to share his own experiences to inspire and help others. The self-doubting voice, that wondered aloud whether he would have stood up to the Nazis if they weren’t coming for him. The voice that, for much of his life, was painfully ahead of its time.

For much of his life, the world wasn’t ready for him. The shame heaped upon people like Lionel broke many. Lionel survived not by finding his way, but by creating a way, by paving a path that showed others how to live. When others were spurning people living with HIV, he ran retreats for those affected. Throughout life he searched for truth and in later life also found partnership and love.

At our first Chanukah reception in Parliament, Lionel lent KeshetUK his voice. What a moment, he reflected, that a gay rabbi was speaking in Parliament at an event about being LGBT+ and Jewish. How he wished he could tell his younger self about this day. He led the room in together saying the shehechiyanu prayer: blessed is the One who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this moment.

In his obituary, Lionel spoke about his experience of gay and Jewish identities, of inhabiting two ghettos. By living a life that uncompromisingly celebrated both, he inspired us all to be better, to do more to make sure that no one should ever have to choose between these identities.

We are all his family. We mourn our loss and celebrate his life.

Article by KeshetUK Trustees Benjamin Ellis, Alma Reisel and Dave Shaw,

About the Author
Benjamin Ellis is co-founder and chair of KeshetUK. After studying at Yeshivat Har Etzion, he completed Cambridge and UCL medical school, and studied public health at Johns Hopkins. He works as a rheumatologist in London, and sings in Jewish and LGBT choirs.
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