'Shuls don't know how to show gay Jews they are welcome'

February 24, 2011
Natalie Grazin with her daughter

Natalie Grazin with her daughter

Natalie Grazin, 38, has a one-year-old daughter and two-year-old son with partner Samantha Cohen.

She feels the focus for gay rights in the community has been too much on weddings. "I think a lot of communities get very hung up on the most extreme question, whether to hold chupahs for same-sex couples in shul. That's absolutely not the key question. It's everyday things that matter."

Both she and her partner went to Jewish schools and her son attends a Jewish nursery.

"Our aim is to give our children a really high quality Jewish education. It would be sad if they weren't able to benefit because of their family structure. My son loves the education he's getting.

"We made sure when we went to choose the place that we asked how they would support our son in things like discussions about family in nursery, to make sure they were going to be supportive. All the good ones said it wasn't a problem at all. But there was one nursery where the headteacher said: 'I don't know what our policy is on that, I will have to ask the board.' And I thought: 'That's not a good start.'"

Ms Grazin hopes Keshet UK can help educate schools about issues that might arise, like homophobic bullying.

Her experience is that many schools, synagogues and organisations are accepting. "We have found a warm and welcome home in our shul. We play a very active role and we are thrilled we can do that. But most shuls don't know how to communicate to gay Jews that they are welcome. They don't know what it is that Jewish gay people need to hear in order to know that."

Burial is a key issue. "At the moment we don't have burial rights, because the burial society won't let us be buried next to each other. It was fine when we joined the shul because we were in our 20s but now it's important that we sort this out. Communities need support and advice to think through all those issues. For example, when is a child has a bar- or batmitzvah and the parents are gay, is the shul ready to deal with that situation?"

Ms Grazin also hopes Keshet UK can play a part in helping her children to meet similar Jewish families. "We really are a terribly boring Jewish couple in suburban London with two children. Most of our friends are heterosexual couples with children. But our children need to know that there are Jewish families like them."

Last updated: 3:00pm, February 24 2011