Parliament hosts Chanucah celebration for gay group

Parliament has hosted its first Chanucah reception for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews.

Keshet UK, which promotes the inclusion of LGBT Jews in all aspects of communal life, welcomed around 100 people to the Commons’ Jubilee Room on Monday evening.

Lionel Blue, Britain’s first openly gay rabbi, said celebrating the festival in such a way was “the fulfilment of a dream”.

He recited the shehecheyanu blessing to welcome the landmark occasion.

Guests tucking into doughnuts included representatives of communal organisations, parliamentarians and parents who have set up support groups for young LGBT Jews.

Keshet was formed two years ago and is run by people of all sexualities and Jewish backgrounds.

Co-chair Alma Smith said more than 100 people had received training on ways to make communal life more inclusive.

“We want to see every single synagogue, youth movement, Jewish organisation and community group make every person feel welcome,” she said.

“We have been approached by rabbis and lay leaders from across the Jewish world, including every major denomination. We are excited to be in Parliament, but we want to do more.”

Minister for integration and race equality, Stephen Williams MP, said he hoped the Bristol and West Progressive Jewish Congregation in his constituency would be among the first to hold a same-sex marriage.

He told the gathering: “Keshet is obviously an organisation on the move. Several strands of the Jewish faith are now showing you can be entirely comfortable with both your sexuality and your religion.”

The sentiment was echoed by Baroness Julia Neuberger, who praised Keshet’s work, but said more still needed to be done.

She said: “Most congregations need to look at what being gay-friendly means. It’s about how you talk to people about their partners, how you treat children with same-sex parents, lots of things like that. Even those communities who see themselves as gay-friendly haven’t got it all right yet.”

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer, one of the few openly gay Tory members of Parliament, hosted the reception.

He said: “As a non-Jew, what I’ve seen since the debate over same-sex marriages and over the last year is a sea-change of attitudes in the Jewish community. My partner and I have started to get invitations to mainstream Jewish events.”

Last updated: 8:45pm, December 5 2013