Community leads the way in gay rights, says rabbi

By Charlotte Oliver, February 13, 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.

He said: “Ultimately, we felt this was a matter of prophetic justice. The prophets taught us that we need a society based on justice and fairness, and the involvement of LGBT people in our communities is part of that ethic.”

Rabbi Mark Solomon, who was the first Orthodox rabbi to come out as gay, credited Judaism for leading the way in tolerance towards LGBT people.

He said: “As a Jewish community, we are in some ways way ahead in our internal conversation, because as Jews we like talking and arguing and discussing.”

At the opening of the exhibition, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said that the “demonisation and vilification” of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Russia echoed the abuse faced by Jews under the Nazis.

His remarks came as the Winter Olympics opened in Sochi. Campaigners had called for a boycott of the games in response to the passing of a law banning the promotion of homosexuality.

Rainbow Jews, sponsored by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, runs until the end of February.

Last updated: 4:23pm, February 13 2014