Rabbi Lionel Blue is warmly recalled at synagogue memorial

A remembrance service and Thought For The Day special pay tribute to Reform leader and broadcaster


A huge crowd turned out to pay tribute to Rabbi Lionel Blue at a West London Synagogue memorial service for the influential Reform minister and broadcaster, who died in December.

Baroness Neuberger gave the welcoming speech and prayers were led by Rabbi Deborah Kahn-Harris, principal of Leo Baeck College, Rabbi Daniel Smith, senior minister at Edgware and District Reform, and student rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen.

Earlier, Radio 4's Thought ForThe Day had featured a tribute by the Rev Dr Giles Fraser to Rabbi Blue, who had been a regular contributor to the programme.

He said: “For that great rabbi, jokes and laughter were the war against the darkness.

“He could talk about subjects that others could run a mile from under the guise of humour. Lionel Blue would suck up a great deal of the human condition and tackle the darkest of subjects without scaring us.”

Dr Fraser continued: “Being both Jewish and gay, he described himself as having lived in two ghettos. He understood completely the pain and loneliness of rejection but Lionel’s very human genius was to take all this pain and transform it into something that made living bearable, even into something bringing joy.”

Speakers at the service included Lord Harries, formerly the Bishop of Oxford and another Thought For The Day regular. Rabbi Smith - who had known Rabbi Blue since childhood, having studied for his barmitzvah under him - delivered the closing address.

The documentary, Encounter with Rabbi Lionel Blue,was shown and readings included an excerpt from the introduction to Rabbi Blue’s book Day Trips to Eternity and an excerpt from a talk he gave to the Gay Christian movement in 1981.

Rabbi Smith, the event organiser, said afterwards: "I think he would have been pleased with the memorial, which is what I was aiming for. It was a remarkably cheerful event in a way. We miss him terribly but we were remembering his wit and warmth. We had a chance to hear about him from lots of different perspectives."

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