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LGBT group praises Orthodox shuls' shift

    Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has encouraged Orthodox communities to be more welcoming
    Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has encouraged Orthodox communities to be more welcoming

    Three Orthodox shuls have been praised for heralding a "cultural shift" in the United Synagogue, after organising an event which turned a spotlight on LGBT issues within the community.

    "ConnectUS London" is an initiative run by the Central, Western Marble Arch and New West End Synagogues in central London. The project aims to explore current cultural topics.

    On Wednesday, members assembled for an evening to discuss human rights issues concerning LGBT Jews and women.

    Dave Shaw, a trustee at Keshet UK, the leading LGBT forum for British Jews, welcomed the session. It included panel discussions by gay and lesbian community members.

    Mr Shaw said: "Whereas previously we have approached organisations to start the conversation, we are now noticing that people come to us to help them engage in dialogue.

    People are coming to us to help them engage

    "It is clear that this is now an important issue for Orthodox communities. It's important because these topics haven't been openly addressed by them before."

    Mr Shaw said that he hoped the event would show "that all are welcome in US synagogues. Historically, people have felt that they have to choose between their LGBT and their Jewish identities.

    "But we want people to ensure no person has to make that choice. It is about finding equilibrium and harmony between those two identities."

    Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman, of New West End Synagogue, said: "As an Orthodox movement, we do of course promote Orthodox Jewish beliefs and Orthodox Jewish practice. This does not prevent us from opening our doors to all Jews, whatever their approach to life".

    He added: "We are always looking at different events and to welcome more people to our community. I certainly hope that we will be able to continue to do this in the future."

    In June, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis spoke out against homophobia in the community in the wake of a terror attack at a lesbian and gay nightclub in Florida that left 49 people dead.

    At the time, Rabbi Mirvis said: "After Orlando, we must take a step beyond condemnation and open our hearts and our synagogues so that no Jew feels persecuted or excluded from the warm embrace of our communities."

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