The culmination of Britain’s first ever project documenting Jewish LGBT oral history was celebrated last week, as the Rainbow Jews collection was launched at the London Metropolitan Archives.
Started over two years ago by project manager Surat Knan with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the unique initiative amassed over 40 personal testimonies from British LGBT Jews, exploring the struggles, changes and issues experienced by the community from the 1950s to today.
“Rainbow Jews doesn’t just reflect LGBT history, it reflects over 50 years of British Jewry,” said Knan. “We’ve heard stories going back even further than the Holocaust, from diaspora across the continents.
“Identities are multifaceted, and this project shows the interconnection between your faith identity and other identities. It’s about being cohesive, working together and respecting each other. Today we can see that this has happened!”
The project has been welcomed by museums and archives across the world, receiving interest from Jewish communities in Israel and South America.
It was hosted by Liberal Judaism, whose Chief Executive Rabbi Danny Rich said he was “very proud” at the event. “This enables voices that haven’t been heard to be articulated. This part of the community now has their archive just like any other.”
The testimonies, photos and audiovisual recordings were displayed at the London School of Economics earlier in the year and are now being archived at LMA, where they will be available for the public to browse and watch from the early autumn.
They join LMA’s rich collection of synagogue records and LGBT archives, including court, hospital and religious documents dating back to the 17th century.
“We’re very privileged to have this project here as part of our LGBT and Jewish archives,” said an LMA spokesperson. “It’s important that the contribution of these people is not forgotten or hidden, that it’s available to access for the long term.”