Keshet and Rabbi Blue enjoy first Westminster reception for Jewish gay group

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Keshet and Rabbi Blue enjoy first Westminster reception for Jewish gay group

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

2 keshet
Rabbi Julia Neuberger and Rabbi Lionel Blue with Alma Smith and Dave Shaw of Keshet.

It may not have featured the big name politicians that addressed other Chanukah celebrations this week, but the significance of the gathering that took place in Parliament on Monday evening wasn’t lost on any of its guests, writes Justin Cohen.

Nearly 100 volunteers, supporters and community leaders packed the Jubilee Room for the first reception by a Jewish gay group in the Palace of Westminster, with speakers including Britain’s first openly gay Rabbi Lionel Blue and communities minister Stephen Williams.

Before reciting the shehechayanu prayer, traditionally said to celebrate new experiences, Rabbi Blue spoke of the change in society’s attitudes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people since he grew up to today. He said: “Seeing you here today is, for me, the fulfilment of a dream. Chanukah is a festival of wonder and tonight is truly a wonder. I hoped for [such an event] but never thought I’d see it in my lifetime.”

Speaking later to the Jewish News, he said his generation “had the worst of it”, reflecting on a time of “blackmail and not being able to speak to anyone” including rabbis and teachers. He spoke movingly of the prejudice and fear that led students at Oxford, and even some of his own congregation whom he suspected of being homosexual, to take their own lives. He hailed the work of Keshet UK, which organised the reception.

Since its creation 18 months ago, Keshet has worked with schools to tackle bullying, worked with Stonewall on Hebrew language educational materials and promoted a Jewish presence at London Pride. Williams described this week’s event as “a really good statement, a merging of the secular state and faith both proclaiming a message of equality”.

Praising Keshet’s “wonderful work”, Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer, who hosted the event, said: “In the past year I’ve personally seen a sea change in the attitude of the Jewish community. The level of acceptance and willingness to engage has changed.

If you go back a couple of years, parts of the community may not have accepted there was even such a thing as a gay Jew.”

While West London Synagogue’s Rabbi Julia Neuberger said her community had a history of being “gay friendly”, she insisted “even those congregations and those parts of our community that see themselves as gay friendly haven’t got it all right yet”.

Keshet co-chairs Alma Smith and Dave Shaw said: “We are proud of what we have achieved but know there is so much more to do to realise full inclusion of LGBT people within the British Jewish community.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: