First ever collection of Jewish LGBT history launches at London Metropolitan Archives

Rainbow Jews launches at London Met Archives

June 10, 2014

Members of the community looking at the LGBT history documents housed by London Metropolitan Archives

Members of the community looking at the LGBT history documents housed by London Metropolitan Archives. Photo: Copyright Francois Lubbe

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.

The library houses documents on LGBT history dating back to the 17th century

The library houses LGBT history documents dating back to the 17th century. Photo: Copyright Francois Lubbe

“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 te

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"Rainbow Jews provides an important source of Jewish history. I urge people to get involved and support this project in whichever way they can"
Danny Rich

Rabbi Danny Rich
Liberal Judaism CEO
"I am honoured to support Rainbow Jews and to celebrate the huge positive contribution that Jewish people make to the LGBT community and to our wider society. Jewish and LGBT people share many parallels of oppression and of triumph over adversity. As victims of prejudice, it is important for us to stand together united against all hate."
Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell
Human Rights Defender

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