Rabbi Sheila Shulman: a true pioneer and radical feminist lesbian z”l

Sheila Shulman hails from New York, but after having relocated to the UK in the 1980s she decided to study at Leo Baeck College in London to become a Rabbi. Alongside Elli Tikvah Sarah, she was to be the first radical feminist lesbian to be ordained. In 1990, being encouraged by Rabbi Lionel Blue and a secular friend, she started the inclusive, progressive congregation Beit Klal Yisrael and never looked back.

Read on: RJ Rabbi Sheila Shulman interview (1)    RJ2013 Shulman interview Part 2

‘I feel like Rainbow Jews is important as a project because I’m sick to death of us being invisible. I have to say I don’t like giving interviews and it’s quite an effort for me. It seems to me in the past 20 years or so, there’s been somebody or bodies following me and other lesbian feminists, other feminists around with wet brooms, wiping out all the footsteps behind us. I don’t want us to disappear again and I would like us to be present in the present and in history in all our particularity,  not just “they’re just like everybody else except the gender of the partners is different”. It’s not like that, it’s wholly different. Like my lesbian politics are not like other politics. Being a lesbian has to do with a whole lot more than that I would have a female partner if I had a partner. It’s a whole other ball game. And I don’t want that to disappear. I don’t want the feminism to disappear. So it’s in the interests of keeping it, it’s in the interests of not wanting our history to disappear.’

Rabbi Shulman passed away on 25 October 2014,

surrounded by loving friends, poems and chants.



Thank you Alison Turner, transcriber.

Portrait pic with kind permission of Peter Daniels. All rights reserved.