Last night, 29 May 2014, HotSaltBeef&Mustard went along to celebrate the opening of the Rainbow Jews Archive — the UK’s first ever Jewish LGBT history & heritage project — held at the London Metropolitan Archives.
Rainbow Jews, a ground-breaking oral and archive history project, was launched in October 2012. This pioneering initiative was founded by Surat Rathgeber Knan, a dedicated genderqueer/trans activist. Surat’s work within the LGBT community and passion for equality is clearly visible in this historically important and relevant project, which explores the intersection of Jewish and LGBT identities and fills the gap in an important part of Jewish history.
Rainbow Jews brings to witness a truly diverse range of Jewish voices: Ultra-Orthodox lesbians, bisexual rabbis, gay Holocaust survivors and transgender activists as it captures the experiences of Jewish LGBT people in the UK through oral histories and archive creation, dating from the 1950s to the present day. It’s a celebration of how the lives of Jewish LGBT people have been transformed from something that once was unmentionable, to something that is today embraced almost entirely.
Stories of love and loss form the core of this unique exhibition. Among them are the pioneers — the first rabbis to speak on behalf of the Jewish LGBT community, women and transgender Jews who struggled against prejudice and rejection and the first LGBT-friendly synagogue.
The treasure trove of items in the media archive holds a rich collection of newsletters, photographs, pamphlets, posters and magazines documenting the Jewish LGBT fight for equality and acceptance, not just from the world around us but also from our own Jewish community. Some of the articles include a collection of the newsletter Lesbians of London, campaign letters (dating 1978), campaign letters from the Campaign for Homosexuality and leaflets advertising an early Gay Right Rally, to mention but a few.
Apart from being a testament of our resilience throughout the past 50 years, it also gives a voice to the many Jewish LGBT people who did not live to see a world in which their diverse identities are accepted and embraced.
The archive and oral history is now open for the public to explore and enjoy. Rainbow Jews is still collecting materials that will further enrich the story of Jewish LGBT people from across the UK. If you want to get involved or contribute, contact Rainbow Jews or Liberal Judaism.
Rainbow Jews is sponsored by the National Lottery Fund through the Lottery Heritage Fund, and hosted by Liberal Judaism.