The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

BASED ON a com­monly es­ti­mated fig­ure for the wider com­mu­nity, there are more than 15,000 gay, les­bian or bi­sex­ual Jews in Bri­tain. But Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions serv­ing them en­counter only a tiny frac­tion of that num­ber.

Fear of un­favourable re­ac­tion from fam­ily and of be­ing os­tracised by the com­mu­nity are cited as rea­sons gay Jews of­ten pre­fer to keep their sex­u­al­ity se­cret. In­deed, a num­ber of peo­ple ap­proached for com­ment for this re­port de­clined to be in­ter­viewed, even anony­mously.

Karen New­man, spokesper­son for the 150strong Jewish Gay and Les­bian Group, said its num­bers are “in­finites­i­mally small” com­pared to her as­sump­tion of the true fig­ure.

“What we can ob­serve in the Jewish com­mu­nity is that so­ci­ety and cul­ture are so against any man­i­fes­ta­tion of gay life,” Ms New­man said. “Peo­ple feel com­pelled to marry, but I can’t find any Jewish val­ues in be­ing mar­ried to some­one you can’t be at­tracted to. And the is­sues around dis­ap­point­ing your par­ents are very strong.”

One clos­eted gay man in his early 20s from North Manch­ester spoke of liv­ing un­der a “bur­den” and be­ing “ex­cru­ci­at­ingly lonely”.

The man, from a tra­di­tional Ortho­dox back­ground, said: “There is of­ten no de­bate on the mat­ter — you are just told you are wrong.”

BaGeLs, a group for gay and les­bian Jews on cam­pus, has built up a mem­ber­ship into three fig­ures since its in­cep­tion two-and-a-half years ago.

Ac­cord­ing to new grad­u­ate and BaGeLs alumni Daniel Rosen­stone, some Jewish stu­dents are “out” at univer­sity but not else­where. “The hard­est per­son to come out to is your­self — you grow up with the idea you will marry and have chil­dren.” RACHEL FLETCHER

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