‘THERE IS NO DEBATE: YOU ARE JUST TOLD YOU ARE WRONG’
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