Rabbi Lionel Blue dies aged 86

Rabbi Lionel Blue

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Rabbi Blue was known for his liberal teachings and supporting other gay members of his faith.

Rabbi Lionel Blue, a regular on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day and the first openly gay British rabbi, has died aged 86.

Rabbi Blue, from London, was known for his liberal teachings and supporting other gay members of his faith.

Representatives from the liberal synagogue Beit Klal Yisrael described him as “an inspirational man” who “spoke with such wisdom and humour”.

Rabbi Blue was made an OBE for his services to broadcasting.

Rabbi Blue was born in 1930 and struggled with his sexuality through his teens, leading to a nervous breakdown that saw him leave the army.

But after reading history at Balliol College, Oxford, and Semitics at the University of London, he rediscovered his faith and was ordained in 1960.

Soon after, he came out publicly and throughout his life lent his support to organisations including Liberal Judaism UK and the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews.

Announcing his death on the synagogue’s Facebook page, Beit Klal Yisrael representatives wrote: “Lionel was a wonderful and inspirational man, who spoke with such wisdom and humour and whose words reached out far beyond the Jewish community.

“He was a friend and mentor to many and his courage in coming out as gay in the 1970s paved the way for many other Jews, including many Rabbis.

“We will not see his like again. May his memory be for a blessing”.

‘Hilariously funny’

Tributes have begun pouring in with fond memories of his contributions to Thought for the Day – something Rabbi Blue took part in for over 25 years.

BBC religious affairs correspondent Martin Bashir, said: “Who can forget that combination of common sense, humour and biblical wisdom?

“He once said that he had no time for the solemnity and stiffness of religion. He said he preferred the people who stumbled honestly into their faith.

“He was almost like an agony uncle on behalf of the Almighty on the serious issues, but then, of course, he was hilariously funny too.”

Sociologist and writer Dr Keith Kahn-Harris paid tribute on Twitter: “Rabbi Lionel Blue died. One of those rare people who are both brave pioneers (being an out gay rabbi) and universally loved.”

And fellow rabbi Debbi Young-Summers tweeted: “Last night we lost a wonderful teacher and rabbi who shaped me and so many others. Rabbi Lionel Blue has earned his rest and left us all blessed.”

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