UK's Chief Rabbi Calls On Jewish Schools To Support LGBT+ Students

In an unprecedented move, chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis issued guidance to Orthodox Jewish schools on helping LGBT+ young people.

Chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis smiles at the camera

The UK’s chief rabbi has teamed with KeshetUK, a LGBT+ rights group for the Jewish community, to issue The Wellbeing of LGBT+ Pupils: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools. The first of its kind guide encourages schools to be supportive of LGBT+ students, a forward move considering many Orthodox schools are not accepting of homosexual or trans people.

While it is a huge step in the right direction, Mirvis is very aware of the backlash the guide may receive as he states: “Orthodox schools have understandably found it difficult to engage with LGBT+ issues. As challenging as the task might be, and it is exceptionally challenging, I believe that failure to address it at all amounts to an abrogation of our responsibility to the Almighty and to our children.”

The rabbi continued: “Our children need to know that at school, at home and in the community, they will be loved and protected regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.”

Within the guide it states: “Any person who doubts that there are young LGBT+ people in our schools who have been left feeling so isolated that their very lives are in danger has simply failed to grasp the reality confronting some of our students.”

This comes after the news a state-funded Orthodox secondary school in London, Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, redacted sections of textbooks to remove mentions of homosexuality or women’s rights. Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented at the time: “Once again, the consequences of giving religion free reign over our education system are brought into sharp focus.”

Ultra orthodox rabbis have been linked with anti-LGBT+ instances in the UK such as calling for a boycott of a Jewish arts centre for promoting LGBT+ content. In that instance a leaked letter signed by 25 rabbis to be shared at synagogues also included a verse from the Torah saying gay men should be killed.

Rabbi Mirvis’ actions can only be described as a milestone for promoting LGBT+ rights.

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