Gay Jewish students in UK hold solidarity vigil

Organizer: Today we stand with our brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, outraged that they had to face such appalling intimidation and prejudice.

uk gay pride solidarity (photo credit: Courtesy)
uk gay pride solidarity
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A group of gay and lesbian Jewish students held a peaceful vigil in central London on Friday to coincide with the conclusion of the Jerusalem gay pride march to "show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel" following the week of violence by sections of the haredi community in Jerusalem prior to Friday's gay pride march. Organised by Anna Gerrard and David Mitchell, two student rabbis at the Leo Baeck College, home of Reform and Liberal Judaism. Over 40 people joined the morning vigil including a group called BaGeLs, a network for Jewish Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian students. Mitchell and Gerrard said they were outraged at the homophobia and violence directed at the gay community and that Israel is a democracy and freedom of expression is a right. Under the banner "Pride not prejudice, faith not fear" and with rainbow flags with a Star of David, the vigil was held at the Admiral Duncan Pub in London's Soho, the heart of the gay community. The location was significant as in 1999 it was the target of a homophobic bombing in which three people were killed and scores injured. Speaking at the vigil, Mitchell said: "Today we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, outraged that they have had to face such appalling intimidation and prejudice. Today we take a stand against homophobia, against religious fundamentalism and against violence. Today our presence in London gives us and our friends in Jerusalem - pride and hope." The action was called in response to a statement released by the Jerusalem Open House (JOH) that said: "The streets of Jerusalem are burning. Throughout the past week, the Ultra-Orthodox community of Jerusalem has been rioting, setting fires and throwing stones at passing motorists, police and fire fighters. Today they have called for the death of the leaders of the JOH, invoking the same rabbinic curse that was leveled against Yitzhak Rabin days before his assassination." It continued: "This is bigotry in the name of religion inciting violence against gay/lesbian people. Religious bigots from other faith traditions have expressed support for these protesters and voiced similar sentiments denouncing the pride march. Threats of violence have prompted the police to require the organizers of the event to provide their own additional security." Both Gerrard and Mitchell, had done some fundraising towards the cost of extra security for the Jerusalem march but decided to take it further by organizing Friday's vigil. They appealed to Jewish gay and lesbian community for a show of solidarity. They said: "This week many of us have supported the JOH through fundraising. The money collected will help to pay for adequate police and security protection so that the Jerusalem gay community can march with pride through the streets of Jerusalem. It is only because of these substantial international donations, that this Friday's Pride march will go ahead. Mitchell told The Jerusalem Post: "We felt that fund raising was one thing but our brothers and sisters in Jerusalem needed to know we were with them in spirit. Asked if he thought it made a difference he said: "It matter because they know we were taking a stand against fundamentalism and we taken and not every Jew condones fundamentalist. We wanted to show also that there are gay Jews out there."