Lionel Blue’s Backdoor to Heaven

An Obituary

Portrait of an elderly man with glasses, kippah and tallit.

Lionel Blue, rabbi, writer and broadcaster, was born on 6 February 1930 and died on 19 December 2016 in London.

Rabbi Lionel Blue was one of the last of a generation of liberal rabbis in Britain that included Rabbis John Rayner, Hugo Gryn and Albert H. Friedlander. They were all children of the Second World War who carried stories of loss and displacement with them. Each of them was singularly brilliant and charismatic in his own way, helping loosely affiliated Jews to find a way back to a liberal, inclusive form of Judaism. Unlike the others, Lionel Blue was not a refugee, but grew up as the son of a tailor and secretary in London’s then predominantly Jewish East End, experiencing the Blitz and the local violence of Oswald Mosley’s anti-Semitic blackshirts.

Born in 1930, Blue documented his struggles with his homosexuality as well as his path to the rabbinate in his book “Godly and Gay,” published in 1981. Blue was private, but non-secretive about his long-term partnerships and as the first rabbi in Britain to publicly declare his homosexuality, he became an important role model for gay Jews.  continue reading


The Boredom of Peaceful Coexistence – an Interview with Ármin Langer

Portrait of Ármin Langer

Ármin Langer; Foto: Kat Kaufmann

As part of the series “New German Stories,” we will present the book Ein Jude in Neukölln. Mein Weg zum Miteinander der Religionen (A Jew in Neukölln. My path to the coexistence of religions) by Ármin Langer on 19 October 2016. The author, who will be our guest on this evening, will talk about his life as a Jewish activist and his experiences as coordinator of the Berlin Salaam-Shalom initiative that sets an example of peaceful Jewish-Muslim coexistence.

We asked Ármin Langer three questions:

Alina Gromova: Ármin, you decided at the age of 21 years to become a rabbi even though you are from a secular family. What led you to this decision back then?

Ármin Langer: Already as a child I was open to religion, but this feeling found no frame until I was 20.  continue reading


Kol Nidre and the “Civil Improvement of the Jews” – Controversies throughout the Ages

Religious ceremony with soldiers

Postcard “Kol Nidre outside Metz 1870,” gift of Liselotte Eschenbach, more information on the object in our German-language online collection
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

On 23 September of this year, we will celebrate Yom Kippur. As always on the eve of the Day of Atonement, synagogues will be overflowing with people anxiously waiting for the singing of Kol Nidre, a prayer (in form of a declaration) in Aramaic and Hebrew that implores God to forget “all vows, obligations, oaths or anathemas, pledges of all names, which we have vowed, sworn, devoted, or bound ourselves to,” either from the past year or for the year to come. This somewhat surprising imploration has caused many prominent Jewish thinkers to question the prayer’s validity.  continue reading