Lionel Blue

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Lionel Blue
Lionel Blue (1930–2016) was a British Reform rabbi, journalist and broadcaster. He was the first British rabbi publicly to declare his homosexuality.

He was best known for his longstanding and respected work with the media, most notably the wry and gentle sense of humour on "Thought for the Day" on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. He was also widely respected in the UK as a journalist, cook and author.

In July 1998 Blue was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Open University. He was also Honorary Doctor of Divinity & Fellow of Grey College, Durham.

Born in the East End of London, Blue was the son of a master tailor.

Blue read History at Balliol College, Oxford and Semitics at the University of London before being ordained as a rabbi in 1960. He spent time in the Army but was discharged after a nervous breakdown brought on by anxiety over his homosexuality.

He lost his faith at the age of five after petitionary prayer failed to remove Hitler and Oswald Mosley, he then turned to the Marxism of his uncle. Blue regained his faith while at the University of Oxford, when he found some resolution to severe personal conflicts regarding his sexuality at a Quaker meeting. He also found Victor Gollancz's A Year of Grace helpful during this time, and finally became one of the first two students at Leo Baeck College for training rabbis in 1956.

Between 1960 and 1963, Blue was the minister of the Settlement Synagogue and Middlesex New Synagogue. He then became the European Director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. In 1967, he began a long-term engagement as lecturer at Leo Baeck College in London.

Blue was the first British rabbi publicly to affirm his homosexual orientation and published Godly and Gay in 1981. He was openly homosexual since the 1960s and had three male live-in lovers. He met his partner, Jim, in 1981 through a personal advertisement in Gay Times. However, his memoirs reveal that he considered marrying Joanna Hughes, a student whom he met whilst they were both students at Oxford in 1950.

In the 1990s whilst living in north London, he would 'escape for one weekend in three' to a shared house in Wallasey, in the Wirral [1].

He was an occasional guest speaker of the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group. He was also a patron of Kairos in Soho.

He was listed in the Pink List 2000,and ranked 74 in the Pink List 2010, 79 in the Pink List 2011 and a "Lifetime Achievement Award" in the Pink List 2012.


  • A Backdoor to Heaven (Fount, 1985)
  • Kitchen Blues (ISIS Large Print, 1986)
  • Bolts from the Blue (Hodder & Stoughton, 1986)
  • Bedside Manna (Victor Gollancz, 1991)
  • The Little Blue Book of Prayer with Jonathan Magonet (Fount, 1993).
  • Tales of Body and Soul (Coronet, 1995)
  • My Affair with Christianity (Hodder & Stoughton General, 1999)
  • Sun, Sand and Soul (Hodder & Stoughton General, 1999)
  • Kindred Spirits (Fount, 1999)
  • Hitchhiking to Heaven – Autobiography (Hodder & Stoughton General, 2004)
  • The Godseeker's Guide (Continuum, 2010)


  1. 'Heard the one about the rabbi?;Saturday Night and Sunday Morning; The untidy, chocolate -munching, anecdote-loving cleric Lionel Blue tells Serena Allott how he keeps his Sabbath' Weekend Telegraph p XXII Sat 22 May 1993