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July 3, 2021 9:38 am

Europe to Hold First Jewish LGBT+ Pride with Prayers and Debate

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avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

A same-sex couple hugs after getting married during a media call at the town hall after the German parliament approved marriage equality in a historic vote this summer, in Hamburg, Germany October 1, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer – RC1C1529D150

Europe will celebrate its first continent-wide Jewish LGBT+ Pride on Saturday against a backdrop of rising concern about antisemitism and homophobia in countries such as Hungary, Poland and Germany.

Organized by the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), participants said a recent anti-LGBT+ law passed in Hungary underscored the need for EUPJ Pride Shabbat, which will be online-only due to coronavirus restrictions.

Hungarian lawmakers passed legislation last month banning the dissemination of content deemed to “promote or show gender change and homosexuality” to those under the age of 18.

“In certain places (across Europe) you often have religion being used to say that it is incompatible with LGBTI rights,” David Weis, president of the Liberal Jewish Community of Luxembourg, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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“It’s important to show that you do have religious movements that do not at all see it that way, and that religion or tradition can be used to promote inclusiveness. And that is something that progressive Judaism has done for a long time.”

Europe’s Jewish population stands at about 1.3 million, according to a 2020 estimate by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

Over the past few years, many European countries have seen rises in hate crimes against minorities including the Jewish and LGBT+ communities.

Germany said in May hate crimes against LGBT+ people increased by 36% in 2020 from a year earlier, while those targeting the Jewish community rose by 15.7%.

Saturday’s event will comprise a prayer session followed by a panel discussion on the challenges faced by the LGBT+ Jewish community across Europe.

However, organizers and participants remain optimistic of organizing some form of physical event for 2022, following in the footsteps of similar Jewish Pride events in the United States.

Raising awareness of LGBT+ Jewish people is vital across Europe but also within the Jewish community, said Antonio Eliav, head of Keshet Sefarad, a Spanish-based LGBT+ Jewish organization.

“Unfortunately some queer Jewish people are turned off (when they see the lack of LGBT+ representation) within the Jewish community. So I think it’s really important to have spaces, like this one, that is unique to both,” Eliav said.

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