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Europe to hold first Jewish LGBT+ Pride with prayers and debate

(Corrects acronym in second paragraph)

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -Europe will celebrate its first continent-wide Jewish LGBT+ Pride on Saturday against a backdrop of rising concern about anti-Semitism and homophobia in countries such as Hungary, Poland and Germany.

Organised 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.

“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, organisers and participants remain optimistic of organising 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 organisation.

“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.

Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org

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