Rabbi Lionel Blue, the first openly gay British rabbi, dies at 86
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Rabbi Lionel Blue, the first openly gay British rabbi, dies at 86

(JTA) — Rabbi Lionel Blue, the first openly gay British rabbi and a popular on-air personality, has died.

Blue, a broadcaster on BBC Radio 4’s “Thought for the Day” show for 30 years, died Monday at 86. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years. His funeral was held Tuesday.

He formerly served as European director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Blue, the son of a tailor and a grandson of Russian immigrants, was evacuated from London during World War II. He would live with 16 different families on the British countryside.

As a young man he had a nervous breakdown while serving in the armed forces when he realized that he was gay. Blue underwent years of psychoanalysis to deal with it.

After flirting with Christianity, Blue turned back to Judaism and was ordained a Reform rabbi in 1960. He was the first British rabbi to come out as gay, in 1980, and supported groups such as the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews.

“Lionel was a wonderful and inspirational man who spoke with such wisdom and humor, and whose words reached out far beyond the Jewish community,” his synagogue, Bei Klal Yisrael, wrote in a Facebook post announcing his death.