Lionel Blue (born 6 February, 1930) is a British Reform rabbi, journalist and broadcaster. He was the first openly gay British rabbi. Born in the East End of London, he was the only 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 is 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 is also widely respected in the UK as a journalist, cook and author.

Life as a rabbiEdit

Between 1960 and 1963, he 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.

Coming outEdit

Blue was the first British rabbi to publicly declare his homosexuality and published Godly and Gay in 1981. He has been openly gay since the 1960s and has had three male live-in lovers. However, his memoirs reveal that he was close to marrying Joanna Hughes, a fellow student he met at Balliol College in 1950.

He is an occasional guest speaker of the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group. He is also a patron of Kairos, an organisation for gays and lesbians.

He met his current partner, Jim, in 1981 by answering a personal advertisement in Gay Times.

Broadcasting careerEdit

For more than 25 years, Blue has been a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day. In September 2006, a return trip to his childhood home in London's East End to mark the 350th anniversary of Jewish life in Britain was the subject of an evocative audioslideshow on the BBC News website.


He was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 57; however, he has to date successfully controlled his disorder with medication.

During an operation, in 1997 a surgeon discovered a tumour which tests proved to be malignant. He went on to receive radiotherapy and hormonal treatment to reduce any further growth.


  • A Backdoor to Heaven (Fount, 1985)
  • Kitchen Blues (ISIS Large Print, 1986)
  • Bolt from the Blue (Hodder & Stoughton, 1986)
  • 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). His autobiography,
  • Hitchhiking to Heaven – Autobiography (Hodder & Stoughton General, 2004)

Rabbi Lionel Blue quotesEdit

  • "I don't believe death is the end. This world is like a corridor, like a departure lounge in an airport. You make yourself comfortable and get to know people - then your number comes up and you're called."
  • "well good morning Sue and good morning John and good morning everybody". Typical opening for a thought for the day
  • "Women provide the Flesh. Men control the Flesh. Or so I am told.". in-joke used on religious holidays

External linkEdit

fi:Lionel Blue

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