PinkNews’ top 11 Jewish gay and lesbian icons

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We recount some of the most fabulous and influential Jewish gay personalities to date.

Obviously there are so many to list, and, with such a wide range of different talents and faces on offer, it would be impossible to deliver anything remotely definitive.

But in any case, we’ve attempted to strike the ideal balance between three main categories: personal prestige, historical significance, and celebrity status. At the very least, some of these might surprise you:



Lionel Blue is a British Reform rabbi, journalist and broadcaster. He was the first British rabbi publicly to declare his homosexuality.

Rabbi Blue came out as gay in ‘Godly and Gay’, which was published in 1981, and has since advocated for LGBT rights.

10. Joel Simkhai, Founder of Grindr

PinkNews’ top 11 Jewish gay and lesbian icons

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny Grindr’s huge influence on the global gay community.

Thanks to Joel Simkhai, and his idea to combine a gay-dating site with GPS, gay men all over the world now have a universal platform for dating, hooking up, or just hanging out.

Not only that, but the app has found plenty other uses as well. Recently – and humorously – a Tumblr user managed to poll 655 Grindr users on how they would vote in Scotland’s independence referendum. The results speak for themselves.

Joel Simkhai himself claims to have even found love “several times” on Grindr, which is surely a ringing self-endorsement if ever I’ve seen one.

9. Simon Amstell, Comedian/Actor


Simon Amstell, probably best known for making celebrities feel uncomfortable during his time on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, has been a huge icon for gay and Jewish communities.

Occasionally working his identity into his comedy, Amstell is both brilliantly self-deprecating and at times refreshingly honest to watch.

His latest tour, announced this year, is titled ‘TO BE FREE’.



Judith Butler is best known for her philosophy work in gender theory, but she’s written just as much about her Jewish heritage and sexual identity as well.

Describing sex and gender as “performative” she has shaken the foundations of academic writing about human sexuality. Butler doesn’t believe we are ‘born this way,’ she believes that our attitudes towards our bodies are a part of our culture and language – historically open to change.

alt.culture describes Butler as “one of the superstars of ’90s academia, with a devoted following of grad students nationwide”.

Butler’s work on sex and gender has been so influential, in fact, that even Pope Benedict XVI has written critically about it.

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7. Bryan Singer, Director/Producer


X-Men: Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer makes this list for his magnificent turnout of blockbusters and success-stories.

The openly bisexual director and producer says that growing up as a minority has had a profound impact on his work.

Last month, a man who accused Mr Singer of sexual assault dropped the case.

A judge in Hawaii granted Michael Egan III’s petition to have the action dismissed, while Mr Singer’s bid to force him to pay for his legal costs was refused.

Judge Susan Oki Mollway said Mr Egan’s voluntary dismissal “ameliorated” any “alleged damage” to the 49-year-old director.

6. Michael Lucas, Director


Fittingly dubbed “Gay Porn’s Neocon Kingpin,” Michael Lucas is also well-known for his activism and outspokenness.

Not only writing columns about LGBT issues, but also known for his sometimes controversial pieces on the state of Israel today.

Recently, he defended his decision to produce bareback porn and says that he does not use condoms with his boyfriend who is HIV positive.

He has said his film La Dolce Vita is the most expensive gay porn ever made, with a budget of $250,000.

Count this one entry a Jewish gay man with one heck of a success story, even if some of his opinions may jar.

5. Adam Lambert, Musician


The American Idol star Adam Lambert was one of the first artists to bring an uncensored gay perspective to American mainstream pop.

Ever since making history, he has continued his campaign for equality and social acceptance of LGBT rights.

In May, Melanie B presented Adam Lambert with GLAAD’s top Media Award, and he gave a speech calling on the LGBT community to “unify, and take it further”.

In 2012, the singer also said that American attitudes to homosexuality are changing so fast, the country is in the middle of a “big civil rights movement”.

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4. Stephen Fry, actor/writer/presenter


Where would we be without Stephen Fry?

With over 7.4 million followers on Twitter, it would be outrageous not to include him somewhere on this list.

Notably, the actor, presenter, and journalist was most recently honoured with an award as presenter of the year for a BBC series which saw him travel around the world looking at homophobia.

In August last year, Fry also wrote an impassioned open letter to David Cameron, International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge and Lord Coe, urging them to ban the 2014 Winter Olympics over Russia’s treatment and discrimination of LGBT people.

3. Harvey Milk, First openly gay person elected to office


Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, winning a post on the Board of Supervisors as a result of changes in the social make up of San Francisco after three unsuccessful attempts to gain office.

Having finally been elected in 1977, Milk only held his position for 11 months before being assassinated by Dan White, a former colleague who had lost his position in city administration.

Milk has been described as a martyr for gay rights and a visionary. Penn received a best actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Milk.

California in 2009 acted to dedicate 22 May ‘Harvey Milk Day’, following a wave of publicity for the late activist.

2. Deborah brin, first openly gay rabbi in judaism


Deborah Brin was first ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1985, becoming – in her words – “the first lesbian rabbi to, while serving… come out and to receive a contract renewal rather than to be fired.”

Not her only notable achievement however, Brin also founded the hugely influential Women of the Wall movement in 1988, where 70 women carried a torah scroll to the Wailing Wall to campaign for their right to pray as openly as Jewish men.

The Women of the Wall website shows how the group’s efforts still continue to this day, fighting for their rights “to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.”

1. Gad Beck, Last gay survivor of the Holocaust


Gad Beck was a Zionist resistance fighter during the Second World War, and, in post-war Germany, a bold campaigner for gay rights when homosexuality was still illegal.

Under the Nazi regime, he famously dressed-up as a Hitler Youth member, and entered a deportation camp to free his lover, Manfred Lewin. However, Mr Lewin refused to be separated from his family, with whom he was later deported to Auschwitz, and killed there.

In 2012, he passed away in Berlin, just days before he was due to celebrate his 89th birthday.