Collaborating with Pride

Shabbat evening service 29th May 2020

We were really delighted to collaborate with two other Jewish groups on the evening of 29th May 2020 to celebrate the start of Pride month.

We joined the Jewish LGBT+ Group and members from Beit Klal Israel (BKY) Synagogue for a Shabbat evening service led by our Rabbi, René Pfertzel and student Rabbi Anna Posner, assisted by her dog Maisie. The service was hosted online and livestreamed to our Facebook page.

After the service we were treated to a talk by KLS member and author, Professor Marc Baer from London School of Economics (LSE). Dr Baer has recently published a book about the fascinating character of Hugo Marcus; “German, Jew, Muslim, Gay”.

Hugo Marcus (1880–1966) was a man of many names and many identities. Born a German Jew, he converted to Islam and took the name Hamid, becoming one of the most prominent Muslims in Germany prior to World War II. He was renamed Israel by the Nazis and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp before escaping to Switzerland. He was a gay man who never called himself gay but fought for homosexual rights and wrote queer fiction under the pen name Hans Alienus during his decades of exile.

Dr Baer opened his talk describing how he first discovered Hugo Marcus. A professional historian of the Ottoman empire, he was in Berlin 10 years ago researching the descendants of the followers of Shabbetai Zevi, the seventeenth century (false) Messiah. He discovered through this research that the leading German Muslim in Berlin during the Wiemar republic was a Jew who converted to Islam. After a decade of reading his prolific work he decided to write his biography. This had not been done previously. because, as Dr Baer explained:

“…he was a Jew who became Muslim, and Jews don’t like to write about that….because he was a Muslim who was gay – Muslims don’t like to write about that….and also for Germans – here’s a man who’s Jewish and Muslim and also saying I’m German too….”

Speaking after the service Rabbi René Pfertzel said, “What a wonderful evening! It was so good to share the start of Pride month with our friends from BKY and the Jewish LGBT+ group and I really enjoyed co-leading the service with student Rabbi Anna and Maisie! Dr Baer’s talk on his fascinating new book was so enjoyable and I’m really looking forward to now reading it and finding out more about the life of this man”.

A copy of Dr Baer’s book is available here.

And here’s a bonus shot of Maisie, helping student Rabbi Anna with her dissertation: