History repeats at Bialik College

August 28, 2011

[SOURCE]

I started high school in 1981 in Year 7 at the brand new Hawthorn East campus of Bialik College.  The principal of the school was David Goldsmith.  At some stage between 1981 and 1982 the school council unexpectedly terminated the employment of David Goldsmith.  This was a shock to everyone and to the best of my knowledge no explanation was given for the decision.  Abraham Feiglin was installed as the interim principal before a permanent replacement could be found in Michael Pincus.

Three years ago, in late 2008, Bialik College employed Joseph Gerassi as the replacement for long-standing school principal Genia Janover.  Genia Janover announced her resignation in 2007 after 20 years of service to the school as principal, having started in 1988.  This week, on August 24 2011, almost three years after starting, Joseph Gerassi’s employment was suddenly(*) terminated amidst a cloud of mystery.  No explanation has been given by the school council for their decision, although they will be holding an information meeting with the school community on September 1 to explain their decision and discuss relevant issues.

I’m not drawing any comparison between the sacking of the two Bialik College principals David Goldsmith and Joseph Gerassi, each 30 years apart.  Nor am I placing any judgement upon the decision made by the school council for their recent decision.  However what is most ironic for me about this most recent situation is that Graham Goldsmith, the President of the school council that made the unanimous decision to terminate Joseph Gerassi’s employment, is the son of sacked Bialik College principal David Goldsmith.

While I’m writing this missive, a journey down memory lane in some regards, I’m reminded that Graham Goldsmith was one of my scout leaders at 3rd Doncaster West.  I have fond memories of that time.

I have always looked at Bialik College as one of the leading schools in Victoria, and perhaps Australia, setting a high standard in academic excellence.  I wish all associated with the school the best for the future and hope that the right leadership for the school can be found promptly.

* As a postscript to this piece, I wish to clarify my use of the word ‘suddenly’.  My intention was to avoid bias or emotion in writing this piece, but simply present the facts as they appeared.  I was initially contacted by several people who commented on the apparent suddenness of this situation.  I understand that these decisions are not made lightly and there will have been careful consideration leading up to them.  It is not the purpose of this piece to present, investigate or question the underlying issues of this situation.


John Searle, Vilification and the Seventh Commandment of Animalism

August 25, 2011

[SOURCE]

The new VEOHRC chairperson John Searle has spoken out against racial vilification, making reference to racial vilification legislation and stating that a placard portraying a swastika “represented a disgraceful and outrageous threat.”

Will Searle be as strident in his response to equivalent vilification on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity as he is to vilification on the grounds of race?  He has a concerning record of ignoring the former when presented with it, claiming that by not giving it oxygen it will go away.  He told me that in his house in August 2009.

On the basis of his aforementioned logic, Searle should be ignoring this anti-Jewish swastika-ridden placard, because in doing so the hate should magically vanish if ignored.

Searle has adopted an Orwellian approach to vilification – that all vilification is unacceptable, just that some vilification is more unacceptable.  He is wrong.  All vilification is equally unacceptable.  All vilification needs to be stamped out, not by ignoring it, but by exposing it and eradicating it.

It is imperative for Searle to adopt the approach that no vilification is acceptable and to guide the VEOHRC to speak out strongly against discrimination and vilification on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Victoria.  Is Searle willing to go this far for all Victorians?


Taking a walk on the wild side (or “John Searle takes on Human Rights”)

August 24, 2011

[SOURCE]

Yesterday afternoon I was lucky enough to be walking around the shore of the Mallacoota Inlet with my partner Gregory.  It’s a delightfully beautiful part of Victoria and we were absorbed in the magic of moment.  We live in a part of the world where we have many liberties and rights that others in less fortunate parts of the world are unable to similarly enjoy.  Living in a legal same-sex relationship, having the right to criticise government and having the right to vote in a democracy are but a few of these.

Yet in all of this our community faces many challenges before we can call ourselves world-class in the human rights arena.  And so we have the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) to help us get there, one way or another.

Between sampling wild cherries, photographing sting-ray and marvelling at the ability of pelicans to hover mid-flight inches over the surface of the lake, my phone alerted me to a new email.  I quickly checked the message and saw it was a media release announcing the appointment of the new chairperson to the board of the VEOHRC.

Over the course of the evening and into today I fielded an amazing barrage of emails from all manner of human rights activists, media and other interested parties in Victoria, particularly from the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community.  The messages were mainly along the lines of “have you seen this…”.  Yes, I had, only minutes after it had been announced.

The concern of these people was mainly centred around my past involvement with John Searle and my call for him to raise the visibility of GLBT human rights within the Victorian Jewish community.  It’s been a real challenge getting any traction on the issue, and I must admit that I never for once expected any degree of cooperation on this fraught topic.

Yet now with John Searle being appointed to the chair of the board of the VEOHRC (note, not the role of Commissioner), it puts him in a more public and accountable role on the issues of human rights and equal opportunity, for all Victorians.

Of particular concern to me is Searle’s ability to lead his board in making the best decisions for the welfare of GLBT Victorians.  He has shown glimmers of hope in wanting us to believe he’s genuine in his commitment to this cause.  Take for example the current Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) inquiry into the extent of vilification and discrimination against GLBT people in the Victorian Jewish community.  Listen to his interview on JOY 94.9 FM here.

What I find most intriguing about this high-profile appointment is that I would expect the incumbent to have a gleaming A+ record on being a strong and outspoken advocate for all human rights.  In my human rights activism over the past 3 years dealing with John Searle, in his presidency of the JCCV, I have found that that he has an unconventional approach to human rights.

Allow me to highlight three particular scenarios.

1. The Progressive Jewish movement has for a long time been amongst the foremost proponents for equality and inclusion of GLBT people in their religious communities.  The Australian Progressive Jewish community has proven to be a shining light on how a religious community can go beyond tolerance of GLBT people and actually include and accept them unquestioningly as equals.  So much so that the Australian Progressive Jewish community has called for full marriage equality for non-heterosexual Jewish couples.

Progressive Judaism Victoria, the Victorian organisation representing the Progressive Jewish community, is a member of the JCCV.  Yet despite PJV being a voting member of the JCCV, John Searle has yet to acknowledge their exemplary stance on GLBT human rights, and goes so far as to refuse to acknowledge their legitimacy as Jews in the Australian Jewish context.

2. Orthodox Judaism is uncompromising on its intolerance of homosexuality.  A significant number of the member organisations of the JCCV are actively members of the Orthodox community, or closely aligned with it.  Searle himself strongly follows Orthodox Jewish tradition.  Yet despite the absolute and uncompromising intolerant nature of Orthodox Jewish dogma when it comes to homosexuality, Searle has never once distanced himself from this repressive and homophobic attitude.  Simply put, he endorses it’s right to exist, under claims that it is “Jewish Law” and is immutable.

This spin never fails to amaze me, as the Progressive Jewish community have worked their way through these tough issues of “Jewish Law” and come out intact on the other side.  It seems the Orthodox Jewish community lacks the desire to confront this particular challenge, despite them having confronted countless other issues over many hundreds, if not thousands of years.  Most notably, they don’t stone homosexuals to death any more, as their dogma still dictates.

Even though the JCCV promotes itself as “The voice of Victorian Jewry”, under Searle’s presidency it has taken a strong stance in favour of its Orthodox membership, leaving its more open-minded and accepting Progressive, Conservative and Secular membership starkly unrepresented.

This situation was recently evidenced when the JCCV put out a media release claiming

Rabbi Rapoport contends that the GLBT community must accept that they cannot become official members of the JCCV as this would fracture the Jewish community.

I commented on this here.

3. Since late 2009 John Searle has singularly refused to have any contact with the only Jewish GLBT social and support group in Victoria, Aleph Melbourne.  He has not stated a credible reason for this situation and frankly it strikes me as a bizarre situation for his organisation, especially when it is trying to understand why GLBT Jews in Victoria feel vilified and discriminated against.

I can only hope that under the eye of public scrutiny John Searle will act in a more transparent and accountable fashion in his role as chair of the board of the VEOHRC than he has done with his presidency of the JCCV.

Further, I can only hope that he works to restore a healthy and wholesome relationship with the organisation I represent, of which there are a sizeable number of GLBT Jewish members.

To this end I hope that under the chair of John Searle, the VEOHRC can provide the best protection for GLBT Victorians on the grounds of human rights and equal opportunity.


Doug Pollard and Rob Mitchell interview John Searle

August 16, 2011

[SOURCE]

Click above for the podcast and transcript of the interview on JOY 94.9FM  between presenter Doug Pollard, co-host Rob Mitchell and John Searle of the JCCV.  They discuss the JCCV’s Call for Submissions into discrimination and vilification of GLBT people in the Victorian Jewish community.

Read an analysis of this JCCV initiative over on Jew on This.  You can also read my submission to the JCCV.  If you’re similarly motivated, do send a submission of your own in.

I’ve been promised a copy of the report on these findings once the JCCV has released it.  I’ll make sure it gets posted here.


The reason why vilification of homosexuals exists in the Jewish community

August 16, 2011

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria has called for submissions “to investigate issues surrounding vilification, discrimination and mental health concerns faced by members of Victoria’s Jewish GLBT community.”

In considering preparing a submission for this investigation I have sought definitions of ‘vilification’ and ‘discrimination’ from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC).

The VEOHRC defines ‘vilification‘ (in the context of race and religion) as:

Vilification is behaviour that incites or encourages hatred of, serious contempt for, revulsion or severe ridicule of another person or group of people on the grounds of their race or religion.

Further, it defines ‘discrimination‘ (in the context of sexual orientation and gender identity) as:

Discrimination is treating someone unfairly because of a personal characteristic protected by law and causing them to be disadvantaged as a result.

Initially I thought it would be appropriate to prepare a comprehensive list of examples of vilification and discrimination that I have experienced on a personal level and those which I have witnessed through the media in the Jewish community.  My archives over the past decade or so provide me with ample material for this exercise.

However, the time and effort necessary to undertake this task is substantial, and I feel that it would not necessarily convey the best ‘return on investment’.

Instead, what I have decided to do is present the underlying reason that vilification and/or discrimination exists against homosexuals and same-sex attracted people, relevant to the terms of reference for this submission.  This reason unarguably underlies every single instance of attack, hatred and intolerance against homosexuality or same-sex attraction.

What I am presenting is the proscription of homosexuality in the Torah.  I draw from two verses from the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra), specifically Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13.  My source here is my personal copy of The Chumash (Artscroll – Stone Edition, 4th Edn, 1994).  I present the abovementioned verses and any accompanying commentary.

Leviticus Chapter 18 deals with “forbidden relationships”.

Leviticus 18:22

22 You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination.

22-23 Sodomy and bestiality.  The chapter of immorality ends with two forms of sexual perversion: homosexuality and bestiality.  The harshness with which the Torah describes them testifies to the repugnance in which God holds those who engage in these unnatural practices.

22 Toevah – An abomination.  None of the relationships given above are described with this term of disgust, because they involve normal activity, though with prohibited mates.  Homosexuality, however, is unnatural and therefore abominable.

Leviticus Chapter 20 deals with “punishments”.

Leviticus 20:13

13 A man who lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they have both done an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon themselves.

In these two verses from Leviticus, dealing with homosexuality, I encountered the terms ‘abomination’, ‘immorality’, ‘sexual perversion’, ‘repugnance’, ‘unnatural practices’, ‘disgust’, ‘unnatural’ and ‘put to death’.  These are extremely harsh and unambiguous terms, so much so that to me they comprehensively and without a doubt exemplify the definitions of both vilification and discrimination that I supplied earlier.

If the JCCV is looking for the single reason that any vilification and discrimination exists against same-sex attracted people, they need look no further than any Torah or Chumash in the Jewish community of which a literal or absolute observance is expected.  The Orthodox interpretation of these two verses of the Torah, and any associated commentaries, leave no doubt as to the expectations and obligations of same-sex attracted people.

The rabbis and others who teach and those who perpetuate these doctrines, doctrines that are out of touch with modern medical and psychological practices, are all complicit in vilifying and discriminatory behaviour against same-sex attracted people.  Further, these attitudes contribute to the mental-health deterioration of same-sex attracted people, while rigorous and uncompromising adherence is demanded.

I believe this submission offers sufficient evidence to demonstrate vilification and discrimination against homosexual and same-sex attracted people in the context of the Victorian Jewish community.


What can gays do in New York that they can’t do in Australia?

August 15, 2011

Seven years after the Howard Liberal government introduced the delightfully discriminating Marriage Amendment Act (2004), we’re still rallying for marriage equality.

Tracy Bartram was guest of honour:

Tracy Bartram - fag-hagging it for marriage equality

Tracy Bartram - fag-hagging it for marriage equality

Federal Member of Parliament (The Greens) for Melbourne, Adam Bandt is a strong advocate for Marriage Equality.  He had a few words to say about Marriage Equality (including how the Liberal Party has been noticeably absent at these rallies – Shame Liberal Party Shame):

Adam Bandt - Federal MP for Melbourne (The Greens) - marriage equality legend!

Adam Bandt - Federal MP for Melbourne (The Greens) - marriage equality legend!

There were even drag queens and a hot dancing boy (because sequins and lip-sync are necessary to help legislate away the hate):

Polly Filla, Simon and Bumpa Love

Polly Filla, Simon and Bumpa Love

I seem to be a recurring feature at these rallies, and so does my partner Gregory.  We’re not married, but we are in a registered relationship in the state of Victoria.  We’ve been in a relationship since November 2008.  Why can’t we get married Julia?

My partner Gregory and me

My partner Gregory and me

Oh yeah, and in case you didn’t know, same-sex couples can now get married in New York (but not Australia!):

Same-sex marriage is now legal in New York

Same-sex marriage is now legal in New York

Back in March I took some pics, and last Saturday, August 13 2011, I took some more.  Enjoy the excitement of the day – photos on Picasa and Facebook.


Jewing on the JCCV

August 14, 2011

Over on jew on this they’ve dissected the JCCV’s “Call for Submissions”.  Have a read.  Post your thoughts.


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