Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen a former Associate of Monash University’s Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC)

February 28, 2012

20120217 Monash University tweet on Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen


From zero to front page in two weeks

February 23, 2012

The Jewish community is a funny animal.  Two weeks ago, on February 10, I brought to the attention of senior community leadership news of a story that was going to break that would put a spotlight on the Jewish community.  After some resistance, a statement was issued by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry distancing the Jewish community from the distasteful views of a certain ‘respected’ rabbi.

The following week saw the story get the front-cover on both the Melbourne commuter newspaper mX and gay community newspaper Star Observer.  Sydney’s Gay News Network also comprehensively covered the story as it unfolded.  GLBT community radio JOY 94.9FM and veteran journalist and broadcaster Doug Pollard was also swift on covering and helping to break the story both on air and online.  Even bloggers Mike Stuchbery and Torrents of Scorn took a stance on the issue.  The take-up and interest by these outlets was impressive.

This week’s edition of the Australian Jewish News sees a highly reactive cover-story response to the news that I brought to the attention of the Jewish community two weeks ago.  I am of the firm belief that if I had not responded to a tip-off from Doug Pollard on this story and set into place a chain of events, including bringing the developing stories to the attention of the Jewish News, that the paper would not have given this story the high-profile status that it has received this week.  Kudos to the AJN for the coverage of an important issue nevertheless.

The actual issue at play here is a deeply odious statement by Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen that challenges the ethics of an anti-bullying program that affirms homosexuality.   So offensive is the stance of this academic that both the ECAJ, the Monash University Faculty of Education staff and the Monash University media office have distanced themselves from his views.

Adding an extra dimension to this story, Monash University has been found to have an adjunct/honorary association with Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, ongoing to 2015.  Monash University have advised that the academic is not an employee of the university and that they believe the association with him is meritorious.

I have petitioned the university to hold Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen to account for his homophobic views, such that he compares homosexuality to incest and bestiality, and put it to the university that they would not be so welcoming of an academic who’s speciality was Holocaust denial.

The issue of homophobia and bullying is firmly on the radar of the Australian Jewish community now.  It will be interesting to see the response from the community to an issue that makes so much of it deeply uncomfortable.  It will also be interesting to see how Monash University handles the uncomfortable situation they find themselves in.


Monash University. Dr David Irving – Holocaust Denier. Incompatible.

February 22, 2012

[SOURCE]

Monash University has issued the following statement regarding Dr David Irving:

Monash University is home to freedom of expression amongst our diverse staff and student population and encourages expert academic views, however Dr David Irving is not commenting on behalf of the University or the Faculty of Arts and the University does not endorse his comments. Monash University reiterates its respect for the dignity of all human beings, regardless of belief in the Holocaust.

They have further advised that Dr David Irving holds an adjunct/honorary role at the university, which entitles him to an email address and entry in the university’s staff directory.

Dr David Irving has expressed a number of vehemently and distressing racist and anti-semitic views as published on the Australian Supremacist Association web site.  These views were further substantiated by the mX newspaper in an interview they conducted with him.

Monash University begins their vision and long-term strategy with:

Monash is a university of progress and optimism.

and continues with:

The areas of focus outlined by Monash Futures include:

  • the ability to attract, recruit and retain the world’s best talent in both the academic and professional staff cohorts
  • ensuring we have the reputation to attract the best students – to make Monash their university of first choice

Dr David Irving is a person with virulent, historically incorrect and disproven views on the Holocaust.  If Monash is truly “a university of progress and optimism” then people with antisemitic, racist and nihilistic views toward the Holocaust are antithetical to this vision and have no place in the university’s ranks.

I contend that whilst Monash University continues the adjunct/honorary appointment of Dr Irving and whilst he has any opportunity to engage in any manner in the academic realm, through or on behalf of the university, Monash University are doing the greatest disservice to their students, their reputation, their vision and humanity as a whole.

I ask Monash University to make the continuance of Dr David Irving’s adjunct/honorary role conditional on him refraining from promulgating a nihilistic discourse on the Holocaust in any official and/or public capacity and to obtain from him a written assurance of this understanding.

If Monash University sincerely respects the dignity of all human beings, regardless of “racial purity”, they will ensure people with nihilistic attitudes toward the Holocaust have no voice on their campuses.

I suggest anyone who has a concern about the university’s ongoing association with Dr David Irving contact Professor Ed Byrne, Monash University Vice Chancellor and President directly.

If this scenario would outrage you, sign this petition.


Monash University. Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen. Incompatible.

February 21, 2012

Monash University has issued the following statement regarding Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen:

Monash University is home to freedom of expression amongst our diverse staff and student population and encourages expert academic views, however Dr Shimon Cowen is not commenting on behalf of the University or the Faculty of Arts and the University does not endorse his comments. Monash University reiterates its respect for the dignity of all human beings, regardless of sexual preference.

They have further advised that Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen holds an adjunct/honorary role at the university, which entitles him to an email address and entry in the university’s staff directory.

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen has expressed a number of vehemently and distressing homophobic views as published on the Australian Family Association web site.  These views were further substantiated by the mX newspaper in an interview they conducted with him.

Monash University begins their vision and long-term strategy with:

Monash is a university of progress and optimism.

and continues with:

The areas of focus outlined by Monash Futures include:

  • the ability to attract, recruit and retain the world’s best talent in both the academic and professional staff cohorts
  • ensuring we have the reputation to attract the best students – to make Monash their university of first choice

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen is a person with virulent, unscientific and outdated views on homosexuality.  If Monash is truly “a university of progress and optimism” then people with negative and destructive views toward homosexuality are antithetical to this vision and have no place in the university’s ranks.

I contend that whilst Monash University continues the adjunct/honorary appointment of Dr Cowen and whilst he has any opportunity to engage in any manner in the academic realm, through or on behalf of the university, Monash University are doing the greatest disservice to their students, their reputation, their vision and humanity as a whole.

I ask Monash University to make the continuance of Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen’s adjunct/honorary role conditional on him refraining from promulgating a negative discourse on homosexuality in any official and/or public capacity and to obtain from him a written assurance of this understanding.

If Monash University sincerely respects the dignity of all human beings, regardless of “sexual preference”, they will ensure people with repugnant attitudes toward homosexuality have no voice on their campuses.

I suggest anyone who has a concern about the university’s ongoing association with Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen contact Professor Ed Byrne, Monash University Vice Chancellor and President directly.

If this situation outrages you, sign this petition.


Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen – turning harmony into division

February 20, 2012

[SOURCE]

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen had a goal of bringing harmony to this world:

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen received a PhD in social philosophy from Monash University, Melbourne and rabbinic ordination in the Kollel Menachem Lubavitch, Melbourne, of which he was Programme Director, and from the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi S.Y. Cohen. He also founded the Institute for Judaism and Civilization in 1998, helping to bring together the two worlds of religious tradition and secular society in discussion and, ultimately, harmony.

He completely missed the mark in achieving harmony.  In fact he’s succeeded in creating more social division and unrest than he probably ever have imagined he was capable of.

In just one week Cowen’s intolerant and bigoted views on homosexuality have led him to be shunned by the leadership of the Australian Jewish community and have caused Monash University, his Alma Mater, to distance themselves from him.

Time to rethink your strategy Rabbi?


Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen – Monash University alumnus

February 20, 2012

[SOURCE]

Name: Shimon Cowen, PhD
Title: Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization
Position: Con Two-State Solution to the question “What are the solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Reasoning:
“There is no legal principle which can accord ownership or statehood in the biblically defined land of Israel to a people other than the Jewish people. In this it differs from all other nations which by differing criteria could establish jurisdiction over territories. None of these formal or pragmatic rules apply to the Jewish people’s relationship to the land of Israel. For the land of Israel is different in its essence from every other land, and pertains by virtue of its essence to the Jewish people. It is a Jewish land.”

“The Arab-Israeli Conflict – Part II,” Journal of Judaism and Civilization, 1999

Theoretical Expertise Ranking:  Experts
Members of Congress, Ambassadors, Counsul Generals, heads of government, heads of major government organizations, members of legislative bodies, and PhD’s with significant involvement in, or related to, the Palestinian – Israeli conflict. [Note: Experts definition varies by site.]
Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization, 1998 – present
  • Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer, Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization, Monash University
  • Programme Director, Kollel Menachem Lubavitch (Melbourne, Australia)
  • Editor of three publications, the Journal of Judaism and Civilization, Monographs in Judaism and Civilization, and the Bulletin in the Noahide Laws
Education:
  • PhD, Social Philosophy, Monash University (Melbourne, Australia)
  • Rabbinic ordination in the Kollel Menachem Lubavitch, Melbourne
Contact Info: Phone: 61-3-9527 5902 (Australia)
Fax: 61-3-9527 5902
E-Mail: admin@ijc.com.au
Website: www.ijc.com.au
Select Publications:
  • “The Noahide Laws, Israel and Peace,” Bulletin in the Noahide Laws, Mar. – Apr., 2009
  • “Israel: State and Religion – Part I & II, a Discussion,” Journal of Judaism and Civilization, 1999
Other: None found
Quoted in:

Monash University wants it both ways. Not good enough.

February 20, 2012

On Friday I got word from Monash University that Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen “is no longer an associate at Monash University”.  Today I see on Twitter that “he holds an adjunct/honorary role (unpaid) at the uni”.

Perhaps it’s a case of semantics, but it strikes me as a little odd that someone who is not an associate of the university can hold an adjunct/honorary role at the same time.

20120220 Monash University responds via Twitter to query re Dr Cowen in staff directory

What this effectively amounts to is that Monash University has not distanced themselves from this homophobe and is willing to bestow upon him an official Monash University email address, thereby continuing an association with him.  In doing so they potentially tarnish their reputation by affording him and his disreputable views some credibility.

Not good enough, Monash University.  If you want to look like you are distancing yourself from Cowen, it would be helpful to actually do so.


Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen lingering like a bad smell at Monash University

February 18, 2012

According to Monash University “Dr Shimon Cowen’s is no longer an associate at Monash University (and was not an Associate here at the time of writing his opinion piece)”.  However as of February 18, 2012 his name still appears in the staff directory.

20120218 Dr Shimon Cowen in Monash University staff directory

Seems he’s lingering like a bad smell.


Ilana Leeds shows strong support for shunned virulently anti-gay rabbi

February 16, 2012

In September 2010 Ilana Leeds told us she was a victim of bullying.  On Monday this week (Feb 13 2012), Ilana Leeds showed her support for Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, a man who wants to delegitimise an anti-bullying program, simply because it affirms homosexuality.

20120213 Ilana Leeds blog supporting Rabbi Shimon Cowen

The hypocrisy here is amazing.  Really it is.  It’s beggars belief that a self-professed anti-bullying campaigner is promoting the very attitudes, based on disproven junk science, that have been shown to contribute to the alarmingly high rates of youth suicide in Australia.

The bullied anti-bullying campaigner joins ranks with the bully who wants to disband the life-saving anti-bullying program.


The Wedding Dance Film

February 15, 2012

My name is Elliot London…  My passion is making gay cinema…

Today is Valentines Day and I have been working on a beautiful short film (THE WEDDING DANCE) about Equality in a different perspective. I would be so ever grateful if you would take a look at this 3 minute film and consider posting it on this special day where loving one another is important.

http://youtu.be/vp6oUb0_DlY

The objective with this project is to raise money for our feature film FRIEND. A film about coming out in 2012. A time now when things are so different with social networking. A time now that a child might not have the correct tools to coupe with humiliation in an instant world.
FRIEND is about giving back. Its a movie about accepting and loving oneself but most of all it is about educating. With the proceeds from this film I am going to be donating the profits to groups that help educate at risk youth… If we can raise $10,000 to make our last film with social networking. Than $250,000 can be done. Please take a look at the campaign we have started. Please share this film…

Thank You
Elliot London

FRIEND
indiegogo/myfriend

Sound Track to THE WEDDING DANCE is available for .99 on iTunes and we are putting all the funds from the iTunes sales towards the feature film.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-wedding-dance-single/id502020650


History making statement issued by Australia’s Jewish peak body against ‘respected’ Orthodox Rabbi

February 15, 2012

ECAJ logoLast Friday, February 10 2012, news came to me by way of Queer community journalist Doug Pollard that Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen had published a paper via the virulently anti-gay Australian Family Association, slamming homosexuality and along with it the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria.  The SSCV web site describes itself as “Dedicated to supporting gender and sexual diversity in schools.”

Doug Pollard has a personal interest in the welfare of SSCV as he was instrumental in helping the program get off the ground.  I have a personal interest in fighting homophobic intolerance in the Jewish community.  So without delay I wrote to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and asked they intercede in this unpleasant matter, as they had made a commitment to countering hatred against GLBT people.  Together with Doug Pollard and also Rob Mitchell of the RJM Trust we had a dialogue with the ECAJ, explaining our concerns and reasons why a prompt response from the ECAJ would be beneficial.

On Monday, February 13 2012 Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of the ECAJ, issued a statement indicating the rabbi’s views were not representative of those of Australian Jewish community and in doing so, distanced themselves from his toxic viewpoints.  To the best of my knowledge this single acts sets a precedent for the Australian Jewish community (and perhaps even globally), as there has never been an organisation representing, in part, the Orthodox Jewish community that has spoken out publicly against an Orthodox Jewish rabbi.

I have to praise Peter Wertheim and the ECAJ for their professionalism, sensitivity and swift action in handling the concern presented to them.  They have told the community that it is unacceptable to vilify homosexuals and attack organisations and programs that have been established to prevent young people from bullies, especially bullies of the likes of Rabbi Cowen and his cohorts.

In saying that though, there is ample room for improvement in the position taken by the ECAJ.  Their cautiously worded statement lacked the necessary gravitas to tell the Orthodox Rabbinate that they must never again speak ill of homosexuality, that they must never refer to it as an illness, that they must never offer ‘reparative therapy’ as a ‘cure’ for homosexuality and that they must actually accept that homosexuality is a normal and healthy expression of human sexuality.

I have presented the ECAJ with a statement each from the Australian Psychological Society and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.  These statements are absolutely unambiguous in their message and leave no room for uncertainty as to what these two professional bodies believe is the best approach to the issue of reparative therapy.  Yet the ECAJ has refused to publicly acknowledge these two statements.  Why?  It surprises me that an organisation that has access to a plethora of psychologists and psychiatrists in the Jewish community didn’t source one of each to help them understand and convey these plain language statements.

The presence of Professor Kim Rubenstein on the ECAJ executive adds the necessary relevant academic and scientific qualifications to the repertoire of the ECAJ, as she is the convenor of the Gender Institute at the Australian National University, and is well-connected on these matters.  With her talents at hand, and access to a wealth of resources through the ANU, the ECAJ currently has no reason for saying “but it’s outside our area of expertise”.

I need to remind myself that the Jewish community, at its official level, is excellent at fighting hate from beyond its borders.  However it is far from having perfected that art when the hate emanates from within.  What is rewarding though is seeing that it is trying hard to get there.


Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen claims gay kids are expendable, divert funds to needy Jewish schools

February 12, 2012
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, expert on anti-bullying research

Australia’s leading expert on bullying, Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, son of the late governor-general Sir Zelman Cowen, has just published the findings of his latest research.  He’s found that an effective way to counter the problem of anti-semitic bullying is to divert funding away from anti-homophobia bullying programs.

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen says he’s sorry for the little gay boys and girls who are bashed on a daily basis at school, enduring routine taunts of “poof” and “dyke”.  However he knows that it’s more important that little Jewish boys and girls are protected and has cleared his conscience for suggesting that programs like the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria be disbanded, with the funding diverted to the needy Jewish community, with poor funding options and barely adequate safety at their schools.

Cowen’s pièce de résistance from his research is the finding that the problem of homosexual bullying will eventually go away because, he says, if the gay boys and girls are bullied sufficently, they’ll eventually kill themselves due to self-loathing and depression.  He sees this as a win-win situation.


Rabbi Yehuda Levin urges chemical castration of Ultra-Orthodox Jews to kurb escalating kosher food prices

February 12, 2012
Rabbi Yehuda Levin

Rabbi Yehuda Levin, leading expert on castration, buggery, sodomy, fornication and bestiality

Hot on the wisdom of Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s suggestion that chemical castration is an effective remedy to the problem of having homosexual urges, he’s realised that the problem of escalating kosher food prices can be countered by chemically castrating religious Jews after their second child.

Levin claims the benefit of this therapy is twofold.  Firstly, the family size is kept to that which can sustain the burdensome cost of the kosher food bill.  Research has shown that most Ultra-Orthodox Jewish families having three or more children are financially stressed, primarily due to the kosher food bill.

The additional benefit that Levin explains is that the poor balabatishe housewife is given a break from the burden of being shtooped crazy.  He admits that families of 8-15 are not uncommon in frum communities and in those situations, the typical mother suffers from the complications of looseness and prolapse, the former due to the large shmechel she has to sustain on a daily basis, and the latter, due to the frequency at which she has to give birth.

However, Levin has realised that should there be a legitimate medical reason not to chemically castrate the husband, his recommendation to mitigate the risk of an unwanted pregnancy is to engage in the practice of the “tuches shtoop“, saying that it’s satisfying for both the husband and the wife, it’s halachically approved and there’s zero chance of an unwanted pregnancy, boruch hashem.


Pride March 2012 and Habo joins the ranks

February 7, 2012

Sunday Feb 5 2012 saw the 17th Victorian Pride March.  The weather forecast was 33 degrees C, windy and thunderstorms.  I guess that’s Melbourne for you.

There were close on 120 entrants in the parade (that’s organisations, not people), which is a remarkable effort.  Check out the march order for the who’s who.

I was again running the Aleph Melbourne entry, ably assisted by Mike and Doobie.  Through the powers of social networking and the Internet we pulled together a pleasingly sized group of guys and girls of all ages to fly the flags and show their queer pride and cultural heritage.

Joining the team this year was a straight ally, Dr Mark Cherny.  I was especially pleased Mark came on board as he is trying hard to break down the barriers and isolation for same-sex attracted people in the Jewish community.

One of the highlights for me at Pride March this year was seeing Habonim Dror (or just “Habo”) enter a contingent.  Habo is a mainstream Jewish youth organisation with a strong social justice conscience.  When I was in New York watching the pride parade there in 2007 I was overwhelmed seeing Habo flying a massive flag and fielding a strong presence.  At first I couldn’t believe my eyes, but gradually my disbelief was replaced by exhilaration, and an ear to ear grin.  Wow.

And the Habo Wow has continued over the last few years here in Melbourne, with increasing numbers of Habo members joining the Equal Love Marriage Equality rallies in Melbourne.  These young adults are amongst the best role models I have seen in ages.  Most are not queer, but they are passionately supportive of queer equality and are prepared to stand up and show their support.

And on a windy Melbourne day in Fitzroy Street, a large group of Habo members turned up, in uniform, accompanied by placards of support and made a strong statement in support for queer equality.  Thank you.

I look forward to the 2013 Pride March and the return of Habo, and Mark, and Mike (and his two Poochons) and Doobie and the rest of the great team, and hopefully many other supportive Jewish (youth) organisations, from a community that is learning gradually that it’s better to include than exclude.

P.S.  I’ve posted my photos from the day on Picasa and Facebook.  You can see my photos and blogs from previous pride marches here.


Australian Jewish Community Security and the invisible terrorist

February 3, 2012

Two stories published on January 31 2012 came to my attention this week: “Safety at all costs” (The Age) and “The Jewish Press won’t be silenced” (The Jewish Press).  After reading these stories it’s clear to me that the greater harm toward members of the Australian Jewish community comes not from outside it’s high security walls, but rather, from within.

The Age story talks about the tens of millions of dollars the Australian Jewish community spends on security each year and questions the merit of such a large investment:

… the inconvenient truth was that the Jewish community had not faced a terror attack in Australia for 30 years, since the Hakoah Club and Israeli consulate in Sydney were bombed on the same day.

The Jewish Press story, coming from a US-based perspective but nevertheless one that is transplantable to the local context, advises:

A significant number of suicide attempts are committed by boys from not just religious but rabbinic homes — because they thought they were homosexual and had no place in the Orthodox world they grew up in, even if they had never acted on those impulses.

If the Jewish community is serious about preventing harm to those within its ranks, which I believe it is, it should, as a matter of priority and urgency, rethink its approach to community security and how best it invests its millions of dollars.  It should be addressing the real and alarming problem of youth suicide, ubiquitous amongst religious communities that are intolerant of homosexuality.  Only then, when all traces of the harm have been eradicated, should the focus be placed on the less evident issues affecting the safety of the community.


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