The AJN should have a standing apology for Chaim Ingram

July 28, 2012

This week the Australian Jewish News apologised for a fairly base comment by Chaim Ingram they published in last week’s edition of the paper.  I’m grateful the AJN acknowledged they shouldn’t have printed the particular comment and more-so that they made hasty amends by publishing an apology.

However, if they feel the need to give Ingram an ongoing platform to voice his bigoted and homophobic bile, the least they could do is have a standing apology for him in every edition of the paper.  Better yet, they could just not publish him.


Kosher Rabbis of Australia Party

July 25, 2012

In the lead up to the 2013 Australian federal election two prominent organisations in Australia’s Orthodox Jewish community have joined up to create a new religious force in Australia’s political sphere.  After extensive consultation and introspection the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) and Kosher Australia (KA) have teamed up to form the Kosher Rabbis of Australia Party.

The party platform is founded on the complete kosherification of Australia, from the perspective of the Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law.  At present Kosher Australia provides certification for products that are acceptable under Jewish dietary laws (kashrut).  However should the party win a seat in government it will propose legislation to have all food and drinks labelled “Kosher”, “Mostly Kosher” or “Non Kosher (but we’ll certify kosher for an additional fee)“.  The level of certification will be based on a sliding scale of fees.  Halal certification will be permitted but only under the revised name “Kosher Halal”, and of course will be subject to an additional “co-Semitic” fee.

The party also proposes legislation to counter any form of activity that falls outside that acceptable to its strict Orthodox Jewish standards.  This would include a ban on both trading and driving over the Jewish Sabbath and Jewish holy days, converting churches, mosques and other non-Jewish prayer halls into up-market residential developments, cancelling Christmas and Easter, making the sale of pig meat illegal, compulsory circumcision for all boys, modest attire for women, banning masturbation, strict alignment with Catholic clergy child-abuse cover-up tactics, and enforcing a no-sex before marriage policy (with a special emphasis of the latter being a pre-requisite for all members of parliament from the Prime Minister’s office down).

The ethos of the party demands a culture free of hypocrisy in Orthodox Judaism.  It feels that if it is compelled to decry the legalisation of marriage between perverted couplings of homosexuals (and lesbians), it must also decry all activities in society that come in conflict with its unforgiving religious dogma.  Party head (and Chef de Douche) Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, together with party Campaign and Propaganda Manager Rabbi Chaim Ingram, say there’s no room for double standards when it comes to interfering in the lives of Australian citizens and in particular vulnerable minority groups.

Look out for a complete list of candidates and policies on the party’s web site http://www.krap.org.au, soon to be launched.  And remember the campaign slogan: “Making our Australia more Kosher for you, one snip at a time”.


Chaim Ingram defends the Torah at the expense of his community

July 20, 2012

In the article “How to get rid of the hyphen” (AJN 20/07/12; p24) Chaim Ingram writes:

As a result, [non-Orthodoxy] has redefined who is a Jew and now it seeks to redefine what is a sacred Jewish partnership. Because make no mistake, accepting homosexual marriage and solemnising homosexual union in a sanctuary – which no other faith community in Australia has done – has succeeded in driving a greater wedge than ever between us. Non-Orthodoxy embraces it while Orthodoxy sees it as a sin for which one must be prepared to give up one’s life if necessary.

I have been outspoken in the Jewish community for well over a decade now on the need for understanding and acceptance of people who are same-sex attracted.  What drives me is the desire to prevent others from harm and suffering when confronted with ignorant and repressive attitudes toward sexuality.

Chaim Ingram should ask himself why people like me are challenging the timeless religious beliefs he clings on to so desperately.  I can assure him I am not doing it to take his religion away from him.  The reality is that the outdated attitudes toward human sexuality that he defends have been proven to drive up rates of suicide and self-harm in same-sex attracted youth in religious communities.

Those not bound to an immutable interpretation on the Torah are realizing they must be proactive in empowering themselves and their children with modern attitudes toward human sexuality through programs such as Safe Schools Coalition Victoria and Keshet.  Ultimately they will be raising happier and healthier children.

One only has to take a look at the extensive list of references on the drs4equality.com web site to understand why an increasing number of Australian medical practitioners are putting their name to marriage equality and programs that increase acceptance and integration of same-sex attracted people into communities.

It’s the overwhelming list of medical and mental health reasons that are driving this attitudinal change in thinking.  The longer Chaim Ingram holds onto his outdated values the more harm he does to his community.


20 Jul 2012
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition

How to get rid of the hyphen

In THE AJN on July 6, ‘postdenominational’ Rabbi Gary Robuck issued a passionate plea for Jews of all persuasions to ‘deal kindly with one another’. From his Orthodox perspective, Rabbi Chaim Ingram responds.

Love for one’s fellow Jew must transcend denominational boundaries.

UNDOUBTEDLY sincere as North Shore Temple Emanuel Rabbi Gary Robuck’s cri de coeur is, I fear he, like most who write on this topic, is skirting the main issue. To illustrate: let me quote a well-known story from the Talmud concerning the formidable Beruria, wife of Rabbi Meir. Certain sectarian Jews (possibly Sadducees) were harassing the rabbi constantly. In his exasperation, he wanted to imprecate them in his prayers. However, his wife Beruria persuaded him that the Psalmist (104:35) teaches that one’s thoughts ought to be directed not against the offender but at the offence. “Rather pray,” she said. “They will see the error of their ways and re-evaluate!”

It is not for any Jew to judge another. Only God may. A rabbi may feel he must excoriate values and ideologies that he believes are anathema to Torah. But he must never excoriate the practitioners of those values and ideologies who he feels are in error.

I have tried always to stay true to this principle. I try not to deal unkindly with anyone. Members of Reform congregations have sat happily at my Shabbat table. All are welcome at my Torah classes regardless of their denomination. In one of my communities in England, the president of the local Progressive congregation was a regular attender – and we had many spirited and spiritual discussions without sacrificing our friendship. A former spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel Woollahra was welcomed to a shiur given by the late Rabbi Shmuel Roth of Adass. Some of my colleagues have hosted Reform spiritual leaders for Shabbat at their homes. Love for one’s fellow Jew must transcend denominational boundaries.

However, when it comes to accepting ideologies that conflict with one’s own, one has to ask the following question: What am I trying to protect? And is what I am trying to protect important enough to risk conflict or not?

Let us take an example. A difference of opinion arises between a newly married couple about whether to purchase pine or mahogany furniture for their living room. It goes without saying (or it should) that, regardless of the strength and validity of each one’s preference, this should not be an issue that causes even a ripple of domestic disharmony. Both partners must avoid conflict at all costs rather than dig in their heels over such an issue.

However, what if the marital conflict is over a fundamental principle of how to educate their children? One partner is a staunch advocate of faith-based, traditional schooling for their child, while the other considers such schooling indoctrination and wants his child to mix freely with children of all faiths. It is utterly unrealistic for a family counsellor to tell the couple to “speak nicely to each other” and everything will work out. It won’t! There is a fundamental conflict of parenting ideology here, which ought to have been uncovered years earlier before they tied the knot and will almost certainly destabilise the marriage. Neither will back down because each believes he or she is acting in the best interest of the child they both are trying to protect.

For the Orthodox Jew, the God-given Torah is that child. He will not say or do anything that might put Torah at risk. He certainly will not recognise any ideology that, as he sees it, seeks to destroy its soul.

No Orthodox rabbi can accept the validity of an ideology that conflicts with basic principles of Jewish faith – belief in a unique, omnipotent, omniscient, incorporeal, indivisible, accessible, loving, just God; belief in the divinity, the eternal validity and the essential unchangeability of the written and oral Torah; belief in a messianic golden future where “the world will be perfected under the dominion of the Almighty”; and belief in a world beyond the grave.

The Sadducees denied the last of these principles. Christianity denied elements of the first and the second. And sadly, non-Orthodoxy has denied the second and indeed remains equivocal on the others! As a result, it has redefined who is a Jew and now it seeks to redefine what is a sacred Jewish partnership. Because make no mistake, accepting homosexual marriage and solemnising homosexual union in a sanctuary – which no other faith community in Australia has done – has succeeded in driving a greater wedge than ever between us. Non-Orthodoxy embraces it while Orthodoxy sees it as a sin for which one must be prepared to give up one’s life if necessary.

I believe it is for those Jewish leaders outside Orthodoxy to now make the following honest assessment: How important is ideology to them? How important are their liberal principles? For hard-core Reform leaders, one would imagine: pretty important. For self-confessed “post-denominational” Jews as Rabbi Robuck refreshingly describes himself, one might think: less so.

Therefore, I issue a challenge to him and to those of his colleagues in Australia who think like him. If ideology to you is truly not as important as communal unity, rejoin the mainstream. Rehitch your isolated, static carriages to the train that is going forward. Because make no mistake – and recent articles in The AJN attest to it – Orthodoxy, particularly on the right, is growing while nonOrthodoxy is dwindling.

If you are concerned about rightward trends, form a concerted voice on the left. Be a dissenting voice even, if you must. But let yours be a voice like Rabbi Yehoshua’s in the Talmud who, though he passionately held his colleague to be wrong regarding the date of Yom Kippur in a given year, acquiesced for the sake of unity.

Let’s all be post-denominational Jews. Orthodox was a word coined by the first generation of Reform secessionists. Before that there were only Jews. Let’s restore the status quo. But let it be a status quo based on the values that pertained before the 19th-century divisions set in.

Let us indeed deal kindly with one another. But let non-Orthodoxy acknowledge that, in the words of Billy Joel, “we didn’t start the fire!”

Rabbi Chaim Ingram is honorary rabbi of the Sydney Jewish Centre on Ageing, honorary secretary of the Rabbinical Council of NSW and director of the Kol Shira Learning Centre.


Double standards much, Nina?

July 17, 2012

On May 1 2012 Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) President Nina Bassat appeared on JOY 94.9FM with Doug Pollard and Rod Swift.  The interview is available online here and the podcast can be downloaded here.

During this interview Doug Pollard asked if there had been any developments arising from the report the JCCV’s GLBT Reference Group put out in November 2011.  Nina’s response (at 4:20) was:

“We’re not a body that can actually bring in change on the ground.  It’s up to our affiliates to do that.”

This response needs to be considered in relation to the JCCV’s Youth Alcohol Program that has been running for a few years now.  I include some statements from various sources relating to the YAP:

“Last year, the JCCV also set up the Youth Alcohol Project and has been working with our schools to combat issues like teenage binge drinking, something to which Jewish kids are certainly not immune.” — Malki Rose on Galus Australis

“The JCCV has responded strongly to information that Jewish youth as young as eleven and twelve are drinking alcohol in excessive amounts, Jewish teenage binge drinking appears to be rising and young Jewish females are drinking alcohol at a rate equal to the general teenage community.” — John Searle (via the JCCV)

“This month the JCCV Youth Alcohol Project Officer Debbie Zauder hosted Focus Groups for Year 6 Jewish School students and another for parents of Year 6 Jewish School students. The Focus Group aims were to inform the Youth Alcohol Project and the curriculum that the JCCV will deliver to the Jewish community in its forthcoming educational program on alcohol. Participants in both Focus Groups commented on the social, peer and in an increasing fashion parental pressure that Jewish youth experience to drink alcohol.” — Debbie Zauder (via AJN)

In addition, there have been a number of stories about the JCCV’s YAP in the Jewish print media recently.  I attach one such story from June 22, 2012 at the end.  In particular it’s worth noting this paragraph:

Debbie Zauder, JCCV Youth Alcohol Project (YAP) manager, explained that the DAW 2012 theme, “Look After Your Mind”, fits perfectly with the YAP education programs for Jewish schools. The programs offer students and parents the chance to hear experts in the alcohol and drug field discuss the short and long term effects alcohol has on the adolescent brain.

It seems, to me at least, that there’s a significant disconnect between the words that Nina Bassat said on JOY and what her organisation is actually doing.  A more honest answer that Nina could have given Doug would be something along the lines of:

“The JCCV can’t actually be seen to be promoting homosexuality for fear of backlash from the Orthodox bloc of organisations that effectively control the JCCV.  My hands are tied and as much as I would like to see intolerant behaviour toward homosexuality stamped out in the Jewish community, just like we are actively intolerant of anti-Semitism in the wider community, I have a job as President to keep and don’t want to risk a vote of no confidence that would see me being asked to step down.  And that’s why you have seen no outcomes initiated by the JCCV further to the report.”

Whilst I’m on the topic of Orthodox, Nina Bassat went on in the interview to say (at 10:20):

“I think the Orthodox community is very open to discussion. … I don’t think our community is closed.”

To which I ask Nina why the JCCV has shut down all discussion about the submission that the Rabbinic Council of Victoria made to the Australian Senate stating their opposition to marriage equality.  This submission goes against the recommendations of the JCCV’s report and is clearly an embarrassment to the JCCV.

Double standards much?


22 Jun 2012
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition
AJN STAFF

Community unites to topple teen tipple

“Recent research proves alcohol … does permanently affect the development … of the adolescent brain.”
Debbie Zauder
YAP manager

JEWISH community leaders have joined together to show their support for this week’s Drug Action Week (DAW).

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV), David Southwick MP and Chevra Hatzolah have all spoken out in support of the initiative from the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia (AODCA).

Debbie Zauder, JCCV Youth Alcohol Project (YAP) manager, explained that the DAW 2012 theme, “Look After Your Mind”, fits perfectly with the YAP education programs for Jewish schools. The programs offer students and parents the chance to hear experts in the alcohol and drug field discuss the short and long term effects alcohol has on the adolescent brain.

“Recent research absolutely proves that alcohol, especially binge drinking which is popular with Jewish teenagers, does permanently affect the development and condition of the adolescent brain,” Zauder said.

Nina Bassat, president of JCCV, said the media coverage of a Purim party in Melbourne earlier this year, in which several teens were treated for drunkenness, should serve as a stark reminder of the perils of binge drinking among our youths. model appropriate drinking behaviour and to fully discuss with their children their family’s values and expectations in relation to alcohol,” she said.

Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, RCV president, commented that “Excellent work has been done in educating school students through the YAP program, but clearly the message hasn’t got through to many older teens and adolescents.”

Member for Caulfield David Southwick said the state government was taking appropriate steps to educate parents.

“Thanks to the state government’s leadership here in Victoria we have legislation which makes it crystal clear that parents are responsible for ensuring young people do not engage in unsafe drinking practices. Parents can now face fines up to $7167 for allowing their kid’s friends to drink in their homes without parental consent, an act that was legal under previous laws.”


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