Jewish leaders accused of ignoring homophobia | ABC PM

October 30, 2013

Jewish leaders accused of ignoring homophobia

Alison Caldwell reported this story on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 18:34:00

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MARK COLVIN: A rift is developing in Australia’s Jewish community over the treatment of homosexuals.

A major gay and lesbian support group claims Jewish community leaders are ignoring discrimination and hate language aimed at homosexuals. It wants Jewish representative bodies to come up with a clear policy upholding gay rights.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: When two young people were shot dead in Tel Aviv last month at a gay and lesbian youth centre, Melbourne-based Michael Barnett wanted nothing more than for the leaders of the Australian Jewish community to take a stand against violence towards homosexuals. But he says his calls for action fell on deaf ears.

MICHAEL BARNETT: The Israeli leadership, the Prime Minister, the President of Israel, they spoke out against intolerance and hatred and said you know, everyone deserves respect.

Yet in Melbourne where there is the family of one of the two people killed, there wasn’t even a single statement from the community leaders.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says the silence from the Jewish leadership was symptomatic of a much deeper problem.

MICHAEL BARNETT: There’s a lot of intolerance of gay people in the Jewish people. Calling gay people perverted and disgusting, comparing gay people to people who commit incest or bestiality, there’s all this language that gets used from people like some rabbis in the orthodox world who speak out against gay people.

ALISON CALDWELL: Michael Barnett is the coordinator of Aleph Melbourne, a support group for homosexual people in the Jewish community. He believes representative groups are afraid to express their support for homosexuals for fear of offending ultra-orthodox groups in the community.

MICHAEL BARNETT: I want every state and national Jewish peak body in Australia to have a specific, unambiguous policy addressing the persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews in regard to homophobic hate and intolerance, irrespective of whether it originates from outside or inside the Jewish community.

The policies must be enforced with the same zero tolerance afforded to anti-Semitism and holocaust rhetoric and other hate crimes.

ALISON CALDWELL: Much of his anger is levelled at a Jewish blog which recently described homosexuality as “depravity and debasement” and extolled the virtues of reprogramming homosexuals.

In July, a Sydney rabbi wrote to the Australian Jewish News, comparing homosexual intercourse with adultery, bestiality and incest.

JOHN SEARLE: If it’s a matter that’s guided by religious laws, then those laws will presumably be applied. Now I can’t say very much about those because I’m not an expert in those areas.

ALISON CALDWELL: John Searle is the president of the Jewish Community Council in Victoria. It describes itself as the roof body of Victorian Jewry. On its website, it says it shows zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism and racism but it has nothing to say about supporting or protecting gay or lesbian people within the Jewish community.

JOHN SEARLE: If we need to rewrite a policy that was written some time ago, we can certainly look at that and if it needs to be adjusted in any way, we can adjust that.

ALISON CALDWELL: John Searle says he’s against vilification of any sort.

JOHN SEARLE: The JCCV has issued statements condemning vilification of all minority groups, including vilification based on grounds of sexual orientation, sexual preference.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says the council has sought advice from numerous sources on how to be more inclusive and will invite gay and lesbian support groups to events in the future.

Michael Barnett says it’s not enough.

MICHAEL BARNETT: Lip service, motherhood statements, platitudes, rhetoric, anything but “yes, we’re going to do this and take it seriously”.

JOHN SEARLE: I reject the allegation or assertion that inviting people to participate in community events is simply lip service.

ALEX FEIN: My blog is called The Sensible Jew.

ALISON CALDWELL: Jewish blogger Alex Fein has written about the issue in recent weeks. She says the vast majority of Jews support homosexuals and describes those who don’t as minority extremists. But she says groups like the Jewish Community Council of Victoria need to be more proactive.

ALEX FEIN: It’s not enough to say that homophobia is problematic. I think all people of good faith would like to see concrete action.

MARK COLVIN: Alex Fein the author of the blog known as the sensiblejew.wordpress.com, ending Alison Caldwell’s report.


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.


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.”


AJN Watch has gone soft (or “Let’s play hide the kosher elephant”)

March 7, 2012

I’m really intrigued.  AJN Watch has gone soft.  Once they’d take on the Australian Jewish News with great gusto, and most especially when it was on the issue of homosexuality.  But of late AJN Watch has remained silent on the major coverage that the AJN gave to the two most pressing issues of late, namely the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s spanking of the out-of-line Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen and the AJN‘s extensive coverage of the taboo topic of homosexuality (in the context of bullying in schools).

Has someone had a word in the ear of the editorial team at AJN Watch and told them it’s not ok to publish gay-hate any more?  I suspect they’d be foaming at the mouth with these recent events, and barely able to contain their collective rage.  I mean, the best they’ve been able to get outraged about lately is kosher cheese and Jon Faine (and of course a reminder about how to bypass the need to subscribe to the AJN).

I can’t say I’m at all disappointed that their vile hate has been silenced, but I’m curious as to what’s transpired behind the scenes.  The silence is deafening.


Orthodox rabbis champion homosexual acceptance and same-sex marriage

June 14, 2011

[SOURCE]

Our friends over at AJN Watch have published a delightfully accepting and heart-warming piece about homosexuality and marriage equality.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Please thank them for their care and concern.

PS.  If the link above is broken, try this backup PDF version.


Rabbi Dovid Freilich shows his ignorance of marriage in Australia

April 21, 2011

The following appears on page 6 of the April 22, 2011 Melbourne edition of the Australian Jewish News:

Majority for gay marriage

GARETH NARUNSKY

IN Wentworth, the Sydney electorate with the highest number of Jewish voters, more than 72 per cent of people support same-sex marriage.

That figure comes from a survey conducted by shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull after the House of Representatives called on MPs to gauge voter opinion on extending the definition of marriage.

Jewish gay, lesbian bisexual, transgender and intersex group Dayenu has welcomed the results, but the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) said it remained opposed.

Out of 2333 Wentworth residents who responded to the survey, 72.7 per cent said they were in favour of gay marriage.  Wentworth takes in the suburbs where a majority of Sydney’s Jews live.

Dayenu president Roy Freeman said the survey’s results were “amazing”.

“It would be great to see a Liberal MP of his standing taking a particular stand on this particular topic,” he said.

ORA president Rabbi Dovid Freilich said his organisation opposed any legislation to legitimise same-sex marriage.  “This is not intended to show any discrimination against the gay community, but simply to uphold the sanctity and purpose of marriage, which is the union of man and woman in not only expressing their love for one another, but in also bringing future generations into this world,” he said.

Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins of Sydney’s progressive Emmanuel Synagogue said “new times called for new readings”.

“Both the Progressive and Masorti movements have gone on record to endorse the rights of same-sex couples to have their exclusive committed relationships recognised and honoured by tradition,” he said.

Michael Danby, the MP in Melbourne Ports, which has the highest number of Jewish voters in Melbourne, has invited submissions rather than running a survey.

Today I submitted the following Letter to the Editor:

Thank you for your article on gay marriage.  The overwhelming evidence shows a clear change in thought on how modern Australians believe in equality for all citizens.

However, it is evident that Rabbi Freilich does not fully understand about marriage in Australia when he talks about a purpose for marriage, because the federal Marriage Act does not stipulate that a married couple must bring future generations into this world.

Despite this, numerous same-sex couples successfully raise happy, healthy children, even in the Jewish community.  If Rabbi Freilich would like to see these children raised with the full support of the Jewish community he should be campaigning for the removal of the legislation preventing marriage equality.  His actions will only harm those in same-sex relationships and their children.  Is this what the rabbi wants?

I suspect the good rabbi is more interested in blindly following harmful and outdated religious dogma than the welfare of the people in the Jewish community, but I remain open to correction.


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