Daniel Baker’s 2009 letter to the JCCV

February 11, 2013

Daniel Baker sent the following letter to me in Nov 2009 in lieu of being unable to attend a meeting with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria in person on Dec 4 2009.  This was a meeting that the JCCV had invited members of Aleph Melbourne to attend, to establish issues of concern to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The initial meeting invitation had been extended by the then Executive Director of the JCCV, Geoffrey Zygier (who is now the Executive Director of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission that is connected to the JCCV).  This meeting/consultation turned out to be a precursor to the formation of their GLBT Reference Group, and it would seem from the discussions that panned out during this meeting that the JCCV had decided to form this reference group in advance of this consultative meeting with Aleph Melbourne.

Attending this meeting at Beth Weizmann were John Searle (the then JCCV President), Anton Block (the then JCCV Immediate Past President), Andrew Rajcher (invited as an unannounced guest of the JCCV, and unwelcome from my perspective given his particularly unhelpful stance on the matters being discussed), about 10 members of Aleph Melbourne and other interested parties that I had invited to attend, and myself.

On concluding my reading of Daniel’s letter to those present at the meeting it was immediately dismissed by the two JCCV representatives present and an expression was given indicating that they were not the slightest bit interested in its contents.

All round, a particularly unfortunate and unpleasant experience, and one that showed the true colours of the JCCV.

From: Daniel Ari Baker
Date: 2009/11/17
Subject: Meeting with JCCV
To: Michael Barnett

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your facebook message re the upcoming Aleph meeting with the JCCV. Unfortunately I will be overseas until the end of January 2010, and so won’t be able to attend, but I do have a few comments which you might bring up at the meeting; but there a number of issues raised by such a meeting which I feel I must address.

The JCCV has for many years now discriminated against GLBTQ people in the Jewish community, most obviously by its exclusion of Aleph from membership, but also by its failure to censure Rabbis and other community organizations which preach hate. Further, it has done nothing to counteract the ideology put forward by even the most forward thinking mainstream Victorian Rabbis, viz. that heterosexual marriage and the bearing of children is the only way to achieve full participation in our Jewish community and the Jewish people at large. Indeed, the very fact that this meeting is being organized now, that the JCCV is only now beginning to take an interest in ‘Gay Jews’ Concerns’ (not, incidentally, in gay Jews themselves, but in their concerns – that is, the factors which will influence their next vote for the  JCCV executive) is, in my opinion, appalling. I have been studying in Philadelphia since July of this year, and can tell you that the involvement of the mainstream Jewish leadership with gay Jews puts the JCCV to shame. For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, where I am studying, Hillel, the national Jewish student union, has a subsidiary body called J-Bagel, which caters to the many gay Jewish students across America. Rabbis and community leaders attend Shabbat dinners organized by this group, and gay Jews are treated as valuable assets to the community at large. One can hardly imagine any executive member of the JCCV coming out so openly and positively for the cause of GLBTQ Jews.

Honestly, I am outraged by Mr Zygier’s statement that ‘the details of what form [inclusion] might take have to be worked out; we’re still at the information-gathering stage’. Mr Zygier’s suggestion that there is some uncertainty about what form the enfranchisement of gay Jews should take undermines the earnestness of the JCCV’s ostensibly friendly approach. There are no ‘different forms’ of inclusion: either a community is enfranchised, or it is not. Either gay Jews are full and equal members of the Victorian Jewish community, or they are not. Mr Zygier suggests that the JCCV is trying to be ‘as inclusive as possible’. The remark seems, with respect, disingenious at best and mendacious at worst. Inclusion is the easiest task in the world; all that it requires is the renouncing of one’s own antihuman prejudices. Until Jews of all kinds, including queers, are welcomed, the JCCV cannot claim to be committed to tolerance. It is possible, even preferable, for  an organization which claims to represent an ethnic community to include all quarters of that community; if it does not, it can legitimately claim neither a desire for inclusiveness nor, indeed, to be a fairly representative body.

Further, Mr Zygier’s reference to the ‘information-gathering’ stage is offensive in the extreme. Gay Jews are not specimens to be examined and theorized: we are human beings, and his suggestion that some kind of study must be performed on gays before enfranchisement can be considered is degrading and disrespectful. What information could possibly be required? We are Jews. We are gay. We are unwilling to renounce our Jewishness, and are equally unwilling to renounce our queerness. That is all there is to it: the matter is extremely simple.

Kind regards,

Daniel Ari Baker


JCCV on GLBT discrimination (or “When the report becomes part of the problem”)

November 2, 2011

The report of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s (JCCV) investigation into issues of vilification and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of the Jewish community was released this week.

Perhaps the only revelation in the “ground-breaking” 16 page report is the statement:

Of concern was the data provided by Hatzolah that indicates approximately one person under the age of 25 and one person over that age within the Jewish community attempts self harm or suicide per month.

From my discussions with Rabbi Mendel Kastel of the Jewish House in Sydney he told me he believed there were around 12 completed suicides per year in the Sydney Jewish community, a community that is comparable in size to that in Melbourne.  Both these scenarios are disturbing.  To the best of my knowledge there has never been a public conversation in Melbourne’s Jewish community on the topic of suicide prevention.

Disappointingly, yet unsurprisingly, this report has made scant mention of the positive stance on homosexuality and GLBT issues that exist in the strong and vibrant Progressive Jewish community in Victoria.  The report takes a biased Orthodox stance on homosexuality at the outset and portrays this as the only Jewish stance on homosexuality.  This is entirely disingenuous of the JCCV and is a symptom of the deep and ugly rift that exists between the Orthodox and Progressive sectors of the Jewish community.

The Progressive sector has over recent years becoming increasingly more accepting and inclusive of same-sex couples and GLBT people to the point that they have effectively become the model citizen of how a religious community can remove all barriers and discrimination facing GLBT people.  The apex of their acceptance to date came in May 2011 when the Progressive rabbinate called for full marriage equality under Australian law.

Yet the JCCV’s report has taken the Orthodox interpretation of Jewish Law (Halacha) and painted it as the only interpretation of Jewish Law:

The reference group recognised that Jewish Halacha prohibits gay sexual behaviour and, according to orthodox rabbinic interpretation, lesbian sexual behaviour.

The JCCV is not obliged to agree with the Orthodox stance on homosexuality.  The JCCV is simply an umbrella organisation representing a diverse and for the most part disparate range of perspectives on Judaism, none of which are absolute.  For the JCCV to take a single approach to this issue further strengthens my understanding that they are pandering to their majority Orthodox member-base.  They are not representing the entire community that they claim to be the voice of, but only the sector that is strategic for its survival.

The report shows the GLBT Reference Group has no formal representation from the Progressive community.  In their official capacity as members of the JCCV executive both John Searle and Anton Block staunchly support the Orthodox community and the Orthodox attitude toward homosexuality.  It would have been helpful if this bias had been included in the report, yet it was conveniently overlooked.

The report claims the reference group had a member of Jewish Care and a member of the Australian Jewish Psychologists on it.  I would like to know the professional expertise each of these two people brought to the table.  My understanding is that the psychologist on the reference group, Dr Ruth Kweitel, has a professional background in dealing with people who have gambling problems.  If this person is no longer on the reference group, I sincerely hope the JCCV managed to find a person who has a relevant background in GLBT issues.  Despite that, why were these two professionals not named in the report?  Are they concerned their professional credibility or reputation will be tarnished by being named in a report investigating GLBT issues?  Perhaps they too will become victims of the religious intolerance that exists in the community.

Another claim of the report is that a “third party” introduced the GLBT members of the reference group to the JCCV.  I was that third party, as the contact for Aleph Melbourne.  Read my blog on how the JCCV engaged this “third party”.  It doesn’t look very good for the JCCV when a GLBT support group operating for over 16 years is referred to as a “third party” in the report, and further is completely ignored in the report and by the reference group, without explanation.

Higher on my list of disappointments about the JCCV and their GLBT Reference Group are the GLBT people who sit on the reference group.  To be told by the JCCV that they must function within the constraint that Jewish law forbids homosexual behavior is deeply offensive and arrogant and it disappoints me that they tolerated this intolerance.  I am most disappointed that Transgender Victoria’s Sally Goldner, one of Australia’s most outspoken transgender and human rights activists, would even sit on a reference group that upholds the belief that all gay men and women are not free to live as equal human beings in a community, to live with the same dignity and acceptance as the rest of society.  Her reticence to speak to me or go public about her involvement with the reference group is evidence of her conflict in being on the reference group.  Sadly her integrity in caring for the welfare of all GLBT people has been brought into question as far as I am concerned.

Continuing the disappointment is the JCCV’s use of language to describe the people it is investigating:

  • GLBT Jews within our community
  • GLBT members of the Jewish community
  • Jewish GLBT community members
  • Jewish members of the GLBT community
  • members of our GLBT community
  • members of the GLBT community
  • members of the GLBT Jewish community
  • members of the Jewish GLBT community

The people this report should be talking about are all people in the Jewish community.  The problems are not just faced by “GLBT” people.  The problems are faced by those people who are not able to talk about their sexual orientation or their gender identity because they have not been empowered to do so, or who believe they are not allowed to do so.  They are the invisible people, the ones who are told they must conform, be heterosexual and get married to a person of the opposite sex.  They are the people who find themselves in loveless relationships, or in relationships that put them at conflict with their personal desires.  They are the children, the siblings, the parents, friends and relatives of everyone in the Jewish community.  They are not “members” of any section of the community.  They are the entire Jewish community.

I am not pleased about many aspects of this report, however I am pleased this report has been written because if nothing else, it highlights the topic of suicide and mental health issues that religious intolerance of homosexuality inflicts on same-sex attracted people.  It also puts GLBT issues on the radar and has created a starting place that can be built upon.  I am glad for this as it’s better than nothing.

It was singularly because of my concern for the welfare of both the visible and the invisible GLBT people in the community that I spearheaded the 1999 application for JCCV membership of Aleph.  Now some 12 years later my efforts are beginning to pay off and a momentum is building.  The road ahead is not going to be without significant challenges, but as the stalwarts of intolerance are increasingly displaced by a younger and more enlightened generation, I am confident that change for the better is inevitable.

I can only hope that the imminent change in JCCV presidency ushers in someone who has the necessary leadership skills, impartiality, competency, professionalism and selflessness to steer the JCCV in a direction that puts the welfare of all the people in the community it represents ahead of their own career prospects and ahead of the sensitivities of its various constituent organisations.


Audio and transcript of interview with ADC chairman Anton Block

July 4, 2011

Further to last week’s announcement, the audio and transcript of the interview with Anton Block are now available online.

TRANSCRIPT: Transcript of interview with ADC chairman Anton Block on Gay & Lesbian radio JOY 94.9

AUDIO: ADC chairman Anton Block talks on Gay & Lesbian radio JOY 94.9


ADC Chairman Anton Block to address Gay & Lesbian community

June 30, 2011

Following the recent news that the Anti-Defamation Commission has included concerns about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues to its purview, ADC Chairman Anton Block is going to be talking on Melbourne’s gay and lesbian radio station JOY 94.9 about the news.

Anton Block

Anton Block

It’s rewarding to see such a high-profile member of Melbourne’s Jewish community, the previous president of  the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and former board member of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, beginning a conversation with the GLBT community.  I hope this is the first of many such conversations, from which increasingly positive outcomes will arise for the welfare of GLBT people in the Jewish community.

Tune in to Doug Pollard’s “Rainbow Report” from 12 noon to 1pm Friday July 1, 2011 on JOY 94.9FM in Melbourne or on the live stream on www.joy.org.au.  Participate in the discussion via SMS on 0427 JOY 949 (0427 569 949), by email to onair@joy.org.au or by Twitter to @rainbowreporter.

Find the link to the show here.


Anti-Defamation Commission to deal with GLBT Issues

June 23, 2011

[SOURCE]

Last week I told you to stay tuned for some big news in the Jewish community.  Today I am revealing that news.

Up until April 2011 the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) had refused to speak out in any way on homophobic incidents in the Victorian Jewish community.  You can read my blogs on the topic here.

In a welcome move, the ADC board has unanimously, but without fanfare, passed a motion that has added “GLBT issues” to their purview:

A motion was unanimously passed at the April 13 ADC board meeting to include GLBT issues as part of the organisation’s overall agenda to stand up for human rights.

ADC chair Anton Block told the Star Observer the motion passed was more a “recognition” than a formal resolution.

“It wasn’t so much a resolution saying we’re now going to deal with GLBT issues,” Block said.

“It was a recognition that our mission extends to those issues, but primarily our purpose is to combat antisemitism and racism.

“Dealing with GLBT discrimination is part of, I suppose, our purpose of promoting human rights, speaking out against homophobia or vilification of members of the GLBT community.”

This is a significant move forward in acknowledging that there are serious issues that GLBT people face that have up until now been ignored by the Jewish community ‘hierarchy’.  However the language used by ADC Chairman Anton Block conveys more a tone of reticence than enthusiastic willingness.

Whilst this is definitely a step forward, even if it’s a small one, it is going to be of minimal benefit to anyone if the ADC continues to leave this change to their purview unannounced.  It must talk to the community and tell it that it’s going to be available to receive complaints against as yet unspecified forms of attacks against GLBT people in the Jewish community

The ADC must also make it clear the type of complaints it will handle, and those it won’t, and whether they’ll accept complaints about intolerance or hate-speak directed at GLBT people by non-GLBT people from within the Jewish community.  Further, it must also tell the community what it will do with these complaints.  They must action these complaints to no less a degree than complaints they receive about racism and anti-Semitism.

I am cautiously optimistic about this step forward.  Only time will tell if the ADC are serious are about combatting intolerance against GLBT people, or if this is more of the same lip-service that other sections of the Jewish community have artfully given us.

POSTSCRIPT

Anton Block is the Immediate Past President of the Jewish Community of Council of Victoria and is on the JCCV Executive.  During his term as JCCV President, Anton Block took no action to address any injustice against GLBT people in the community, or to break down any marginalisation or invisibility that GLBT faced within the Jewish community.  The current president of the JCCV, John Searle, was previously Chairman of the ADC .


Gay children are expendable in Melbourne’s Jewish community

December 15, 2010

[SOURCE 1] [SOURCE 2]

And the homophobic hate just keeps pouring in from the AJN Watch website.

Of course, silence will reign in the Jewish community because there’s no anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism here.  Just some good old-fashioned homophobia, and we know that the leaders of the community don’t consider homophobia to be much of a problem because they won’t speak out against it.

Never mind if you’re a gay person being bashed by a homophobic thug in the street, as happened in Collingwood in October.  But that’s ok, because it wasn’t an anti-Semitic attack and it wasn’t an anti-Israel attack.  It was just a boring gay bashing.  Gay bashing.  Gay bashing.  Gay bashing.  Boring.  Everyday.  Gay.  Bashing.

When will the leaders speak out against this hatred?  Why are they so silent on the matter?  Perhaps gay children are expendable.

Their parents must be SO proud!

Sending kids to a Jewish youth group used to mean that you hoped they would spend their time there being imbued with Jewish and mentchlich values and ideals.

Habonim, it seems, has decided to go in the opposite direction.

We wonder how happy the parents are about this.

(Also it’s quite obvious that the AJN can’t find anything else newsworthy to report about this group.)

Labels:

7 comments:

Anonymous said…
How shameful of Habo management to allow this. And the AJN is continuing is promotion of gays and their issues
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 10:46:00 PM
Anonymous said…
I feel neither way about this issue…
Wednesday, December 15, 2010 9:49:00 PM
Adam Braitberg said…
To all those reading this thread, My Name is Adam Braitberg, and all though you may not be able to see it, that boy in the photo with the Habo Chultzah (shirt) is me.
I have spent my life in the Melbourne Jewish Community, Been a chanich and now a Madrich (leader) at Habonim Dror, i have been involved in Jewish education since i was a child as well as constant hours volunteering for many for the Jewish charities in our community and Israel.
And Guess What I am also Gay, Habonim Dror is a youth movement that is there for all chanichim (kids) regardless of sexual orientation, by attending a same-sex rally, we show that we support all people, regardless of difference. We educate our chanichim (kids) about respecting all individuals, a value that Judaism holds very highly, we also encourage them to see where there is something wrong in the world, and to actively make a change. And the lack of tolerance much of the world shows to same sex individuals is something that needs to change.
There are many people around the world not given the same rights as us. It’s not just youth movements that should be trying to make a difference, it is us as a Jewish Nation that should be upholding our values as people, and trying to make that change.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010 10:07:00 PM
Tyger-Lee Baise said…
I am featured in this photo and I am proud to say that my parents are extremely proud of me.Sending your child to a Jewish Youth Movement is not only about instilling Jewish values and ideals but educating youth on issues facing many people. This rally was an opportunity for us to show our support for the values of equality, civil rights and respect for all human beings. 

So yes my parents are proud of me and I am so proud to be a part of a youth movement that stands up for all people being intrinsically valuable and unique and is accepting of ALL human beings.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 11:02:00 PM
Shilloby Weezel said…
Tyger that’s really great for your parents. Now what about joining in a march with Muslims demanding teh right to polygamy? That too comes under civil rights and respect of humans who are also intrinsically valuable and unique
Wednesday, December 15, 2010 11:13:00 PM
Bill K said…
Adam, you have all my sympathy for your sad predicament . But really, why the need to advertise your sexual proclivities?
Do what you like, but don’t bore the world with your activities.Habo has always been for ‘normals’ and not an outlet for problematics with sexual issues. 

So I can’t see any reason why they now go marching with the perverts and abnormals of the Sex party.

That was NOT the way it was when I was in Habo some years ago.

Or should you change the name from Habo to Homo?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 11:18:00 PM
Anonymous said…
Well stated Shilloby. Why not go a step further? What if someone wishes to marry his dog, cat or even chimpanzee (remember that homo-pedophile Michael Jackson?)?Will Tyger and Adam and the Habonim crew be marching for that too? 

I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer was “yes”.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 11:21:00 PM

Melbourne’s Orthodox Jewish child abusers

December 14, 2010

[SOURCE]

AJN Watch is spewing out more anti-gay sentiment by allowing the following comment to be posted on their blog:

Anonymous said…

How shameful of Habo management to allow this. And the AJN is continuing is promotion of gays and their issues 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 10:46:00 PM

Our issues?  So when a young same-sex attracted person attempts suicide because they feel worthless and are full of self-loathing due to being told they are abnormal, it’s a gay person’s issue?  What about the family and community of the young person?  This intolerance amounts to psychological child abuse.

These fanatical Orthodox Jewish haters need to understand that intolerance of homosexuality is cruel, abusive and dangerous.

The leaders of the Jewish community must wake up quickly to the reality of the situation, stop feeding their egos and actually do something useful for a change.  A good start would be to state that intolerance of homosexuality is harmful and then actively educate the community about it.  They have been very active in doing this about alcohol abuse, but it seems child abuse is not enough of a concern.

It’s exactly one year since the Jewish Community Council of Victoria formed their GLBT Reference Group and to date exactly nothing has come out of it.  At this rate they’re well on track to double their efforts in 2011.


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