The ECAJ should look at it’s policy on Social Inclusion

January 16, 2013

I’ve written recently on how the Executive Council of Australian Jewry believes anti-discrimination legislation should not protect people on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.  I’ve also written on how the ECAJ believe our society should be “inclusive” (that’s the ECAJ’s version of “inclusive”, which means everyone except gays and lesbians).

In The Age today the topic of the Anti-Discrimination Bill in relation to discrimination against lesbians and gays was raised, and the following reported:

Jews ”don’t have a position on this”, Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said.

Perhaps the ECAJ has forgotten the extreme discrimination that the Jewish people have suffered in recent and distant times?  Maybe the words “Six Million” might ring a bell?  Or “Pogroms”?  Or “Spanish Inquisition”?  Or “Pharaoh” and “Egypt”?  In the history of the Jewish people there has been no shortage of persecution.  Yet the ECAJ claim they don’t have a position on discrimination against lesbians and gays.

Hop on over to their web site and have a look at their Platform, in particular Section 1.1 on Social Inclusion:

1.1 NOTES that it is the vision of the ECAJ to create and support a community in which all Australians, including all Jewish Australians:
(a) feel valued and their cultural differences are respected;
(b) have a fair opportunity to meet their material and other needs; and
(c) are equally empowered as citizens to participate in and contribute to all facets of life in the wider community;

Given that the ECAJ want a society in which all Australians feel valued, have a fair opportunity, and are equally empowered to participate in and contribute to all facets of life, they actually do “have a position on this”.

The correct and only response from the ECAJ should be “We condemn all forms of discrimination, especially that perpetrated against persecuted minorities, and support an Australia where all people are treated equally.”

It’s not asking too much, is it?


Clarifying the authority of the ECAJ

January 11, 2013

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Australia
legcon.sen@aph.gov.au

January 11 2013

Dear Committee Secretary,

I wish to clarify some potentially misleading information presented in submission #242 by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) on the Exposure Draft of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012.

The ECAJ describes itself as “the officially elected representative organisation of the Australian Jewish Community and speaks on its behalf.”

If you review the ECAJ web-site (www.ecaj.org.au) you will see on the front page it lists its constituents and affiliates.  These are the organisations and communities it represents.  To help you understand this better, let me give you an example.

One of the constituents of the ECAJ is the Jewish Community Council of Victoria.  The JCCV represents approximately 60 member organisations in the Victorian Jewish community.  There are many organisations it does not represent, including a number of schools, synagogues and other organisations.  The JCCV claims to be the voice of the Victorian Jewish community, yet it has no authority to be the speak on behalf of the organisations it does not actually represent.  Similarly, the ECAJ has no authority to claim to represent those organisations, communities or citizens who are not affiliated with its constituents.

It is also important to understand that the ECAJ does not represent in any way the best interests of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the Jewish community.  The ECAJ, and its constituents have no formal GLBTI representation, and have never engaged in any formal consultation with the GLBTI community to understand and cater for the specific needs of this highly disadvantaged, marginalised and victimised minority section of its community.

In fact it is clear from the ECAJ submission to your committee that they believe GLBTI people should not have any protection under anti-discrimination legislation.  The ECAJ also give tacit approval that same-sex couples should be denied the right to equality under the Marriage Act, which is further evidence that the ECAJ do not represent the interests of GLBTI people.

To this end you will have a better understanding that not only do the ECAJ not represent the entire Australian Jewish community, but they do not and cannot speak on its behalf.  Further, I can state with absolute authority that the ECAJ do not speak on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the Jewish community.

Finally, I would like to make it clear that it is imperative that anti-discrimination legislation afford full protection to people on the grounds of gender identity, gender expression, biological sex characteristics and sexual orientation.

I will be glad to assist in clarifying any of this information.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett
Convenor
Aleph Melbourne
www.aleph.org.au
0417-595-541


ECAJ calls for inclusive society (that excludes gays getting married)

January 7, 2013

ECAJ logoDespite my ongoing calls for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to decry the efforts of the Orthodox Rabbinate’s opposition to civil legislative reform to allow same-sex couples to marry in Australia, they remain steadfastly silent.  I have put a case forward that it is in their best interests to support marriage equality in Australia, especially given they already have issued a statement for respect of GLBT people.

The Executive Director of the ECAJ, Peter Wertheim expresses an interest in the harmony of society in  Australia, as reported in the Australian Jewish News :

Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said there was nothing Dr Mohamed could learn from Gaza and its Hamas rulers that could possibly have any legitimate application in Australia.

“His visit and his comments undermine Australia’s efforts to build a peaceful, inclusive and democratic multicultural society,” he said.

I put it to Peter Wertheim that whilst the ECAJ remains silent on marriage equality it shows that the organisation is not genuine about its desire for a wholly inclusive society in Australia, and demonstrates that the ECAJ’s agenda is pro-Zionist and not pro-humanity.

The credibility of the ECAJ, being a body that represents the interests of Australians, is perilously fraught at present.  Yet a simple statement claiming that it believes all Australians should have equal rights before the law could easily rectify that.

Is that too much of an ask Peter?


The dichotomy of the Jewish leadership when it comes to Hitler and homophobia

August 19, 2012

A guaranteed way to find out if the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Anti-Defamation Commission are still in business is to report a rogue Hitler reference to them and measure how many milliseconds it takes for them to issue a media release and demand an apology by the perpetrator.  Take for example this recent example involving Macquarie Bank.

Yet these very organisations have moral constipation when rabbis from their community, such as Chaim Ingram or Shimon Cowen, to name two of the more obnoxious, say that gays should consider taking their lives for being homosexual, or make claims that we can be cured of our homosexuality, as if it’s an illness.

Imagine for one minute if a Muslim or Christian cleric were to say that Jews should consider taking their lives for their religious beliefs or because their way of life was considered an illness.  It has been proven by their past actions that the ECAJ and the ADC, along with other organisations such as the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and every other Jewish organisation in the country would be screaming livid.   Yet stunned silence when it comes to these anti-gay statements by Jewish “leaders”.

I hold in complete contempt every single person and organisation complicit in the silence that is being perpetrated when these vile rabbis are not howled down.  Why are people so scared to speak out against these perpetrators of hate?  What illness has affected this community when they are more outraged at statements of hate and intolerance against them than those from their midst?


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.


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?


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.


A statement from the ECAJ on International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2012

January 27, 2012

A statement by Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2012:

“January 27 is the date, in 1945, when the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated by Soviet troops.  It is a devastatingly appropriate day for all of us to remember and reflect upon the genocide that resulted in the annihilation of 6 million European Jews, 2 millions Gypsies (Roma and Sinti), 15.000 gays and millions of others at the hands of Nazi tyranny.

Auschwitz was not merely the final destination of many of these murdered men women and children.  In a very real and terrible way it continues to symbolise the final destination – the ultimate consequence – of hatred of the other that is allowed to go unchallenged.  The spectre of Auschwitz will continue to haunt the whole of humanity until it learns to free itself from the scourges of racism and other forms of hatred.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an opportunity for all of us to look inwards into our own hearts and minds and to resolve to confront our own prejudices.  For this is where racism and other forms of hatred begin.  No ideology of hatred can take root without the active participation or passive acquiescence of ordinary people.

We must never be afraid to speak out against hatred that is directed against ourselves, especially when it may be contentious or unpopular to do so.  Yet we must also be sensitive enough to recognise hatred that is being directed against others and to speak out in their defence too, even when it may be contentious or unpopular to do so.

The struggle against racism and other forms of bigotry is not easy.  Yet it has never been more necessary for all of us to be a part of it.  As the number of survivors diminishes with time, the need for us to pass on this message to our children only grows more urgent”


A response from SBS to the ECAJ’s complaint about “The Promise”

January 18, 2012

Consider this conversation* between Sally Begbie, SBS Ombudsman and Peter Wertheim, ECAJ Executive Director regarding the ECAJ complaint about the screening of “The Promise”, a situation that has even made the mainstream media.

SALLY BEGBIE:  Hi Peter.  It’s Sally Begbie from SBS calling.  It’s about the letter we’ve received from you regarding The Promise.

PETER WERTHEIM:  Hi Sally.  Thanks for calling.  How may I help you?

SALLY:  I’ve read the complaint, all 31 pages.  It took me a while to get through the document.  Very thorough and comprehensively researched I’ll have to admit.

PETER:  Indeed.

SALLY:  It’s about stereotyping, and discrimination of Jewish people.  Those are the main concerns?

PETER:  Yes, that’s correct.  Stereotyping, discrimination, negative attitudes of Jews.

SALLY:  I see.  Yes.  That’s a concern we take seriously at SBS.

PETER:  That’s good to hear.

SALLY:  And no doubt, it’s something your organisation takes just as seriously, stereotyping and discrimination.

PETER:  Absolutely.  We pride ourselves on our efforts to prevent and reverse such attitudes.  If you take a moment to review our web site you’ll see we give those issues priority amongst the many issues we care about.

SALLY:  That’s excellent to hear.  In reviewing the complaint that we’ve received I have been doing some research into issues and attitudes amongst the community you represent, to gain a more complete understanding of the situation.  I’ve had some interesting findings.

PETER:  Oh, yes?

SALLY:  Well, it seems that there appears to be an area of concern into discrimination that the ECAJ has remained silent on, that some in your community are demanding a more vocal response.

PETER:  Please explain.

SALLY:  In particular, it seems that the ECAJ values equality and egalitarianism, yet has no comment to make on the issue of marriage equality.  That would seem to me to be a strange position to take, considering your organisation does not stand for discrimination in any way whatsoever.

PETER:  That’s a difficult area Sally.

SALLY:  Discrimination?  It really doesn’t seem that difficult to me.

PETER:  No, not discrimination.  Marriage.  It’s a complex issue for some in the Jewish community.

SALLY:  But your organisation does not stand for discrimination.

PETER:  Correct.

SALLY:  And yet you’re prepared to remain tolerant of some discrimination?

PETER:  No, we don’t stand for discrimination of any type.

SALLY:  So you’re supportive of efforts to remove discrimination facing Jews in same-sex relationships?

PETER:  It’s not so simple Sally.

SALLY:  It is to me.  Discrimination is discrimination.

PETER:  Of course, but not all discrimination is the same.

SALLY:  However you look at it, it’s still discrimination.  There’s another issue that has come to my attention.  If I may.

PETER:  Certainly.

SALLY:  I’ve read that some in your community are concerned about attitudes that are upheld amongst certain religious leaders and members of the community whereby homosexuality is considered a condition that can be overcome with reparative therapy.  The concerned parties seem to be calling on your organisation to speak out against these attitudes, claiming they’re proven to be harmful to members of the community who are being asked to overcome their orientation.  They’ve provided you with evidence from leading professional bodies claiming these are harmful and ineffective therapies.

PETER:  I’ve heard these concerns.

SALLY:  Do you take them seriously?  The claims that they are harmful to members of the Jewish community who are being forced to undertake them?

PETER:  Absolutely.  The ECAJ does not for one minute want a single member of the Jewish community to undergo an iota of suffering or come to any harm.  We would extend that concern to the wider community as well.

SALLY:  And you would then want to ensure that your community had a clear and unambiguous understanding that it is inappropriate to refer people to practitioners of these untoward therapies?

PETER:  It would be our desire to ensure no member of our community came to any harm.

SALLY:  So what I am hearing is that your organisation takes the issues of discrimination and harm seriously and wants to ensure the ongoing and increasing welfare of the members of your community, the Jewish people of Australia.

PETER:  Effectively.  Yes.

SALLY:  Then it would seem to me, Peter, that it would be to your organisation’s advantage to show the rest of us that it does take these issues seriously and take a stand on them.  You are asking SBS to take a stand against discrimination and stereotyping affecting the Jewish people, but what I see is that there are members of your community who are lacking the necessary protection from your organisation and who are at the mercy of harmful attitudes that have not been reined in.

PETER:  Of course, we want a positive outcome for all parties.

SALLY:  That’s good to hear.  So do we.  I appreciate your time today.  We’ll be in touch.

* This is one of many possible conversations that could potentially occur.  I am not aware of it actually having occurred, yet.


Two reasons why the ECAJ must vocalise its support for marriage equality

December 15, 2011

On December 3 2011 the Australian Labor Party voted in favour of supporting marriage equality.  This was promptly followed by a statement of support from the Union for Progressive Judaism and simultaneously a statement of opposition from the Orthodox-based Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia.  J-Wire then reported a message from Jewish Community supporting Marriage Equality (J4ME) along with a statement from the ECAJ:

Peter Wertheim, the executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told J-Wire that his organisation had no policy in place relating to same sex marriage.

The ECAJ recently passed a motion that calls for “mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the [Jewish] community” and also acknowledges “that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community”.  This motion appears on the ECAJ Platform.

Peter Wertheim has recently been promoting via email the fact that Israel is the most GLBT-friendly place in the Middle East and that it is the only safe place for GLBT people to live openly and out in the Middle East.  Indeed, the Israeli situation for GLBT people is mostly good.  In some cases Israel is actually more advanced than Australia in affording GLBT people human rights.  One such case is that Israel recognises foreign marriages of same-sex couples whereas Australia has chosen to legislate against such recognition.

I wish to make two points regarding the recent support from the ECAJ for GLBT people and the promotion of Israel as a relatively safe GLBT space.

Firstly, the human rights and equality that GLBT people in Israel have been afforded have come about through changes to civil law and have for the most part been independent of (Orthodox) Jewish law or “halacha”.  If halacha was the law of the land in Israel, GLBT people would have no equality or recognition in any form.  This is evidenced by the aforementioned ORA statement and the general attitude of Jewish Orthodoxy to homosexuality.  This religious intolerance of homosexuality is not dissimilar to that which exists in the Islamic states that surround Israel.

It is the secular and progressive attitudes toward equality and human rights that has made Israel the beacon of tolerance and acceptance of GLBT people in the Middle East that it is.  With ongoing work in this area, such as that around surrogacy and parenting (here and here), Israel will become an increasingly proud oasis of acceptance for GLBT people and will no doubt be further promoted as such by Zionist advocates.

Secondly, with the ECAJ calling for respect of GLBT people in the community and the acknowledgement that there is “unlawful discrimination” against GLBT people, such as in the case of the Australian Federal Marriage Act, I find it hard to understand that the ECAJ chooses to remain silent on marriage equality.

In fact, this silence betrays the ECAJ’s platform on Social Inclusion, where it states:

1. Social Inclusion
This Council:
1.1 NOTES that it is the vision of the ECAJ to create and support a community in which all Australians, including all Jewish Australians:
(a) feel valued and their cultural differences are respected;
(b) have a fair opportunity to meet their material and other needs; and
(c) are equally empowered as citizens to participate in and contribute to all facets of life in the wider community;
1.2 NOTES that as Australians we take great pride in what we see as the uniquely Australian values of social egalitarianism, “mateship” and a “fair go”;
1.3 REAFFIRMS our profound commitment on behalf of the Australian Jewish community to the dignity of difference, gender equality, and a belief in the equality of humankind;

Here the ECAJ is calling for “equal empowerment”, “social egalitarianism” and “a belief in the equality of humankind”.  To my understanding, marriage equality fits all of these three concepts.  To clarify, egalitarianism is defined as “affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people.”

I believe the ECAJ does want marriage equality to be legislated, but has not yet taken the time to think about the implications of not vocalising its support for it.  The ECAJ is an organisation that has a genuine concern for the human rights of all people in every nation on this planet.  Further, it is inherent in the Jewish psyche to understand what deprivation of human rights can lead to.

I sincerely urge the ECAJ to consider its stance on marriage equality in general and speak out in favour of removing the legislated discrimination that all GLBT Australians face when it comes to recognition of our relationships.  It is without a doubt in the ECAJ’s best interests to advocate marriage equality, as doing so will have the double reward of making Australia a better place for all its citizens, and simultaneously making the beacon of light in Israel, the country that it is so proud of, shine even brighter.


Executive Council of Australian Jewry passes motion in support of GLBT people

November 28, 2011

On July 27 2011 I had a conversation with Manny Waks, then president of the Canberra Jewish Community and a Vice President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, in which he agreed to sponsor a motion at the 2011 AGM of the ECAJ promoting greater respect of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Australia’s Jewish community.

Four months later, on November 27 2011, the following resolution was unanimously passed at the ECAJ AGM:

Policy on counteracting hatred and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons

This Council:

RECOGNISES that the Australian Jewish community is part of the Jewish people worldwide, with a shared history, culture and religious tradition is at the same time diverse and pluralistic, with its members holding different views on a range of issues;

CALLS FOR mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the community, despite any strongly held differences; recognition that disagreement is possible in ways that do not vilify other persons or their views; and avoidance of any public or private conduct that incites hatred, ridicule or contempt of another person or class of persons on the ground of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and, in accordance with the aforesaid principles;

OPPOSES any form of hatred of any person on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity;

ACKNOWLEDGES that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community, and to provide adequate services and support for them and their families; and

CALLS ON persons and organisations in the Jewish community to support that work both in our community and in the wider Australian community.

This motion passed by the ECAJ joins similar motions passed by the Victorian, New South Wales and ACT Jewish communities.  Whilst time will tell how effective these motions will be in helping provide a safer and more tolerant place for GLBT Australians, I am confident that this milestone in the history of Australian Jewry will help pave the way to a greater understanding, acceptance and inclusion of GLBT people.


ECAJ vocal on terror attacks in Norway

July 25, 2011

[SOURCE]

In March this year I wrote about the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and their ability to write letters of support as it suits them.  Yesterday the ECAJ, through its president Dr Danny Lamm, published another letter of support, this time in response to the horrific attacks in Norway.

On behalf of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the elected peak national body of the Australian Jewish community, I extend our deepest sympathies to the Norwegian government and people following the double terror attacks in Oslo on Friday and especially to the injured and to all Norwegians who have lost loved ones.

I encourage the ECAJ to write these heartfelt letters for each horrific tragedy that happens around the world.  It is necessary to see communities supporting each other in times of hardship.  However if the ECAJ is going to write letters when there are terrorist attacks in Norway, tsunamis in Japan or bombings in Jerusalem, then it must also respond to violent shootings in youth centers in Tel Aviv.

The hypocrisy will become increasingly apparent the next time this morally bankrupt organisation remains silent when again the victims are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews, in Israel or anywhere else.


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.


ECAJ and The Hypocrisy of Selective Outrage

March 28, 2011

A bomb blows up near a bus stop in Jerusalem and one woman is killed and 39 injured.  Peter Wertheim, the Executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) wrote a letter of condolence to Yuval Rotem, the Ambassador of Israeli to Australia, to convey his deepest sympathy.

In the week prior to the bombing I wrote on how the ECAJ is prolific in writing such letters when Israelis are victims of hate, or in other catastrophic situations such as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

The ECAJ also likes to put pen to paper for more vacuous situations, such as the letter written to George Pell on the canonisation of a Catholic woman who has been purported to have performed miracles subsequent to her death.

All it seems to take for the ECAJ to write a letter of outrage, condolence or congratulation is a bomb at a Jerusalem bus stop, a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, or the canonisation of a Christian.

Yet when Israeli youth are murdered in cold blood in Tel Aviv by an unknown gunman with unknown motives, the ECAJ turns its back on the tragedy and stays silent.  I put it that they stayed silent because this was a crime in a gay and lesbian community centre and that the ECAJ are too afraid and gutless to issue a statement of condolence for the death of gay and lesbian youth.

This silence is deeply offensive and it continues to leave a black mark on this organisation that I’m ashamed to say calls itself Australian.  It reeks of hypocrisy and double-standards and exposes the organisation for its moral bankruptcy and spinelessness.

The ECAJ still has no platform position on the welfare of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Jews in Australia, despite it calling itself a council representing Australian Jewry.  It is clear to me the priorities of this organisation, an organisation with a penchant for selective outrage, are not with the welfare of any Jew, Australian or otherwise, who is GLBT, and if that’s the case, then that clearly makes the ECAJ a hateful and intolerant Jewish organisation.


On the ECAJ, Itamar and a Zionist agenda

March 17, 2011

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry issues media releases and letters when significant events occur in Australia and around the world.  This week the ECAJ issued one statement on the Japanese tsunami and two on the Itamar shooting, one to the Israeli ambassador Yuval Rotem and the other to the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.  So prolific is the ECAJ that going back to the beginning of 2009 one can find approximately 70 media releases on their website.

On August 1 2009 two Israelis were gunned down in a horrific attack in a youth centre in Tel Aviv.  Fifteen other people were seriously injured.  This was a serious event in Israel that was reported extensively in the Australian Jewish press and by numerous other media outlets globally.

The ECAJ ignored this shooting in Israel.  It turned a blind eye to the event and let it pass as if to say the deaths were insignificant and inconsequential.  It would appear that the ECAJ is not interested in the deaths of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Israelis.

Now when I see the ECAJ speak out against the brutal deaths of Israelis in this most recent, abominable situation, it sends me the message that they are shamelessly using these deaths to fulfil their Zionist agenda, and could actually care less about the victims or their family.

On behalf of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the peak national body of the Australian Jewish community, I write to thank you and the Australian government most sincerely for issuing a prompt, public condemnation of the shocking stabbing murders of an Israeli mother, father and three of their children late on Friday night, 11 March 2011, in Itamar, south-east of Nablus.

I commend you and the Australian government for your long standing friendship with Israel and for your firm and principled condemnation of these latest heinous murders of Israeli civilians.

I ask the ECAJ to explain why they were silent when Liz Troubishi and Nir Katz were murdered and fifteen of their peers injured in the most horrific of circumstances, at close range by a masked gunman.  Why did these deaths not see the ECAJ issue a statement of condolence to the families and a strong message of outrage and condemnation at the senseless waste of life of the two young Israeli Jews?

The ECAJ appears to be a cold, spineless and heartless organisation, driven by a blinkered Zionist agenda.  The ECAJ does not appear to be an organisation that the Australian Jewish community or wider Australian society can be proud of.


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