Australian Jewish community leadership abandons concern for persecution of gays

December 21, 2013

In Australia the Jewish community leadership has abandoned concern for persecution of gays.  It does not show it cares about persecution of minority groups around the world, only demonstrating interest in its pet topic of anti-Semitism.

An increasing number of regimes such as Russia and Uganda are persecuting homosexual people and the Jewish community basks in its own self-importance, issues platitudes about how much it must speak out against such terrors, says Never Again and then buries its head in the sand saying la-la-la-la.

Take this fine message from the immediate past president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (and current Chair of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Right Commission) John Searle:

It is up to us to play our part in ensuring that another holocaust never occurs. Be it attacks against Jews, blacks, homosexuals or political rivals, we must be ever vigilant in bringing the message to the world – never again! We must educate our children; help them to understand that we cannot turn a blind eye, not to racism, not to stereotyping, not to suffering, not to prejudice of any form, not ever. We must send the message, that racism and prejudice in all its evil forms will not be tolerated.

Sounds good.  And yet, computer says no.  Silence is all we get.  Just silence.


Jewish Community Council of Victoria says “Gay is OK”.

November 1, 2013

This really is a revelation.  For the first time ever, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria has actually acknowledged that it’s ok to be gay.

JCCV says it's ok to be gay (Nov 1 2013)

A lot more needs to be said, but this is a start.


Jewish gays fight for admittance to Jewish Council in Vic | ABC Religion Report

October 30, 2013

Jewish gays fight for admittance to Jewish Council in Vic

Wednesday 19 May 1999 8:30AM

This week on The Religion Report.

The Pope’s visit to Romania begins to heal the thousand year rift with the Orthodox.

The religiously backed conservative coalition in Israel has been defeated at a general election.

And, the newly elected world leader of the Salvation Army declares the movement should be more flexible about its rigid non-sacramentalism.

Transcript

The Religion Report 19th May, 1999

John Cleary: Today is about fundamental change, from Melbourne to Romania.
SFX: POPE IN ROMANIA

Last week, the Pope made an historic trip to Bucharest, the first time in a thousand years the Roman Pontiff has walked Orthodox streets as a religious leader.

Also today, the Salvation Army has elected a new world leader who signals fundamental change in this worldwide religious and charitable movement; Salvationists may soon be taking the sacraments.

But first to the pressure of change closer to home, and the issue of homosexuality in religion is once again the cause of a deepening split, this time in the Jewish Communities Council of Victoria.

Orthodox members of the Council are maintaining their rage over moves by a gay Jewish organisation called ALEPH Melbourne, to join. While ALEPH has so far failed in its bid to be an affiliate member, there are renewed threats from Orthodox groups that they’ll quit in protest is ALEPH is accepted.

And today, a provocative invitation for the JCCV, (Jewish Communities Council) President, Dr Phillip Bliss, to step down over his very support of ALEPH.

Toni Hassan spoke to Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky and the head of ALEPH, Michael Barnett, and prepared this report.

Ronald Lubofsky: The JCCV was very seriously threatened by this. There are a number of organisations that would have possibly seceded from the board had this been successful.

Michael Barnett: These are the sorts of attitudes that really do the most damage to people who are having troubles dealing with their sexuality. That’s why we have such a high youth suicide rate.

Ronald Lubofsky: There are certain things which they don’t like talking about, but they have done now because it’s forced into the open and is sort of they want to enter into Jewish schools, into sex education. And this is something which will ring the alarm bells with Jewish parents.

Michael Barnett: There’s nothing whatsoever in our organisation’s objectives or ideals to say that we are going to infiltrate or we’re going to convert or we’re going to subvert or whatever. We’re just a very straightforward support group and social organisation, we don’t have a hidden agenda.

Toni Hassan: Some of the high emotion echoed at a recent meeting of the Jewish Communities Council of Victoria. On one side is ALEPH Melbourne, a group whose objective is to provide assistance, support and companionship for gay and bisexual Jewish men. Michael Barnett is the group’s President.

Michael Barnett: The objection to our application was that a homosexual or gay organisation is contravening Jewish law because homosexual practice is one of the forbidden acts in Jewish law. In Leviticus 18, 22 it says -

Toni Hassan: Well that’s commonly argued. How do you get around that?

Michael Barnett: It’s not an issue for me. I mean I’m not a religious Jew and if I was, it wouldn’t bother me either way I don’t think, because that’s me as a person doing what I want to do. But that doesn’t come in to our organisation. Our organisation isn’t set up for the practice of homosexuality, it’s for the support of homosexuals, which is a slightly different issue, very subtle.

Toni Hassan: And do you think the Rabbis, the conservative Rabbis who rejected your proposal, do not see that distinction?

Michael Barnett: Oh well, they may see it, but they choose to ignore it I believe. They are very stubborn people, they stick to the letter of their law and it may be a guise for homophobia, it may not be. But either way it has no bearing on the JCCV, it’s not an issue as far as I’m concerned, or our members are concerned.

Toni Hassan: Ronald Lubofsky is Rabbi Emeritus at the St Kilda Synagogue. For him the inclusion of ALEPH amounts to tampering with the Ten Commandments.

Ronald Lubofsky: The core of the philosophy, the religious philosophy, the political philosophy of being Jewish, is in the written word. The Christians call it the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. Some would reduce it to the Ten Commandments etc. and that excludes the notion of homosexuality, and as a consequence it’s a contradiction in terms. You simply cannot consider the two ideals as being compatible. So true enough, the members of this group are Jewish and it may well be that they are secular in their intent, but I’m afraid that as a group, as an organisation, they cannot claim parity as individuals absolutely. This is a point which I and others have made, that Jewish gay people, lesbian people, they can join synagogues, they can join the organisations which are represented under the umbrella of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, they can be the Presidents of those organisations, but as an organisation, as an ideology, they’re not compatible.

Toni Hassan: Doesn’t the JCCV, the Council in Victoria, recognise sporting organisations, many voluntary organisations of that nature?

Ronald Lubofsky: Yes, what you’re saying in actual fact is a point of view which many espouse, but there is simply no comparison. You’re talking here of fundamentals of life, you’re not dealing here with a sporting organisation where people make a choice to do this or to do that. These are individuals who do not produce families, these are individuals who perform sexually in a way which is aberrant, to say the least, with regard to Judaism. It is something which runs counter to the fundamentals of Judaism, that is the family unit. It’s not simply playing a sport.

Toni Hassan: What’s really got under the noses of Orthodox groups affiliated with the Jewish Communities Council of Victoria is the public support given to ALEPH Melbourne by the Council’s President, Dr Phillip Bliss. Without his support, the matter wouldn’t not have seen the light of day. Rabbi Lubofsky.

Ronald Lubofsky: If he followed the Westminster rules, he should resign, because it was something that he espoused, it was a motion that he himself moved. He now indicates he’s prepared to take it further. He’s going to endanger this organisation as a result of his monocular vision.

Toni Hassan: Are you calling on him to resign?

Ronald Lubofsky: No, I’m not, I’m just saying that he should. That would be a normal procedure in any other organisation. If there’s something which the President wants his organisation to follow and he is prepared to go as far as he was, knowing how controversial the whole thing was, and that it could well have his organisation disintegrate, and he was roundly defeated under those circumstances I’m surprised that he’s still there.

[unrelated content deleted]

Thanks to Toni Hassan and John Diamond for production.


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

Listen to MP3 of this story ( minutes)
Alternate WMA version | MP3 download

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.


When saying No To Homophobia can look more like window dressing than genuine support for a cause

June 21, 2013

On June 3 the City of Darebin Council passed the following motion:

City of Darebin logo

THAT building on its support for the No to Homophobia campaign expressed on 10 December 2012, Council commit to No to Homophobia’s ‘Promise Campaign’, thereby ‘giving its word to stand up against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Always’

Impressive.

In March this year, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria announced they were joining the No To Homophobia campaign.  At their May 6 plenum meeting they advised they would not pass a motion in support of saying No To Homophobia or calling others to do so, and instead simply made an informal recommendation to its affiliates:

JCCV logo

MOTIONS BEFORE THE PLENUM

The motions on the agenda regarding the ‘No to Homophobia’ campaign and Child Protection were actually recommendations to the JCCV affiliates and not motions which needed to be voted upon. Nina Bassat read the recommendations to the Plenum on the ‘No to Homophobia’ Campaign and the offer from the Child
Protection Reference Group.

Nina Bassat requested that Affiliates advise the JCCV if they sign up to the ‘No To Homophobia’ campaign, and requested that Affiliates respond to the questions in the Child Protection Briefing Paper prepared by Andrew Blode and presented at
the Council of Presidents.

Not so impressive.

This week I asked the JCCV if a motion was put to their plenum that preceded their March announcement to support No To Homophobia, given that there was no minuted record of it in their March plenum minutes.  They were unable to provide confirmation of such but advised me they would make enquiries to establish if there was.  Watch this space.

window dressing

And so, here we have two sizeable organisations who have both signed up to saying No To Homophobia, the City of Darebin which has made a firm documented commitment to the cause at council level, and the JCCV, not so much.  A pity really, because in the absence of such a motion their level of commitment could be perceived to be lacklustre.


Australian Society for Polish Jews says No To Homophobia

June 4, 2013

ASPJ logoIt just came to my attention that The Australian Society of Polish Jews and Their Descendents Inc., a little known organisation in Melbourne’s relatively small Jewish community, signed up as an Organisational Supporter of the No To Homophobia campaign in early May this year.

A testament to their support of No To Homophobia is the addition of the No To Homophobia logo to their web site:

ASPJ says No To Homophobia

(As I write this article, the inaugural Jewish organisation to support No To Homophobia, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, does not yet sport the No To Homophobia logo on their own web site.  Hopefully they will see there is merit in proudly saying No To Homophobia, just like the ASPJ have done.)

Following the lead of the JCCV signing up to No To Homophobia in March this year, the ASPJ are to be congratulated on being the first individual organisation in the Victorian Jewish community to sign up to No To Homophobia.

I hope their lead paves the way for many more organisations to also say No To Homophobia.


Responding to Corey: there’s an elephant in the room at the JCCV and it’s far from kosher

April 28, 2013

Yesterday I wrote a blog “The JCCV Puppet Show 2013“.  Today Corey posted a comment on it:

Personally I think this is childish and unwarranted.

No organisation or community has EVER gone from “homophobic” to “acceptance” over night. There has always been some with an organisation who harbour their old prejudices.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t benefit in doing SOMEthing rather than NOthing…

All this cartoon tells me is that the author has been so personally hurt by some in the JCCV that his pain is too great to see any glimmer of good in their action towards inclusive behaviour.

Perhaps my message was too subtle for Corey, so I will elaborate (although I hoped this would have been clear from the Aleph Melbourne media release issued on March 28).

The JCCV has put their name to the No To Homophobia campaign.  Any ordinary person would understand this to mean that they say no to homophobia.  Not just some homophobia, but all homophobia.  By comparison, take the issue of anti-Semitism, which is an area of concern for the JCCV.  They have the Anti-Defamation Commission to look after that for them, and through the ADC they attempt to stamp out all anti-Semitism.

Now from my humble perspective, when I read that the JCCV has signed up to No To Homophobia, I trust they are actually taking this initiative seriously and with no less concern for homophobia than they have for anti-Semitism.

But here’s the thing.  There’s a big fat elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, and that’s the biblical prohibition on homosexuality, Leviticus 18:22, that the Orthodox section of the Jewish community feel compelled to uphold.  It’s about as black and white as it gets: Homosexual sex is forbidden.  Now if that’s not homophobic, then nothing is.  Incidentally, the Orthodox community seem to have no qualms about not stoning to death those who commit homosexual activity, as required under Leviticus 20:13, although maybe that’s because civilised societies don’t stone people to death any more (much like civilised societies aren’t actually intolerant of homosexuality any more).

Leviticus Elephant

The JCCV Leviticus Elephant

I mention Leviticus 18:22 because in 2013 the Orthodox leadership in the community are steadfastly intolerant of homosexuality, and further, are intolerant of equal recognition of homosexual relationships under the law and under the religion.  You may wonder why this is an issue here.  Let me tell you.  If the JCCV is going to call for no homophobia in the Jewish community, then this means it is calling for no intolerance of homosexual people, no intolerance of homosexual relationships and no intolerance of homosexuality.

And this is an impossible situation for the JCCV because the Orthodox member organisations of the JCCV are not suddenly going to start embracing homosexuality just because the JCCV has signed up to No To Homophobia.  And further, the JCCV will willingly continue to accept the not-insubstantial membership dues (and any other financial contributions) of these organisations that are currently intolerant of homosexuality.  It should be noted that the spiritual leaders of many of these organisations belong to the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, itself unaffiliated with the JCCV, that made a submission to the Australian Senate calling for the homophobic discrimination in the Marriage Act to remain in place.

There is no amount of “good-will” that the JCCV can dish up that will make any thinking person believe it is sincere about saying no to homophobia while it actively nurtures organisations that themselves are actively intolerant of homosexuality in the Jewish and wider community.  It’s that simple.

Lastly, for those who say “Saying no to homophobia is a start, even if it’s just saying it” (and no, that doesn’t cut the “we don’t tolerate some anti-Semitism” test), how about the JCCV actually does something practical, like any one of these:

  • Recommend all Jewish schools join up to Safe Schools Coalition Victoria
  • Recommend the government doesn’t exempt religious organisations from discriminating against LGBTI people in Anti-Discrimination legislation
  • Call for the removal of discrimination in the Marriage Act that prevents same-sex attracted and intersex members of the Jewish community from getting married
  • Rebuking members of the community, lay and spiritual, who make public homophobic claims, such as that of Rabbi Shimon Cowen, Rabbi Chaim Ingram, Dr Miriam Grossman, Robert Weil, Ilana Leeds, and the “AJN Watch” blog.  Their standard yelp “Don’t give them oxygen” simply doesn’t cut it, considering just how strongly they rebuke purveyors of anti-Semitism
  • Establish a properly funded rigorous investigation into the rate of self-harm and suicide from members of the Jewish community who are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Extend an invitation to LGBTI Jewish organisations to become members of the JCCV, as an act of goodwill (especially considering they rejected the last application from a long-established LGBTI Jewish organisation)
  • Start praising the stellar work of the Progressive and Conservative Jewish communities.

I hope that this explains why the JCCV must prove that it is actually engaging with the community to break down homophobia and not just taking the lazy way out (in order to tick the “We’re LGBTI inclusive” box on government grant applications, to ensure its funding sources don’t dry up).  Until then it will remain nothing more than a three-ring circus replete with puppet and clown show.


The JCCV Puppet Show 2013

April 27, 2013

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria is trying to convince people they’re against homophobia.  Yet they take bucket-loads of money from numerous member organisations that are deeply intolerant of homosexuality.

Here’s my response to their GLBTI Statement from Nina Bassat AM.  Click on the image to enlarge.

JCCV puppet show 2013


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


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?


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.”


Jewish Gays still excluded from Victoria Police Jewish Community reception

June 22, 2012

For the third consecutive year Aleph Melbourne, the only organisation representing GLBT people in the Melbourne Jewish community, has not received an invitation to attend this year’s Victoria Police Jewish community reception.  This year’s cocktail party was organised in conjunction with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), as it was in previous years.  Aleph Melbourne was invited to the 2008 and 2009 Victoria Police Jewish Community reception dinners.

I was advised by Bruce Colcott of Victoria Police in advance of the 2011 Victoria Police Jewish community cocktail reception:

The organisers invited those members of the Jewish Community who hadn’t been given an opportunity in the past to attend  to represent their organisations.

Giving the benefit of the doubt, it would be fair to say that with the number of organisations in the Jewish community, “the organisers” would have been able to include everyone they had previously overlooked in their 2010 and 2011 events.  It staggers me to think that with 100 police and over 70 members of the Jewish community in attendance, there wouldn’t have been enough room to invite one more person.

In their 2011 GLBT Reference Group report, the JCCV said that all community organisations should adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination and vilification based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity and that it was clear that Jewish members of the GLBT community are subjected to discrimination, harassment and abuse because of their sexuality.

It would seem that the JCCV haven’t followed their own advice and Aleph Melbourne continues to be discriminated against by them and some of the wider Jewish community.

I question whether there is some sinister motivation for the ongoing exclusion of the most vulnerable, marginalised, and excluded group of people from such an event.  Victoria Police have not been able to come up with a credible reason why there has been such an “oversight” on previous occasions.

Does Victoria Police have a policy of excluding GLBT organisations from these types of events?  If not, why the ongoing exclusion?  It doesn’t bode well for their liaison with the GLBT community.


22 Jun 2012
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition
AJN STAFF

Cops, Jews come together

THERE was no emergency call and no suspicious characters or packages that led 100 police to descend on Beth Weizmann Community Centre earlier this month. There was, however, plenty of goodwill and friendship, as the Men in Blue and the Jewish community came together for their annual reception.

Commander Ashley Dickinson chats with hate-crime victim Menachem Vorchheimer.

“We are fortunate to enjoy warm and productive
relationships with Victoria Police at all levels.”
Nina Bassat
JCCV president

Now in its sixth year, the cocktail function saw Victoria Police men and women and over 70 members of the Jewish community, as well as representatives from other ethnic communities, celebrate diversity.

“This night is a significant occasion on the police calendar and indicates the commitment of the force to community engagement as a mainstream policing strategy,” said commander Ashley Dickinson, who acted as host and emcee on the evening alongside deputy commissioner Tim Cartwright.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) president Nina Bassat thanked police for the way they handled recent protests outside Parliament House, which was hosting a cocktail party to celebrate Israel’s 64th birthday at the time. Anti-Israel demonstrators screamed abuse, called for the destruction of the Jewish State and burned an effigy of Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu.

“We are fortunate to enjoy warm and productive relationships with Victoria Police at all levels,” she said.

“This enables us to feel as a community that our voices are heard, and that we can count on VicPol to do their utmost to ensure our safety,” she added.

A Q&A session with a young member of the police force and a performance by Leibler-Yavneh College’s a cappella choir followed.


Why you should not donate to the JCCV 2012 Appeal

May 16, 2012

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria has launched their 2012 appeal with an enticing email:

JCCV 2012 appeal

The pitch begins:

THE JCCV WHO?

We’re often asked what we do, how we support the Jewish community and build social cohesion within the wider multicultural community. Given the JCCV 2012 Appeal, it is timely to address these questions.

A good starting point is to define the role of a peak body – a representative organisation that provides information dissemination services, membership support, coordination, advocacy and representation, and research and policy development services for members and other interested parties…

and wraps up with:

So to our original question – the JCCV who? We speak on behalf of our community and are recognised as the body to turn to for issues regarding the Jewish and broader communities. There is so much more that we would like to do if we were better resourced and we need your support to remain relevant, viable and effective. , and to increase our efforts on the community’s behalf, we need our community’s support and your understanding.

Just before you whip out your credit card and fork out your hard-earned, take a moment to ponder the integrity of the message you’re being fed and question whether you’re donating your money to an honest, ethical organisation.

The JCCV appear to be taking some creative license here in having you believe they speak on behalf of the entire Jewish community.  It is clear that they don’t represent the best interests of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or same-sex attracted Jews whilst they stand by the following claim:

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

So whilst the JCCV would want you to believe it represents the entire Jewish community in Victoria, in reality it only represents those people who are heterosexual, those who are pretending to be heterosexual, or those who are openly same-sex attracted and celibate.  Some honesty in their marketing would be a start (followed by some integrity in their leadership).

I should add that this over-zealous desire to infer representation of an entire community of Jews is not constrained to Victoria, as has recently been evidenced in New South Wales, where their orthodox rabbinical council inaccurately claimed representation over all “mainstream” Jews in that state.

If you’re looking to donate money to a worthwhile organisation that is genuinely interested in the welfare of all people in the community, and not just those that meet with certain narrow religious expectations, ask some questions first.  Find out if the organisation you plan to fund is accepting and inclusive of all people, without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity, and if they welcome and recognise those people, along with their partner and any children, unhesitatingly.


VEOHRC chair John Searle speaks out in support of same-sex marriage

May 15, 2012

In an interview with ABC journalist Alison Caldwell today, Chairman of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, and immediate past president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria John Searle declared that he “has no issues” with same-sex marriage:

ALISON CALDWELL: What are your views regarding same sex marriage?

JOHN SEARLE: My views?

ALISON CALDWELL: Yes.

JOHN SEARLE: My personal views, I have no issues with it.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the chairman of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, John Searle. He was speaking with Alison Caldwell in Melbourne and Professor George is still Victoria’s deputy chief psychiatrist.

Well, a most welcome admission indeed.  For a person who is out of character in making supportive public statements on GLBT issues, this admission that he “has no issues with it” is a quantum leap forward.

Only a pity he was unprepared to make such a declaration on GLBT matters during his recent term as President of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria.  Having done so would have actually assisted many in need in the community he was claiming to act in the best interests of.

With John Searle’s new-found support of marriage equality I’m sure the team at Equal Love will be booking him in to address the August 11 Equal Love Rally.  They should be prepared for his unavailability though, with the rally being on a Saturday, so a pre-recorded address from him should suit nicely.


Merv Barnett on Aleph Melbourne’s exclusion from the JCCV

December 28, 2011

My father Merv Barnett penned this cartoon in June 2008 in response to a JCCV advertisement in the Australian Jewish News showing the dozens of organisations represented by the JCCV.  Glaringly absent from the tree of community organisations was Aleph Melbourne, or any other organisation representing the interests of GLBT Jews.  Needless to say this is still the case.  Hopefully 2012 will bring a more positive outlook toward GLBT Jews from the JCCV’s leadership.

20080621 Aleph Melbourne beyond the JCCV fence - Merv Barnett

Aleph Melbourne beyond the JCCV fence - Merv Barnett - 21 June 2008


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