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


Michael Danby MP, a two-faced abstainer

December 16, 2012

Ah, Michael Danby.  Only interested in grubbing for votes from the Jewish community, but fuck the rest of his electorate.  Peasant.

From a friend this week (Dec 13):

I called Michael Danby’s office this morning and was told that he “abstained” from the marriage equality vote on 19 September.  I think the woman I spoke to then realised that she’d said too much and put me through to a professional PR person, who told me to put all my questions in writing, blah, blah, blah.

So at least we have an answer; he chose to “abstain”.  I didn’t even know you could abstain in the parliamentary system.  Maybe abstaining means just putting up your hand to go to the bathroom …

Most ironic of all is that he chose to “abstain” on marriage equality and then created headlines yesterday for his vicious attack against Bob Carr for abstaining on the Palestine vote.

Correct, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Danby attacking Carr for having abstained:

Mr Danby described Senator Carr’s actions over the UN vote last month – and Australia’s ultimate decision to abstain –  as ‘‘unforgivable behaviour for any minister in any cabinet government.’’

I wish Danby would just say that he doesn’t give a rats arse about gays, that they can go to hell and that his political career, fueled by the Jewish vote, is the only thing important to his overgrown ego.

Danby, I’d tell you to kiss my hairy arse, but that’s a pleasure saved for my partner.


Fresh revelations of paedophilia perpetrated by an Orthodox rabbi in Melbourne’s Jewish community

November 6, 2012

The following message was distributed by Manny Waks via his Facebook page on November 4 2012.  I encourage anyone who has any relevant information to come forward to the police.  Manny has requested any direct contact with him to be via Facebook.

Over the year or so since I went public with my story of child sexual abuse at Melbourne’s Yeshivah, I’ve been entrusted with allegations relating to numerous other victims/perpetrators.

I want to share one of these with you. A prominent Jewish Australian who’s a household name, informed me that during his Bar-Mitzvah classes (several decades ago) at an Orthodox synagogue (not ultra-Orthodox), the prominent and highly respected rabbi (who for the time being will remain nameless) would expose himself and masturbate in front of him. At this stage, decades later, the victim still does not want to share his story with the police – as he told me, even his parents aren’t aware of his experience.

The reason I’ve elected to share this particular serious allegation is to point out a number of important points:
• anyone can be a victim;
• anyone can be a perpetrator;
• it is not just a Yeshivah/Adass/ultra-Orthodox issue; and
• many victims are still reluctant to share their experience with anyone, including family members and the police.

After holding discussions with the police on this matter, they have advised that they are unable to take any action, as the victim must provide a statement. Consistent with the way paedophiles work, it is reasonable to assume that this prominent rabbi would have done similar things to other children.

So I urge anyone who was also exposed to any such experience, especially similar to the story described above, to report the matter to the police – of course if you are aware of any other cases of sexual abuse, whether perpetrated against you or anyone else, please report this information to the police. It’s important that they are informed of everything so that they can have a broader picture of what has been happening. Because the picture that I currently have is very grim – in my opinion it’s not a question of whether instances of abuse were on a similar scale to the Catholic Church but rather whether this will all become public…..

Contact details (Melbourne, Australia):

Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team
(03) 9556 6129
Detective Senior Constable Jonathan RUSSELL (or others in the team)

If you’re reluctant to make a confidential statement to the police, please realise that you’re not alone – it’s common! But please consider that if you go to the police, you’ll be:
• pursuing justice;
• assisting other past victims; and
• protecting potential victims.

Please feel free to contact me in complete confidence if I can be of any assistance.


Australian Jewish Community Security and the invisible terrorist

February 3, 2012

Two stories published on January 31 2012 came to my attention this week: “Safety at all costs” (The Age) and “The Jewish Press won’t be silenced” (The Jewish Press).  After reading these stories it’s clear to me that the greater harm toward members of the Australian Jewish community comes not from outside it’s high security walls, but rather, from within.

The Age story talks about the tens of millions of dollars the Australian Jewish community spends on security each year and questions the merit of such a large investment:

… the inconvenient truth was that the Jewish community had not faced a terror attack in Australia for 30 years, since the Hakoah Club and Israeli consulate in Sydney were bombed on the same day.

The Jewish Press story, coming from a US-based perspective but nevertheless one that is transplantable to the local context, advises:

A significant number of suicide attempts are committed by boys from not just religious but rabbinic homes — because they thought they were homosexual and had no place in the Orthodox world they grew up in, even if they had never acted on those impulses.

If the Jewish community is serious about preventing harm to those within its ranks, which I believe it is, it should, as a matter of priority and urgency, rethink its approach to community security and how best it invests its millions of dollars.  It should be addressing the real and alarming problem of youth suicide, ubiquitous amongst religious communities that are intolerant of homosexuality.  Only then, when all traces of the harm have been eradicated, should the focus be placed on the less evident issues affecting the safety of the community.


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.


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.


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 .


Brutal Oxford Street Attacks on Jewish gay man

August 12, 2010

[SOURCE]

This news of a brutal attack on Simon Margan, a Jewish gay man in Sydney, is extremely disturbing.  Whilst there does not yet appear to be any indication Simon was brutally attacked because he was Jewish, there appears to be strong evidence he was attacked because he was gay.  Despite that, there needs to be support from the Jewish community to say that it is unacceptable for any member of the Jewish community to be subjected to vicious hate attacks, especially if they are motivated by homophobic intolerance.

There has been no visible support from the Australian Jewish community to date on this matter, specifically addressing homophobic intolerance and violence.  This situation is now critical and there must be strong, visible support from the entire Australian Jewish community that hate crime and intolerance based on sexual orientation is unacceptable.  There must also be a strong message that any intolerance of a person based on their sexual orientation is completely unacceptable.

I call on the leaders of the Australian Jewish community to take an immediate and effective stand.

I hope to see a media statement from the Jewish community issued before the end of this week.

Michael Barnett.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Roy Freeman
Date: 12 August 2010 14:35
Subject: [Dayenu] Oxford Street Attacks
To: Dayenu Yahoo

I just wanted to share with you news of this disturbing unprovoked attack that took place on Oxford Street on Monday evening. Gay-rights activist and Dayenu member, Simon Margan, was attacked along with 5 other people before the assailant was caught. Simon was kicked in the eye, which shattered his eye socket. He will have to have plastic surgery as a result.

If you were around Oxford Street on Monday evening and witnessed any of these attacks, please contact Surry Hills police.

http://www.samesame.com.au/news/local/5746/Six-injured-in-Oxford-St-bashing-spree.htm?utm_source=mailbomb&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=6910-[SS%20Weekly]%20The%20Good%20News%20and%20the%20Bad%20News

Roy


Israel shames the Australian Jewish community by speaking out against homophobia

May 18, 2010

On the International Day Against Homophobia, May 17 2010, Israel’s Minister of Education, Gideon Sa’ar, said there is no room for homophobia, according to the Really Israel blog.

”There is no place for homophobia. Differences are not a cause for concern. Differences are part of the fabric of our society”

The Australian Jewish community has remained silent for too long on homophobia.  Whilst there are increasing numbers of young people in the community who are living openly as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, there is no mainstream support for same-sex attracted people and still no statement that intolerance of homosexuality is unacceptable.

Orthodox Judaism and other fundamentalist or extreme Jewish sects consider homosexuality incompatible with religious lifestyle.  This intolerance has been proven to put same-sex attracted people, comprising about 10% of the population, at serious risk of suffering mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or self-harm, potentially leading to suicide.

What is needed are more leaders like Gideon Sa’ar, Tzipi Livni, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu to declare that homophobia in the (Jewish) community is unacceptable and that our society must completely respect and accept people who are same-sex attracted, as they do anyone else.

The Australian Jewish community must take example from Israel on this important matter and speak out immediately against deeply rooted ignorance, hate and intolerance of homosexuality.  Education is the key to success, and ultimately we’ll all be better off for it.


A small success – the Victorian Jewish community calls for respect for GLBT people

May 14, 2010

Today I feel a little happier than I have been for a long time.  People are listening and are now acting.  It’s not for lack of trying on my part, I can assure you.

To see overwhelming support for the words (in the JCCV media release of 06 May 2010 – see below):

This council … calls for abstention from any public or private conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, revulsion, vilification or severe ridicule of, another person or group on the ground of their identity (including race, religion, colour, disability, sexual orientation, gender and national origin) or views of that other person or group.”

is something I never imagined I would see.

Let this be an example for other communities around Victoria, Australia and the world.  There is no room for hate or intolerance in our society.

Homosexual, bisexual and transgender women and men are people like everyone else and have the same needs and desires as everyone else.  We need unconditional love and acceptance, not intolerance, hate and exclusion.

There is plenty more work that needs to be done in this area, but this is a good start.

Michael.

JCCV calls for respect for difference

06 May 2010

At the Jewish Community Council of Victoria plenum held on 3 May 2010, delegates overwhelmingly voted for the following amendment to the JCCV’s policy platform:

3.7          Respect

 

This Council:

 

3.7.1  ACKNOWLEDGES the distinctive character of the Victorian Jewish community as part of the Jewish people worldwide, with a shared history, culture and religious tradition.

 

3.7.2   RECOGNISES that irrespective of the common traits that bind us as a community, Victorian Jewry is also diverse and pluralistic and that this is reflected in different, often strongly held views, on a range of issues affecting the Jewish and larger communities.

 

3.7.3      CALLS FOR respect for any such differences, while affirming that disagreement is only permissible in ways that do not vilify other persons or their views.

 

3.7.4    CALLS FOR abstention from any public or private conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, revulsion, vilification or severe ridicule of, another person or group on the ground of their identity (including race, religion, colour, disability, sexual orientation, gender and national origin) or views of that other person or group.

JCCV President John Searle noted that the JCCV’s policy platform was a living document, continually updated to reflect the views of its affiliates.  He observed that under his presidency the JCCV had demonstrated an ongoing and increasing opposition to vilification in all its manifestations.

He stated that “it is important to realise that this particular policy is not intended to prohibit robust debate or to demand acceptance of all opinions or lifestyles.  What it does do, however, is set parameters for the conduct of discussion of such matters, asking for respect for difference.  Quite simply it’s about playing the ball, not the person.”

Searle concluded, “While our policies are not binding, they are nonetheless a strong statement of principle and provide guidance to and educate those persons considering a range of issues that affect our community.”

Please address any queries to Geoffrey Zygier at 9272 5566

Click here to see JCCV Policy Platforms 2010 (amended):


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