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 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?


Australian Masorti rabbi Adam Stein speaks out against Dr Miriam Grossman

June 30, 2012

I applaud Rabbi Adam Stein of the Melbourne Conservative/Masorti Synagogue Kehilat Nitzan for taking this responsible and appropriate stance in relation to a communication about tomorrow’s talk at Glen Eira College by Dr Miriam Grossman.


From: [...]@kehilatnitzan.org.au
Sent: Thursday, 28 June 2012 12:24 PM
To: [...]
Subject: News sheet follow up regarding Sex Education Event

Dear Kehilat Nitzan members,

I wish to apologise for sending out a notice about an event called “Sex Education – Protecting Our Children’s Well-Being.” The shule was sent an email asking us to promote the event (as was every shule in the community, it seems), and I should have read the announcement more carefully. If I had, I would have noticed that the sponsor is the Australian Family Association, which is devoted to denying marriage and even civil union rights to loving gay and lesbian couples. I would have noticed that, contrary to what the title might imply, Miriam Grossman seems to be a crusader against sex education in schools. After a couple of hours of research late last night, I found her to be in agreement with the chair of the program, Shimon Cowen, who calls homosexuality “an abnormality, which as far as possible should be treated.” It seems this program may be part of Dr. Cowen’s recent anti-gay screeds found in the past few months throughout many issues of the Australian Jewish News and even the MX paper found at train stations, attacking the Safe School Coalition Victoria for its approach to preventing bullying and sex education, at least in part because they teach that being gay is OK. In Dr Cowen’s view, it is not and should be fixed. (This so called “Reparative Therapy,” by the way, has been debunked as damaging in study after study. Even the study he cites time and again was retracted by its own author. See the five letters to the AJN a couple of weeks ago by psychologists and psychiatrists attacking Cowen for his damaging views.

Miriam Grossman obviously does not like the way sex education is run in America, and perhaps Australian schools. You may agree or disagree with her, and may even decide to go to the event. I’ll be doing a consecration at a cemetery at the time; otherwise, I might go myself to hear what she has to say.

The email we received and sent out stated “The following Public Address has been approved by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and Rabbis of all denominations” The Rabbinical Council of Victoria contains only Orthodox rabbis, and I would be surprised to hear of any non-Orthodox rabbis approving of this talk.

Please accept our apology for sending out a notice for a program which does not in any way reflect the Worldwide Masorti Movement and especially not the values of Kehilat Nitzan. For an approach to sexuality, and homosexuality, which better reflect a Masorti/Conservative view of halachah to which I adhere, I suggest the following resources:

  • The teshuvah (Jewish legal responsum) from 2006, by Rabbis Dorff, Nevins, and Reisner titled HOMOSEXUALITY, HUMAN DIGNITY & HALAKHAH (click on the title to download)
  • The section on sexuality in the wonderful new volume from our Movement called The Observant Life. The Kindle version for your Kindle, iPad, Smartphone, or computer, can be purchased here.

Please be in touch if you have any thoughts or questions on these or other topics.

Shabbat Shalom,

Adam Stein


Our Rabbi

Adam SteinRabbi Adam Stein became the rabbi at Kehilat Nitzan in August 2011. He received his ordination from The Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He also earned a Master of Arts in Education from AJU. Before coming to Kehilat Nitzan, Rabbi Stein was the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom in Kansas City, Missouri.

His journey to the rabbinate began in high school and in college at the University of California, San Diego, when he spent his junior year at Hebrew University and summers at Camp Ramah and the Brandeis Collegiate Institute. Following college, he studied in Israel at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.

In addition to Judaism, Rabbi Stein counts among his great loves his wife Tamar, his parents, sister, extended family and… Macintosh computers.

Office Hours

Rabbi Stein is in and out of the office meeting with congregants, at funerals, making hospital visits, and so on. He will be available in the office (Level 1, 230 Balaclava Road, Caulfield Junction) on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons between 2 pm and 4 pm if you want to meet with him. You can call him at 0422 674 455 or send an email.



Dr Miriam Grossman, psychiatrist and snake-oil merchant

June 29, 2012

Dr Miriam Grossman’s reputation precedes her, with her Australian Family Association sponsored trip to Australia to peddle her books and religiously inspired unscientific message on sex education.  If alarm bells aren’t going off by the involvement of the AFA, they should be with Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen chairing the session she’s talking at.

Yesterday ABC PM fired their AuntyCanon™ at this dangerous doctor (Controversial American doctor condemns sex education in Australian schools).  Earlier in the week the Caulfield Glen Eira Leader gave Glen Eira College some reason to feel uncomfortable for hosting this snake-oil merchant (Controversial doctor to speak in Glen Eira).

Also shining the spotlight on Grossman were Bruce Llama (Grossman and Sex and Miriam Grossman talks about giving head) and Mike Stuchbery (GROSS, MAN.).

I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard about this unfortunate situation.

Parents and children don’t need unscientific snake-oil messages being peddled about sex education, especially when there is a religious imperative underlying it all.  What the community needs to hear is proven findings from respectable scientific research.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect to the message that psychiatrist Dr Miriam Grossman is delivering as “the truth” is that it is counter to that of her medical profession.  I’d be calling that malpractice and revoking her license if it was within my power.


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

March 7, 2012

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

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

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


Cowen, Jarryd B and incivility.

March 6, 2012

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen writes to Jarryd B:

Dear Jarryd,
I appreciate your consideration of questions of decency of behaviour. The internet seems to invite, unfortunately, a level of incivility, which would not be there were people talking to each other face to face.

Jarryd B writes of Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen in a comment on this blog:

"He should be mocked and his bullshit called out."

LOL.


Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen a former Associate of Monash University’s Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC)

February 28, 2012

20120217 Monash University tweet on Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen


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.


Monash University. Dr David Irving – Holocaust Denier. Incompatible.

February 22, 2012

[SOURCE]

Monash University has issued the following statement regarding Dr David Irving:

Monash University is home to freedom of expression amongst our diverse staff and student population and encourages expert academic views, however Dr David Irving is not commenting on behalf of the University or the Faculty of Arts and the University does not endorse his comments. Monash University reiterates its respect for the dignity of all human beings, regardless of belief in the Holocaust.

They have further advised that Dr David Irving holds an adjunct/honorary role at the university, which entitles him to an email address and entry in the university’s staff directory.

Dr David Irving has expressed a number of vehemently and distressing racist and anti-semitic views as published on the Australian Supremacist Association web site.  These views were further substantiated by the mX newspaper in an interview they conducted with him.

Monash University begins their vision and long-term strategy with:

Monash is a university of progress and optimism.

and continues with:

The areas of focus outlined by Monash Futures include:

  • the ability to attract, recruit and retain the world’s best talent in both the academic and professional staff cohorts
  • ensuring we have the reputation to attract the best students – to make Monash their university of first choice

Dr David Irving is a person with virulent, historically incorrect and disproven views on the Holocaust.  If Monash is truly “a university of progress and optimism” then people with antisemitic, racist and nihilistic views toward the Holocaust are antithetical to this vision and have no place in the university’s ranks.

I contend that whilst Monash University continues the adjunct/honorary appointment of Dr Irving and whilst he has any opportunity to engage in any manner in the academic realm, through or on behalf of the university, Monash University are doing the greatest disservice to their students, their reputation, their vision and humanity as a whole.

I ask Monash University to make the continuance of Dr David Irving’s adjunct/honorary role conditional on him refraining from promulgating a nihilistic discourse on the Holocaust in any official and/or public capacity and to obtain from him a written assurance of this understanding.

If Monash University sincerely respects the dignity of all human beings, regardless of “racial purity”, they will ensure people with nihilistic attitudes toward the Holocaust have no voice on their campuses.

I suggest anyone who has a concern about the university’s ongoing association with Dr David Irving contact Professor Ed Byrne, Monash University Vice Chancellor and President directly.

If this scenario would outrage you, sign this petition.


Monash University. Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen. Incompatible.

February 21, 2012

Monash University has issued the following statement regarding Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen:

Monash University is home to freedom of expression amongst our diverse staff and student population and encourages expert academic views, however Dr Shimon Cowen is not commenting on behalf of the University or the Faculty of Arts and the University does not endorse his comments. Monash University reiterates its respect for the dignity of all human beings, regardless of sexual preference.

They have further advised that Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen holds an adjunct/honorary role at the university, which entitles him to an email address and entry in the university’s staff directory.

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen has expressed a number of vehemently and distressing homophobic views as published on the Australian Family Association web site.  These views were further substantiated by the mX newspaper in an interview they conducted with him.

Monash University begins their vision and long-term strategy with:

Monash is a university of progress and optimism.

and continues with:

The areas of focus outlined by Monash Futures include:

  • the ability to attract, recruit and retain the world’s best talent in both the academic and professional staff cohorts
  • ensuring we have the reputation to attract the best students – to make Monash their university of first choice

Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen is a person with virulent, unscientific and outdated views on homosexuality.  If Monash is truly “a university of progress and optimism” then people with negative and destructive views toward homosexuality are antithetical to this vision and have no place in the university’s ranks.

I contend that whilst Monash University continues the adjunct/honorary appointment of Dr Cowen and whilst he has any opportunity to engage in any manner in the academic realm, through or on behalf of the university, Monash University are doing the greatest disservice to their students, their reputation, their vision and humanity as a whole.

I ask Monash University to make the continuance of Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen’s adjunct/honorary role conditional on him refraining from promulgating a negative discourse on homosexuality in any official and/or public capacity and to obtain from him a written assurance of this understanding.

If Monash University sincerely respects the dignity of all human beings, regardless of “sexual preference”, they will ensure people with repugnant attitudes toward homosexuality have no voice on their campuses.

I suggest anyone who has a concern about the university’s ongoing association with Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen contact Professor Ed Byrne, Monash University Vice Chancellor and President directly.

If this situation outrages you, sign this petition.


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?


Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen – Monash University alumnus

February 20, 2012

[SOURCE]

Name: Shimon Cowen, PhD
Title: Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization
Position: Con Two-State Solution to the question “What are the solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Reasoning:
“There is no legal principle which can accord ownership or statehood in the biblically defined land of Israel to a people other than the Jewish people. In this it differs from all other nations which by differing criteria could establish jurisdiction over territories. None of these formal or pragmatic rules apply to the Jewish people’s relationship to the land of Israel. For the land of Israel is different in its essence from every other land, and pertains by virtue of its essence to the Jewish people. It is a Jewish land.”

“The Arab-Israeli Conflict – Part II,” Journal of Judaism and Civilization, 1999

Theoretical Expertise Ranking:  Experts
Members of Congress, Ambassadors, Counsul Generals, heads of government, heads of major government organizations, members of legislative bodies, and PhD’s with significant involvement in, or related to, the Palestinian – Israeli conflict. [Note: Experts definition varies by site.]
Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization, 1998 – present
  • Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer, Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization, Monash University
  • Programme Director, Kollel Menachem Lubavitch (Melbourne, Australia)
  • Editor of three publications, the Journal of Judaism and Civilization, Monographs in Judaism and Civilization, and the Bulletin in the Noahide Laws
Education:
  • PhD, Social Philosophy, Monash University (Melbourne, Australia)
  • Rabbinic ordination in the Kollel Menachem Lubavitch, Melbourne
Contact Info: Phone: 61-3-9527 5902 (Australia)
Fax: 61-3-9527 5902
E-Mail: admin@ijc.com.au
Website: www.ijc.com.au
Select Publications:
  • “The Noahide Laws, Israel and Peace,” Bulletin in the Noahide Laws, Mar. – Apr., 2009
  • “Israel: State and Religion – Part I & II, a Discussion,” Journal of Judaism and Civilization, 1999
Other: None found
Quoted in:

Monash University wants it both ways. Not good enough.

February 20, 2012

On Friday I got word from Monash University that Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen “is no longer an associate at Monash University”.  Today I see on Twitter that “he holds an adjunct/honorary role (unpaid) at the uni”.

Perhaps it’s a case of semantics, but it strikes me as a little odd that someone who is not an associate of the university can hold an adjunct/honorary role at the same time.

20120220 Monash University responds via Twitter to query re Dr Cowen in staff directory

What this effectively amounts to is that Monash University has not distanced themselves from this homophobe and is willing to bestow upon him an official Monash University email address, thereby continuing an association with him.  In doing so they potentially tarnish their reputation by affording him and his disreputable views some credibility.

Not good enough, Monash University.  If you want to look like you are distancing yourself from Cowen, it would be helpful to actually do so.


Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen lingering like a bad smell at Monash University

February 18, 2012

According to Monash University “Dr Shimon Cowen’s is no longer an associate at Monash University (and was not an Associate here at the time of writing his opinion piece)”.  However as of February 18, 2012 his name still appears in the staff directory.

20120218 Dr Shimon Cowen in Monash University staff directory

Seems he’s lingering like a bad smell.


Ilana Leeds shows strong support for shunned virulently anti-gay rabbi

February 16, 2012

In September 2010 Ilana Leeds told us she was a victim of bullying.  On Monday this week (Feb 13 2012), Ilana Leeds showed her support for Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, a man who wants to delegitimise an anti-bullying program, simply because it affirms homosexuality.

20120213 Ilana Leeds blog supporting Rabbi Shimon Cowen

The hypocrisy here is amazing.  Really it is.  It’s beggars belief that a self-professed anti-bullying campaigner is promoting the very attitudes, based on disproven junk science, that have been shown to contribute to the alarmingly high rates of youth suicide in Australia.

The bullied anti-bullying campaigner joins ranks with the bully who wants to disband the life-saving anti-bullying program.


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