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

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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.


stand4marriage (or Warwick Marsh 4 Peter Madden)

March 15, 2012

[SOURCE]

I reckon Peter Madden and Warwick Marsh would make great homosexual lovers.  Two wonderful role models of Australian masculinity.  But which one would be the man and which one would be the woman in that relationship?  Coz we all know that every relationship has male and female roles.

I also wonder which one would go top and which one bottom.  Perhaps they’d take turns, one going for it first, then flipping and going the other way.  I bet they’d both get down and dirty, squealing like stuck pigs, and there might even be some santorum being shared, coz I’m sure they’d be lapping up the post-coital love juices.

Well, that’s just my fantasy, a bit like their fantasy, that all homosexual relationships are disgusting and dangerous and that it’s ok to vilify homosexuals.

Oh, and if they don’t like that gays want to marry a same-sex partner, I’m of the opinion that their choice of life partner is pretty sucky too and that they could have done a lot better.


Paul Winter’s vilification of GLBT people has strong Nazi overtones

December 22, 2011

On December 21, 2011 a message was posted by Paul Winter of Chatswood, NSW on the J-Wire news site in response to an article I wrote about marriage equality:

20111221 J-Wire Paul Winter comment

Vilifying comment posted by Paul Winter on J-Wire prior to it's removal.

The entirety of this comment is offensive in the extreme.  The author states that GLBT people are “abnormal”, “disabled”, “developmentally immature”, “confused”, “not fully developed”, “in need of counselling” and implies that we are not capable of having “fully functioning and fulfilling” relationships.

Winter’s anti-intellectual ramblings are reminiscent of that employed by the infamous dictators who relegated undesirables to sub-human status.

Further to a complaint by me regarding the deeply offensive and vilifying nature of the comment, the J-Wire editor Henry Benjamin swiftly removed the comment.  Fortunately the damage done by publication of the comment had been mitigated.

I hope never to see this sort of language published ever again on any web site, especially a Jewish one.


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

November 2, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


John Searle, Vilification and the Seventh Commandment of Animalism

August 25, 2011

[SOURCE]

The new VEOHRC chairperson John Searle has spoken out against racial vilification, making reference to racial vilification legislation and stating that a placard portraying a swastika “represented a disgraceful and outrageous threat.”

Will Searle be as strident in his response to equivalent vilification on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity as he is to vilification on the grounds of race?  He has a concerning record of ignoring the former when presented with it, claiming that by not giving it oxygen it will go away.  He told me that in his house in August 2009.

On the basis of his aforementioned logic, Searle should be ignoring this anti-Jewish swastika-ridden placard, because in doing so the hate should magically vanish if ignored.

Searle has adopted an Orwellian approach to vilification – that all vilification is unacceptable, just that some vilification is more unacceptable.  He is wrong.  All vilification is equally unacceptable.  All vilification needs to be stamped out, not by ignoring it, but by exposing it and eradicating it.

It is imperative for Searle to adopt the approach that no vilification is acceptable and to guide the VEOHRC to speak out strongly against discrimination and vilification on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Victoria.  Is Searle willing to go this far for all Victorians?


The reason why vilification of homosexuals exists in the Jewish community

August 16, 2011

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria has called for submissions “to investigate issues surrounding vilification, discrimination and mental health concerns faced by members of Victoria’s Jewish GLBT community.”

In considering preparing a submission for this investigation I have sought definitions of ‘vilification’ and ‘discrimination’ from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC).

The VEOHRC defines ‘vilification‘ (in the context of race and religion) as:

Vilification is behaviour that incites or encourages hatred of, serious contempt for, revulsion or severe ridicule of another person or group of people on the grounds of their race or religion.

Further, it defines ‘discrimination‘ (in the context of sexual orientation and gender identity) as:

Discrimination is treating someone unfairly because of a personal characteristic protected by law and causing them to be disadvantaged as a result.

Initially I thought it would be appropriate to prepare a comprehensive list of examples of vilification and discrimination that I have experienced on a personal level and those which I have witnessed through the media in the Jewish community.  My archives over the past decade or so provide me with ample material for this exercise.

However, the time and effort necessary to undertake this task is substantial, and I feel that it would not necessarily convey the best ‘return on investment’.

Instead, what I have decided to do is present the underlying reason that vilification and/or discrimination exists against homosexuals and same-sex attracted people, relevant to the terms of reference for this submission.  This reason unarguably underlies every single instance of attack, hatred and intolerance against homosexuality or same-sex attraction.

What I am presenting is the proscription of homosexuality in the Torah.  I draw from two verses from the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra), specifically Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13.  My source here is my personal copy of The Chumash (Artscroll – Stone Edition, 4th Edn, 1994).  I present the abovementioned verses and any accompanying commentary.

Leviticus Chapter 18 deals with “forbidden relationships”.

Leviticus 18:22

22 You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination.

22-23 Sodomy and bestiality.  The chapter of immorality ends with two forms of sexual perversion: homosexuality and bestiality.  The harshness with which the Torah describes them testifies to the repugnance in which God holds those who engage in these unnatural practices.

22 Toevah – An abomination.  None of the relationships given above are described with this term of disgust, because they involve normal activity, though with prohibited mates.  Homosexuality, however, is unnatural and therefore abominable.

Leviticus Chapter 20 deals with “punishments”.

Leviticus 20:13

13 A man who lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they have both done an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon themselves.

In these two verses from Leviticus, dealing with homosexuality, I encountered the terms ‘abomination’, ‘immorality’, ‘sexual perversion’, ‘repugnance’, ‘unnatural practices’, ‘disgust’, ‘unnatural’ and ‘put to death’.  These are extremely harsh and unambiguous terms, so much so that to me they comprehensively and without a doubt exemplify the definitions of both vilification and discrimination that I supplied earlier.

If the JCCV is looking for the single reason that any vilification and discrimination exists against same-sex attracted people, they need look no further than any Torah or Chumash in the Jewish community of which a literal or absolute observance is expected.  The Orthodox interpretation of these two verses of the Torah, and any associated commentaries, leave no doubt as to the expectations and obligations of same-sex attracted people.

The rabbis and others who teach and those who perpetuate these doctrines, doctrines that are out of touch with modern medical and psychological practices, are all complicit in vilifying and discriminatory behaviour against same-sex attracted people.  Further, these attitudes contribute to the mental-health deterioration of same-sex attracted people, while rigorous and uncompromising adherence is demanded.

I believe this submission offers sufficient evidence to demonstrate vilification and discrimination against homosexual and same-sex attracted people in the context of the Victorian Jewish community.


JCCV’s John Searle to talk to GLBT radio JOY 94.9 on vilification

August 4, 2011

Tune in tomorrow to hear John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, talk to Doug Pollard on gay and lesbian community radio station JOY 94.9 regarding the latest JCCV initiative to combat vilification and discrimination against GLBT people.  Details here.  The podcast and transcript of the interview will be posted as they become available.


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