The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has today released details of ‘ground breaking’ work that they’ve undertaken, to try to work out some way to remove the hate and intolerance in the Jewish community that ostracises and marginalises people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or unsure of their sexual orientation or gender identity. There is incredible stigma in the Jewish community around these areas of human sexuality and gender identity, especially amongst those who subscribe to a fundamentalist interpretation of Jewish teachings.
Compounding this issue is the reluctance of the Jewish community, at best, to engage in the topic of discussions around the area of suicide, especially youth suicide. I mention this as there is an especially high and alarming rate of suicide amongst GLBT youth.
It is with highly cautious optimism that I am pleased to see discussions on this issue going on. Some talk is better than no talk. However I am extremely disturbed that the JCCV are undertaking this in the context of the Orthodox interpretation of homosexuality. This issue is so serious that any religious parameters placed around the discussions will effectively render the entire process a complete waste of time. It is the fundamentalist religious attitudes that have created this dire situation and while there is any respect given to them, there can be no credibility placed on what the JCCV are doing. In fact these intolerant religious attitudes much be challenged, even if this is not popular.
From the media release:
Searle says that although the JCCV leaves questions of Halacha to the Rabbonim, the JCCV remains guided by principles of inclusion and support for Jewish people to live meaningful lives. “The JCCV was set up as an umbrella organisation to protect the needs of all Jews in the Victorian Jewish community and is hence obliged to investigate areas of concern and provide support structures as necessary.”
The JCCV is a secular organisation representing a highly diverse Jewish community. It is imperative that it respect the complete religious diversity of the community they claim to represent. From a religious perspective, there is a significant percentage of members who are Progressive and Conservative, in addition to those who identify as Orthodox or similar. There are also members of the Jewish community who are secular and who do not subscribe to any religious teachings. This reference group must not operate within a religious context, as the JCCV is not a religious organisation and does not operative within any specific religious context.
The highly partisan stance the JCCV has taken on this matter betrays the impartiality of the JCCV, if it ever had any. I would strongly encourage the JCCV to include representation from the Progressive community on this reference group, along with community members who do not have an Orthodox allegiance.
Given the extreme lack of transparency the JCCV has fostered with their GLBT Reference Group, one can only conclude that it consists of people stacked from the Orthodox community, people sympathetic to the Orthodox community and people who simply don’t understand the dynamics of the diverse nature of the Jewish community.
Until the JCCV acknowledges that the Progressive and Conservative Jewish communities have a diametrically opposed, inclusive and accepting understanding and interpretation of homosexuality to that of the fundamentalist Orthodox community, they will be doing the entire Jewish community a serious disservice.
Lastly, the JCCV continues to sideline people, such as me, who have the credentials to competently address many of their concerns. It begs the question why this is the case.