We Call Out Homophobic Clerics, But What About The Rabbis? | New Matilda

We Call Out Homophobic Clerics, But What About The Rabbis?

Murdoch based outlets have been chasing down Muslim clerics for their views, but leaders from other faiths with a poor history on LGBTI rights don’t draw the same attention, writes Michael Brull.

In the week since the Iftar hosted by the Prime Minister, the Murdoch press has scoured the records of Muslim clerics in attendance. They have documented repulsive comments towards homosexuality, with Murdoch bloggers (and Media Watch) pursuing with great interest the question of Islam’s relation to homosexuality. The ABC’s Paul Barry says that this is “a subject our political leaders and the media will be forced to confront.”

Religion is never an excuse for homophobia. There is a need to challenge reactionary religious leaders with appalling views on homosexuality and LGBTQI communities. I’m sure that the Murdoch press has been challenging Muslim leaders because of its heartfelt concern for gay people in Australia.

Due to this touching concern, I thought I’d bring to their attention a few cases of homophobic rabbis, who have somehow escaped their exhaustive quest against prejudice.

Pictured below is a meeting of various leading rabbis associated with the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott last year. Rabbis present include Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, Rabbi Paul Lewin, Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, Rabbi Meir Klugwant, Rabbi Pinchas Feldman, and Rabbi Chaim Ingram.

RabbisSecond from the right in that picture, face partially obscured by Abbott, is Rabbi Ingram.

Rabbi Ingram has repeatedly argued that gay Jewish people should commit suicide, rather than engage in homosexuality.

In the 20 July 2012 edition of theAustralian Jewish News – two and a half years before meeting the Prime Minister – Rabbi Ingram argued in an article that Orthodox Judaism sees homosexuality “as a sin for which one must be prepared to give up one’s life as necessary”.

The following week, the AJN ran what it called an apology. It said “Rabbi Chaim Ingram expressed an opinion on homosexuality held by certain sections of the Jewish community. The AJN apologises for any offence caused.”

Not a minority opinion. Not an unpopular opinion, let alone a reprehensible one. Just an opinion held by “certain sections” of the Jewish community. Rabbi Ingram himself did not apologise. He continued to advocate his position. On October 19 that year, he wrote in one of his many letters to the AJN that “homosexuality is one of a handful of offences (and prawn-eating is not one of them), which one is bidden to resist even on pain of death.”

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letters to ajn

No “apology” was issued for that letter. Some letter writers harshly criticised Rabbi Ingram, and heresponded by criticising one person’s “intolerant desire to silence me”.

Rabbi Ingram is among the more prominent rabbis in Australia, as shown by his inclusion in the ORA delegation. In March 2012, he was among the signatories of the Rabbinical Council of NSW’s submission to the Senate inquiry on marriage equality. Rabbis Ulman and Lewin also signed the submission, though inquiries were to be directed to Honorary Secretary, Rabbi Ingram. The submission argues that “all humankind remains bound by” the “universal moral code” of the Torah. “Central” to its “key universal values… are norms relating to human sexuality which endorse the stable sexual union of a man and a woman in a socially recognised relationship of mutual commitment whilst rejecting other sexual unions notably adultery, incest, bestiality and homosexuality.” (emphasis added)

That is, the submission of the RCNSW explicitly classed homosexual unions in the same category of rejected sexual unions as bestiality. Three of the four signatories to that submission met with the Prime Minister Tony Abbott within a few years. In December 2013 – over a year after Rabbi Ingram had repeatedly expressed his view about what weak-willed gay people should do – he launched a book. Warm speeches were given by other influential rabbis, like Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, the leader of Chabad in NSW.

During the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Rabbi Feldman allegedlytold a perpetrator of child sexual abuse that he should take steps to avoid it, but otherwise took no action. He also didn’t tell police of an alleged perpetrator leaving Australia because he “did not know there was any such obligation”. And before the Royal Commission, his son Rabbi Eli Feldman called a perpetrator, later convicted, to ask if he had had a conversation with Rabbi Feldman in the 1980s.

Rabbi Klugwant resigned as President of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, and as executive member of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, in the wake of damaging revelations. Specifically, in response to one victim of child sexual abuse urging victims in an email to come forward, Rabbi Klugwant told the victim he shouldn’t have sent the email. When the father of another victim gave evidence, Rabbi Klugwant called the father a “maniac” who was “attacking Chabad”. Again, Rabbi Klugwant met with the Prime Minister.

As for the Rabbinical Council of NSW, its President, Rabbi Yossi Feldman, remained President in 2011 after emails leaked, in which he urged rabbis to tell victims of child sexual abuse not to go to the police, but to only report the crimes to rabbis. He stepped aside for several weeks, but was then reinstated until the 2012 AGM. He also argued that complaining to the police would hurt his “friend”, later convicted as a child sexual abuser, and that victims don’t know if the perpetrator will re-offend anyway. Other highlights include his position that media attention merely encourages “fake victims”, apparently including “phony attention seeker” Manny Waks.

Or take another luminary of the religious Jewish establishment. Rabbi Shimon Cowen doesn’t give popular lectures on YouTube, but writes complex essays in sophisticated language. In July 2011, he argued that it was “Stalinist” how “opposition to homosexual behaviour” was treated as an illness, instead of homosexuality itself. In an article devoted to criticising the Safe Schools Coalition program in Victoria, he argued against teaching children that homosexuality was normal or acceptable, but was merely an abnormal urge which could be overcome with therapy:

“From a religious standpoint, if a person felt an overwhelming homosexual impulse of the deepest nature, that would be viewed with compassion but it would not constitute permission to indulge homosexual activity in practice. It is an abnormality, which as far as possible should be treated.However, there is a wide spectrum of children and persons who experience sexual identity confusion and can yet prevail upon themselves to accept what for the world religious cultures is the normative model of heterosexual behaviour. The homosexual lobby has a stake in rejecting therapy and the idea that humans can change and take control of their impulses. Paradoxically, it can be argued, their attempt to block this change and drive children deeper into malaise is the potential cause of great suffering. Those who insist that a child is homosexual and should embrace a homosexual lifestyle can compound the psychological malaise. They compound an illness.”


Rabbi Cowen is the Founding Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilisation, an Associate at Monash University when he published his essay. In June 2012, a year after the above essay was published, his Institute received a $20,000 grant from the government. It was part of the Federal Government’s Building Community Resilience, to resist “intolerant ideologies”. Other contributors to his forums include Coalition MP Cory Bernardi and Labor MP Michael Danby.

In May 2012 – not long before Rabbi Cowen received his generous government grant – he once again advocated at length for his position, which he also attributed to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that gay people, “with the exercise of free will and the help of educators, therapists and counsellors, individuals can overcome these drives”. Sadly, the current day American Psychiatric Association “rejects freedom, choice and cure in homosexuality.”

The peak body for Jews in Australia responded to Rabbi Cowen’s 2011 essay in February 2012. It supported anti-bullying programs in schools. As for the Rabbi, they wrote: “Rabbi Dr Cowen is highly respected in our community but that does not mean that his views on any subject are representative. We note also that in his recent article, Rabbi Cowen fully condemns bullying of any child inter alia on the grounds of homosexual behaviour.”

It’s a miracle the Rabbi survived such a vicious rebuke. Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, at the time President of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, defended Rabbi Cowen’s essay on the Safe Schools program.

Back in 2011, the Jewish News criticised an “alarmist” report which Rabbi Cowen said “misquoted” him, to the effect that Jewish schools and hospitals wouldn’t hire gay people. Rabbi Cowen clarified: “I did not say that a Jewish school must necessarily make a close examination of the background and private lives of its teachers… But where it is evident that a teacher models, in a known and outward manner, sexual practices which run contrary to Judaism, a school has every right not to hire that teacher.”

So there you have it, our community’s “highly respected” rabbi doesn’t think all gay people should be barred from employment at Jewish schools. Just the ones who are noticeably gay. His view was naturally supported by the then President of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, Rabbi Yaakov Glasman. He thought religious institutions should be able to hire people who adhere to religious values.

About four years later, he also met with the Prime Minister. He’s also in the picture at the top of this article.

So there you have it. Rabbis who oppose hiring gay teachers, who think gay people should be treated so that they can overcome their illness, who compare homosexuality to bestiality, a rabbi who thinks weak-willed gay people should commit suicide, and a sample of the sorry record of leading rabbis on the sexual abuse of children.

It’s all public record, and it’s all pretty awful. What will this achieve? Maybe nothing. I’m not sure that a Jewish atheist associated with harsh criticisms of Israel calling out this or that Rabbi will have much constructive effect.

Yet the last week has shown us that the media believes deeply in the value of calling out reactionary religious clerics. Surely, I have now done my bit, and lent a helping hand. Consider the above my contribution to the stories that I am sure are on the way.

I contacted a journalist at the Australian, asking if they would report on homophobic rabbis. I haven’t heard back yet. I’m sure it’s coming. They’re opposed to all homophobia, right?

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Cathy Wilcox: We won’t mention it if you don’t

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Media Release: Aleph Melbourne Voters Guide for Marriage Equality

ALEPH MELBOURNE MEDIA RELEASE
2016 VOTERS GUIDE FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN JEWISH MELBOURNE
June 21 2016

Aleph Melbourne proudly announces its 2016 Voters Guide for Marriage Equality in Jewish Melbourne.

Following on from the successful 2013 edition, this voters guide is an essential resource for the savvy voter who is keen on prioritising equality for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse people.

The guide covers the electorates of Goldstein, Higgins, Hotham, Kooyong, Melbourne Ports and Menzies.  These electorates are selected as they span the suburbs where Melbourne’s Jewish community are predominantly located.

Individual candidates’ positions are provided where known along with links to party and social media profiles.

A list of supportive senate candidates will be added in coming days.

A range of resources are provided in the guide to allow further research into the key issues around achieving equality and organisations that are working to help achieve it.

View the guide here: http://aleph.org.au/2016/06/11/2016-voters-guide-to-marriage-equality-in-jewish-melbourne

CONTACT: Michael Barnett | michael@aleph.org.au | 0417-595-541

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ECAJ Media Statement on Orlando Terror Attack

ECAJ Media Statement on Orlando Terror Attack

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2016 Voters Guide to Marriage Equality in Jewish Melbourne

This guide is aimed to assist voters living in the main Jewish neighbourhoods in Melbourne best select candidates who have comprehensively demonstrated or pledged their full support for marriage equality.

Levels of support for “same-sex marriage” listed for each electorate in this guide are taken from the “News Ltd 2010 Same-Sex Marriage Poll”.  The raw data is available in the resources section below.

MPs re-contesting their seats have an * after their name.

Feedback, corrections and updates are invited via the form below.  Information is provided here in good faith and on the understanding that it is correct.

This page is optimised for viewing on a full-screen browser.

Candidates & Electorates


Goldstein

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 50% | Against: 28% | Don’t Care: 22%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who personally support marriage equality but are denied a free vote by their party:

Candidates who will oppose marriage equality based on their party or personal position:


Higgins

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 57% | Against: 27% | Don’t Care: 17%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who personally support marriage equality but are denied a free vote by their party:


Hotham

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 44% | Against: 32% | Don’t Care: 24%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who do not have a declared position on marriage equality but are denied a free vote by their party:

  • George HUA (Liberal) (web site | facebook)
    ** Note: this candidate has refused to advise if they would support marriage equality.

Candidates who will oppose marriage equality based on their party or personal position:


Kooyong

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 54% | Against: 29% | Don’t Care: 18%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who personally support marriage equality but are denied a free vote by their party:


Melbourne Ports

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 61% | Against: 20% | Don’t Care: 19%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who personally support marriage equality but are denied a free vote by their party:

Candidates who will oppose marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

  • John B MYERS (Independent) (facebook)

Menzies

2010 levels of support for “same-sex marriage” in electorate:

  • For: 39% | Against: 41% | Don’t Care: 19%

Candidates who will support marriage equality based on their party or personal position:

Candidates who do not have a declared their position on marriage equality but belong to a party that is broadly supportive of progressive and/or evidence-based reform:

Candidates who will oppose marriage equality based on their party or personal position:


✡ Candidate has declared a Jewish identity
Candidate has declared a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex identity


Parties

Parties that support marriage equality in their policy platform and require their candidates to vote accordingly:

Parties that support marriage equality in their policy platform but allow their candidates to vote on their conscience:

Parties that don’t currently have a position on marriage equality but are broadly supportive of equality and progressive and/or evidence-based reform:

Parties that are actively obstructing the prompt passage of marriage equality:

Independent candidates may vote for or against marriage equality as they choose.


Resources


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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: just call for marriage equality

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wants to know how to respond to same-sex relationships.

It’s really simple.  Call for marriage equality.

Shmuley same sex relationships

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City of Glen Eira embraces LGBTIQ inclusion in its care for older adults

Aleph Melbourne congratulates the City of Glen Eira for embracing same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender diverse (SSA/I/GD) people in its Positive Ageing Strategy 2015-2020 [PDF].

In July 2015 Aleph Melbourne responded to a call for feedback on the draft strategy, which at that time had no inclusive language on SSA/I/GD issues.  Our submission, with valuable input from gerontologist Dr Jo Harrison, along with the endorsements of Jewish Care and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, offered a number of recommendations to the strategy.

Aleph Melbourne convenor Michael Barnett also met in person with council staff to discuss these recommendations and how they would benefit those SSA/I/GD people living in the City of Glen Eira.

The professionalism and sensitivity of the staff at Glen Eira was exemplary and every step of the way was heartening.

In addition to the council approving the strategy on March 15 2016 they simultaneously released their Older Adults Guide to Glen Eira [PDF].  This is a beautiful resource packed with helpful information.  It also contains a number of resources for SSA/I/GD people and a magnificent photo of a same-sex couple.

Thank you very much City of Glen Eira for providing support and giving a face to an historically neglected and previously invisible segment of your community.  This step forward is most deeply appreciated and will hopefully go a long way to improving the quality of life of these people and their families.

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Jewish LGBTI Youth! – Jews All Diverse & Equal | Minus18

At the JCCV Plenum tonight, the Hon Robin Scott, Minister for Multicultural Affairs launched a 8.5 min video developed by the JCCV young LGBTI advisory group, which aims to highlight that you can be Jewish and LGBTI. The aim is for a fully welcoming and respectful Jewish community, where Jews of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity participate actively in the community. Everyone is to be treated with respect, dignity and equity.

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Bialik Principal issues statement on school’s support for marriage equality

Following on from the announcement of Bialik College becoming the first school in Australia to declare support for marriage equality, the school’s principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner has issued the following statement on their Facebook page:

Bialik College is proud to join Monash University, Swinburne and over 800 other organisations, in confirming our support…

Posted by Bialik College on Wednesday, 17 February 2016

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ECAJ & Marriage Equality

From: Michael Barnett
Date: 16 February 2016 at 22:06
Subject: ECAJ & Marriage Equality
To: Peter Wertheim <PWertheim@ecaj.org.au>, Robert Goot <president@ecaj.org.au>

Hi Peter, Robert,
 
I see the ECAJ are keen to discuss “LGBT equality” for it’s ideological purposes:
 
http://www.ecaj.org.au/2016/open-letter-to-the-anti-israel-left
 
Ordinarily this use of LGBTI people would not bother me but given Australia doesn’t have LGBTI equality and given your organisation exists to promote the welfare (eg equality) of Australians, it seems you’re taking a liberty with the liberties LGBTI Australians don’t yet have.
 
Allow me to remind you of your platform:
 

This Council:
1.1 NOTES that it is the vision of the ECAJ to create and support a community in which all Australians, including all Jewish Australians:
(a) feel valued and their cultural differences are respected;
(b) have a fair opportunity to meet their material and other needs; and
(c) are equally empowered as citizens to participate in and contribute to all facets of life in the wider community;

Right now I’m not feeling especially valued, not do I have fair opportunity to meet my needs, and am not empowered to participate in or contribute to all facets of life in the wider community.  I am sure I speak for others too.
 
On this particular ground, I’d really like your organisation to sign its name to marriage equality so LGBTI people in Australia can have equal rights, similarly to those of the people you are so proud to show off in your open letter.
 
To this end, Australian Marriage Equality have provided a simple mechanism to facilitate your addition to their list of over 800 supporters:
 
http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/non-profit-support
 
It would also be an ideal opportunity for the ECAJ to follow in the footsteps of Bialik College, a proud supporter of marriage equality.
 
How soon can you arrange this support?
 
Regards,
Michael.
0417-595-541.

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