The Progressive Perspective on Same Sex Marriage | Galus Australis

The Progressive Perspective on Same Sex Marriage

July 24, 2013 – 8:00 pm

By Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black:

Scott Whitmont wedding in Sydney

Within Progressive Judaism, we start with a strong emphasis on the human position. We also believe that every human being is ‘made in God’s image’, and that God is a God of love, kindness and justice. Whilst the majority of people are predominantly heterosexual, it is clear that a significant number are not, and we do not accept that God wishes them to be forced into relationships and structures that are not as loving, healthy and supportive as they could be.

Since we believe that Torah is a revered but ultimately human document, written by our ancestors, inspired by God and seeking to answer the question ‘What does God want of us?’, we recognise the duplicated prohibition in Leviticus that ‘a man should not lie with another man as with a woman’ as one of those simplistic and time-bound human rules, developed in the context of needing to produce as many children as possible to create a numerous nation (and army) – and one that has, sadly and tragically, led to enormous prejudice, bigotry, hatred and violence against a particular group within all monotheistic religions over the subsequent millennia.

Back in Genesis 2, the observation is made, in the name of God, that a person should not be alone. However much you love your animals, they are not the same as another person. The context of the creation story on Genesis 1 is on reproduction – the trees and vegetation with their seed in them, the very first command – even before humans have been created – to the creatures and birds and insects: ‘Go forth and multiply’. When God created humanity – male and female at the same moment – they too received the same instruction – the first command to humanity, but with the added responsibility to ‘khivshuha’ – to ‘master’ or ‘care-take’ the earth. After Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden (the naive innocence of childhood where everything is provided), they get down to propagation (chapter 4) – the explanation for the population of the world. Male and Female equals children!

So this relationship which produces children was seen as ‘God’s natural plan’ (though sometimes with more than one wife!) and was formalised in ‘marriage’ which was then seen as a ‘God given’ or ‘holy’ structure (the agreement to form such as unit is termed ‘kiddushin’, sanctification). Hence, as with homophobia, marriage as a divinely sanctioned heterosexual union has also drawn heavily on the Hebrew bible as it has become the norm in monotheism.

Today we acknowledge that we cannot be sure of God’s will, and that Torah scholarship does not spell it out definitively and fully. We view and review our generations of experience and scholarship with our wish for truth, right, justice and compassion and our understanding of psychology, history, coercion and oppression in the name of religion and God. We seek to do God’s will, as our ancestors did, but with the awareness that we may not be right, and can only do our best.

In March, 2000, the Central Conference of American Rabbis agreed that “the relationship of a Jewish, same gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual”. In Britain, too, homosexual Jewish couples were able to celebrate a Commitment Ceremony. In 2009, the Rabbis of the Union for Progressive Judaism (Australia, New Zealand and Asia) resolved to permit its rabbis to officiate at same gender commitment ceremonies between two Jews. At that stage we were not ready to use the specific term Kiddushin but could use the term ‘bestowing Kedusha’.  A document may be used and referred to as a Ketubah. A Khuppah may be used as it may be understood to represent the Jewish home being established.

We have agreed not to call the ceremony Marriage for the time being even where we may be legally entitled to do so, but we have written to the government to call for full Marriage Equality – so that marriage may now be recognized as a binding legal and social commitment between two adults. Marriage serves as a recognised and long-term legal and social structure in the modern world. Those who live in a permanent relationship without the benefit of the formal recognition may still suffer from some social stigma and may be disadvantaged, for example in pension rights, and any such inequity is unjust and unacceptable. For these reasons, the Rabbis and leaders of the UPJ now wish to see marriage redefined as the permanent and exclusive relationship between two people, whether a man and a woman, two women or two men, and support Marriage Equality. We were the only religious group to provide supportive testimony to the two Parliamentary enquiries into it, but hope that others will soon join us! We also support Keshet (, who are committed to challenging the ongoing prejudice and discrimination within the Jewish community against homosexuality.

Jonathan Keren-Black is Rabbi at The Leo Baeck Centre.

First Generation of Transgender Rabbis Claims Place at Bimah |

First Generation of Transgender Rabbis Claims Place at Bimah |

Schools defend right to expel gays | Sydney Morning Herald

Schools defend right to expel gays | Sydney Morning Herald.

Not all religious education authorities were opposed to removing the exemptions, though.

”While Jewish schools jealously guard against any incursion into our ability to teach the Jewish religion in a manner consistent with its tenets, and consider those tenets and that ability fundamental to our existence,” said Len Hain, executive director of the Australian Council of Jewish Schools, ”we do not see any practical limitation, or the imposition of any practical burden on that ability from the amendments deleting the specific exclusions to the Anti-Discrimination Act.”

Jewish Teacher Strikes New Legal Blow in Gay Marriage Fight |

Jewish Teacher Strikes New Legal Blow in Gay Marriage Fight |

ISRAEL: Shooter At LGBT Youth Club Driven By “Biblical Edict Against Gays” | Joe. My. God.

ISRAEL: Shooter At LGBT Youth Club Driven By “Biblical Edict Against Gays” | Joe. My. God.

הבית הפתוח » Student Rights Law Op Ed | JOH

הבית הפתוח » Student Rights Law Op Ed | JOH.

Student Rights Law Op Ed

The Knesset, Israel’s governing body, has introduced a crucial amendment to the existing Student Rights Law. On Sunday, June 26 2013, a coalition led by Knesset member Dov Khenin proposed to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the education system.

The Student Rights Law, originally drafted to ensure the rights of those in the education system, currently stipulates that it is a criminal offense to discriminate against a student on the basis of religion, socio-economic background or political ideology. Dov Khenin’s coalition seeks to add sexual orientation and gender to the list of protected identities, citing figures that show the education system in Israel is rife with instances of heterosexism and transphobia.

The proposed bill addresses an important and difficult problem facing Israel. Queer youth find their identities condemned by a large part of Israeli society. Here, a Knesset Member can openly assert that people are homosexual because they were abused as children. The top rated Israeli reality show “Big Brother” features a violent contestant who recently aimed venomous anti-lesbian comments at another contestant. Currently, the Israeli queer community is mourning the loss of two of its members to a hate crime in Tel Aviv.

The effect of this hatred is immediate and unavoidable. Queer youth are vulnerable to damaging attacks that can lead to anxiety, depression, and suicide, as both Israeli and worldwide research indicates. An Israeli study reveals that half of queer youths are exposed to anti-queer verbal violence, a quarter has been sexually harassed at school, and ten percent has been subjected to physical attacks. Additionally, many youth report that the teachers do not condemn verbal violence and slurs, and a quarter of youths have had homophobic and transphobic remarks hurled at them by teachers themselves.

The proposed amendment is crucial to empowering queer youth. It ensures that schools are legally obligated to disown the warped messages about gender identity and sexual orientation that are imparted to youth via society and the media. It promotes the values of respect, tolerance and human dignity in the realm of education. Significantly, this bill will affect all youth in the education system, including those who are often relegated to the periphery in the queer community.

In recent years, privileged members of the queer community have introduced bills which address their own needs while ignoring and sometimes trampling the interests of disempowered subpopulations within our community.

Powers in the Knesset prevent members from supporting the queer community fully, and members often carefully choose which measures to support.  We fear that members of Knesset would be more inclined to vote for heavily promoted bills like same-sex marriage that would mark them as progressive and socially just, while ignoring the more marginal and highly localized bill proposals which would probably not grant them the same kind of glory.

Thus, it is absolutely necessary to support this amendment and to promote it vigorously. This amendment means working towards the safety of queer youth in the education system. It means introducing children to the spirit of respect and human dignity from a younger age. It means progress in the direction of a healthier, more just Israeli society. On Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013, the proposal will be brought for a preliminary vote at the Knesset’s general assembly. We thus call on you to send letters to members of Knesset, asking for their support for this important piece of legislation.

World Union of Progressive Judaism passes resolution in support of Marriage Equality

The following resolution on Marriage Equality passed by overwhelming majority at the International Assembly of the World Union of Progressive Judaism on May 1 2013.

All of the suggested resolutions can be viewed here.

World Union for Progressive Judaism

WUPJ International Assembly Meeting
May 1st, 2013 – Jerusalem, Israel
Suggested Resolutions

8. WUPJ Proposed Resolution on Marriage Equality

(Proposed by Resolutions Committee)

Whereas the World Union for Progressive Judaism condemns all forms of bigotry and discrimination in our society as being incompatible with the preservation of human dignity which is destructive of tzelem elohim, and;

Whereas the WUPJ upholds the principle of treating all people equally whether by gender, age, colour or sexual preference, and;

Whereas the WUPJ has long championed full equality of women in our movement and in society generally, and;

Whereas the 2011 International Assembly of the World Union for Progressive Judaism called on all institutions, colleges, congregations and youth groups to give equal opportunity to gay and lesbian bisexual transgender and inter-sex members (GLBTI), especially in terms of leadership and learning and to be aware of gender issues when developing study curriculum, and;

Whereas the 2011 International Assembly of the World Union for Progressive Judaism called on all institutions associated with the WUPJ to treat GLBTI couples in the same manner as married heterosexual couples and families. This call included commitment ceremonies, and family membership fees.

IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED that the 2013 International Assembly of the World Union for Progressive Judaism calls upon all institutions associated with the WUPJ to promote, where possible, marriage equality within our movement, and to join with others to support legislation to help guarantee the legal rights of GLBTI couples to marry civilly and religiously, and to secure their marital legal rights in full equality to heterosexual couples.