Former Bialik College student marries her same-sex partner

Today I received a copy of the Bialik College newsletter Shelanu (Issue 4, Sep 2015).  On the back page is a list of Births, Engagements and Marriages.  Ever hopeful, my eye was caught by the marriage announcement of 2004 student Deborah Konopnicki to Amy Hespe.  Ground breaking news.  Mazal Tov!

Bialik Shelanu - Sep 2015 - Deborah Konopnicki married to Amy Hespe

To the best of my knowledge Deborah is the first female past student of Bialik College to marry a same-sex partner and the first to be announced in the school newsletter.  As a past student of Bialik College myself (1981-83) I am probably the first (male) past student of the school to marry a same-sex partner, having travelled to New Zealand in January 2014 to undertake the formalities.**

Aleph Melbourne wishes Deborah and Amy many years of happiness together (alongside all the other Bialik married couples).  Hopefully our marriages to our same-sex partners can be solemnised and/or recognised under Australian law sooner than later.


** We’ll gladly acknowledge as first any former student of Bialik College who has earlier married a same-sex or gender-diverse partner.

MR: Aleph Melbourne marks 20 years with historical documentary



Aleph Melbourne is a social, support and advocacy group for same-sex attracted and gender diverse (LGBTIQ) people in Melbourne’s Jewish community.

Aleph Melbourne was formed in 1995 and is marking it’s 20th anniversary by making a short documentary.  The movie will cover all aspects of the group and the significant and positive impact it’s had on the community over the past 20 years.

Glen Eira City Council have given Aleph Melbourne a small grant of $3,300 for the project and we have engaged Youthworx Productions to make the documentary.  We aim to raise $10,000 to allow us to comfortably make 10-15 minutes of footage.  Additional funding will be gratefully welcomed to allow us to include more history, stories, interviews, photos, newspaper articles etc.

We are crowd-funding through IndieGoGo with all details are available at:
Major and premier (corporate) sponsorship packages are available.  Individual contributors are invited to select from packages that allow participation and acknowledgement in the documentary.

Aleph Melbourne Convenor Michael Barnett said “I am very excited in marking this important milestone by making a documentary of Aleph Melbourne at 20 years.  It is vitally important to record the history and achievements of our small group.  People will look back in years to come and understand the particular challenges of the time we lived in, in terms of recognition, acceptance and understanding of our sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The documentary is expected to be completed in the first half of 2016 however the initial crowd-funding campaign has a closing deadline of October 8.

Michael Barnett – Convenor

Media resources
Aleph Melbourne logo – colour (lo-res, hi-res)
Campaign graphic: “Documenting 20 years”
Campaign graphic: “We’ve turned 20 – We’re making a doco”YouTube: “Aleph turns 20! Help us tell the story”


Media Release: Aleph Melbourne disappointed in unsatisfactory resignation letter of Rabbi Zvi Telsner




Aleph Melbourne acknowledges the overdue resignation of senior rabbi Zvi Telsner from the Yeshiva Centre in Melbourne but is disappointed with the unsatisfactory letter written in his name.

Whilst his resignation letter claims remorse for his actions, his apology falls short of addressing his claims that homosexual people can be cured of what he believes is an ailment.

To demonstrate genuine remorse for his harmful words Zvi Telsner must undertake secular education on homosexuality and strongly distance himself from any notion that homosexuality can either be cured or is abnormal.

As a senior religious leader in his community his authority combined with his ongoing intolerance of homosexuality will feed into the self-destructive outcomes that same-sex attracted people experience due to intolerance of their sexuality.

Homosexuality has not been considered an illness by mental health professionals for over 40 years and is now affirmed as a normal expression of human sexuality.  For any person to consider it curable demonstrates gross ignorance.

Victims of child sexual abuse who experience same-sex attraction will benefit by seeking support for their abuse from accredited mental health professionals, whilst avoiding any form of sexual orientation change efforts, such as reparative therapy.

The Australian Psychological Society and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists can provide referrals to suitably qualified practitioners.

Contact Michael Barnett on 0417-595-541 for further comment.


Letter from Rabbi Zvi Telsner:

י”ז אלול תשע”ה
1st September, 2015

Dear Yeshivah Community Members, Friends and Supporters,

As a senior Rabbi at the Yeshivah Centre I acknowledge and endorse its values, policies and message of continued support and compassion for victims of Child Sexual Abuse, their families and all of the community. Elul is a time to reflect on ones values and behaviours as we prepare to herald in the New Year.

I recognise that my conduct towards victims and their families did not demonstrate these values or behaviour to the extent necessary of a Rabbi in my position. Accordingly, I have decided to stand down from my position as Rabbi at the Yeshivah Centre, effective immediately.

We all must be aware of how our words and actions impact on others and therefore would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my conduct and urge everyone to show compassion and support towards victims and their families throughout the moised and broader community.

I wish the community all the best for a Ksiva Vechasima Tova, and a year full of blessings.

Yours Sincerely,
Rabbi Z. Telsner