Australian Jewish community stands on the right side of history

Thanks go to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry for standing on the right side of history in declaring support for marriage equality.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry adopts policy on Same Sex civil marriage

Passed unanimously at the ECAJ Annual Conference in Melbourne on Sunday November 26 2017.

Add a new Policy Item 54 as follows:

  1.   Same Sex civil marriage

This Council:

54.1 NOTES the high response rate to the survey on same sex marriage conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2017, participation in which was entirely voluntary;

54.2 NOTES FURTHER that there was a strong majority in favour of same sex marriage being recognised in Australia’s civil law;

54.3 RECOGNISES that the survey did not relate in any way to religious marriages;

54.4 CALLS ON the Federal government to:

  1. enact an amendment to the civil law definition of marriage in the Marriage Act as soon as is practicable in order to give effect to the clear result of the survey;

  2. ensure that members of the clergy will continue to have the right to refuse to perform or participate in any marriage ceremony at their discretion, as is provided for at present under section 47 of the Marriage Act;

  3. ensure that religious institutions and religious schools will continue to have the same rights they currently enjoy under the law to practice, teach and preach their religious beliefs, including their beliefs about the institution of marriage being between a man and a woman; and

  4. ensure that parents and legal guardians will continue to have the same freedoms they currently enjoy to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

54.5 REJECTS any proposal that would permit businesses to refuse to provide goods, services and facilities on the basis that these are to be used in connection with a same-sex marriage ceremony; and

54.6 AFFIRMS that in matters of ordinary trade and commerce, as distinct from matters of religious practice and belief, all people are entitled to be protected from adverse discriminatory treatment on the basis of their race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.



AIJAC distances itself from Isi Leibler’s toxic views on marriage equality

On Monday November 14 2017 the Australia Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) distanced itself from Isi Leibler’s intolerant views of LGBTIQ people and marriage equality by way of an unrestrained apology sent to their mailing list:


20171114 AIJAC distances itself from Isi Leibler on his toxic Marriage Equality views

Disclaimer and apology regarding Update 11/17 #03

Nov. 14, 2017

Earlier today, as part of the “Update from AIJAC” email newsletter, a link was included to Isi Leibler’s latest column, in which he stated his opinions on same sex marriage. Isi Leibler’s columns are routinely linked in the Update newsletter, and the decision to include this column was taken without the input of senior AIJAC management. Given the nature of this column, linking it at this time was clearly an error, for which AIJAC apologises. AIJAC did not intend to and does not endorse Isi Leibler’s opposition to same sex marriage, which does not reflect AIJAC’s views.

A response to Isi Leibler’s column can be found here.

Aleph Melbourne welcomes the Yes result to the “Same-Sex Marriage” postal survey

Aleph Melbourne welcomes the result of the “Same-Sex Marriage” Postal Survey and looks forward to seeing marriage equality enacted under law in Australia without additional restrictions or degradation of dignity to LGBTIQ people.

We acknowledge that the mechanism the government used to gauge the sentiment of the population was unnecessary and hurtful to LGBTIQ people and hoped that the government would have simply voted on the legislation up-front, as they are elected to do.

We commend the Jewish Community Council of Victoria for their positive contribution to the welfare of LGBTIQ people and look forward to their further support of vulnerable members of the community over coming days and weeks.  We also commend the support from the growing number of congregations and community organisations that have been instrumental in advocating for equality, both the stalwarts and the newly supportive.

It is our hope that before long we will be seeing members of the Jewish community in gender-diverse and same-sex relationships celebrating their marriages, with the affirmation of their families, friends and community.  We know that such inclusion and celebration will bring families together, reduce the levels of mental health problems in young people and even save lives.

Lastly, we are deeply grateful to those in the community, and also to those beyond, who voted Yes.  Whilst the temptation to stick to old traditions may be enticing, the prospect of making new traditions will be incredibly rewarding, beyond expectations.  Thank you.

Same-sex marriage: Rabbi says additional protections not needed | ABC The World Today

Same-sex marriage: Rabbi says additional protections not needed

By on The World Today

MP3 available 2.23 MB

One of the sticking points in this decision about legalising same-sex marriage has been whether the religious freedoms of people with objections to such a change will be restricted.

Senior Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Sydney, Dr Benjamin Elton, says the vast majority of Jews in NSW are in favour of legalising same-sex marriage.

Dr Elton says as long as a Rabbi in a synagogue only needs to marry two people according to his conscience, he is sure the community will be “perfectly calm and content about the change”.

“We all deserve equal treatment under the law,” the Rabbi told The World Today.

Duration: 4min 52sec
Broadcast: Wed 15 Nov 2017, 12:19pm

More Information


Dr Benjamin Elton, Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Sydney


LINDA MOTTRAM: One of the sticking points in this decision about legalising same-sex marriage has been whether the religious freedoms of people with objections to such a change will be restricted.

Shortly we’ll hear from the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies.

In the studio with me now though is the senior Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Sydney, Dr Benjamin Elton.

Dr Elton, thank you for your time today.

What’s your response, first of all, to the vote result and that turnout?

BENJAMIN ELTON: The turnout was very high, I think. I, coming from an English background, we dream of having turnouts of 80 per cent.

I think the Australian public are used to voting and it comes naturally to them and it is very important with a change of this magnitude that there was a high turnout and I think a 60 per cent or more result for yes is pretty decisive and the people have spoken.

I think we now have to proceed with legislation to legalise same-sex marriage.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Can you just give me a sense of what the responses to this debate has been in the Jewish community. Like all communities, a range of views, but do you think are there some dominant themes?

BENJAMIN ELTON: The community in general has been very supportive of legalising same-sex marriage. The Board of Deputies, which is the lay leadership body of the New South Wales community has voted 99 to 1 at a plenary in favour of same-sex marriage.

So there’s no question that the vast majority of Jews in New South Wales are in favour.

Of course, there’s concerns about religious freedoms, but as long as in a synagogue, a rabbi only needs to marry two people according to his conscience, as long as that is protected and safeguarded, I’m sure the community will feel perfectly calm and content about the change.

LINDA MOTTRAM: And do you believe that that capability is currently protected or do you think new protections will be needed?

BENJAMIN ELTON: I don’t think we need new protections. At the moment I can only marry, according to my faith, I can only marry people in a very narrow range of eligibilities – a man and a woman, both Jews, both either single or have received a Jewish divorce if they were married before.

I’m totally protected by the law in marrying only according to my own faith principles and I don’t expect that to change.

LINDA MOTTRAM: So this will be now legislated and it is complicated in Canberra. I’m sure everybody is aware of that now.

Religious protections will be discussed and it’s not just about who you can marry. It is about a range of issues like schools and decision making around children and sex education. Are there any other elements there that concern you or your community?

BENJAMIN ELTON: I think it’s important that Jewish schools and other faith schools can be allowed to teach marriage according to their own principles without being, in any way, insulting or denigrating towards other people.

We can say that we believe that marriage according to the Jewish tradition is between a man and a woman and just as we believe that marriage should take place between two Jews. We believe in marriage within the faith as well.

We teach that, and I expect we’ll continue to teach, I know we’ll continue to teach that in the Jewish faith, marriage between a man and a woman.

What is done in civil marriage is a different matter and we certainly shouldn’t teach that these marriages are illegitimate or they are inappropriate. The law of the land is the law, and as long as we can teach our own traditional story and our own children, that is all we need to safeguard.

LINDA MOTTRAM: The Prime Minister made a point yesterday saying that he didn’t think the Parliament, his Government or the Australian people, would countenance making things legal which are currently illegal and this discussion has been around that some of the protections some people want might require the overriding of state anti-discrimination legislation, some of which has been in place for 25 years.

Are you concerned that there might be a rolling back of anti-discrimination legislation in this process?

BENJAMIN ELTON: I would be very concerned to see a rolling back. I don’t think it will happen. I suspect that the way Parliament will vote will be to retain those elements of anti-discrimination legislation. I hope they do.

I don’t think we need more protections for religious freedom than we have at the moment.

I think the big difference between baking a cake and performing a marriage.

LINDA MOTTRAM: And will you be lobbying to that effect, because other religious entities, people will be…

BENJAMIN ELTON: I’ve made my views very clear here, and whenever else I’m asked. I think the current safeguards, which protect us all actually, are essential.

And I mean, what if a Jewish person married a non-Jewish person and not in a synagogue obviously, but they wanted to buy a cake and some person refused to sell them a cake because it didn’t approve of Jews marrying non-Jews. I think that would be appalling.

So whether or not we live entirely by the tenets of our own faith, we all deserve equal treatment under the law and if you are doing something legal like marrying somebody according to the law, you should be served and be entitled to the goods and services you asked for.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Dr Elton, thank you very much for joining us today.

Dr Benjamin Elton is the senior Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Sydney.

JCCV Statement on Same Sex Marriage Plebiscite Result

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is delighted that the same sex marriage plebiscite is now completed and that the people of Australia have shown that they are clearly in support of equality. We hope that Parliament moves quickly to pass legislation that reflects the outcome of the plebiscite and the spirit of the message inherent within in it – support for equal rights, empathy and respect. We expect that religious freedoms will be protected, and equally that current protections against discrimination and intolerance are not watered down.

President of the JCCV, Jennifer Huppert stated, “We are concerned that the LGBTIQ members of our community and their families may face mental health concerns over the coming weeks, as the proposed same sex marriage Bills are debated. We again call for all debate to be respectful, and that anyone with or seeing others facing mental health challenges seek expert advice or support, such as through the LGBTI Switchboard, Beyond Blue, Headspace or Jewish Care Victoria. Service options and contact details can be found in the JCCV LGBTI Service Directory.”

Best regards,

David Marlow
Executive Director | Jewish Community Council of Victoria

An open response to Isi Leibler

This article originally appeared on The Slowly Boiled Frog.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

An open response to Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler is a frequent contributor to the Jerusalem Post. Sunday he writes: “Candidly speaking: Recent sexual controversies and upheavals.”

It causes me great discomfort when a fellow Jew expresses anti-gay rhetoric. Most of us have learned a thing or two from 6,000 years of oppression. Mr. Leibler has not. Leibler begins by telling us just how wonderful he is. After explaining that he is an octogenarian:

I am no prude and when, 50 years ago, it was fashionable to demonize homosexuals I never joined the pack. I always maintained that consensual sexual relations were a private matter, I never discriminated against gays or lesbians, and I unhesitatingly employed quite a few. And despite the strict halachic prohibitions, I maintain that if gay people wish to be observant, they should not be ostracized from communal religious participation.

This is what follows next:

At the same time, I oppose gays flaunting their sexuality (for example by participating in pride parades) or promoting their lifestyle as progressive while implicitly denigrating the traditional concept of a nuclear family. They should be free to live their lives as they deem fit and enjoy all civil rights extended to heterosexual couples. But I am not ready to concede that gay couples should be glorified, as they sometimes are on TV, for supposedly partaking in a superior alternative lifestyle. I feel that this encourages young people to experiment unnecessarily with their own sexuality.

I scarcely know where to begin but I will start with the absolute certainty that a sexual orientation is not a lifestyle. Suggesting otherwise is an appeal to stereotype. It is an expression of bigotry. I am a retired CEO. My late partner was an executive with American Media. Our “lifestyle” had nothing to do with our sexual orientation. Rather, it reflected our business interests and most of our friends were straight (or at least they claimed to be).

I have no idea whatsoever what Mr. Leibler thinks is denigrating the nuclear family at the hands of dastardly gay people. He is not specific. However, what is obviously the most offensive and intellectually dishonest part of this is the notion that sexual orientation can be influenced by others or through experimentation.

It would help if Mr. Leibler knew the scientific fact that sexual orientation is a continuum with homosexual and heterosexual at the extreme ends. Nothing is going to change one’s positioning along the scale with the exception of a small amount of natural fluidity. People do not “experiment” with their sexual orientation and even if they did, they would still end up in the same place. Those around the middle might cross the 50-yard-line but not to experiment. They are satisfying a temporal attraction. Ultimately that is why all of those pray-away-the-gay enterprises have been such dismal failures. No one ever really changes.

Furthermore, Mr. Leibler does not define what he means by “glorified.” I don’t know what television he watches but in this country we see (all too few) gay couples. At best they are truthfully portrayed as the intellectual and moral equals of heterosexual couples. Again, being gay is not an alternative lifestyle. Then Mr. Leibler goes on a tear about same-sex marriage:

This brings me to the same-sex marriage issue, which has created such a global upheaval. The continuity of mankind depends on male-female intercourse. Marriage implies a heterosexual union and to religious people it is a sacred institution.

While I fully support the legal system providing gay couples with rights identical to those of a heterosexual union, surely appropriate commitment ceremonies can be devised that do not imply bracketing such unions in the same category as traditional marriages.

Jewish non-Orthodox bodies like the Conservative and Reform movements should at most be neutral on this issue, but unfortunately, they are at the forefront of calling for gay unions to be defined as traditional marriages.

Let’s get the intercourse out of the way immediately. I am not sure but perhaps Mr. Leibler believes that when gays marry, that deprives society of an otherwise heterosexual spouse (as well as his or her sexual activities to crank out children). If that is the case then Leibler is beyond the point of redemption. Moreover, marriage might be sacred to religious people which is why those same people marry in their synagogue. To others it is a civil construct.

I am not familiar with Israeli law but in this country marriage is a legal construct that may, or may not be, a religious ritual. In this country we have also experimented with the concept of separate but equal which is what Leibler is essentially advocating. Great legal minds came to the conclusion that separate but equal is inherently unequal. There is no practical reason for gay couples to have a different outcome to being wed. Calling it marriage is not only the correct term but it has no effect whatsoever on so-called traditional marriage. If Mr. Leibler truly supports equal rights for gay couples as he claims then he should vigorously support marriage equality.

Perhaps the answer is right in front of Mr. Leibler. He has the the ability to discuss these matters with conservative and reform rabbis who can explain their reasons for supporting marriage equality.

The gay marriage debate has descended into bullying and vilifying anyone who dares to defend traditional beliefs. But objecting to gay marriage is neither discriminatory nor homophobic. The slandering of all who oppose gay marriage has descended into a poisonous hate fest.

Really? It seems to me that we must entertain bullshit about lifestyles and the pernicious ability of gay people to turn straight youth gay. Then, on top of that, another layer of manure is spread in the form of the preposterous notion that same-sex marriage has some mystical effect on so-called traditional marriage — all engineered to make gay people unequal.

Does Mr. Leibler have so much as a clue about the bigotry inherent in demeaning gay people for “flaunting their life style?” We are deeply offended and rightfully so. If Leibler wants less hate then he can ratchet down his homophobia and the reaction will recede accordingly. If he wants less poison in the environment then he should turn off his spigot. And then he can cease feigning victimization as a tactic to gain traction.

The blatant bigotry continues:

The just campaign to ensure equal social and civic rights for gays has succeeded beyond all expectations. But it was never intended to promote a gay lifestyle at the expense of heterosexuality and the nuclear family. I do not endorse the belief that sexuality is fluid. Nor would I condone the silencing of traditional and religious values, which consider marriage between man and wife to be uniquely sacred.

“… at the expense of heterosexuality and the nuclear family” and he ponders why that is considered bigoted hate speech. And let’s not imply that marriage equality has an effect on the religious practices of anyone. That is just dishonest nonsense.

You can continue to read Leibler’s diatribe at the link above. I have had more than I care to have.