Zoe Goodhardt, Liebler Yavneh College, religious freedom and equality

On the front page of The Australian today (“Keeping religion alive lies at heart of family’s values”; Dec 14 2018) Brad Norington and Elias Visontay write of parent Zoe Goodhardt’s decision to send her children to Orthodox Jewish school Leibler Yavneh College:

20181214 The Australian front page

When it comes to freedom and equality, she says there are plenty of other schools for parents to enrol their children, but choosing a school for Ezra, Rami and ­Jasmine was about choosing a community.

The article concludes with:

Mr Morrison confirmed yesterday that his government had ­accepted most recommendations of a review by former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock into religious freedoms.

Attempting to defuse a parliamentary impasse over the treatment of gay students within religious schools, Mr Morrison will refer this issue for further ­review by the Australian Law ­Reform Commission.

Legislation enabling same-sex marriage has created theological and ethical difficulties for several religious schools, including Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Coptic-Christian and Catholic, where it may clash with traditional teachings

On November 27 2018 J-Wire reported of Leibler Yavneh College:

Principal Cherylyn Skewes and Chair Avi Gilboa stated: “Our College ethos is underpinned by Jewish Law (Halacha) which mandates love and compassion towards our fellow. As such, we ask that the Senate Inquiry ensures that no student or staff member suffers any form of discrimination including those relating to sexual orientation and gender.

It’s unclear exactly what Zoe Goodhardt had in mind when she was responding to a question from The Australian on “freedom and equality”, but what is clear is the position Leibler Yavneh College has made on not discriminating against LGBTIQ students and staff.

It’s disappointing comment was not sought by The Australian from the school’s principal, as this would have offered the necessary degree of balance and perspective that is typically absent from this publication’s content.


Keeping religion alive lies at heart of family’s values

Zoe Goodhardt with her children, Ezra, 6, Jasmine, 1, and Rami, 4, at their home in Caulfield, Melbourne. Picture: David Geraghty
Zoe Goodhardt with her children, Ezra, 6, Jasmine, 1, and Rami, 4, at their home in Caulfield, Melbourne. Picture: David Geraghty

Sending her three children to Leibler Yavneh College at Elsternwick, in Melbourne’s southeast, is a form of “life insurance” for Zoe Goodhardt.

But this is an insurance policy like no other. It is the guarantee, Ms Goodhardt says, that her family’s Jewish faith and way of life can continue untrammelled.

So it is no surprise as rising secularism clashes with the beliefs and values of traditional faiths that Ms Goodhardt, 32, has rushed to support Scott Morrison’s pledge to protect religious freedom.

The Prime Minister’s commitment to overhaul federal discrimination laws, revealed in The Australian yesterday, is intended to introduce new provisions prohibiting discrimination against the right of individuals to practise their religions.

“I think it’s our right, and the right of the school, to cultivate a community at the school in line with their ethos and values,” Ms Goodhardt says.

When it comes to freedom and equality, she says there are plenty of other schools for parents to enrol their children, but choosing a school for Ezra, Rami and ­Jasmine was about choosing a community.

At Yavneh College, that community is based around the modern orthodox school’s mission to adhere to Jewish law (Halacha), ethical behaviour (Derech Eretz) and Zionist ideals.

Mr Morrison’s pledge on religious freedom will allow Yavneh to keep its strict admission policy permitting Orthodox Jews only.

“I know the kids could get a great education at a public school, but I want them to grow up in a community with our values,” Ms Goodhardt says.

“It’s problematic to think that the school I and my family have grown up in wouldn’t have the right to continue with their ­culture.”

Ms Goodhardt, a marketing manager, lives with her husband, Dan, and their children in Caulfield North, a suburb in the heart of Melbourne’s Jewish community, the nation’s largest.

Both also attended Yavneh.

Zoe Goodhardt’s parents were the children of Holocaust survivors, originally from Lodz, Poland, who arrived in Australia after the war looking for a safe Jewish community.

Mr Goodhardt, a counter-­terrorism analyst, arrived from England as a boy with his parents, whose similar quest was “for a free Jewish community”.

The family, says Ms Goodhardt, feels safe but with much thanks to the Jewish community in Melbourne that has been able to grow. Daughter Ezra, 6, has just finished Grade 1 at Yavneh while Rami, 4, has completed senior kinder at the school; Jasmine, 1, will start at the Yavneh creche next year.

In its mission statement, ­Yavneh says the school strives to develop resilient, independent learners equipped to “participate effectively as Jews in the outside world”. The school embraces Australian heritage as well, encouraging students to take pride in it and contribute to the nation’s future.

Mr Morrison confirmed yesterday that his government had ­accepted most recommendations of a review by former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock into religious freedoms.

Attempting to defuse a parliamentary impasse over the treatment of gay students within religious schools, Mr Morrison will refer this issue for further ­review by the Australian Law ­Reform Commission.

Legislation enabling same-sex marriage has created theological and ethical difficulties for several religious schools, including Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Coptic-Christian and Catholic, where it may clash with traditional teachings.

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