Aleph Melbourne research has unearthed a collection of clippings on Trove from Melbourne’s Australian Jewish News and Sydney’s Australian Jewish Times documenting the activities of Chutzpah, a national organisation for Jewish homosexual / gay men, between 1974 and 1982.
‘HOMOSEXUAL’ JEWISH GROUP
A newly formed group, catering for Jewish homosexuals, intend to apply for membership of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
“Chutzpah”, which is dedicated to the “liberation of both homosexual and heterosexual Jews from the bonds of ignorance and apathy concerning homosexuals and homosexuality”, only recently came into existence and plans are already afoot to establish branches throughout Australia.
Chutzpah has the support of three of the most prominent Jewish activists or “gay lib” Dennis Altman, Martin Smith and David Wippup.
Altman, who is a lecturer in American Politics at Sydney University is best known for his book “Homosexuals; Oppression of Liberation.”
David Wippup contested the constituency of Lowe in the 1972 Federal elections as a candidate of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP).
Martin Smith, who is the editor of the national magazine “Stallion” contested the electorate of Waverly in the last State elections.
The creation of the group follows similar moves by Jewish homosexuals in North America and England and “Chutzpah” has already made moves to link up with these groups.
“It is not enough for the rabbis to say the Torah condemns homosexuality”, a spokesman for Chutzpah said last week.
“God condemns sin, not sexuality.”
[ July 19 2021: It has been pointed out that the name “David Wippup” was a misprint and should have been “David Widdup” ]
Watchman’s In The News
Weekend paper announces the Australian Jewish Homosexual Group, and asks the Rabbis and E.C.A.J. for a study of homosexuals among Jews and Judaism.
Name of the organisation is CHUTZPAH.
And they intend to form branches of Chutzpah in every capital city.
Thought we’d had Chutzpah for years!
Chutzpah on Board?
SYDNEY: A newly formed group, catering for Jewish homosexuals, intends to apply for membership of the N.S.W. Board of Deputies. Called “Chutzpah”, it is dedicated to the “liberation of both homosexual and heterosexual Jews from the bonds of ignorance and apathy”.
Creation of the group follows similar moves in North America and England, with whom Chutzpah plans links. A spokesman, claiming that it was not enough for rabbis to say the Torah condemns homosexuality, said, “God condemns sin not sexuality”.
GAY & JEWISH? CHUTZPAH
is the Jewish homosexual group which lends a friendly ear. Contact David Weiner, Wentworth Box 4, University of Sydney, NSW Phone 698-2831 (office hours).
BOARD’S REPLY TO ‘CHUTZPAH’
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has answered an application for membership by Chutzpah, the Jew ish homosexual group.
“Chutzpah” must satisfy the Board that they have at least 50 members, the minimum number of members allowable for any organisation intending to join the Board of Deputies.
Each of these members must be over 18 years of age and must have been a member of the group for at least six months.
Further, they have to prove to the Board that they are working for the good of the Jewish cause and send a copy of their constitution and a membership list.
Only if all these requirements are met will their membership application go before the executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies for a final decision.
“Chutzpah”, in the meantime, has plans to establish divisions in Melbourne, Perth, Canberra and Brisbane.
It has also made contact with Jewish student movements on university campuses in the hope that at the next annual conference of the Australian Union of Jewish Students, the subject of ‘gay rights’ will be debated.
Other subjects they hope to air are the problems of Jewish homosexuals and the attitude of Jewish lay and religious leaders to homsexuals and homosexuality.
Hopes are that the conference will pass a motion along the lines of the North American Student Network, who recently adopted a
resolution supporting gay rights legislation and censured the discrimination which has been traditionally directed against homosexuals, even within the Jewish community.
The N.S.W. Board of Deputies has stipulated its requirements for memberships to Chutzpah, the Jewish homosexual group.
Chutzpah must satisfy the board that they have at least 50 members; these must be aged over 18; and must have been a group member for at least six months.
The group also has to prove it is working for the good of the Jewish cause and send in copies of its constitution and membership lists.
Chutzpah plans to establish branches in Melbourne, Perth, Canberra, and Brisbane.
It has also contacted Jewish student organisations with the hope that “gay rights” will be debated at the next annual conference of the Australian Union of Jewish Students.
“RABBIS SUPPORT GAY OPPRESSION”
“The rabbonim in Australia/ with the exception of Rabbi Uri Themal of Perth, have supported the continual oppression of homosexuals in our society by their silence and refusal to discuss the matter,” according to Martin Smith, who recently addressed a students meeting at Macquarie University.
The discussion, entitled, “Can one be both a practicing Jew and a practicing homosexual?” was arranged by the Hillel director, Ze’ev Dar.
Martin Smith, an organiser of Chutzpah, he was more concerned with reality than morality, the fact that there are Jewish homsexuals, than with disputing the point of whether or not they have the right to exist.
“Chutzpah, a group of homosexuals who identify themselves as Jews, meets regularly and is expanding in this country (there is now a branch of the organisation in each of Australia’s capital cities)” he said.
Over the last month he had been invited to speak to four Jewish groups on the subject of homosexuality and on each of these occasions, the speaking dates had been cancelled at the last minute, he said.
He pointed out that Jewish homsexuals have existed since the time of Abraham.
“As the minority faith Judaism is as valid a religious code and life style as the majority faith, Christianity, so too is homosexuality to heterosexuality and surely validity has nothing to do with numbers,” he said.
He challenged the rabbis to obey the edicts of the Old Testament and pass the death penalty on homsexuals in this State.
He said if the Beth Din would call members of Chutzpah before that religious court, they would attend and discuss the issue.
“Jews and homosexuals were the two groups most persecuted by Hitler in Nazi Germany ; millions of Jews and homosexuals died in the gas chambers of concentration camps and it is therefore singularly inapproprite and ironic that Orthodox Jewish rabbis should be in the forefront of the struggle against ending anti-gay discrimination,” he said.
CHUTZPAH, the jewish homosexual group, meets for fellowship and discussion next on Wednesday, November 20. Further details from David Weiner, Wentworth Box 4, University of Sydney or phone David Ritchie on 698-2831.
The credentials of leader and spokesman of “Chutzpah”, the Jewish homosexual group, were queried at the November meeting of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
Vice-president, Mr. G. Y. Falk and franchise deputy, Mr. Julius Nadel, alleged they had documents that Mr. Martin Smith, convenor of “Chutzpah” is not Jewish in spite of his statements to the contrary.
“Years ago I personally confronted Mr. Smith with his parents’ marriage and his birth certificate showing his religion as Church of England,” Mr. Falk said.
Mr. Nadel and Mr. Falk expressed concern over the community ’s acceptance of Mr. Smith.
Earlier Chutzpah inquired about affiliation to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, but took no further steps after receiving the information, Board president, Mr. Maurice Allen said.
Mr. Smith claims that, there are an estimated 1,500 Jewish homosexuals in Australia, many of them affiliated with Chutzpah.
The Jewish Homosexual group meets for fellowship and discussion next on Wednesday, December 11.
Further details from David Weiner, Box 4, Wentworth. 2006 or phone 827-2378
CHUTZPAH ASKS BOARD DEBATE
Chutzpah, the Jewish homosexual group wants to discuss the affiliation of the organisation at the next meeting of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
Speaking on behalf of Chutzpah, Mr. Leon Prollius, said attacks on the group and Mr. Martin Smith at the November meeting of the Board are to be deplored.
“Sidestepping the issue of homosexual rights is un becoming of the Board and individual deputies, that, and not Martin Smith’s Jewishness is the question,” he wrote in a letter to the editor.
He said Chutzpah does not have a “leader”.
After their application to the Board of Deputies for affiliation they received back a list of requirements necessary, including their constitution being in existence for six months, at least 50 members and the list of their names.
He said the executive can comply with the first three but is reluctant to provide a membership list “for obvious reasons”.
“Would the Board like a member of Chutzpah, other than Martin Smith, to discuss Chutzpah and homosexual rights at the December meeting?” he asked.
CHUTZPAH, the Jewish Homosexual Group writing to the AJT firmly states that it does not have “spokesmen”, but “has spokespersons as the group is open to both gay women and gay men.” OK, but they addressed the letter “Dear Sir”, when they know that the AJT editor is Eve Symon!
I usually refrain from engaging in pointless arguments or allowing non gays to use gay liberation as a means of making political capital, but I feel I should reply to the story in your publication of November 28 under the headline DEPUTIES QUERY “CHUTZPAH” HEAD.
If, as they say, Messrs Falk and Nadel have documents that prove I’m not Jewish then let them make such documents public. I don’t need to tell readers that the question “What is a Jew?” has never been answered so, if the aforementioned gentlemen do have such documents then apparently they’ve at last answered the question which has plagued our people since time immemorial.
Mr. Falk is quoted as saying that he personally confronted me with my parents’ marriage and my birth certificate showing my religion as Church of England. I deny that any such confrontation took place. I deny that I am or have ever been a member of the Church of England or any religious faith other than Judaism.
Unless I was born Jewish and my parents were married in a Jewish ceremony, without certain facts (e.g. my mother’s name before marriage), only obtainable from me, neither my birth certificate nor my parents’ marriage certificate would be able to be obtained from the appropriate authority.
I admit I did go to a Church of England school but then was that uncommon for us Jews before we created our own educational establishments? There are at least two men active in the Sydney Jewish community who were at school with me.
Mr. Falk apparently believes that being a Member of the Church of England per se ‘un Jewishes’ an individual and so, if that be the Case, then a lot of history books will have to be rewritten and the fact that the Church of Englander Benjamin Disraeli was a Jew removed from them.
Many members of the community will remember the 1966 controversy involving me when Mark Braham, writing in his column in the Australian Jewish Times, under the headline THE FUSS OVER MARTIN said that “some extremely embarrassing situations are going to arise, believe me, if there is to be a witch-hunt to decide who is a Jew in this community.” I agreed then and I agree even more so now.
I would like it to be known that if any individual, before a witness, states that I’m not a Jew that individual will have legal action taken against them for defamation of character and I’d remind such a person that they will be required in court to prove their claim, not I that I’m Jewish.
It is my belief that the deputies who attacked me at the November meeting of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies did so to create a red herring to avoid discussing the major issue which is the stand which the board should take on homosexual rights.
This week will see the formation of the WA division of Chutzpah giving us groups in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth with individual members belonging to the Jewish gay movement from Queensland, South Australia and Canberra.
As many of your readers will know, the Sydney bran ch of Chutzpah now has a member in Israel, having arrived there last month, to get gay lib going in that country.
After thousands of years of oppression, ostracism and ignoring our existence, Jewish homosexuals in this country, Israel, North America, Britain and New Zealand are uniting to challenge that anti-gay stance of many of our co religionists. We are no longer prepared to be treated as untouchables, as if we didn’t exist, or, as non-Jews.
Martin Smith, Chippendale
Chutzpah, the Jewish homosexual group, wants to discuss the affiliation of the organisation at the next meeting of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
Speaking on behalf of Chutzpah, Mr. Leon Prollius said attacks on the group at the November meeting of the Board are to be deplored.
“Sidestepping the issue of homosexual rights is unbecoming of the Board and individual deputies.”
He said Chutzpah does not have a “leader”.
After their application to the Board of Deputies for affiliation they received back a list of requirements. necessary, including their constitution being in existence for six months, at least 50 members and the list of their names.
He said the executive can comply with the first three but is reluctant to provide a membership list “for obvious reasons”.
Watchman’s In The News
“Chutzpah” is the name of Jewish homosexual groups whose No. 1 newsletter appeared in December.
It says “Chutzpah has divisions in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth”
Trust it’s nothing painful or serious?
Chutzpah wants to join Temple
Chutzpah, the Jewish homosexual movement has applied for formal membership of the Temple Emanuel, Woollahra and although they cannot join as a group, they are welcome to join as individuals.
In their January newsletter, Chutzpah said they have written to Rabbi Dr. R. Brasch, chief minister of the Temple, asking for his support to allow members of the group to join the congregation.
A formal application for membership by members of the group has been sent to the Temple’s Board of Management.
Rabbi Brasch replied that any Jew is welcome to join the congregation, regardless of their private life.
“A member’s private life has nothing to do with their membership of the Temple, we do not ask about an individual’s sex life,” Rabbi Brasch said last week.
“We are not here to condemn or judge and who are we to act as God?”, he required.
However, he said Chutzpah could be using the application for membership as another step in their advertising campaign.
“A congregation is an assembly of individuals who gather to worship God and any Jewish person is more than welcome to join our Temple,” he concluded.
A spokesman for the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies denied that the Board had discussed Chutzpah’s membership application at their recent executive meeting as claimed by the group’s newsletter.
“We received a letter from the group and this was tabled but once again the Board reiterated that
Chutzpah, must comply to our constitution before their application for membership is considered,” the spokesman added.
The Board asks that any group wanting membership must have a written constitution, must have a membership of more than 50, each member being over 18 years old.
Finally each member must have been allied to the group for more than six months before the application was lodged and the body requiring membership must have objects in the best interest of the welfare of Jewry.
Watchman’s In The News
Chutzpah, the NSW branch of the Australian Jewish Homosexual movement, had important dates in March and April.
A Strudel and Coffee night and a Nosh and Natter function.
Rabbi Dr. R. Brasch, of Temple Emanuel, Sydney, was asked if open homosexuals could join his congregation.
To which the learned minister replied:- “A member’s private life has nothing to do with their mem bership of the Temple, we do not ask about an individual’s sex life.”
Our latest info. is that Gay rights and their place in the Jewish community was on the agenda for the Australian Jewish Ministers Association conference in Sydney last weekend.
And in London, the Jewish Gay Group there recently held a Fancy Dress Party, with prizes for best costumes.
Men’s or women’s?
The national committee of Chutzpah, the Jewish homosexual movement in Australia, is disturbed at certain items which appeared in the AJT, 29/5/75.
Two matters on page 2, we found require comment: your editorial and the cartoon. The first we applaud, particularly your sentiment that, concerning the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, “if the Board wishes to gain the respect of the community, it should act and act now”, but the second, the cartoon, we found sexist, confirming the worst stereotype images of women possible, and contributing nothing to the serious debate of womens’ rights, in the Jewish community.
As homosexuals have been “silenced” by the Jewish community for thousands of year. Chutzpah is totally opposed to any action which stifles debate on any subject and so, for that reason, we can not (despite our inate support for Zionism per se) find any justificiation for the undemocratic actions of stopping. the two representatives of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) speaking in this country.
On page 3, under the headline ‘Freedom In Danger”, the president of the Zionist Federation of Australia (Mr Robert Zablud) is quoted as saying that “as a result of the violent demonstration at Macquarie University, free expression is being threatened in this country.” He’s right, but to say the violence was due to “PLO terrorists and their sympathisers” is untrue; Mr Zablud is either very naive or worse, very one eyed.
On page 7 there is a long story about the suggested “commission of inquiry” into the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, something we support wholeheartedly.
You quote the president of the Board (Mr Sid Muller) as saying: “It would be far more constructive if these separate groups, these rebels and dissenters could see their way clear to unify and use the not inconsiderable talents and resources of the board, collectively for the good of the whole community.”
A most laudable idea. But we’d remind Mr Muller that Chutzpah, as a group of “rebels and dissenters” has sought on several occasion to affiliate with the Board only to have almost insurmountable obstacles placed in our way or our letters ignored.
Despite, or perhaps because of such action as this against our movement Chutzpah now has groups in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane, has been responsible for getting
(• From Page 2)
started gay liberation groups in Tel Aviv and Rehovot, and brought many Jews back to Judaism who had, for many years, felt alienated and alone.
What makes the actions of the Board towards Chutzpah both in comprehensible and unforgiveable is the story you carried on page 20 (Salvation Army Man Tells Of Holocaust) which clearly shows that the Board would prefer to have a talk from a Christian clergyman than from someone representing Chutzpah talking about the historic oppression of homosexuals, particularly homosexuals oppressed by the Jewish community.
Except for fringe groups, every denomination within the Christian Church has discussed at length and in depth, in this country, the subject of homosexuals and homosexuality, including the Catholic Church, with the majority coming out in favor of decriminalisation. It is to the shame (we believe) and indictment of the Jewish community generally, and the Board of Deputies in particular, that the matter has (along with Black Rights, Womens’ Rights, Penal Reform and other social justice questions) never been considered by the Board.
David Weiner Secretary to the national committee, CHUTZPAH/AUSTRALIA
• The GUPS representatives were not stopped from appearing at any meeting organised by the Australian Union of Students. Interjections, part and parcel of democratic society, were the only “weapon” used to encounter the GUPS visitors. (ED.)
TOP LEVEL WATCHMAN’S IN THE NEWS
Chutzpah, the Australian Jewish Homosexual Movement, in its June newsletter tackles a Jewish News writer for being a ‘gay basher’. Then they add comment about ‘fiddling’ with the truth. REALLY!
WATCHMAN’S IN THE NEWS
Bit disturbing reading about those super spies preferring men, instead of being womanising heroes.
But then we’ve always thought that some of those secret service antics were a bit . . . queer.
Which brings us to the Rabbinical rejection of homosexuality.
Won’t exactly set alight members of Chutzpah, the Australian Jewish Gay movement.
GAY PRAYERS SOON IN SYDNEY
Sydney’s first Gay Congregation may begin functioning in the near future if the efforts of a small group of Jewish homosexuals succeed.
Their spokesman, a recent immigrant from the United States, last week claimed about 25 people have already indicated their interest in joining the group.
He emphasised that the new congregation has no connections with Chutzpah, a Jewish Gay Liberation group which was active in Sydney some time ago.
“Chutzpah was concerned only with the social aspect of the life of Jewish homosexuals, we are now introducing the religious connections” he said.
Asked why homosexuals should seek an alternative to membership of existing synagogues, the spokesman claimed ordinary shules do not cater for the special needs of gay people.
“We do not want to adhere to any set format.”
The young American now organising the Gay Congregation in Sydney was actively involved in a similar experiment in New York.
“The first gay religious group in that city was for med in 1972 and has been functioning successfully ever since.
“We were offered recognition by the Reform authorities, but many of our members were of Conservative and Orthodox persuasion and the offer was declined,” he claimed.
The New York group is said to include many “straight” people making up about 25 percent of the membership.
Similar “open door” policy is planned for Sydney and activities are expected to consist of weekly services and other gatherings with a religious orientation.
Get-togethers are to be held at premises in Oxford Street, Paddington, and the founders hope to gauge whether there is a future for the project by the response within the community during the next few weeks.
AMERICAN MEETING FOR GAY HEBREW ALLIANCE
Claims were made this week that the International Gay Hebrew Alliance (IGHA) has been invited to attend the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in 1977.
Mr Martin Smith, national convenor of Chutzpah, the Australian Jewish Gay Movement, said representation at the WJC is only one of many matters to be discussed at a meeting he will attend in the United States in August.
He plans to be present at what he claimed will be the inaugural meeting of the IGHA in Washington, DC.
Mr Smith expects representatives of some 17 Jewish gay groups from the US, Canada, Israel, England and Australia to attend the meeting.
Following the conference Mr Smith says he will be undertaking a lecture tour of North America, including addresses to gay groups, Jaycee and Rotary gatherings, as well as homosexual and “straight” congregations and synagogues.
He also expects to deliver addresses on several university campuses.
Mr Smith will be accompanied on his tour by photographer Mr Peter Gregory.
After their visit to the States they plan to meet with various groups in England, France, Italy, Israel and South-East Asia, prior to returning to Australia.
Dinner to decide
the future of the gay
Saturday, Sept. 27
For details phone
Kim 399-6856 A.H.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT
• Sunday, Nov. 23, 1980
PICNIC at 11.30am
• Friday, Dec. 5, 1980
CANDLE PARTY at 8.30pm
to celebrate CHANUKAH
For details phone:
or write to P.O. Box 5074,
Sydney, N.S.W., 2001.
Gay Jewish, Social
Group celebrate the
Festival of First
Friday, October 23.
Phone Kim 399-6856
Quiz “spoof” opens JFU 1982 program
Sydney Jewish students open the annual Jewish Free University (JFU) at the Hakoah Club on Saturday with their own version of a popular television quiz show.
Under the banner “Family Broiges” the program is a take-off from the daily Channel 9 “Family Feud” show.
Family teams will compete against each other for prizes.
Organisers suggest that teams do not have to be related.
But they want the four-member teams to be dressed appropriately for the age of the contestant they are playing.
This will add to the off-beat flavor of the contest, which the students are not expected to take too seriously.
The serious part of the eight-week JFU program starts on Monday, July 12.
The program is divided into four units on a variety of Jewish topics.
JFU is sponsored by the Hakoah Club under the patronage of the NSW Hillel Foundation.
The first unit “Too many Cooks . . . Diversity in Israel” gets underway on July 12.
This will feature a 50-minute documentary on “Israel — The Promised Land” by James Cameron.
The film provides a stimulating glimpse of Israel on a number of contemporary issues.
Unit II, called “Lies My Father Told Me”, starts on Wednesday, July 14 with a panel discussion on “Can Jews Be Gay?”
Speakers are Kim Gottlieb, of Chutzpah, an organisation for Gay Jews, Marian Apple, wife of Great Synagogue’s Rabbi Raymond Apple, and Rabbi Brian Fox, of Temple Emanuel Woollahra.
Speakers will examine Jewish ethics on the subject of homosexuality.
JFU aims to provide an open forum for community education directed towards students, youth and the general community.
Gay Jews resent attitude of community
The conservative values of the Sydney Jewish community make homosexuals feel oppressed, Kim Gotlieb, organiser of “Chutzpah”, a Jewish Gay Liberation group, said recently.
Mr Gotlieb was a member of a three-speaker panel on the topic, “Can Jews Be Gay?”, for the Jewish Free University (JFU) in the Hakoah Club last Wednesday-week.
Other speakers represented two points of the spectrum: Marian Apple, wife of Great Synagogue’s Rabbi Raymond Apple, who gave the Orthodox viewpoint on homosexuality and Rabbi Brian Fox of Temple Emanuel, Woollahra, who presented the Liberal view.
“Gay Jews do not want to be accepted into the community by pretending they are ‘straight’,” Mr Gotlieb said.
“We want acceptance for what we are and freedom to celebrate it.”
Mrs Apple and Rabbi Fox said gays should not form their own houses of worship.
They should be integrated into the community by means of greater participation in established synagogues and communal organisations.
Homosexuals will be accepted into either Orthodox or Liberal congregations because they are Jews, Mrs Apple said.
Jews come to synagogue to pray and all else should be forgotten, especially one’s sexual preference.
According to Mr Gotlieb, however, synagogues are established on a premise of certain rules and laws which abhor homosexuality.
Gay Jews, by virtue of what they practice, are in direct opposition to the principles laid down by the community, he said.
“It is important for gay Jews to feel valid members of a congregation, to be able to sit among other Jews and pray.
“But because gay Jews do not adhere to the social norms they remain on the outside, never fully being accepted or integrated,” Mr Gotlieb said.
“How can we be integral members of a community when everything we stand for is regarded as an abomination?”
The oppressive nature of the community’s accepted mores towards gays can be compared with the persecution of Soviet Jewry, Jews who wish to retain their religious beliefs even though they are forbidden by the State.
It is hard for gay Jews to feel part of a congregation because they cannot openly celebrate their homosexuality.
For this reason several gay-lesbian synagogues have been established in the USA.
At present there is no recognised gay synagogue in Sydney.
“We remain alienated from the community and self-reliant for support,” Kim said.
“If we attend established synagogues we are only accepted on the basis of a pretend heterosexuality and not in terms of our real selves,” he said.
If we are to be members of a congregation we want our true selves to be recognised and accepted, not the mask the community would like us to assume, he said.
The Jewish community neither discriminates nor punishes homosexuals, Mrs Apple said.
“To be gay is punishment enough. Even in moral judgment, the deed is regarded as criminal and not the individual,” Mrs Apple said.
“I think Sydney congregants are big enough to accept homosexuality.
“Judaism has certain rules, however, concerning marriage,” she said.
“There is no way an Orthodox rabbi would write a marriage deed for two men or two women because this would be as good as recognising homosexuality as an acceptable practice.
“The Jewish community will accept gays, but it is often they who feel unaccepted, social misfits,” Mrs Apple said.
PAST AND PRESENT
Orthodoxy makes an assumption about the past and present in its laws pertaining to homosexuality, Rabbi Fox said.
Science says there is no such thing as “normal”.
“Who says that a husband and wife and 2.3 children makes a relationship perfect or better than a relationship between two males or two females?
“I would be prepared to perform a wedding between homosexuals, but there would be problems for me to consider, such as publicity, communal attitudes and how the non-Jewish community perceives the Sydney Jewish community,” he said.
“I believe two males or two females can say something positive about relationships, in some cases much more than a man-woman relationship, if two real souls are going together.
“Homosexuals may be able to teach heterosexuals about relationships,” he said.
“When the Orthodox value implies ‘family’ it assumes that every male is fit to be a ‘father’ and every woman a ‘mother’, when both roles may be totally inappropriate for the individual,” Rabbi Fox said.
“Many people are not equipped emotionally or psychologically for these roles in life.
“To say that status is punishment enough does not produce a community of difference.
“The Sydney Jewish community wreaks hurtful attitudes within this kind of social framework,” Rabbi Fox said.
We live in a society which breeds racism and antiSemitism so what gives us the right to point the finger at people and persecute them because they are different. Many homosexuals desperately want to feel authentic Jews, Rabbi Fox said.
“Chutzpah” is a social Jewish gay-lesbian group which was formed two years ago in Sydney.
It has a membership of about 25 people.
It holds regular monthly meetings to celebrate Jewish festivals, as well as theatre parties and picnics.
It is largely a support group for gay Jews, to create a feeling of belonging.
Chutzpah is a member of the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish organisations, Kim added.
• Kim Gotlieb
Friday, August 6,
at TEMPLE EMANUEL
7 Ocean Street, Woollahra.
Followed by an Oneg Shabbat
Enquiries: Kim Gotlieb 399-6856
Warren Abeshouse 439-2256
Rabbi disassociates from Chutzpah ad.
Chief minister of Temple Emanuel, Woollahra, Rabbi Brian Fox, has disassociated himself and his congregation from an advertised meeting by “Chutzpah”, the gay Jewish social group.
In a statement issued last Thursday, Rabbi Fox said he was “shocked at the false statement in the advertisement placed by Chutzpah”.
“While every Jew is welcome at services at the Temple it is simply untrue for Chutzpah to advertise a ‘meeting at the Temple at 7.45pm on August 6 followed by an Oneg Shabbat’.
“No such meeting will take place, but services start at 8pm and are always followed by an Oneg Shabbat,” Rabbi Fox said.
Rabbi Fox said that at a recent debate he held with Marion Apple at the Jewish Free University, both he and Mrs Apple had said that homosexuals would be welcome to worship as part of the congregation at both the Temple and the Great Synagogue.
CHUTZPAH Gay Jewish Group
apologises for any
embarrassment caused to
Rabbi Fox and Temple Emanuel
regarding any misunderstanding
created by the notice in Aust.
Jewish Times (July 29, 1982).
‘Watchman’ In The News
Here’s an odd Jewish line: “The conservative values of the Sydney Jewish community make homosexuals feel op pressed,” Kim Gottlieb, organiser of “Chutzpah” a Jewish Gay Liberation group said in Sydney. Mr. Gottlieb was member of a panel on the topic “Can Jews be Gay?”
[From Trove and the Australian Jewish News]
Jackie Brygel talks to Tammi Faraday about how she reconciles her religious beliefs with her work on the Victorian AIDS Council.
AS A YOUNG Orthodox Jew working in a voluntary capacity for the Victorian AIDS Council, Tammi Faraday has often been forced to defend her job.
For the 20-year-old Leibler-Yavneh graduate, however, there is no conflict between her religion and her work.
“I have been asked how, as a religious Jew, I can work for an organisation that is condoning homosexuality,” she said, in an interview with the Australian Jewish News. “First of all, my position on homosexuality is absolutely inconsequential to the cause; Regardless of what I feel, it is not for me to judge.
“We talk of God and we talk of mercy and compassion and all these other things that people very easily forget. Ritualism is very important, but I think the essence of religion often gets lost.”
Ms Faraday said that homosexuality was “problematic” within the Torah. But by the same token, she added, the saving of a life is a fundamental precept in the Jewish religion.
“We should perpetuate that by helping people and by educating people. And it is not just gays who are affected (by AIDS).
“I think there is a syndrome in the Jewish community of being very judgmental. People should be embraced. Thank God, the incidence of AIDS is not huge within the Jewish community, but I don’t think that anybody has the right to disenfranchise a person or to make a person feel remote or ostracised. It is an issue that has to be dealt with.”’
Ms Faraday, who is currently studying law/arts at Monash University, has also been asked why she has not channelled her energies into Jewish causes. It is a question to which she has taken umbrage.
“To me, AIDS is a human cause,” she said. “It is a Jewish cause as much as any other cause. I am a very proud Jew who wears Judaism on my sleeve. But we are human and we are not immune to this disease.”
Ms Faraday first developed an interest in AIDS at the age of 14 when she read a book on a haemophiliac who had contracted the HIV infection through a blood transfusion. After spending eight months studying at the Hebrew University in Israel, she approached the Victorian AIDS Council in April this year.
Ms Faraday is now public relations officer for the Council’s Red Ribbon Project. Red ribbons, the international symbol for AIDS awareness, will be sold by shops, businesses and street sellers for World AIDS Day on December 1. All proceeds from the red ribbons go towards the support of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS.
“I was very nervous to come back to Australia after living in Israel,” Ms Faraday said. “I had been very fulfilled there and all my senses had been on overload every minute of the day.
“When I came back, I wanted to throw myself into an organisation where I felt I could provide some expertise and do something positive to help others.”
Ms Faraday also believed there were many misconceptions about AIDS with many Australians still referring to it as the ‘gay plague’.
“That is not the case,” she said. “It’s a universal disease and it doesn’t discriminate. I felt that as someone who was Jewish and a woman and a minority in this organisation, I would be able to help universalise the issue.
“Now the figures show that AIDS is decreasing slowly in the gay population, but increasing substantially in the heterosexual population… Twenty million people have been infected with the (HIV) virus thus far around the world. It is the highest killer of 22 to 44-year old Americans. It is an epidemic we are facing.”
Ms Faraday conceded she initially felt like the “odd one out” at the Council, but quickly found her niche.
“The environment here is so warm, friendly, loving and supportive. It’s a wonderful environment to work in.
“I wanted to ensure I confronted the disease head-on and be knowledgeable about it so I was not prejudiced in any way, shape or form. Knowledge is the key.”ajn-19951020-p23-HIV
In 1995 the Melbourne edition of the Australian Jewish News reported on the attendance of the Jewish Lesbian Group at Concert in the Park, and also published an article by an Orthodox rabbi seeking greater acceptance of homosexual Jews.
The publication of these two articles helped expose the underbelly of lesbophobia and homophobia in the Jewish community, by way of letters to the Editor, which were competently countered by the Jewish Lesbian Group, the nascent Aleph Melbourne, and other supportive community members.
In a time where publishing content vilifying lesbians and gay men was not yet considered unacceptable by the Australian Jewish News, Tuvya Rosengarten, Robert Weil, Ian Mond, Eva Bugalski, Rabbi Chaim Ingram and Miriam Gallo did not hold back in telling the readership how deeply uncomfortable lesbians and/or homosexuality made them feel.
The following articles from March to July 1995 capture this tumultuous period in the community’s history.
Many thanks to Trove and those benefactors who assisted in reviving these historic editions of the Australian Jewish News.
Jewish lesbians ‘encouraged’ by community response to stall
THE JEWISH Lesbian Group came out publicly for the first time at a Jewish function last Sunday when they ran a stall at Concert in the Park.
The group’s stall attracted plenty of attention but “no negative response”, according to Julie (“I’d rather not tell you my surname as I don’t want to upset my parents who are very well known in the community”) who was staffing the stall
Numerous passers-by stopped to look at the books about Judaism, women and lesbianism on display. Some passed on without comment; others were curious to find out more about the group.
Julie said the Jewish Lesbian Group formed three years ago when a few Jewish women met at the Lesbian Fair. They decided to put an advertisement in a lesbian newsletter asking if there were other Jewish women interested in forming a group.
The group now has about 30 members of all ages including singles and couples, a few married women and mothers, Julie said. The group placed an advertisement in the Australian Jewish News a few years ago and received a number of very negative phone calls. But Julie said she was “very encouraged” by the positive attention the group had received at Concert in the Park.
“We are a member of a minority group within a minority group. I think people realise what it is to be hated for what you are,” she said.
Nonetheless many of the group members, some of whom worked at Jewish communal organisations or were going for jobs in the community, felt they could not afford publicly at the stall. Even Julie, a forthright woman who publicly wears a chain with both a Star of David and the double-woman lesbian symbol, said her heart “kept on going double-time”.
The group also displayed a sign giving a Caulfield post office box as a contact point for the Jewish Gay Men’s Support Group.
“I don’t know whether it is that we are more political or just more ready to come out publicly than the men.
But you’ve got to start somewhere. It’s very much a case of one step forward, one step back,” Julie said.
Concert in the Park organiser Doodie Ringelblum said there was some discussion on the committee about permitting the lesbian group’s stall.
“But basically the feeling was that as a festival we were trying to represent the entire community. And if a group within the community wanted to run a stall, we should let them,” he said.
Dr Ringelblum said the committee did not discuss which groups were holding stalls with other groups in the community. But he said there had been no unfavourable comments from anyone about any of the groups. Most people were very impressed by how well the diverse groups cooperated with one another and shared resources.
▲ For further information about the Jewish Lesbian Group, contact Sara 489-9669.
I WAS under the impression that Concert in the Park was meant to be a family event. On this basis I found the Lesbian stall (AJN24/3) to be totally inappropriate and in poor taste for such an event.
Sure, in this day and age of openess and enlightenment, we need to be tolerant towards the complexities of human behaviour and its many facets. But this does not mean that we have to accept them.
The Lesbian group and other fringe groups have other forums and means available to convey their message and to gain support. Concert in the Park was not one of them.
Lesbians are family, too
I WRITE in response to Tuvya Rosengarten’s letter (AJN 31/3). Tuvya states that Concert in the Park is a family event, where Jewish lesbians have no place. Perhaps he does not understand that lesbians are part of family. We are daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers and even bubbes.
My partner and I (both nice Jewish lesbians) attended the Concert with my mother, father, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew, all of whom would have been most offended at the suggestion that I should not have been there. Had Tuvya approached the stall at the Concert, he may even have met two members of our group, a mother and her adult daughter, both of whom are lesbians.
Tuvya states in his letter that lesbians do not have to be accepted by the community. The reality is, that lesbians are extremely active in all areas of Jewish communal life. Indeed, we work in every Jewish organisation in Melbourne, making an invaluable contribution to the community. We are vital members of this community, not some “fringe group”.
It would be a great loss to the Jewish community if all lesbians were to withdraw our creative input and energy until we are accepted. Lesbians’ contributions to the community are often invisible, or unrecognised, for it is rare that we are able to “come out” in public. As one of the founding members of the Jewish Lesbian Group, (from which I shep naches), it was painful to have to decide not to staff the Jewish Lesbian stall at the Concert, because of the prominent position I hold in the Jewish community.
I find having to hide my lesbianism in the Jewish community as painful as if I were forced to hide my Jewishness in the non-Jewish community. I should be able to express my identity with pride.
Tuvya states that we have other forums to convey our message. I understood “In One Voice” to be a celebration of the diversity of Jewish life in Melbourne. Jewish lesbians are a vital part of that rich fabric. As such, our presence at the Concert was extremely appropriate. But if Tuvya wishes to suggest additional venues for our group, I would be most happy to hear them.
Hidden but Hopeful, Caulfield
(name supplied but witheld on request)
YES, A lesbian group was at Concert in the Park. So were Chabad, the Zionist Youth Council, the Elsternwick Jewish community, the Jewish Secular Humanist Society, the Liron Choir and the Skif Grunge Orchestra. No individual feels at home with all these groups.
But you don’t have to agree with your family to love them as family. Community means enjoying our diversity and celebrating in One Voice.
TUVYA Rosengarten (AJN 31/3) writes that the Jewish lesbian stall at Concert in the Park was “totally inappropriate” as it was “meant to be a family event”.
Perhaps it would surprise Tuvya and others to find that our group comprises mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins, etc of people at the Concert. Jewish lesbians are part of families in the community and therefore have a right to be openly represented at communal events.
Tuvya preaches tolerance, but not acceptance. As a Jew in Australia he would surely wish to be accepted, not just tolerated. Why should lesbians (or gay men) expect any less?
I BELIEVE I speak for the silent majority when I say that the various letters (AJN 7/4) regarding the Melbourne Jewish Lesbians Group make sickening reading.
It would seem that the Jewish News is no longer immune from the hijacking and manipulation of the media that has become a typical tactic of the gay lobby, in order to try and legitimise their so-called lifestyle.
From a Jewish perspective, there is no grey area as far as homosexuality is concerned, being clearly declared by the Torah to be “an abomination”.
That is not to say that it does not exist, or that those who are unwilling or unable to suppress their tendencies are to be condemned or excommunicated. But it is absurd in the extreme for these women to use such emotive catchphrases as “we are daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers, even bubbas” or to threaten to “withdraw our creative input until we are accepted” as some sort of emotional blackmail.
As far as Concert in the Park is concerned, the presence of this group at a Jewish family event would be on a par with a stall manned by the “Jewish Pork Appreciation Group” handing out free, ready-to-eat samples. I cannot imagine the community tolerating such a situation, no matter how loudly it might be argued that their members “are part of families in the community and therefore have a right to be openly represented at community events”.
To those who are lesbians, by all means unite to find safety in numbers if this is the life you choose to lead. But please refrain from peddling your wares in front of our children.
East St Kilda
THE OPINIONS of the “Holier than Thou” people who have graced your Letters to the Editor pages in the last few weeks have incensed me. To an outsider, our Jewish community in Melbourne appears a cohesive and dynamic group, whose members care about each other and about the state of Israel. This may be true until one becomes intimately involved with the religious politics within this diverse community.
Is it acceptable for a “religious” person to be dishonest in business? Is it acceptable for a person who is “Jewish” (but not the acceptable sect of Jewishness) to be refused an aliyah at another shul? Is it acceptable for our children to be exposed to an affluent and flaunting lifestyle where there is no consideration for others? Is it appropriate for people to judge others and to gossip about them incessantly? Is it correct to treat our fellow man with disrespect? And yet, it seems that it is not acceptable for some Jews to express their sexuality in a way that they feel is appropriate; by setting up a stall at a community function for all Jews.
Do we, who resent the opinions of the “Holier than Thou” people, know or care what happens in their bedrooms and judge them for their obsessive behaviour about the Eruv or other controversial issues? Is it because it’s “socially acceptable” to be dishonest in business, to gossip and to treat people with disrespect that we all sit idle and let our children learn these distressing habits; and yet something such as homosexuality which somehow threatens the innards of most people causes their homophobia to take over.
AS A “straight” couple who married under a chuppah, we are deeply offended by the homophobic, selfrighteous, vitriolic diatribe by Robert Weil and the nonsense from Tuvya Rosengarten against lesbians in our community. Who do you people think you are to preach who is or is not acceptable in our community? Get real. Families come in all shapes and sizes and Jewish families are no different. The Concert in the Park was advertised as a community day and we thought the lesbian group were to be commended for playing their part.
Bob Kochen and Leeora Black
SINCE it is the z’man (season) for asking questions, I would like to ask a few on the issue of intolerance.
Why do letters that start with phrases such as “I believe I speak for the silent majority . . .” (R. Weil AJN 14/4) often express views intolerant of something?
Why are newspapers that print letters with views contrary to our own accused ofbeing “hijacked” and “manipulated”.
How is it possible “to be tolerant towards the complexities of human behaviour …” (T. Rosengarten AJN 31/3) and in the same breath say “this does not mean that we have to accept (lesbians)?”
Why should a concert held to express the rich diversity of Jewish life exclude part of it simply because some people oppose some aspect of that diversity? And why is it justified by suggesting children are at risk: “Please refrain from peddling your wares in front of our children?”
Why do people cite religious law as a means of justifying their own prejudice?
In my humble opinion, and speaking only for myself, I understand tolerance to be about accepting (without embracing) other people with different lifestyles whether I agree or disagree with them, and having the right to criticise their views, but not the right to impose my views.
I am sure that if you poke me hard enough you will find a limit to my tolerance, but a lesbian stall at the Concert in the Park falls well within that limit.
Orthodox Rabbi Tzvi Marx argues that we need a new look at Jewish texts that appear to exclude homosexuals
DEBATE over the religious significance of unconventional sexual identity has raged in Israel since last fall’s Supreme Court ruling that El Al must give free flights to an employee’s homosexual partner, as it would to any employee’s common-law spouse. As usual, attacks on accepting homosexuals have been based on the Biblical proscriptions against a man “lying with a man as with a woman”, deeming this “an abomination” and “punishable by death” (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13).
Indeed, such arguments have long been used. Rabbi Moshe Tendler, for instance, once cited Leviticus on these pages, and urged us to “express shame and indignation” in response to homosexuality.
No matter how categorical scripture seems to be, though, one never assumes that a subject is closed. The classic example is the “stubborn and rebellious son” of Deuteronomy 21, to be stoned at the initiative of his parents. The Talmud, in Tractate Sanhedrin, creates such unlikely rules for convicting such a child that it concludes that a real one “never was and never will be”.
In a matter closer to the question of sexual “deviation”, the Bible excludes eunuchs from “entering the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:2) — that is, from marrying. Tractate Sotah, however,
explains that the prohibition applies only to one made a eunuch by human action, but not to a congenital eunuch — apparently distinguishing between culturally chosen and physically determined deviation.
There’s also a subtext of divergent rabbinic views on unconventional sexual identity in Tractate Bekhorot. There the sages discuss the Torah’s requirement (Exodus 34:19) that first-born animals be consecrated unless they are physically blemished. An animal with both male and female genitals is seen by Rabbi Ishmael as having a “blemish of which none is greater”. But others, as Rashi comments, consider it neither male nor female, but a creature in its own right!” In the latter view, a biological deviation is to be appreciated, not deprecated.
Defining sexual identity is made an issue in the opening verses of Tazria: “When a woman at childbirth bears a male, she shall be ritually impure seven days … and if she bears a female, she shall be impure two weeks” (Leviticus 12:2, 5). But
what of a child that is both male and female, or neither (androginus and tumtum respectively in Talmudic terminology)? Rather than exclude them from the law and the community because of their unusual sexual identity, the sages in Tractate Nidah set requirements for them between those for a male and those for a female — and so recognise such sexual identity as a category in itself.
This invites the further question, not pursued by the early sages, of how to regard a child who is conventionally male or female in some ways but not others — that is, a homosexual. While this characteristic is obviously not discernible in infancy, the longterm question is about legitimacy.
Can the Jewish community be categorical in excluding those whose differences put them outside standard sexual identity? What if those differences are a product of genes, not choice? A direction toward an answer, I suggest, can be derived from Tractate Brakhot, which teaches that one who sees a physically unusual person should recite:
“Blessed are You, Lord, who makes creatures differently”. In the 13th century, the Meiri — Rabbi Menahem Meir of Perpignan — explains the blessing as a response to “experiencing of new things, without necessarily enjoying or being troubled by them”. What it expresses is blessed wonderment at the different forms of divively created life.
This isn’t necessarily approval. It does imply acceptance, and a willingness to include in our society those destined to be different, it is consonant with the fundamental Jewish teaching that each individual is entitled to say “for me was the world created”, as stated in Tractate Sanhedrin.
Appreciating God’s creation means appreciating variations along a continuum not really divided. Reciting a benediction over human variety translates into creating a society in which differences are respected rather than attacked. The sacred texts, Biblical or rabbinic, which appear to block such inclusion invite creative reinterpretation under the impact of new insights.
▲ Tzvi Marx is an Orthodox rabbi, director of applied education at the Shalom Hartman Institute and author of Halakha and Handicap: Jewish Law and Ethics on Disability.” This comment first appeared in a recent issue of The Jerusalem Report.
I WOULD like to support the sentiments of Robert Weil (AJN 7/4) on the Jewish lesbians.
I know of no Jew, religious or secular, who believes that lesbianism can in any way be equated with Judaism or a Jewish lifestyle. Would those vitriolic letter writers in last week’s AJN who preached tolerance towards the lesbians want their own children to join this alternate lifestyle? If the answer is yes, then they are to be pitied and condemned.
If the answer is no, then they agree, rather than disagree, with Mr Weil, whose letter espoused tolerance towards the lesbians, provided they choose to lead their lifestyle in private, rather than “pedal their wares in front of our children” at a family concert.
The Concert in the Park was promoted as a Jewish family event. The indisputable fact is, that as long as Jewish lesbians continue to practise their lifestyle, they will never contribute to the continuity of the Jewish family. Therefore, their presence at such a family event is an affront to all who have striven, and continue to strive, for the continuity of the Jewish people.
THE COMPARISON Deborah Stone makes (AJN 7/4), which others have echoed, between the Lesbian group at Concert in the Park and Chabad, the ZYC, the Jewish Secular Humanist Society, Skif and the Liron Choir, is a very odd one indeed.
The variety of cultural, religious and ideological groups in the community provide avenues through which different members relate to their common Jewishness. How one can relate to Jewishness through being a lesbian, or for that matter through any expression of one’s sexual preferences and tastes, is unclear to me.
Mind you, we could change “In One Voice” to accommodate a range of sexual preference groups. Alongside the Jewish Lesbian stall there could be the Jewish Trans-sexual stall, or the Jewish Wife Swapping Club, or the Jewish Masochists, or the Jewish Women who Prefer Toy Boys.
Presumably, at the risk of allowing the concert to become “In One Vice”, we would all draw the line somewhere with such groups, no matter how hard their members worked for the community, how prominent or creative they were, or whether they were mothers, daughters, aunties or bubbehs.
The point, therefore, is not whether one is tolerant towards lesbians or homosexuals, but how is sexual preference relevant to an expression of one’s Jewishness at a communal concert? It isn’t. And it shouldn’t be.
SINCE when does sending a letter to the AJN constitute a “hijacking and manipulation of the media?” (Robert Weil, AJN 21/4). He has conveniently forgotten that our letters were in response to an attack on us in a letter in defence of our right to exist, a “typical tactic of the gay lobby”. A life lived with love and caring in whatever manner is a legitimate life style not a “so called life style.”
When heterosexuals are willing and able to “suppress their tendencies” we may also consider suppressing our annate, God given tendencies. Or does he think that we were created by another God?
He accuses us of using “emotive catch phrases” when we merely stated the obvious fact that we are daughters, sisters, aunts etc. And as for “withdrawing our creative input” being “emotional blackmail” he has maliciously distorted the context in which this was written. What about his comparison of the lesbian stall with a pork stall — doesn’t that make “sickening reading”?
Does he honestly believe that a book stall would turn children gay? We believe he speaks for the silent minority, the majority having realised — in view of evidence to the contrary — that the earth is not flat!
Victorian Jewish Lesbian Group
WHO IS Rabbi Tzvi Marx (AJN 21/4 trying to fool — other than himself?
He knows that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, condemning sodomy as a capital offence, mean exactly what they say and have never been interpreted in any other way by Halachic Judaism.
He knows, or surely must, that references to persons of “unconventional sexual identity” (androgynus and tumtum respectively) demonstrate Halachic recognition of inbuilt physiological sexual abnormality only — nothing more and nothing less.
He knows, or surely must, that there is no real scientific proof whatsoever of a genetic predisposition to homosexuality on the part of some individuals.
And he must surely know, and should acknowledge, that Judaism has never excluded “homosexuals”, nor ever suggested that “homosexuals” are not entitled to say “for me was the world created”. It has excluded, and continues to exclude “homosexuality” which represents the very antithesis of the reason that the world was created.
Rabbi Chaim Ingram
The Central Synagogue, Sydney
ANTISEMITISM and homophobia are both outlandish bigoted concepts that result from ignorance, and that produce misinformation and cruel stereotyping.
In his letter (A//V 14/4), Robert Well writes of the “hijacking and manipulation of the media … by the gay lobby.” This extreme type of rhetoric is as absurd to me, as a homosexual, as would a statement about “the Zionist, Jewish plot to dominate the world”, be to me as a Jew.
As Jews, we have broken down many layers of antisemitism, by coming out of the ghetto, mixing with the non-Jewish world and demonstrating that we are very very much a contributing part of humankind, and not some evil dark force to be feared.
Despite all of this progress, some people (Tuvya Rosengarten 31/3) would seek to deny this same opportunity to gay Jews. For the same reason that Jewish representation would belong at a summit of world religions, a Jewish lesbian or gay group belongs at a Jewish community event. We are part of the community and we have the right to demonstrate this. We are not deviants and have no “message to convey”, other than we are really and truly a part of the Jewish world and proud of it.
The irony of it all is that we are probably one of the most diverse and representative groups within the Jewish community as can be seen from Aleph Melbourne, a support group for gay Jewish men.
This is not a group founded to promote some so called “alternative lifestyle”. We are a complex and diverse group of individuals all leading very different lives — working, socialising, interacting with our families and so on — all the things that our straight counterparts do.
In age we range from 17 to 58. In suburb, from Caulfield to Brunswick. In profession, from student to doctor to businessman. Some are religious, and others more lapsed. Many are in long term monogamous partnerships similar to those of our parents, while others are on the dating scene. And the one thing that we all have in common, in addition to being gay, is that we are all Jews — and proud ones at that.
HAVING followed the debate in your pages on whether or is OK or not to be lesbian, I noted that the question of whether it was OK or not to be homophobic was not directly discussed.
I believe that homophobia can be likened to agarophobia, claustrophobia or any other phobia from which people suffer. Thus, if for example, one is phobic about entering lifts, one does not blame the lift (usually) for one’s distress. One normally seeks help for the phobia. It can be the same for people suffering from homophobia.
Some of those who have entered the debate suggest that we, lesbians, should be accepted or at least tolerated by the Jewish community. I want more. I want to be judged as an individual on my individual merits.
I am proud to be Jewish in spite of antisemitism and I am proud to be a lesbian in spite of homophobia. I am also a psychologist and have seen the despair and hopelessness brought to families by this social disease.
But as a community we can fight homophobia just as we can fight antisemitism. The best and most successful way to fight homophobia is to stand together as a community, to encourage our gay Jewish members to come out of the closet and to make it safe for them to do so. We can save whole families — heterosexual, lesbian, gay — from fear, shame and guilty by saying, “Homophobia is NOT OK”.
IAN MOND (AJN 28/4) needs first and foremost to understand that being gay is generally a given not a choice. Why would we (or anyone) choose to belong to such a vilified, marginalised group — especially when we often already experience these prejudices by being Jewish?
He also needs to be made aware that there are well over 20 children of mothers in the Jewish Lesbian Group. As all but one of the mainly adult children are heterosexual (so much for our influence on children) we have contributed to the “continuity of the Jewish family”.
By rejecting our inclusion in the Jewish family he has also rejected our children and their current and future property.
He implies that the unmarried, asexual women who — for physical or psychological reasons — cannot conceive or bear children, infertile men, and those choosing not to have children should also be excluded as they do not “contribute to the continuity of the Jewish people”.
What a tragic loss!
I AM writing with concern for our soqiety at large and in particular for those Jewish men and women who have accepted the values of the broader community.
The words “rights”, “democracy”, “compassion”, “freedom of choice” all strike a chord of “yes” within us. They have a soothing, almost hypnotic ring to them.
The issue of homosexuality is Already a fait accompli. But let us examine what has been achieved. A minority group with an abnormal sexual preference has grown into a much larger group due to the validation of its stance by society.
One outcome of the wide acceptance of homosexuality has been not only the increase in the incidence of AIDS amongst homosexuals, but its spread throughout society. Hospitals, doctors and dentists have changed their practices to deal with the AIDS threat, as I discovered recently when I was in hospital having a baby. Rigorous checking of identification of mothers and babies and other preventive nursing measures highlighted the dangers.
One of the bases of public policy is that the only reason to limit someone’s freedom of choice is if it will harm another. (J S Mill in On Liberty). This argument was used in the debate on homosexuality. The result has been that society has accepted that consenting adults should have the freedom to choose their partners and sexual preference.
But as we now know, it is not only the consenting partners who are at risk, but the whole society. Surely we should re-examine the rationale allowing infectious disease of any nature to proliferate to such an extent.
We should indeed be compassionate towards homosexuals. But we need to extend education and healing. Perhaps those who have chosen the homosexual lifestyle should reconsider whether the benefits of it are so great and worth the risks. Whatever facilities necessary should be provided to assist them to return to the mainstream with dignity so that they may, in the Jewish tradition, choose life and not its opposite.
East St Kilda
HAVING BEEN on the outskirts of the debate on gays and lesbians in the AJN, I now feel pressed to use my voice.
The concept of “In One Voice” speaks to me of a community united, not divided. Apparently I am wrong. Certain opinions seem to say that it is only for certain Jews.
Unless 12 years of Jewish education have failed me, I seem to recall that part of being a good Jew is being a good person, and that as well as our duties to God, we also have duties to our fellow humans.
Tolerance does not Gome with a “get back in the closet” attitude. We cannot teach people that as Jews they have a voice and must use it to counter prejudice, but as homosexual Jews, they must be silent.
To hide the existence of homosexuality from our children will prevent them from learning their duty to accept other people, and especially other Jews. To assume a person will become gay merely because they are exposed to it is to ridicule the complexity of emotions involved in one’s sexuality.
Lesbianism may have as little to do with expressing one’s Jewish identity as displaying artwork done by various community members.
The point is not how they are Jewish but that they are Jewish.
EVA BUGALSKI (AJN 28/4) asks how sexual preference relates to one’s Jewishness. As an outsider (I am not a Jew but I am a lesbian) who attended Concert in the Park, it is clear to me that any minority group has to be proud and visible to be recognised and acknowledged. With such a high attendance the concert was an excellent way to show that lesbians are part of the community.
The assumption is that people are heterosexual. If it were the other way around would Ms Bugalski not want to clarify her identity? If she were assumed to be a Christian, would she not want to have her real identity known?
The Jewish women at the stall identify as lesbians. It is their human right to do so in whichever public arena they wish. It is denigrating to list types of behaviour such as wife-swapping and masochism as akin to lesbianism.
AJN readers are surely aware that gays as well as Jews were put to death by Nazi Germany. All minorities need to unite to fight oppression.
THE SPATE of letters in your paper over the tiny and almost invisible Jewish Lesbians’ presence at the recent Concert in the Park demonstrates how profound are the divisions in this Jewish community on basic cultural and social rights for a minority within its own midst.
The fear of people who are different shows that the issue of sexuality is one over which it is all too easy to resort to prejudice and exaggeration.
The Society for Humanistic Judaism (USA) in its Guide to Humanistic Judaism (1993) states that ‘sexual behaviour is a private matter and that all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, possess the right and deserve the freedom to live their own lives, provided they do not harm any other person or the welfare of the community. Gays and lesbians have the right to the dignity accorded to all human beings.’
I hope that those in the community who identify with other Jewish traditions are prepared openly to support such a statement in order to oppose the religious and cultural bigotry being promoted in recent correspondence.
This correspondence is now closed. The Editor.
IN THE letter from Sue Pamplin last week (AJN 12/5) the reference to “their current and future property “should have read “their current and future progeny.” We regret the error.
MELBOURNE’S Jewish lesbian group, which came out publicly for the first time at a Jewish function at this year’s Concert in the Park, is determined to keep alive the discussion of Jews and sexuality.
“We are here, there are lots of us, we are politically motivated and active and have a lot to do with the Jewish community and do a lot of work for the Jewish community,” one of the group’s members, Julie, says. “Let’s keep thinking about it because we are not going away and your aunty or niece might be one.”
Another member, Sara, adds: “Or your grandmother. That seems to terrify people the most.”
The Jewish lesbian group, which formed about three years ago, has approximately 40 members in Melbourne aged in their 20s to 60s. The women come from a wide range of backgrounds and professions including teaching, social work, journalism and the police force, with many taking a very active role in the wider Jewish and/or lesbian communities. Despite the greater acceptance of homosexuality in today’s society, the vast majority do not wish to be identified, fearing for their families and/or jobs.
At least one member of the group is convinced she would be sacked if her work colleagues knew she was a lesbian (“although that wouldn’t be the reason given,” she adds). Others, especially those in the public service, are less worried for their jobs, but do not want to draw attention to their families or partners who may not have “come out”.
Nonetheless, the group managed to find half a dozen women willing to staff its stall at Concert in the Park. Sara says the group would also love to publicly debate That Jewish lesbians are kosher’ with an Orthodox rabbi and/or some of the authors of letters published in the Australian Jewish News critical of their group. She says while some of the letters were quite hurtful, even the nasty ones led to other people thinking about the issue.
One of their members, counsellor psychologist Vera Ray, will speak to the National Council of Jewish Women’s Status of Women group on July 17 (see separate story, box).
The Jewish lesbian group meets monthly with every second meeting open to non-Jewish partners and friends. Julie says the group is like any other Jewish group — “we turn up late, eat and gossip” — but also provides a “safe place” for a “minority within a minority”.
Miriam, who lives in “the other ghetto” (Brunswick), says there is antisemitism in some parts of the lesbian community. The women agree that coming out as a Jew in the lesbian community is often as big an issue as coming out as a lesbian in the Jewish community.
Miriam says coming to the Jewish lesbian group is very relaxing because she does not have to worry about who sees her or what they think.
The group sometimes goes out socially, but there is often an “internalised homophobia” and fear about being seen together, according to Sara.
Sara, who was born in Israel and migrated to Australia in the 1960s, says she had very little to do with the Jewish community before the group started. Active in the lesbian community, she helped form the Jewish group three years ago for a multicultural lesbian festival.
“It’s my way of being Jewish,” she says.
Another member, Eva, who had great difficulty admitting to herself that she was a lesbian, only joined the group because it was Jewish.
“A friend wanted me to ring Lesbian Line but I didn’t want to. I’m very Jewish so I had to find a Jewish group,” she says.
“When I really think about it, I should have known (I was a lesbian) when I was 12 or 13, but people tell you this can’t be, so you go off and get married and do the right thing.”
Many of the group members have been (or cure) married and have children. But even one gay woman and man who underwent a marriage of convenience for their families found the pretence too difficult to keep up.
“Younger lesbians find it much easier,” says Sara, who is in her 40s. “We always felt isolated and that we were the only ones.”
Leah, who is in her 60s, adds: “I grew up in an era,where there were no Jewish lesbians that I knew of, but I knew they must be lurking somewhere as I was.”
Most women have “come out” to a greater or lesser extent to their families. Some,1 such as Sara who has taken lovers to meet her family in Israel, have had very positive experiences. But other members’ parents and/or relatives have been more distressed, often because they believe they won’t have grandchildren which is a big issue in the Jewish community, according to Julie.
“But even when I was going out with blokes I knew I wasn’t going to have children with them,” she adds.
According to Leah: “The first meeting I attended my initial question and I think everyone’s initial question is ‘What did your mother say?’”
One member who came from a very traditional home once asked her mother if she preferred if she came home with a Jewish woman or a non-Jewish man. The mother instantly responded: ‘a Jewish woman’.
Others, such as Miriam, have not discussed their sexuality with their relatives or other friends in the Jewish community.
“My family would suspect, but its not something I really discuss because I don’t think it is relevant. My children don’t know, they just know I’m not a normal mother and I’m pretty outrageous anyway,” she says.
Many of the women went to see Saltpillar Theatre’s musical Falsettos, which is based around a Jewish man who leaves his wife for another man.
“The timing (of the show) was unbelievable. It touched on so many points,” Julie says.
At the theatre, they met up with the Jewish gay men’s group for the first time. But the men are even more tentative in coming out in the Jewish community than the Jewish lesbian group.
The Melbourne women are now looking forward to a national conference next year in Adelaide, where there is a very small but active group, they say.
As for their group: “We don’t teach people how to do it. We are not a sexual depravity group,” Julie says.
Leah adds: “We don’t proselytise — either as Jews or lesbians.”
Miriam concludes: “Why should we be treated any differently? We’re Jews and that’s all that matters. We all have lives, jobs and families. Sexuality should not set us aside from the community.”
The Melbourne Jewish Lesbian group can be contacted on 9849-9669.
COUNSELLOR, psychologist, Holocaust survivor and Jewish lesbian Vera Ray, 62; believes homophobia and antisemitism spring from the same source.
“Homophobia is based on this idea of the perfect person which is too close to the Nazi superman notion. We have this idea of what is the perfect human being is, and it’s ridiculous, it’s narrow, its confining, it brings a lot of unhappiness to people and it serves no purpose,” she says.
According to Ms Ray, homosexuals who marry and try to suppress their desires are like European Jews who converted to Christianity during periods of virulent antisemitism.
“After the war a lot of the Christian Jews went back to being Jewish. As soon as the situation becomes relatively safe, we go back to where we are,” she says.
“How can Jews not have compassion for those who do not fit within the model? As a psychologist I see young people who have been rejected by their parents, and parents who are tearing their hair out because their son or daughter is gay or lesbian. I don’t think we can afford to oppress each other, particularly our children, with this kind of nonsense.”
Ms Ray says it is as if the community had its own “thought police”.
“Fear is the enemy. Parents are afraid of telling their friends they have a gay child. The child is afraid of telling their parents. Why are we so ashamed? Why are we so hung up on sex?” she asks.
Ms Ray believes the only reason Jewish lesbians may be slightly more tolerated than Jewish gay men in the community is that they are not valued as highly.
“If you are going to have such a low opinion of women that they don’t even get an honourable mention then it doesn’t really matter what they do. We are not only homophobic, but sexist.”
Ms Ray says “half the battle would be won” if parents stopped worrying about having grandchildren.
“My daughter is a lesbian and she has a child. There are many good men out there who are happy to be donors. Your biological plumbing doesn’t fall out just because you sexually and emotionally prefer the same sex,” she says.
Ms Ray says she has very little to lose by coming out as a lesbian in the Jewish community.
“On the contrary, I’m hoping parents of gay and lesbian children and hidden gays and lesbians in the community will come and talk to me. I’m in the business of educating people and dealing with injustice,” she says.
“About 80 per cent of my clients are gay. I also like to see parents of gays because they see a really truly live lesbian professional person hasn’t grown a second head and is fairly lucid. I am sometimes able to help facilitate families getting together again who have been torn apart by homophobia.
“Parents sometimes mistakenly think they will hold the family together if they pressure the child, but it does the exact opposite. Children lose parents, but the parents also lose their children. Nobody wins.”
Ms Ray would like to see parents and friends of Jewish lesbians and gays form their own group (there are already a number of similar non-Jewish organisations).
“There must be so many parents who would benefit by knowing they are not alone. They could get some support from one another,” she says.
Ms Ray, who came out in her 40s and left her husband of 22 years for another woman, had terrible difficulty telling her mother she was a lesbian.
“I was 42 when I came out to my mother. We struggled for two years. Sometimes I thought ‘It wasn’t worth it, I shouldn’t have told her, I’m just causing her pain and she’s causing me pain’. Then I thought, ‘I’m not causing her pain, homophobia is causing her pain’.
“My mother was so proud of me all my life. I told her I was a lesbian and all of a sudden she was ashamed of me.”
But Ms Ray believes the struggle was worthwhile as her mother eventually reconciled herself to the idea and even, when she was nearly 80, joined a gay march.
“I never push anyone to come out to their parents. They’ll do it when they’re ready,” she says.
Ms Ray has also been able to retain a good relationship with her husband, although at the time of the break-up there was a lot of distress on both sides.
“There was no information and no-one to talk to. I thought the world had come to an end,” she says.
Today she wishes there were more people like her willing and able to talk about homosexuality in the Jewish community. On Monday July 17 she will be speaking to the National Council of Jewish Women’s Status of Women group at Shakahari Restaurant (for more information phone 9523-0535).
“I have seen so much injustice as both a child and an adult. But I am not a murderer. I am not a criminal. I’m a law-abiding citizen. I love my children, I love my dog. What more do they want?”
Vera Ray can be contacted on 9499-6901.
Whilst grateful for the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s sincere apology to Aleph Melbourne in 2019, the apology was not exactly for “[Aleph’s] 1999 exclusion from the JCCV” as stated here by outgoing President Jennifer Huppert:
Oboler takes the reins from Jennifer Huppert, who served two three-year terms. The lawyer and former Labor MLC told The AJN the JCCV’s role in the Victorian Jewish Community Bushfire Relief Appeal and in the Jewish Community COVID Taskforce were key developments on her watch, as was obtaining funding for communal security. Bringing in LGBTIQ group Keshet and the apology to gay-rights group Aleph for its 1999 exclusion from the JCCV were milestones. She noted, “Gen17 showed that Jewish people identify in many different ways.”“Andre Oboler takes the JCCV reins” | AJN (Nov 19 2020)
The exact wording of the JCCV apology, as taken from the Motion to JCCV Plenum – April 2019, is:
Accordingly, this Plenum now apologises unconditionally to all members of our community who were impacted by the rejection of the membership application and for the unacceptable homophobic views expressed during the debate.
We apologise for the deep offence and humiliation caused by the hateful words spoken in the course of the debate.
We apologise for the subsequent distress, further marginalisation and stigmatisation caused by the rejection of Aleph Melbourne’s membership application.