In a fantastic show of support from Melbourne’s Jewish community, over 13 community groups and 100+ participants danced their way down the length of Fitzroy Street St Kilda for the Midsumma Pride March.
Following months of planning the day came together without a hitch, not taking into account the 38 degree weather forecast.
The sound system had been boosted with extra speakers, to bring more of our exciting Jewish and Israeli music mix to the street, and the ute was more vibrantly Jewish in appearance.
As with previous years, the crowds cheered us from the sidelines, loving our Jewish solidarity for LGBTIQA+ diversity.
Poignantly, placards of the late David Zyngier were flown especially high to commemorate his participation in the contingent over recent years and his commitment to LGBTIQA+rights.
One long-standing participant of the Jews of Pride contingent told us that being part of the march this year was really important to them and made them even more proud, a sentiment reflected by many others.
We are especially grateful to both Midsumma Festival and Victoria Police LGBTIQA+ Liaison for their assistance in keeping us safe, and to CSG Victoria for their additional assistance.
The Jews of Pride contingent at the 2023 Pride March. Photo: Peter Haskin
I recently attended the 70th anniversary celebration for Hashomer Hatzair, as a friend of the movement.
It was a fabulous event, full of ritual, tradition, community and celebration. The day was tinged with sadness though, as they announced they were entering a period of hiatus due to leadership uncertainties.
My connection with Hashy is mainly through the “Jews of Pride” contingent at the annual Pride March in St Kilda. Each year they attend dressed in their chultzot, bring their flags, dance like crazy, fill my heart with joy and bring tears of happiness to my eyes. I know they will continue to join us, one way or another.
I left the party at Bet Anielewicz, their home in East St Kilda, just as the Israeli dancing was starting. I wanted to stay on but had to be elsewhere. Od Lo Ahavti Dai started playing.
I took a moment to soak in the music before getting into my car. It did something to me. I was transformed to a time when I was learning Israeli dancing. I don’t remember when, but it was powerful. I felt so connected to my Jewish upbringing by this simple but catchy tune.
Right now, the Jewish community is struggling. We are in a world where we hear the footsteps of less friendly times. Those echoes seem to grow louder by the day and we don’t know if we can be ourselves as easily as we could yesterday.
We aren’t alone in this struggle, but our struggle is not a new one, and we know that eternal vigilance is required to fend off the antisemitism.
Since October 7 I have witnessed a new phenomenon. Many people and organisations familiar to me have been swept up with efforts to support Palestinian people. I can understand this, as the humanitarian response to the destruction in Gaza is sizeable.
What I can’t understand is why many of the same people and organisations have chosen to stay silent on or minimise the terrorism that Israel faced, along with Hamas’ plan to erase Israel.
My LGBTIQA+ community has in parts become increasingly hostile towards Jews and Israel. Yet those who enable this juggernaut claim not to be antisemitic, despite supporting initiatives that are nothing but. This saddens me deeply.
However, through my commitment to my Jewish community I know I can help bring a sense of hope, peace, love and optimism. Sunday, February 4 is when “Jews of Pride” comes to life at Melbourne’s Midsumma Pride March. A raft of new and returning community organisations will coalesce in force to show their support for rainbow diversity, amid a burst of Jewish culture and identity.
We are an unstoppable force of unity that is undeniably and unashamedly Jewish. We convey pride in standing for inclusion and acceptance, and pride in who we are as a people.
Fitzroy Street will resonate with familiar Jewish tunes and Israeli music that calls to a solidarity with our families and friends in Israel. Together with fellow contingent organiser Colin Krycer, we urge you to come along and show your support.
Be strong. Be proud. Be there.
Michael Barnett is co-convenor of Aleph Melbourne.
Aleph Melbourne sends a hearty Mazal Tov and congratulations to Co-Convenor Colin Krycer OAM on receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the LGBTIQ community.
Colin has been an amazing contributor to Aleph Melbourne since 1997 and the wider LGBTIQA+ community since the late 1980s.
Within Aleph Melbourne Colin has committed himself to supporting LGBTIQA+ people in the Jewish community. The Jews of Pride contingent in Pride March would never have been the success that it is without Colin’s amazing skills.
Most notably, Colin has selflessly dedicated many years and countless thousands of hours to supporting people living with HIV/AIDS initially through the Victorian AIDS Council and ongoing volunteering efforts through Thorne Harbour Health, along with additional past associations with the AIDS Memorial Quilt Project and Candlelight Vigil.
Colin also has a long and proud association with JOY Media since it launched on World AIDS Day in 1993.
We are so proud of our Colin. He is a quiet, behind-the-scenes kinda guy. He doesn’t seek or want attention, and just gives of himself, tirelessly.
Thank you Colin for your commitment, passion, enthusiasm, guidance and sense of humour. We are so much richer for what you do and who you are.
Federation Chamber CONSTITUENCY STATEMENTS Zyngier, Dr David
Thursday, 30 November 2023
Mr BURNS (Macnamara) (09:33): I rise with sadness to acknowledge the passing of Dr David Zyngier this past weekend. David was a sitting councillor in the city of Glen Eira and a passionate advocate for social justice, education and our community. David’s passing came as a great shock to all of us. David was the son of Holocaust survivors from Poland, and he was the first in his family to complete high school and attend university. He graduated from Monash University, where he later returned as an academic and as an educator.
David was a well-respected member of our Jewish community. We didn’t always agree on things—in fact, we often didn’t agree on things—but I respected his intellect and his willingness to tackle difficult issues. He was a leader in the youth movement Hashomer Hatzair, a principal of the King David School, an active member of his synagogue, a member of the Jewish Climate Network and a fierce advocate for LGBTIQ+ rights in our community. He was elected as the councillor for Camden Ward in the city of Glen Eira just a few years ago, and he quickly became a passionate advocate for climate action and public services on the council. He co-founded the Glen Eira Emergency Climate Action Network and helped to develop the council’s target of achieving net zero council emissions by 2025.
David and I belonged to different political parties. Indeed, not only did he not vote for me but he actively campaigned against me at the last election. He was a proud member of the Greens. But, before he drifted into that journey, David actually launched my campaign, in 2014, when I was a candidate in the state election. He was a friend. I think he probably had sympathy for both our parties, but in the end he made the decision, he stuck with it and he was proud of that association.
David was respectful, kind and compassionate. He was an active member of our community and he always sought to represent people in the best way he knew how. He came into my office frequently. He would sit down and, as we had a cup of tea, he would try and convince me of what actions needed to happen, usually on a council matter. He would push for things like greater bike paths, greater active citizenship and, obviously, climate action as well. He joined our campaign in the referendum and was a big part of the Macnamara for Yes campaign, even though he was unwell at the time.
Throughout his life he committed himself to research, to education, to activism and to community life. He was a good man, he was a smart man, he was a community man and he enriched our community by all of his efforts. To his wife, Suzanne, and his children, Romy, Talia and Joel, I send my deepest condolences. I also send my condolences to the Greens and the broader Greens community. As we say in the Jewish tradition, may his memory be a blessing.
On the afternoon of October 7 Susie Danziger and I arrived at the JOY studios in St Kilda to record interviews with Demetra Giannakopoulos for her show Life is a Disco.
We spent a good couple of hours in the studio at the back overlooking the huge peppercorn tree. The tree captivated me because it was full of birdlife, most notably a wattlebird and a currawong.
Demetra was a delight. She asked the most thoughtful questions and was congenial, sensitive and refreshing. We were at ease, and our conversation happened naturally.
I went first, Susie followed. We gave the JOY audience our all.
Following the interview I dropped Susie home and we went on with our day.
It was only a matter of hours later that the terrorist organisation Hamas perpetrated an unforgivable able act of evil upon innocent people in Israel.
Our interviews were edited and they aired over the subsequent two weeks.
The world had changed yet again. War had broken out.
It was very challenging, knowing that we had recorded interviews before the terrorist attack, with them going to air afterwards. It’s hard to say if we would have even done the interviews after October 7, just because of the way everything panned out.
Despite that, it was a privilege being part of Demetra’s show and having the opportunity to tell our stories.
Chanshi is a dark comedy television series about a Jewish girl from Brooklyn who runs away to Israel to become the free, adventurous woman she was born to be. Unlike her peers, Chanshi carries with her a fantasy that good religious girls like her shouldn’t — a fantasy involving Israeli soldiers. She takes off for Israel under the guise of surprising her best friend, who has upcoming nuptials of her own, but her friend confesses that she thinks she is making a mistake and she’s a lesbian. Together they rebel against their traditional upbringings and find new ways of being young Jewish women.
All I Can Do is a powerfully moving and incendiary courtroom drama focusing on the legal aspects of sexual violence. Reut, a young prosecutor, reluctantly takes over a sexual assault case, based on the sole testimony of Efrat, a rebellious yet fragile victim who lives with her wild female partner. As the case evolves, Reut’s personal life resonates with the challenges of the case and the courtroom. Both women must learn to work together to learn the true nature of strength, love and sisterhood.
From co-ed camp rooms to degendered Hebrew, non-binary inclusion is becoming a high priority for some Jewish youth movements. RUBY KRANER-TUCCI reports.
Attending a youth movement is a rite of passage for many Jewish Australians. Finding a like-minded tribe, connecting to community and creating memories that last a lifetime – youth movements are often bonding experiences.
For those who identify as non-binary, finding safe and welcoming spaces to explore one’s identity is particularly important. Thankfully for them, Jewish youth movements in Australia are responding in spades, prioritising inclusion in all areas of programming, policy and leadership.
Federal Chairperson of Netzer Australia Avishai Conyer, 21, believes his generation is leading the way. Jewish youth movements “should serve as an example to the rest of the community on inclusivity”, he said.
“Youth movements are such special places for young Jews to build their identity, so it is our role to create safe spaces for kids to be themselves, feel included and grow to become active and passionate values-driven members of our community,” Conyer told Plus61J Media.
For Netzer Australia, this comes in the form of queer programs including LGBTIQ+ sex education; asking participants and leaders to introduce themselves using their preferred pronouns; and co-ed camp bunks for those in year 11 and above.
“As we do not split chanichimot [campers] by gender in any other aspects of our programming, it no longer made sense to do so with rooming arrangements for our older participants,” Conyer said.
“[We] will support kids below that age with different rooming preferences to find an arrangement that everybody is comfortable with.
“We have found that this leads to fewer social splits based on gender, promotes dignity and increases respect between kids of different genders, and supports non-binary participants to feel more included in Netzer spaces.”
“I’ve never felt at odds between my Jewish identity and my non-binary identity at Netzer. If anything, it’s celebrated.”Theo Boltman
Theo Boltman, 17, has been attending Netzer since grade five and identifies as non-binary. They say the offering of co-ed bunks for older participants “makes it easier” – an experience that differs from other circles of their life.
“When I go on school camps, I have to send a list of girls’ [names] I’m comfortable sharing a room with, and then the school has to get approval from those girls’ parents,” Boltman said.
“While at Netzer, it’s never an issue. I never have to worry about being uncomfortable because I know everyone is in the same boat, it’s been amazing.”
Raffy Blay is personally aware of the impact of inclusive leadership in Jewish youth groups. Blay started attending Hashomer Hatzair – affectionately termed Hashy – at 13 years old and “instantly found connection and purpose”.
Almost a decade later, Blay is now its Central Coordinator and identifies as non-binary, helping to represent gender diversity in Hashy’s upper echelons.
“[It is] a huge privilege to be the leader of the movement and non-binary, and to take up space in the community holding this identity,” Blay said.
Like Netzer, Hashy runs a number of initiatives to promote inclusivity, from using gender neutral Hebrew suffixes to permitting co-ed rooms on camps.
While on the whole, the youth group has experienced little pushback about its welcoming agenda from the broader Jewish community, Blay identified some negative engagement on social media when endorsing Hashy’s annual Queer Night event. Thankfully, Blay said “nothing eventuated from it”.
“Letting kids be kids and not emphasising their gender as a point of difference works to build respectful relationships,” they added.
“The years spent in a youth movement are incredibly formative and important, and everyone should have the opportunity to have that experience.”
The visibility of non-binary leaders resonates with Boltman, who says embedding inclusion from the top down has helped to form an “incredibly supportive” environment for participants at Netzer.
“The whole point of Jewish youth groups is that it’s the space where Jewish people can find each other in a sea of, for lack of a better word, goys – a sea of people who aren’t like you,” Boltman said.
“It can be so hard, especially for Jewish kids going to public schools, to find [other] Jewish kids in the first place and for them to be non-binary too. It’s so important that their identities be prioritised.
“I’ve never felt at odds between my Jewish identity and my non-binary identity at Netzer. If anything, it’s celebrated.”
While co-ed bunkrooms have been accepted as a standard offering by some Australian youth groups, the US scene has been slower to embrace them. Only a handful of Jewish camps surveyed in the US have non-gendered bunk rooms as an option, let alone a standard offering.
Another way inclusion is expressed is through changes is language, an issue that is even more potent in the heavily gendered Hebrew language than in English.
Netzer’s global parent movement, Netzer Olami, recently implemented a gender-inclusive form of Hebrew through an Israeli-led initiative that aims to de-gender language.
Conyer uses the mixed gender term chanichimot, a blend of chanichim (male campers or student) and chanichot (female), where previous generations would have followed the language convention of subsuming females under male language and ignoring those who didn’t fit.
But when it comes to prioritising other forms of inclusion, such as disability, youth groups are still struggling.
Netzer has policies around choosing physically accessible campsites and spaces for activities, but Conyer says its volunteers lack much-needed practice and understanding.
“While disability inclusion is very important to us, our young volunteers do not have much experience working with kids with disabilities,” he said.
“We try to provide as much training as possible and would like our programming to be accessible to all, [but] our lack of professional experience means there are some people we do not yet know how to fully include, despite our best efforts.”
Blay said many members of Hashy have been active in vocalising their desire to increase disability inclusion by making its building more wheelchair accessible and hiring Auslan interpreters for events, in addition to the camp sensory room and fidget toys already on offer.
“No one should miss out on Hashy if we can help it. We work hard to find ways to include everyone in our activities and accept everyone for who they are.”
Photo: Hashy campers with a rainbow version of the youth group flag (supplied)
David SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (14:54): I rise to make some comments on the motion before the house today:
That this house affirms its support for the Safe Schools program and acknowledges that it critically:
(1) supports the well-being of all young people; and
(2) provides valuable resources and support for teachers to foster an inclusive learning environment where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
I think we would all agree that every single child should feel safe. It is the right of every child to feel safe and there is an obligation on all of us to provide a safe environment for these kids.
Today is IDAHOBIT, which is a day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and it is appropriate for us to be talking about this as part of the very important element of what many of our young children, particularly those from an LGBTQI+ background, experience at school and what we need to do to ensure that they have a safe environment. Can I say to every LGBTIQ+ Victorian: you are worthy, you are accepted, you are loved, and you and your kids deserve nothing less than to be embraced by all, including the schools, teachers, friends and communities. We must embrace, support and provide every single opportunity for every child no matter who they are, no matter where they come from and no matter what background they are also from. That extends more broadly to both their ethnic background and their faith, and it is something that I have raised on many occasions, as you know, Speaker, particularly in my community where we have unfortunately an increase in antisemitism and we have seen kids targeted at schools because of their faith background as well.
On this motion I wanted at the outset to just raise a few people in terms of their being staunch advocates in this space, particularly Michael Barnett from Aleph. Michael has been a staunch supporter and has been able to work with and support many of the schools. Very early on he worked with Bialik College and King David, just to name a few, and Mount Scopus has been involved in that, in terms of Jewish schools, but we also have a number of other schools that have been involved in terms of being able to provide a safe environment. There is no question that non-heterosexual Australians experience anxiety at 2½ times the rate of heterosexual people. For depression, the figure is four times the rate of heterosexual people. One in six LGBTIQ+ people have attempted suicide and one-third have harmed themselves. They are alarming figures and say that we must do more to support those who do not feel that they belong and those who feel that it is tough just to be able to get on with their daily lives. We have seen that in many instances. We have seen with organisations like Beyond Blue that 61 per cent of young non-heterosexual people have reported experiencing verbal abuse and 80 per cent have reported physical abuse. We have seen another study that showed 33 per cent of trans people reported discrimination in employment as a result of being trans and the unemployment rate of 19 per cent was more than three times that of the national rate.
We have a great state. Victoria is a state that should be embracing everybody no matter who you are, no matter where you come from. We should not be using politics as a way to fight against things like this. We should be coming together and working in ways to actually help people. I have got to say that certainly during question time today I did not feel that that was doing anything to help anybody, particularly those from the LGBTIQ+ community. I know many from our party, the Liberal Party, the Pride branch which is the fastest growing branch in our Liberal Party, of which I am proud to be a member, would feel pretty alarmed about the way that Labor members attacked the Liberal Party today because that does nothing. That does nothing to try and help people belong. The LGBTIQ+ community should not be used as a political football. We should not be using people and targeting them in that way. We should be talking across the chamber about how we do more. We should absolutely do that.
I am very proud that the Leader of the Opposition the member for Hawthorn, the Manager of Opposition Business the member for Brighton, the leader in the upper house Georgie Crozier and a number of others went to the Pride March not only on this occasion but on a number of occasions and stood side by side with the LGBTIQ+ community. We will continue to do so, whether it is popular or whether it is not popular. We will do it because we care, and we will do it because we do not want this to be seen as a political football. So I say, and I implore those opposite: let us look at how we can work together. Let us look at how we can come together on these things.
Belinda Wilson interjected.
David SOUTHWICK: Well, again I say – and I am trying to do this as calmly and as fairly as I possibly can – that ultimately this is not something that we should be trying to score cheap political points out of. It is something that we should be working together on. And that is where I very proudly stand alongside many of those within my party, as I said, including the Liberal Pride branch, who have been absolutely actively providing a very inclusive part of our party so people can feel welcome and so people can feel supported. And if those opposite did not hear me the first time, it is the fastest growing branch we have within our party. So it is certainly something that we celebrate.
Can I also just move on to some of the schools, particularly, that I want to make mention of today, which do some great work. Unfortunately, only a week or so ago we had a report that our great school, Glen Eira College, had what was labelled a toxic and bullying situation where there were almost 10 social media bullying pages on TikTok and Instagram with students posting –
A member interjected.
David SOUTHWICK: Excuse me – posting cruel memes mocking other students and teachers before flashing identifiable photographs of their targets. Can I say the school takes these things very seriously, and I rang the principal as soon as I was made aware of this and was comforted to know that they were acting immediately on this to ensure that kids feel safe – immediately – and so they should. Looking at Glen Eira College’s Child Safety and Wellbeing Policy, one of the things that I think is very important is, within this policy, it talks about all kids feeling safe, whether they be from different backgrounds, whether they be students with disabilities or whether they be from the LGBTIQ+ background. It says this, and I note:
Every person involved in our school has an important role in promoting child safety and wellbeing and promptly raising any issues or concerns about a child’s safety.
That is where we need to be. It is something that we all need to work together on. Whether you are at the school, whether you are a parent at the school or whether you are part of the broader school community, everyone needs to work together to ensure that they feel safe. If you see something wrong, you need to tell somebody. We certainly saw that in a number of inquiries that we had here in this Parliament. We led the way in terms of that in the child safety area, particularly in the child abuse work that was done here in this Parliament, and I think that is something that we must continue to do to ensure that we have kids that feel safe.
At the moment we have issues that are still before the courts. I will not make comment on specific details regarding Brighton Secondary College, but it was absolutely appalling that we had a number of kids that were targeted – a number of kids that saw over that time, because they have Jewish backgrounds, antisemitic attacks. The government has spent literally millions of dollars of taxpayers money trying to defend the school, and these poor kids have again had to endure a horrific time at the school. It has been appalling the way those kids have been treated, and I hope that the government ensures that there are systems in place and that kids of all backgrounds are safe, because that is what kids need and expect.
Panellist, The Making Homes series, MPavillion – Architecture Commission.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past, when a woman could not get a bank loan on her own without a man to sign for her and a father could be granted custody of his children simply because their mother was a lesbian.
“In the past I had to be closeted if I wanted to keep my job” Anneke Deutsch told J-Wire.
While these days life is more open and accepting for lesbians, the largest marginalised group in Australia are still older women.
Anneke Deutsch founded Matrix Guild of Victoria in 1972 as a charity to help older lesbians. She is proud that WINC – older women in Cohousing – has bought land in rural Victoria where it is hoped they will be able to build 32 dwellings.
She explained that cohousing can mean common facilities like community gardens and a different range of mixed tenure, a different way of giving ownership to women of limited means.
FORMER MOUNT SCOPUS STUDENTS HAVE CALLED ON THE SCHOOL’S PRINCIPAL RABBI JAMES KENNARD TO RESIGN IMMEDIATELY AFTER AN EXPLOSIVE REPORT INTO THE HANDLING OF CHILD SAFETY COMPLAINTS.
Former Mount Scopus students have called on the school’s principal Rabbi James Kennard to resign immediately in the wake of a damning report into the school’s handling of child safety complaints.
More than seven former students detailing serious allegations of bullying, complaints about attitudes to sexuality and academic discrimination have spoken to the Herald Sun.
It comes after the Herald Sun revealed the full findings of the Child Wise review into the culture at the school earlier this week. The report revealed a “lack of appropriate response by leaders to serious complaints and allegations” regarding child safety over several years.
The school said Rabbi Kennard will remain in place to implement the report’s 49 recommendations, a process which is well underway.
Sources close to the school’s board say community feeling is against Rabbi Kennard remaining in his position until February, calling on him to resign immediately.
A former student, 22, who graduated from the school in 2019, said the school took no action after he was “continuously” bullied for several years by a group of students.
“I reported it to my teachers and they didn’t take the bullying seriously,” he said.
“They made me feel like I was the one who had done something wrong for coming forward,” he said.
The former student also alleged that school leaders tried to convince some students not to undertake VCE to protect the school’s overall ATAR.
“There were some students who were struggling academically and they were aggressively told not to undertake VCE, which was wrong as they should’ve helped students with their studies.”
The former student also called on the school’s principal to resign in the wake of the Child Wise report.
“The school’s culture is something that needs to change immediately and it starts from the top, the best thing for the school is a new principal.”
Another former student, 18, who attended the school since kinder, said some teachers “purposefully” misgendered students. “If a student’s pronoun was they/them, they would not use their pronouns and instead discriminate against them by making hurtful comments,” the former student said.
“The school needs to become accepting and change from the toxic environment it currently has.”
The Herald Sun has also seen letters written to Rabbi Kennard and the Mount Scopus board expressing concern over the school’s treatment of same-sex attracted students dating as far back as 2013.
One letter written by a former student of the college objected to the Rabbi’s comparison of homosexuality with a Shabbat violation. Former students also objected to Rabbi Kennard’s signatory of a statement of principles that states that same-sex interactions are prohibited and that same-sex orientation “may greatly increase the risk of suicide among teenagers in our community”.
Despite this, the statement also says same-sex attracted individuals should be treated with dignity and respect.
Commenting on these claims behalf of the board of Mount Scopus, president Amy Hershan said: “Child safety is the school’s highest priority. All children and young people, regardless of their age, gender, ability, race, or sexual orientation, have the right to be safe and feel valued.
“The Board has tasked Rabbi James Kennard with overseeing the full implementation of all 49 of the recommendations of the Child Wise assessment including around complaints mechanisms, bullying, culture and inclusion, governance, student wellbeing and trust.
“The implementation of the recommendations is well advanced and is expected to be completed by the end of this year,” Ms Hershan said.
“We are taking a whole-of-school community approach to creating an environment that celebrates diversity. We are striving to involve students, staff and families through a wide range of initiatives including education, teacher training, and increasing student agency.
“Pleasingly, the feedback we are getting from current students about the changes we are implementing is positive. However we recognise that we still have more to do, and that work to create a culture in which every child can thrive will be ongoing,” she said. “An external search for Rabbi Kennard’s successor is well underway. It is the Board’s vision that new leadership will build on the school’s commitment to excellence as we strive to be a Modern Orthodox Jewish school that is safe and inclusive for all.” Ms Hershan also responded to the allegations of academic discrimination.
“The school is very proud of the fact we are not a select entry school. We work with every student to reach their potential,” she said.
“We take very seriously the balance between academic outcomes and student wellbeing. Our student services department works with many students and their families on individual learning plans and pathways. In some isolated cases, a student and their family may conclude that doing an unscored VCE is in the best long term interests of the child and the school unequivocally supports those decisions.”