On Monday November 14 2017 the Australia Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) distanced itself from Isi Leibler’s intolerant views of LGBTIQ people and marriage equality by way of an unrestrained apology sent to their mailing list:
Disclaimer and apology regarding Update 11/17 #03
Nov. 14, 2017
Earlier today, as part of the “Update from AIJAC” email newsletter, a link was included to Isi Leibler’s latest column, in which he stated his opinions on same sex marriage. Isi Leibler’s columns are routinely linked in the Update newsletter, and the decision to include this column was taken without the input of senior AIJAC management. Given the nature of this column, linking it at this time was clearly an error, for which AIJAC apologises. AIJAC did not intend to and does not endorse Isi Leibler’s opposition to same sex marriage, which does not reflect AIJAC’s views.
A response to Isi Leibler’s column can be found here.
Aleph Melbourne welcomes the result of the “Same-Sex Marriage” Postal Survey and looks forward to seeing marriage equality enacted under law in Australia without additional restrictions or degradation of dignity to LGBTIQ people.
We acknowledge that the mechanism the government used to gauge the sentiment of the population was unnecessary and hurtful to LGBTIQ people and hoped that the government would have simply voted on the legislation up-front, as they are elected to do.
We commend the Jewish Community Council of Victoria for their positive contribution to the welfare of LGBTIQ people and look forward to their further support of vulnerable members of the community over coming days and weeks. We also commend the support from the growing number of congregations and community organisations that have been instrumental in advocating for equality, both the stalwarts and the newly supportive.
It is our hope that before long we will be seeing members of the Jewish community in gender-diverse and same-sex relationships celebrating their marriages, with the affirmation of their families, friends and community. We know that such inclusion and celebration will bring families together, reduce the levels of mental health problems in young people and even save lives.
Lastly, we are deeply grateful to those in the community, and also to those beyond, who voted Yes. Whilst the temptation to stick to old traditions may be enticing, the prospect of making new traditions will be incredibly rewarding, beyond expectations. Thank you.
One of the sticking points in this decision about legalising same-sex marriage has been whether the religious freedoms of people with objections to such a change will be restricted.
Senior Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Sydney, Dr Benjamin Elton, says the vast majority of Jews in NSW are in favour of legalising same-sex marriage.
Dr Elton says as long as a Rabbi in a synagogue only needs to marry two people according to his conscience, he is sure the community will be “perfectly calm and content about the change”.
“We all deserve equal treatment under the law,” the Rabbi told The World Today.
Duration: 4min 52sec
Broadcast: Wed 15 Nov 2017, 12:19pm
Dr Benjamin Elton, Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Sydney
LINDA MOTTRAM: One of the sticking points in this decision about legalising same-sex marriage has been whether the religious freedoms of people with objections to such a change will be restricted.
Shortly we’ll hear from the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies.
In the studio with me now though is the senior Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Sydney, Dr Benjamin Elton.
Dr Elton, thank you for your time today.
What’s your response, first of all, to the vote result and that turnout?
BENJAMIN ELTON: The turnout was very high, I think. I, coming from an English background, we dream of having turnouts of 80 per cent.
I think the Australian public are used to voting and it comes naturally to them and it is very important with a change of this magnitude that there was a high turnout and I think a 60 per cent or more result for yes is pretty decisive and the people have spoken.
I think we now have to proceed with legislation to legalise same-sex marriage.
LINDA MOTTRAM: Can you just give me a sense of what the responses to this debate has been in the Jewish community. Like all communities, a range of views, but do you think are there some dominant themes?
BENJAMIN ELTON: The community in general has been very supportive of legalising same-sex marriage. The Board of Deputies, which is the lay leadership body of the New South Wales community has voted 99 to 1 at a plenary in favour of same-sex marriage.
So there’s no question that the vast majority of Jews in New South Wales are in favour.
Of course, there’s concerns about religious freedoms, but as long as in a synagogue, a rabbi only needs to marry two people according to his conscience, as long as that is protected and safeguarded, I’m sure the community will feel perfectly calm and content about the change.
LINDA MOTTRAM: And do you believe that that capability is currently protected or do you think new protections will be needed?
BENJAMIN ELTON: I don’t think we need new protections. At the moment I can only marry, according to my faith, I can only marry people in a very narrow range of eligibilities – a man and a woman, both Jews, both either single or have received a Jewish divorce if they were married before.
I’m totally protected by the law in marrying only according to my own faith principles and I don’t expect that to change.
LINDA MOTTRAM: So this will be now legislated and it is complicated in Canberra. I’m sure everybody is aware of that now.
Religious protections will be discussed and it’s not just about who you can marry. It is about a range of issues like schools and decision making around children and sex education. Are there any other elements there that concern you or your community?
BENJAMIN ELTON: I think it’s important that Jewish schools and other faith schools can be allowed to teach marriage according to their own principles without being, in any way, insulting or denigrating towards other people.
We can say that we believe that marriage according to the Jewish tradition is between a man and a woman and just as we believe that marriage should take place between two Jews. We believe in marriage within the faith as well.
We teach that, and I expect we’ll continue to teach, I know we’ll continue to teach that in the Jewish faith, marriage between a man and a woman.
What is done in civil marriage is a different matter and we certainly shouldn’t teach that these marriages are illegitimate or they are inappropriate. The law of the land is the law, and as long as we can teach our own traditional story and our own children, that is all we need to safeguard.
LINDA MOTTRAM: The Prime Minister made a point yesterday saying that he didn’t think the Parliament, his Government or the Australian people, would countenance making things legal which are currently illegal and this discussion has been around that some of the protections some people want might require the overriding of state anti-discrimination legislation, some of which has been in place for 25 years.
Are you concerned that there might be a rolling back of anti-discrimination legislation in this process?
BENJAMIN ELTON: I would be very concerned to see a rolling back. I don’t think it will happen. I suspect that the way Parliament will vote will be to retain those elements of anti-discrimination legislation. I hope they do.
I don’t think we need more protections for religious freedom than we have at the moment.
I think the big difference between baking a cake and performing a marriage.
LINDA MOTTRAM: And will you be lobbying to that effect, because other religious entities, people will be…
BENJAMIN ELTON: I’ve made my views very clear here, and whenever else I’m asked. I think the current safeguards, which protect us all actually, are essential.
And I mean, what if a Jewish person married a non-Jewish person and not in a synagogue obviously, but they wanted to buy a cake and some person refused to sell them a cake because it didn’t approve of Jews marrying non-Jews. I think that would be appalling.
So whether or not we live entirely by the tenets of our own faith, we all deserve equal treatment under the law and if you are doing something legal like marrying somebody according to the law, you should be served and be entitled to the goods and services you asked for.
LINDA MOTTRAM: Dr Elton, thank you very much for joining us today.
Dr Benjamin Elton is the senior Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Sydney.
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is delighted that the same sex marriage plebiscite is now completed and that the people of Australia have shown that they are clearly in support of equality. We hope that Parliament moves quickly to pass legislation that reflects the outcome of the plebiscite and the spirit of the message inherent within in it – support for equal rights, empathy and respect. We expect that religious freedoms will be protected, and equally that current protections against discrimination and intolerance are not watered down.
President of the JCCV, Jennifer Huppert stated, “We are concerned that the LGBTIQ members of our community and their families may face mental health concerns over the coming weeks, as the proposed same sex marriage Bills are debated. We again call for all debate to be respectful, and that anyone with or seeing others facing mental health challenges seek expert advice or support, such as through the LGBTI Switchboard, Beyond Blue, Headspace or Jewish Care Victoria. Service options and contact details can be found in the JCCV LGBTI Service Directory.”
Executive Director | Jewish Community Council of Victoria
It causes me great discomfort when a fellow Jew expresses anti-gay rhetoric. Most of us have learned a thing or two from 6,000 years of oppression. Mr. Leibler has not. Leibler begins by telling us just how wonderful he is. After explaining that he is an octogenarian:
I am no prude and when, 50 years ago, it was fashionable to demonize homosexuals I never joined the pack. I always maintained that consensual sexual relations were a private matter, I never discriminated against gays or lesbians, and I unhesitatingly employed quite a few. And despite the strict halachic prohibitions, I maintain that if gay people wish to be observant, they should not be ostracized from communal religious participation.
This is what follows next:
At the same time, I oppose gays flaunting their sexuality (for example by participating in pride parades) or promoting their lifestyle as progressive while implicitly denigrating the traditional concept of a nuclear family. They should be free to live their lives as they deem fit and enjoy all civil rights extended to heterosexual couples. But I am not ready to concede that gay couples should be glorified, as they sometimes are on TV, for supposedly partaking in a superior alternative lifestyle. I feel that this encourages young people to experiment unnecessarily with their own sexuality.
I scarcely know where to begin but I will start with the absolute certainty that a sexual orientation is not a lifestyle. Suggesting otherwise is an appeal to stereotype. It is an expression of bigotry. I am a retired CEO. My late partner was an executive with American Media. Our “lifestyle” had nothing to do with our sexual orientation. Rather, it reflected our business interests and most of our friends were straight (or at least they claimed to be).
I have no idea whatsoever what Mr. Leibler thinks is denigrating the nuclear family at the hands of dastardly gay people. He is not specific. However, what is obviously the most offensive and intellectually dishonest part of this is the notion that sexual orientation can be influenced by others or through experimentation.
It would help if Mr. Leibler knew the scientific fact that sexual orientation is a continuum with homosexual and heterosexual at the extreme ends. Nothing is going to change one’s positioning along the scale with the exception of a small amount of natural fluidity. People do not “experiment” with their sexual orientation and even if they did, they would still end up in the same place. Those around the middle might cross the 50-yard-line but not to experiment. They are satisfying a temporal attraction. Ultimately that is why all of those pray-away-the-gay enterprises have been such dismal failures. No one ever really changes.
Furthermore, Mr. Leibler does not define what he means by “glorified.” I don’t know what television he watches but in this country we see (all too few) gay couples. At best they are truthfully portrayed as the intellectual and moral equals of heterosexual couples. Again, being gay is not an alternative lifestyle. Then Mr. Leibler goes on a tear about same-sex marriage:
This brings me to the same-sex marriage issue, which has created such a global upheaval. The continuity of mankind depends on male-female intercourse. Marriage implies a heterosexual union and to religious people it is a sacred institution.
While I fully support the legal system providing gay couples with rights identical to those of a heterosexual union, surely appropriate commitment ceremonies can be devised that do not imply bracketing such unions in the same category as traditional marriages.
Jewish non-Orthodox bodies like the Conservative and Reform movements should at most be neutral on this issue, but unfortunately, they are at the forefront of calling for gay unions to be defined as traditional marriages.
Let’s get the intercourse out of the way immediately. I am not sure but perhaps Mr. Leibler believes that when gays marry, that deprives society of an otherwise heterosexual spouse (as well as his or her sexual activities to crank out children). If that is the case then Leibler is beyond the point of redemption. Moreover, marriage might be sacred to religious people which is why those same people marry in their synagogue. To others it is a civil construct.
I am not familiar with Israeli law but in this country marriage is a legal construct that may, or may not be, a religious ritual. In this country we have also experimented with the concept of separate but equal which is what Leibler is essentially advocating. Great legal minds came to the conclusion that separate but equal is inherently unequal. There is no practical reason for gay couples to have a different outcome to being wed. Calling it marriage is not only the correct term but it has no effect whatsoever on so-called traditional marriage. If Mr. Leibler truly supports equal rights for gay couples as he claims then he should vigorously support marriage equality.
Perhaps the answer is right in front of Mr. Leibler. He has the the ability to discuss these matters with conservative and reform rabbis who can explain their reasons for supporting marriage equality.
The gay marriage debate has descended into bullying and vilifying anyone who dares to defend traditional beliefs. But objecting to gay marriage is neither discriminatory nor homophobic. The slandering of all who oppose gay marriage has descended into a poisonous hate fest.
Really? It seems to me that we must entertain bullshit about lifestyles and the pernicious ability of gay people to turn straight youth gay. Then, on top of that, another layer of manure is spread in the form of the preposterous notion that same-sex marriage has some mystical effect on so-called traditional marriage — all engineered to make gay people unequal.
Does Mr. Leibler have so much as a clue about the bigotry inherent in demeaning gay people for “flaunting their life style?” We are deeply offended and rightfully so. If Leibler wants less hate then he can ratchet down his homophobia and the reaction will recede accordingly. If he wants less poison in the environment then he should turn off his spigot. And then he can cease feigning victimization as a tactic to gain traction.
The blatant bigotry continues:
The just campaign to ensure equal social and civic rights for gays has succeeded beyond all expectations. But it was never intended to promote a gay lifestyle at the expense of heterosexuality and the nuclear family. I do not endorse the belief that sexuality is fluid. Nor would I condone the silencing of traditional and religious values, which consider marriage between man and wife to be uniquely sacred.
“… at the expense of heterosexuality and the nuclear family” and he ponders why that is considered bigoted hate speech. And let’s not imply that marriage equality has an effect on the religious practices of anyone. That is just dishonest nonsense.
You can continue to read Leibler’s diatribe at the link above. I have had more than I care to have.
I’m going to bring in Karina here, because obviously you’re concerned about these areas precisely.
The short answer to your question is that if same-sex marriage is legalised, no, Christian schools will not be immune from the consequences that flow from that. And we’ve seen that just last week, when Theresa May in the UK said that one of her greatest achievements in her parliamentary career was legalising same-sex marriage. And the next step now is to ensure that there is LGBTI sex education in all schools – not just government schools, all schools.
I actually… You said fact-check. I did fact-check a couple of the claims that you’ve made. One of them was about the guy who’s the prominent guy from Canada for the No campaign. And he said it’s been sort of put forward that because he wouldn’t accept teachings about gender and sex education, he was suing the school.
He had a six-year-long battle going on and his claims, his list of claims, included things like he didn’t want his children to be exposed to what he called false teachings, which meant the mere idea that there were other sets of values that existed, anything to do with the environment, to do with astrology, which is in newspapers everywhere, and wizards, meaning the kids couldn’t discuss… He wanted to be informed. It was not because of a difference of views, it was…it was unworkable.
And one more thing – the other one I want… You mentioned the Jewish school in London. I fact-checked that because I actually went to the site of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and they said that is inaccurate. If you want to tell the Jews how to run Jewish schools – because we’re talking about freedom of religion – it seems to me…
Just to confirm, this is a story about a Jewish school in the UK and the suggestion or allegation that it was going to be forced to shut down because they were refusing to teach gender diversity?
And I’m not saying that’s inaccurate. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry is saying that that’s inaccurate.
We’ll quickly throw that to Karina.
The council are the only ones who say that that’s inaccurate. Everyone else says that it is accurate…
They’re the peak body. They’re the peak body.
The reports are on the internet. If you don’t believe that it’s true…
..have a look at the very reports that are provided by the inspectorate itself.
So, you don’t accept the word of the peak body of Australian Jewry?
It’s inaccurate to say that they didn’t face consequences as a result. The reality is that the inspector came, inspected the school and they failed inspections after same-sex marriage was legalised.
I’m going to draw a line. People can fact-check…
Please fact-check it. I would ask people to fact-check it.
I’d expect the fact-checkers will fact-check it.
I did fact-check. The Jews fact-checked it. But they don’t know, apparently.
They’re the only body that say that.
Australian Jewish body denies Coalition for Marriage claim ultra-Orthodox London school was threatened with closure
Thursday 5 October 2017 12.33 AEDT
Last modified on Thursday 5 October 2017 13.28 AEDT
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has refuted “factually inaccurate” claims a Jewish school in the UK was threatened with closure over its teachings about sexuality and marriage.
The case of the ultra-Orthodox Vishnitz girls school in north London has been cited repeatedly by the Australian Christian Lobby’s director, Lyle Shelton, and used as recently as Thursday by the Liberal senator Zed Seselja, as an example of a school forced to change its teaching because of the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
In a statement released on Wednesday the ECAJ rejected the claim that Vishnitz “lost its accreditation as a school because it would not cease teaching its version of sexuality and marriage after same-sex marriages became legal in March 2014”.
“In point of fact the school found itself in difficulties with Ofsted [the UK school regulatory authority] well before March 2014 because it was said to have failed various other legal standards arising under earlier legislation,” it said.
“For example, the school was found to have failed to have policies in place that would require it to report incidents of abuse and neglect.”
In October 2016 and May 2017 Ofsted found Vishnitz girls school had failed to meet standards that education must “encourage respect” for others based on protected characteristics in the UK Equality Act 2010, including sex, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.
The school also failed its inspections for a number of other reasons including facility maintenance, lack of a medical room and poor labelling of suitable drinking water.
In May 2017 Ofsted concluded the issues had been fixed, including lack of child protection policies, but not the issue of encouraging respect.
Shelton has repeatedly cited Vishnitz, arguing it has been penalised because it “doesn’t want to teach their children these radical concepts” and noting it failed inspections after same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK to suggest it was a consequence of that change.
ECAJ said the 2010 law predated marriage equality in the UK and “explicitly provides that the school has the right to teach its own beliefs about sexuality and marriage in a way that does not disrespect LGBTQI people”.
Explaining why it issued the statement, ECAJ said that during the debate about legal recognition of same-sex marriage “verbal abuse should be condemned and factual inaccuracies corrected”.
Seselja told Sky News that in the UK “there is a Jewish school which is being threatened with being shut down because it doesn’t want to teach the gender theory that we’ve seen in some schools here in Australia”.
“I’ve seen the examples in the UK – where there are religious schools told they have to change their teaching in order to keep their registration.”
Seselja said he was concerned about religious freedom and parental choice but refused to nominate what changes to law he would like to see, arguing the burden should be on those arguing for same-sex marriage not opponents to devise “protections”.
At the National Press Club on 13 September the Liberal party’s vice-president, Karina Okotel, said: “Three months ago in England, a Jewish school failed three inspections as they didn’t teach about homosexuality and gender diversity and, therefore, as same-sex marriage is legal, the students were not being provided a full understanding of fundamental British values and that school now faces closure.”
None of the Ofsted reports mentioned teaching about marriage
A spokeswoman for the Coalition for Marriage acknowledged that the Equality Act came into force before same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK but said the school had only failed its inspections after the marriage law changed.
“This timeline proves, rather than contradicts, the claim by Coalition for Marriage that a change in the marriage law has a direct impact on the education of children, specifically requiring LGBTIQ issues to be taught in primary school,” she said.
The Coalition for Marriage spokeswoman said the ECAJ “had previously issued a statement asserting that there is no threat to religious freedom at all if a change to the Marriage Act was to occur”.
This was “in contrast” to a Senate committee inquiry on the same-sex marriage bill exposure draft and “any other serious commentators on this issue”, she said.
Guardian Australia has contacted Seselja, Shelton and Okotel.
THE Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has voted to support same-sex marriage and called on the Federal Government to eliminate discrimination against same-sex couples.
The resolution passed on Monday night “notes that the question before Australia at the upcoming postal survey is one relating to civil, not religious, marriage”, “supports same sex marriage under civil law as part of its commitment to equal rights and respect for all people and the elimination of discrimination in all its forms” and “urges all participants in the public debate regarding same sex marriage to engage with respect and tolerance, and without personal rancour”.
It also resolved to “call on the Federal Government to support the elimination of discrimination against same sex couples under Australia’s civil law by extending legal recognition to marriages between same sex couples who choose to marry”,”to support equal treatment under Australian law to same sex couples who choose to marry” and “to call on its members and the wider community to take part in the postal survey and help ensure that the basic right to marriage is afforded to all Australians regardless of their gender or sexuality in order to create a modern, fair and just society”.
At the organisation’s monthly plenumt, 41 people representing 25 affiliates voted in favour of the motion, with four abstentions.
Fourteen people spoke in favour of the motion proposed by the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (Victoria) and seconded by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, while two people spoke against the JCCV passing a motion on same-sex marriage, but not against same-sex marriage itself.
“JCCV has been working very hard in the area of inclusion for Jewish members of the community who identify at LGBTI for a number of years,” the body’s president Jennifer Huppert said.
“This is one further step and relates to same sex civil marriage and the view of the JCCV, and the plenum, is that this is a human rights issue and consistent with our commitment to human right and equality.”
Huppert said she is personally in favour of same-sex marriage and the motion sent a clear message of equality.,
“There were some people who said they didn’t think that it was an appropriate matter to be dealt with by the plenum, but the debate was very respectful and positive.”
NCJWA Victoria president Miriam Bass hailed the overwhelming support for the motion as “really gratifying”.
“This is about doing what is right because we have a duty to all out discrimination when we see it,” Bass said.
“This is what we felt we had to do to join with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, who recently passed a similar motion, and state what is right.
Bass said that NCJWA made its own statement last month and the response was overwhelming.
“We had something like 57 good comments and only one negative, and that was from someone that wasn’t a member of NCJWA.
“I think the way it was done at the JCCV was good because it came from the community, not the JCCV executive.”
LGBTI advocacy and support group Aleph Melbourne congratulated the JCCV on passing the resolution.
“That the motion was voted on without opposition, by a significantly larger than normal number of delegates, speaks volumes to the importance equality means to the Jewish community,” the organisation said in a statement.
“By supporting marriage equality the JCCV sends a message to all Victorian Jews, and the wider community, that no matter a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status, their relationships are valued equally and should be afforded equal dignity.”
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Aleph Melbourne is a friendly, secular, social and support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people (and non-GLBTIQ allies) who have a Jewish heritage, living in and around Melbourne, Australia.