News articles

AJN Letter to the Editor: “Sondheim’s Sexuality”

It would be remiss to recount the life of the legendary playwright Stephen Sondheim (AJN 03/12) without also acknowledging that he was a gay man who only came out at the age of 40.

He met his partner Jeffrey Romley in 2004, whom he described as a great joy in his life.  They married in 2017 and it was in his husband’s arms that he died. Although he did not have children, he said if he had his time again he would definitely have been a parent, admitting he fell victim to historical stigmas around gay men parenting.

The erasure of Sondheim’s personal life and sexual orientation is disappointing, as they are just as important as his professional achievements.  Had he been married to a woman, it would have been noted along with the duration of their relationship.

Michael Barnett
Co-convenor, Aleph Melbourne

Australian Jewish News; December 17 2021

SOURCES

LGBTQ NATION: Legendary gay composer & Broadway genius Stephen Sondheim passes at 91

ABC Radio National – The Music Show: Jeremy Sams remembers Stephen Sondheim, and Braille music with Ria Andriani (42:22)

Aleph Melbourne submission to Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry: Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills

Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills / Submissions

Religious-Discrimination-Bill-2021-and-related-bills-Submission-04

[PDF: APH / local]

Reaction to Religious Discrimination Bill | AJN

‘NO BALANCE WILL PROVIDE PERFECT JUSTICE FOR EVERYBODY’

Reaction to Religious Discrimination Bill

By GARETH NARUNSKY
December 2, 2021, 11:01 am  

AS the latest draft of the federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill is discussed in parliament and the media, Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim said “it is appropriate that we are having this debate during Chanukah”.

“As much as the Jewish people admired many aspects of Hellenistic learning and civilisation, we totally rejected any attempt to forcibly assimilate our people into the then prevailing culture, and give up our beliefs and our identity,” he said.

“No faith community should be pressured into assimilating into today’s prevailing secular culture.

“It is particularly important for the religious organisations of minority faith communities to continue to be free to look after the religious and cultural needs of those communities.”

Commenting more specifically on the bill, Wertheim noted some of the “more contentious” aspects of the previous drafts have been removed, notably protections allowing employers to restrict religious speech outside the workplace – commonly referred to as “the Folau clause” – and the conscience protection for healthcare professionals.

“What is left is a conscientious attempt to balance prohibitions against religious discrimination with the freedom of religious organisations to operate according to their ethos,” he said. “No such balance will provide perfect justice for everybody. This bill tries to minimise the scope for injustice.”

Contrary to misconception, the bill does not speak to whether religious schools can exclude LGBTQI+ students – the Sex Discrimination Act already technically permits this – but under the legislation religious institutions would be allowed to have faith-influenced hiring policies, although these policies would need to be made public.

But Jewish organisations The AJN spoke to indicated they would not use the provision.

Moriah College principal Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler said the school seeks to employ high-calibre staff and “gender, identity, race and religion make no difference”.

“We aim to integrate Modern Orthodox Zionist Jewish values into our modern world and society, and we view the diversity of our educators and workforce as a huge benefit in achieving this goal,” he said.

“Diversity enriches the educational experience for our children.”

Emanuel School principal Andrew Watt said the school aspires to be “welcoming and inclusive … known for its genuine acceptance and understanding of diversity”.

“Emanuel School employs both Jewish and non-Jewish staff. We welcome staff and students into our school community, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our enrolment and recruitment practices will remain unchanged,” he said.

Montefiore CEO Robert Orie said, “With more than 1000 employees, Montefiore is proud to employ a diverse workforce that spans many cultures, traditions and LGBTQI+ groups and our residents support and celebrate the diversity of our staff.”

Meanwhile, the state government said it is still committed to making amendments to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, but will wait to do so once the federal legislation is passed.

“This will allow the government to closely consider the Commonwealth legislation to ensure that its interaction with NSW legislation can be fully understood and that constitutional inconsistency is avoided,” said Attorney-General Mark Speakman.

But NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark urged the government to act without further delay.

“The Parliamentary Joint Select Committee heard wide-ranging submissions from the community and produced a comprehensive and well-considered report,” he said.

“The Attorney-General has announced that religious discrimination will be outlawed in NSW, which is one of only two states in Australia that doesn’t have laws against religious discrimination.

“The NSW government has an opportunity to act now. We look forward to seeing these laws progressing through Parliament.”

Jewish schools react to proposed law | AJN

LEGISLATION TO PROTECT LGBTQI+ TEACHERS

Jewish schools react to proposed law

By CARLY DOUGLAS
December 2, 2021, 1:00 pm 

PROPOSED legislation that would prohibit religious schools in Victoria from firing or refusing to hire teachers based on gender and sexual identity has been met with a mixed reaction from within the Jewish community.

The Andrews’ government bill, introduced to Parliament in October, seeks to protect LGBTQI+ Victorians’ right to work in faith-based schools.

Last month, a group of religious leaders from varying faiths sent an open letter to Victoria’s Attorney-General, Jaclyn Symes, opposing the legislation, stating that it “unfairly targets religious bodies and educational institutes”.

Among the signatories was Rabbi Shimon Cowen from the Institute for Judaism and Civilisation. He told The AJN that the legislation is “an incredible invasion of religious life,” accusing the state government of attempting to “edit Judaism”.

He called politicians who support it “hypocrites,” noting that parliamentarians are allowed to discriminate based on political views and activity when it comes to the staffing of their office.

But most Jewish schools were generally more supportive.

Bialik College principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, who proudly recalled that his was the first school in Australia to sign up to the Marriage Equality campaign, told The AJN, “We are all created equally and I strongly encourage the law to support this, and prevent discrimination.”

Without it, he reflected, “Future generations would look at us with the same incredulity that we hold when we consider those who opposed the emancipation of slaves, universal suffrage or civil rights.”

The King David School principal Marc Light concurred, stating, “We oppose any legislation that discriminates against people based on their gender or sexual identity.”

He added, “It is important that LGBTQI+ students get the message that they are not alienated, excluded or rejected on the basis of their identity.”

Helen Greenberg, principal at Sholem Aleichem College, said, “We strongly embrace any changes that allow Victorians to continue to be free to live and work free from discrimination.”

Leibler Yavneh College principal Cherylyn Skewes agreed, noting, “Our view is clear. No staff member should be subject to discrimination or termination on the basis of their sexual identity.”

Noting that the legalisation would remove the right of schools to sack a staff member because of their sexuality, Mount Scopus Memorial College principal Rabbi James Kennard said, “Since that would never happen at Mount Scopus, the bill is not especially relevant to our school.”

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum of Yeshivah–Beth Rivkah Colleges had some reservations about the bill. He said that “while people’s private lives are not a factor in their hiring, a school was not generally an appropriate place for staff to discuss or flaunt their sexual behaviour, whether heterosexual or homosexual.”

He also pointed out that while “the aims of the legislation to prevent discrimination were laudable, there was some concern that activists could potentially misuse the legislation by challenging the curriculum, or even the teaching of certain sections of the Torah”.

But not everyone is on board. A member of another Orthodox school community told The AJN that if the bill were to pass, it “could be a problem” because they would not have the “flexibility they would need regarding LGBTQI+ staff teaching their students”.

On a federal level, after a 2018 pledge by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the PM recently introduced his Religious Discrimination Bill to the floor. The legislation – if passed – will offer protection for faith-based schools, institutions, hospitals and aged-care facilities that wish to prioritise applicants of their faith. While it will be several months before the Senate votes on the bill, the legislation could override the Victorian Government’s anti-discrimination bill.

31st Melbourne Queer Film Festival – The Jewish & Israeli experience

We present the films in the 31st Melbourne Queer Film Festival that will appeal to a Jewish audience

MQFF 2021

The 31st Melbourne Queer Film Festival runs from November 18 to 29 2021. The following is a selection of films from the festival program that contain Jewish content, relevance, or are from Israel. The full program can be viewed here.


The Swimmer

90 Mins

Erez, a rising star in the Israeli swimming scene arrives at a godforsaken training camp held in a boarding school where the winning athlete gets a coveted ticket to the Olympics. There he meets the beautiful and talented Nevo, who awakens long repressed desires in him, throwing his Olympic chances (and libido) into turmoil. This attraction is complicated further by their stern swimming coach who does not believe in fraternizing between competitors and is warned to stay away or risk his Olympic dreams. Will Erez act upon his feelings for Nevo and risk losing everything he has strived for becomes the urgent question at the heart of this vibrant and engaging film. Speedos, water, desire… The Swimmer is a winning romantic drama that will leave you cheering right up to the finish line.

Year: 2020 | Country: Israel | Genre: Drama/Romance | Theme: Gay | Language: Hebrew/English Subtitles | Premiere: Australian | Director: Adam Kalderon | Courtesy: M-Appeal

  • Fri 19 Nov | 9PM | Village Cinemas Vmax 10
  • Tue 23 Nov | 6:30 PM | ACMI Cinema 1
  • Sat 27 Nov | 2:30 PM | Cinema Nova Cinema 8

[PDF archive of MQFF page]


Ma Belle, My Beauty

[This film is not specifically Jewish but features a prominent Jewish character]

93 Mins

Lane, Bertie and Fred once shared a polyamorous relationship in New Orleans. Lane loved Bertie, Fred loved Bertie, they had a balance that worked… until it didn’t, and Lane vanished from their lives. Two years later, Bertie and Fred have gotten married and are living at Fred’s family home in the countryside of southern France. When Lane unexpectedly shows up in Bertie’s seemingly idyllic new life, she finds her former lover much different than she remembers. Bertie is disillusioned in her jazz career and clearly alienated in this small, white, European town. However, their spark is quickly ignited and when Lane attempts to recreate their old, carefree dynamic, complications arise. This is compacted further by Lane’s increasing flirtations with Noa, a sultry young artist and former soldier. Winner of the audience award at Sundance Film Festival, Marion Hill’s debut feature is a sensual, carefree delight.

Year: 2021 |Country: France/USA | Genre: Drama/Romance | Theme: Lesbian | Language: English | Premiere: Australian | Director: Marion Hill | Courtesy: WaZabi Films

  • Fri 19 Nov | 6:30 PM | Cinema Nova Cinema 8
  • Sun 21 Nov | 9PM | Cinema Nova Cinema 1
  • Sat 27 Nov | 7:30 PM | Village Cinemas Vpremium 11

Virgin My Ass

17 Mins

Ophir and Harel are best friends, but that could all change when Ophir asks for a special favor.

Year: 2021 | Country: Israel | Theme: Gay | Language: Hebrew/English Subtitles


Great Freedom

116 Mins

In post-war Germany Hans is imprisoned again and again for being homosexual. Due to the notorious paragraph 175 his desire for freedom is systematically destroyed. The one steady relationship in his life becomes his long-time cellmate, Viktor, a convicted murderer. What starts as animosity develops over the years into something called love. Director Sebastian Meise asks you to imagine a world where love is forbidden by law and punished with imprisonment. What sounds like a dystopia was a reality for gay men in Germany right up until the late 60s. Bolstered by a magnetic and soulful performance by Franz Rogowski as Hans and rightfully winning the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival this year, Great Freedom is a stunning drama that is destined to become a queer classic.

Meise’s film is an exquisite marriage of personal, political and sensual storytelling – Variety

Year: 2021 | Country: Austria | Genre: Drama/Romance | Theme: Gay | Language: German/English Subtitles | Premiere: Melbourne | Director: Sebastian Meise | Courtesy: Madman Entertainment

  • Sun 21 Nov | 5:45 PM | Village Cinemas Vpremium 9
  • Wed 24 Nov | 8:45 PM | Cinema Nova Cinema 8
  • Sat 27 Nov | 9:30 PM | ACMI Cinema 1

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies votes to support ban on conversion therapy

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies votes to support ban on conversion therapy

27 October 2021

At the October 2021 Plenum, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) passed a motion recommending that coercive practices which are commonly referred to as ‘conversion therapies’ be banned.

This Motion supports moves already afoot in NSW Parliament to ban these coercive practices that seek to forcibly change someone’s gender, bodily or sexual identity.

LGBTQ+ people deserve the same dignity, respect and freedom to pursue their lives in peace as any other members of our vivid and diverse NSW society and the motion affirms the NSW Jewish Board of Deputy’s steadfast support for the Jewish LGBTQ+ community and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community more broadly.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies


The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Plenum: 

  • Recognises that coercive practices intended to change or impose a person’s sexuality, gender identity or bodily integrity are now rightly outlawed in jurisdictions in Australia, specifically Queensland, the ACT, and most recently Victoria; 
  • Recognises that work has begun to outlaw such practices in Israel as well; 
  • Recognises that these practices cause hurt to people who are vulnerable, and who seek community, belonging, and dignity; 
  • Opposes such coercive practices in all of their forms; 
  • Expresses its concern at societal and peer pressures that contribute to confusion around gender identity and sexuality and supports the rights of vulnerable people to understand and articulate their sexuality and gender identity on their own terms;
  • Calls on the Parliament of NSW to pass legislation to make these coercive practices unlawful; 
  • Offers support to the work of groups including the NSW Parliamentary Friends of the LGBTQ+ Community to seek cross-party endorsement of measures to prohibit these coercive practices;
  • Opposes attempts to ban legitimate and consensual prayer and pastoral counselling from religious figures and medical professionals regarding sexuality and gender identity that are freely entered into by both participants.

LGBTIQA+ Rights in Israel: An International Comparison | Nicholes Family Lawyers

MR: Aleph Melbourne commends the Andrews government for strengthening anti-hate protections

MEDIA RELEASE
September 2 2021

Aleph Melbourne commends the Victorian Government, under the leadership of Premier Daniel Andrews, for its ongoing commitment to protecting all Victorians from hate, and for standing steadfastly strong with Jewish and LGBTIQ+ Victorians.

Along with making the public display of Nazi symbols illegal, we welcome the government’s commitment to extending anti-vilification protections to cover sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and HIV/AIDS status.

All too often homophobia is juxtaposed with antisemitism in wanton acts of hate, as evidenced by the attack on Cranbourne Golf Club last year[1] and the attack on the Gardiner’s Creek Trail in July this year[2].

It was with sadness that Aleph Melbourne’s submission to the Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections highlighted a litany of anti-LGBTIQ+ vilification emanating from within the Jewish community. We hope that these reforms will see the end of such intolerance, and allow those in our community who have been forced to live in the shadows to feel sufficiently empowered to come forward and live a more authentic life.

We are also grateful to David Southwick MP for inviting Aleph Melbourne to lodge a submission to the Inquiry, which the committee found most compelling.[3]

Michael Barnett
Co-convenor
Aleph Melbourne

CONTACT
michael@aleph.org.au
0417-595-541

RELATED MEDIA

  1. MR: Aleph Melbourne condemns Nazi defacement of resurfaced Gardiners Creek Trail (July 17 2021)
    https://aleph.org.au/2021/07/17/mr-aleph-melbourne-condemns-nazi-defacement-of-resurfaced-gardiners-creek-trail
  2. Response to attack on Cranbourne Golf Club (May 21 2020)
    https://aleph.org.au/2020/05/21/response-to-attack-on-cranbourne-golf-club
  3. Letters: Tackling vilification | AJN (Mar 20 2021)
    https://aleph.org.au/2021/03/20/letters-tackling-vilification-ajn

ENDS

Publisher snaps up writer Roz Bellamy’s memoir ‘Mood’ | OUTinPerth

Publisher Wakefield Press has announced the acquisition of world rights to Roz Bellamy’s Mood, a memoir exploring the intersections of mental illness, queerness, gender diversity and Jewish identity.

Wakefield Press associate publisher Jo Case says that when she noticed Bellamy was writing a memoir, she was intrigued, and thought about asking to read it. She’d admired Bellamy’s essay in Growing Up Queer in Australia (Black Inc.), and their essay exploring queer and Jewish identity in Living and Loving in Diversity, an anthology published by Wakefield Press in 2018 (edited by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli).

Roz Bellamy is a first-generation Jewish Australian who grew up in a progressive family, attending an orthodox school. Roz, who identifies as nonbinary, met their wife, Rachel, as a university student, as the pair made their first tentative forays into queer culture – and fell in love – through a Buffy the Vampire Slayer online message board.

Publisher snaps up writer Roz Bellamy’s memoir ‘Mood’