On May 5 2020 Melbourne’s Jewish radio station J-AIR published the findings of their inquiry into the March 30 2020 incident where they aired an interview stating “the pandemic is an exact designer drug … that will remove … problems … in the form of homosexuality and gays”.
The publication of these findings follow an unreserved apology from the station on April 2 2020.
Approved Committee of Management on May 1 2020
Published results of J-AIR inquiry (forwarded to Michael Barnett via email on 5 May 2020).
1) The J-AIR complaints resolution committee, comprising J-AIR radio’s executive committtee, inquired into comments by Rabbi Mendel Kessin on The Tamar Yonah Show (30 March 2020) broadcast and podcast by J-AIR. Rabbi Kessin’s comment were originally aired on 24 March on the INTR program The Mystical Meaning of the Coronavirus with Rabbi Mendel Kessin. The complaints resolution committee found Rabbi Kassin’s comments were contrary to Australian law in that they vilified members of the homosexual (and LGBTIQ+) community.
2) An unreserved apology was issued immediately to the homosexual (and LGBTIQ+) community via Michael Barnett, who wrote about the TYS broadcast on the Aleph.org website on 4 April. The apology was distributed to The Australian Jewish News, J-Wire, JMedia and J-AIR’s Facebook group and page.
3) The apology was posted on the landing page of J-AIR’s website (j-air.com.au) and the apology in audio form was broadcast for several days following the original broadcast.
4) Michael Barnett, who brought the TYS broadcast to J-AIR’s attention, was engaged by telephone by the J-AIR assistant station manager.
5) Tamar Yonah was contacted for her comment. She noted in part: “Israel News Talk Radio is an Israeli Jewish station based on Torah values. We have on a variety of guests including rabbis who express different opinions on current or historical/biblical issues. Guests and listeners may, and do, hold very diverse views. Our live shows offer listeners to call in and agree, disagree, ask a question, or make a comment. Live talk-radio is very dynamic and is not a closed forum, and knowing that people express very diverse views, we have a disclaimer on our site stating that the many different views and opinions expressed on INTR do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Israel News Talk Radio or its staff.”
J-AIR carries a similar disclaimer hourly.
6) J-AIR will begin an updated education program for all presenters about Australian vilification laws, and advise them to remind guests before interviews to be wary of what they say.
7) Tamar Yonah has requested her program be replaced by other programs from INTR. J-AIR’s programming committee is looking into replacement programs.
Aleph Melbourne is pleased to hear that J-AIR are reinforcing anti-vilification requirements to their presenters, and also that the station is replacing the problematic Tamar Yonah Show syndication with alternative content.
J-AIR SORRY FOR PODCAST | AJN
April 10 2020
Note: contrary to what is stated in this article, Aleph Melbourne co-convenor Michael Barnett did not contact J-AIR. The station approached Michael Barnett after independent concerns about the broadcast were brought to their attention.
- Jewish broadcaster J-AIR airs interview stating “the pandemic is an exact designer drug … that will remove … problems … in the form of homosexuality and gays”
- J-AIR issues apology for broadcasting interview claiming the coronavirus pandemic was designed to eradicate homosexuality and gays
- J-AIR Talking to the Max interview with Michael Barnett – April 8 2020
Coverage of the April 2019 JCCV apology to Aleph Meebourne
This list of articles will be updated as new coverage is identified.
Michael Barnett from Aleph Melbourne
JOY 94.9 Saturday Magazine / April 14 2019
JCCV’s ‘sorry’ to Aleph 20 years on
Australian Jewish News / April 5, 2019
[Note, there are a couple of mistakes in the second last paragraph of this story. Aleph is not currently a member of the JCCV LGBTIQ Reference Group, although there are ongoing discussions about this. Also, back in 1999 Aleph did not lose members after the failed vote. The group went into hiatus and when it reformed it didn’t reinstate dues, which means there are no financial members, a prerequisite of becoming a JCCV affiliate.]
MEDIA RELEASE: Aleph Melbourne receives historic 20 year apology from Jewish Community Council of Victoria
Aleph Melbourne / April 2, 2019
JEWISH LGBTI GROUP ALEPH MELBOURNE RECEIVES ‘HISTORIC’ APOLOGY FROM JEWISH COUNCIL
Star Observer / April 2, 2019
JCCV makes historic apology to Aleph Melbourne
J-Wire / April 2, 2019
Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Australian Jewish News / March 7, 2019
20 December 2017
January 1995 saw the formation of a social group for gay Jewish men in Melbourne. The group was called Aleph Melbourne, to be distinct from the now long-defunct Aleph Sydney.
The need for a separate men’s group was due to the existence of the Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria, formed in 1992. It was JLGV’s desire to remain women-only, so Aleph filled the niche for men.
In the early years Aleph convened in private houses, had a committee, a meet-and-greet arrangement for new members, and a busy calendar of events.
Aleph was promoted through a small advert in the Jewish News, and also word of mouth.
I helped set up the first web page and email address for Aleph, both hosted on the then-popular Geocities service offered by Yahoo.
Due to a change in the group’s leadership in the late 1990s the committee decided to hold monthly drop-in meetings at the premises of the Victorian AIDS Council, then at 6 Claremont Street, South Yarra. The drop-in nights were a success for a long time, however dwindling attendance saw an end to these meetings in 1999.
Toward the latter half of 1998 the committee decided to apply for membership of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, in an effort to increase awareness in the Jewish community of issues that gay and bisexual men faced. Such issues included social isolation, discrimination, HIV/AIDS, and the emerging awareness of negative mental health outcomes and suicide.
In May 1999 our membership application failed to receive the two-thirds majority vote required from the council’s membership. To say our application for membership was controversial was an understatement, as it attracted front-page news, heated debate and full letter columns in the Jewish News for weeks and weeks.
Aleph felt the white-hot anger of the Orthodox leadership for daring to stand up for our individuality and acceptance. We also discovered there was a ground-swell of acceptance from many socially inclusive organisations, most notably the Progressive Jewish community, along with a large number of high school students, Zionist youth organisations and university students.
The rejection of our application by the JCCV took a huge toll on our small group which led to the committee folding and the group going into hiatus. However I felt that the need for the group was still strong and maintained a vigilant telephone and email presence.
Operating on a shoestring budget, we continued holding functions in private homes and offered support as best as we could.
Around 2007 we felt that continuing on as a gay and bisexual men’s group was marginalising those in the community who were transgender and so after consulting our membership we elected to become fully inclusive, accepting anyone with a Jewish identity as a member, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
We also noticed a need to cater specifically to Jewish youth and so Young Aleph was formed in 2007. A dynamic leadership team and fun events saw packed attendances for weeks and weeks. Young Aleph was a hugely successful experiment that ran until approximately 2009.
The shooting at the Tel Aviv LGBT Centre on August 1 2009 was a turning point for Aleph Melbourne. The now-dormant Melbourne-based AJN Watch blog wrote some hideous commentary about this event, degrading and vilifying gay men in the process. As an advocacy group, Aleph Melbourne reached out to the JCCV and asked for their help to combat this intolerance.
Whilst no practical support was initially forthcoming, the JCCV eventually succumbed to strong pressure from Aleph Melbourne and in late 2009 formed a reference group to start investigating the needs of LGBTIQ Jews. The JCCV has since become an advocate for LGBTIQ inclusion and awareness.
Over the years Aleph Melbourne has attended Pride March, Mardi Gras, In One Voice / Concert in the Park, International Holocaust Remembrance Day events, and the Midsumma Festival.
We made a documentary in 2016 commemorating our 20 year anniversary (1995-2015). This short film has screened in many film festivals around Australia and overseas. Most notably it was included in the Belfast Human Rights Film Festival and the prestigious St Kilda Film Festival.
Whilst Aleph Melbourne has provided a safe space for same-sex attracted Jews for many years now, most recently we have seen an increase in the need for support for transgender and gender-diverse people.
Statements calling for respect for LGBTIQ people together with statements of support for marriage equality, from organisations like the JCCV, Maccabi Victoria and the National Council of Jewish Women, have paved the way for a greater level of acceptance for LGBTIQ people.
Aleph Melbourne continues to offer a home for those Jews who do not identify as heterosexual, who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, or who may identify outside the gender-binary.
The tide has turned in the Jewish community. We have come a long way since 1995 and look forward to an exciting 2018 and beyond.
Co-Convenor – Aleph Melbourne
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria has passed a motion in support of same-sex marriage.
October 4, 2017
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.”
For further coverage, see this week’s AJN.
LAST week in The AJN there was a full-page colour advertisement, authorised by Paul Monagle of the Australian Family Association. This advertisement is a scare tactic deliberately designed to stop people from voting yes to same-sex marriage by suggesting that doing so would somehow lead to children questioning their gender, as if that’s a bad thing.
There is no evidence that same-sex couples getting married leads to children questioning their gender identity. However that the Australian Family Association would promulgate such nonsense is unsurprising really.
It is alarming to see the advert in The AJN from a hate organisation like the AFA, one that seeks to destroy the lives of same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender-diverse people.
It’s also alarming that the advertisement makes the inaccurate claim that a London Jewish school was threatened with closure due to not teaching about “gender re-assignment and sexual orientation”. I had previously looked into these claims, made by Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby, and found them to be not only devoid of facts but outright misleading.
The primary reason why the Vishnitz Girls School failed three Ofsted tests was because they failed to provide a safe environment for their students:
In fact, the school had also failed to put in place the correct procedures for the safety of children. That is, there was no system in place for reporting neglect or abuse of the students. This is something that should be of great concern to all, and certainly an urgent need to be addressed as religious schools struggle with child sexual abuse.
This information is online and readily available for all to see in the Ofsted reports.
The school was not threatened with closure as a direct or indirect result of marriage equality in the UK and it certainly had nothing to do with transgender people getting married. In fact, the legislation in the UK makes many provisions for equality and religious exemptions.
In Australia, transgender people can currently and do get married under civil law as long as the birth certificate of one spouse indicates male and the other’s indicates female.
The Marriage Act currently excludes people who are in a same-sex relationship, along with those who do not identify as exclusively female or exclusively male.
This latter group includes some intersex people, gender neutral people, and gender-fluid people.
So really, this advertisement in The AJN, attempting to whip up hysteria and fear around transgender people, is wrong on every level. It is misleading, inaccurate and one that should be condemned by the entire Jewish community.
The advert finishes with the words “Don’t let the same thing happen here.” Don’t fall for this slippery slope nonsense. Jewish schools will not be closed down if same-sex couples are allowed to get married. What schools teach is quite independent of the Marriage Act, an act of Parliament that just regulates marriages, not school curricula.
What will happen if same-sex couples are allowed to get married is their children will have happier parents and a more stable home environment. Same-sex couples will be afforded the same protections under the law heterosexual couples currently have, currently denied to us. There are actually quite a few protections marriage offers that those in a domestic partnership (gay or otherwise) do not have. Also, the few cases of married couples where one partner has gone through gender transition will not need to get divorced for the birth certificate of the transgender spouse to be corrected. This current requirement for divorce is cruel and unnecessary.
Jews have known discrimination for millennia. We are a people who have endured the worst crimes against humanity and we know what pain and suffering is. We also say “never again”. We should add to that “and not to others”.
If ever there has been a time for a community to come together as one and show solidarity for all Australians, it is now. We must recognise that it is fundamentally wrong to deny people equality before the law, interfere in other people’s relationships, spread lies and misinformation, and deny people their dignity.
Vote Yes for equality.
Vote Yes for respect.
Vote Yes for dignity.
Vote Yes because it’s the right thing to do.
Michael Barnett is convenor of Jewish LGBTIQ support and advocacy group Aleph Melbourne.
We’re proudly Jewish. We’re proudly supporting LGBTI Australians in the campaign for marriage equality. We’re voting yes.