Aleph Melbourne hosts ultra-Orthodox Rabbi | AJN

‘A STRONG ALLY TO LGBTIQ+ PEOPLE’

Aleph Melbourne hosts ultra-Orthodox Rabbi

He maintains his religious practices while simultaneously attending Pride Parades and protest rallies for queer rights and inclusion.

By MIA GARDINER
September 12, 2022, 7:35 pm 

From left: Rabbi Mike Moskowitz and Michael Barnett. Photo: Gregory Storer.

The Victorian Pride Centre on Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, provided the perfect location to hear New York’s ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Mike Moskowitz discuss how Judaism can provide a welcoming and inclusive place for people of all genders and sexual orientations, free from judgement and discrimination.

On his tour of Australia and New Zealand last month, the US based rabbi made time in his schedule to address an intimate gathering, as guest of Aleph Melbourne and the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council.

Talking about how having a transgender family member challenged and changed his worldview, Rabbi Moskowitz spoke about how he devotes much of his time to making Judaism a safer and more welcoming place for LGBTIQ+ Jews, free from judgement and hostility.

Rabbi Moskowitz told those gathered that he maintains his religious practices while simultaneously attending Pride Parades and protest rallies for queer rights and inclusion.

He also stressed that the fundamental understanding that a person cannot change their sexual orientation or gender identity is of particular importance to him, and shared that he actively combats damaging practices that seek to change or convert LGBTIQ+ people to being heterosexual and/or cisgender.

Aleph Melbourne co-convenor Michael Barnett said, “It was a total joy meeting Rabbi Moskowitz. His passion for LGBTIQ+ people and issues rivals that of any ally I have ever met and sets a very high bar when it comes to advocacy and inclusion.”

He also told The AJN that “Many of those in attendance spoke of how they found it unexpectedly refreshing to meet an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who was proud to be a strong ally to LGBTIQ+ people and advocate for our full inclusion in the Jewish community.”

Barnett added, “What I took from meeting Rabbi Mike Moskowitz is that being decent to LGBTIQ+ people and other vulnerable minorities takes minimal effort, and goes a long way to mend the harms that ill-informed rabbis and others perpetrate in the name of their faith.”


Australian Jewish News – September 2 2022 – Melbourne edition

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A sense of Jewish pride | AJN

‘FANTASTIC SUPPORT’

A sense of Jewish pride

The annual Midsumma Pride March received fantastic support from the community.

By AJN STAFF
February 13, 2022, 10:00 am 

The Jewish community was out in force at the annual Midsumma Pride March last Sunday. With crowds back to normal after the pandemic, there was rapturous applause for the 70 -strong Jews of Pride contingent, with everyone clapping and dancing along to the Jewish music.

Participating organisations included Aleph Melbourne, the Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria, Temple Beth Israel, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Zionism Victoria, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), Pathways Melbourne, SKIF and Temple Beth Israel.

Aleph co-convenor Michael Barnett told The AJN “I am heartened to see the fantastic support from Jewish youth groups, providing a safe and inclusive space for LGBTIQ+ people. We also have more parents and families of young people attending, crucial to the safe development of their children.”

The sentiment was echoed by regular participant, Naomi Barnett, who said it was her best ever Pride March yet, with so much enthusiasm from the sidelines for the Jewish presence.

JCCV vice president Doron Abramovici reflected, “It is a wonderful experience for all Jewish organisations to march together, as a unified group.

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)

Melbourne Jewish radio J-AIR finds March 30 broadcast was “contrary to Australian law” and “vilified members of the homosexual (and LGBTIQ+) community”

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.

J-AIR COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE FINDINGS

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.


Related coverage

Melbourne radio station J-AIR replaces program after homophobic broadcast | OUTinPerth

J-AIR SORRY FOR PODCAST | AJN

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.


Related coverage:

Jews of Pride 2020: Stars! Camera! Action!

Enjoy the photos, videos and media coverage of Jews of Pride 2020.

Photos mainly of the Jews of Pride contingent at the 25th Pride March.

Posted by Michael Barnett on Monday, February 3, 2020
Henry Greener @ The Shtick and Helen Shardey discuss Pride March and Jewish Queer diversity (to 3:20 in the video). Video and photos of “Jews of Pride” by Michael Barnett.

MEDIA RELEASE: “Jews of Pride” huge success at 25th Pride March
J-WIRE: The sun shines on Jewish pride
J-Wire: Marching with pride
Australian Jewish News: A celebration of diversity

Australian Jewish News – February 14 2020 (page 8)

Coverage of JCCV apology to Aleph Melbourne

Coverage of the April 2019 JCCV apology to Aleph Meebourne

This list of articles will be updated as new coverage is identified.

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Michael Barnett from Aleph Melbourne
JOY 94.9 Saturday Magazine / April 14 2019
https://joy.org.au/saturdaymagazine/2019/04/michael-barnett-jccv-apology

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JCCV’s ‘sorry’ to Aleph 20 years on
Australian Jewish News / April 5, 2019
https://www.jewishnews.net.au/jccvs-sorry-to-aleph-20-years-on/88233

[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.]

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MEDIA RELEASE: Aleph Melbourne receives historic 20 year apology from Jewish Community Council of Victoria
Aleph Melbourne / April 2, 2019
https://aleph.org.au/2019/04/02/media-release-aleph-melbourne-receives-historic-20-year-apology-from-jewish-community-council-of-victoria

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JEWISH LGBTI GROUP ALEPH MELBOURNE RECEIVES ‘HISTORIC’ APOLOGY FROM JEWISH COUNCIL
Star Observer / April 2, 2019
http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/national-news/victoria-news/jewish-lgbti-group-aleph-melbourne-receives-historic-apology-from-jewish-council/180333

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JCCV makes historic apology to Aleph Melbourne
J-Wire / April 2, 2019
http://www.jwire.com.au/jccv-makes-historic-apology-to-aleph-melbourne

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Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Australian Jewish News / March 7, 2019
https://www.jewishnews.net.au/sorry-seems-to-be-the-hardest-word/87175

Aleph Melbourne – Championing LGBTIQ inclusion and advocacy in the Jewish community

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.

Michael Barnett
Co-Convenor – Aleph Melbourne