Ten years ago, in December 2007, the Australian Jewish News published two letters authored by Robert Weil: “AIDS is a gay disease” and “AIDS does discriminate”. It’s worth reflecting on the strong-held beliefs of Robert Weil to understand the toxic attitudes held by some in Melbourne’s Jewish community.
Disclaimer: In posting this event Aleph Melbourne does not necessarily endorse the views of the organisation hosting this event or that of the speakers presenting at it. Aleph Melbourne also advises that there are multiple ‘Torah perspectives’ on homosexuality, such as that of Masorti and Progressive Judaism, which offer a more inclusive and accepting perspective to that of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism.
Elsternwick couple in Victoria’s first Jewish gay commitment ceremony as synagogue prepares to host first gay and lesbian festival celebration
- Nicole Precel
- January 07, 2014 12:00AM
Ilana and Chrissie were the first gay couple to have a marriage ceremony at a Jewish synagogue in Melbourne at Temple Beth Israel. Picture: Adam Elwood Source: News Limited
WHEN Ilana Gelbart said “yes” to Krissy Adrian’s elaborate proposal, the issue wasn’t coming out of the closet, it was conversion.
“It was more difficult for me because Krissy had to get converted; when we got together she wasn’t Jewish,” Ms Gelbart said.
On August 18, the Elsternwick couple became the first gay couple in Victoria to have a Jewish commitment ceremony.
And now their progressive synagogue, Temple Beth Israel in St Kilda, is hosting the first-ever celebration of the Midsumma Gay and Lesbian Festival in a synagogue, on January 31, in partnership with Keshet, the national GLBTI Jewish advocacy group.
“Coming out as a lesbian was something I knew my parents would support me with and not judge me for,” Ms Gelbart said.
And with Judaism deeply entrenched in her family and her psyche, she said it had been wonderful TBI had “welcomed and accepted” them.
“We never stopped to wonder whether they would or wouldn’t (do a commitment ceremony); from the first day Rabbi Kim Ettlinger said, ‘Here’s how it goes’, we never thought we wouldn’t be allowed to,” Ms Gelbart said.
“It does put it out there for more gay and lesbian couples to understand they are welcome in progressive congregations.”
Ilana Gelbart and Krissy Adriaan at their ceremony at Temple Beth. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied
The couple keep Shabbat every Friday night, don’t eat shellfish or pork and don’t mix meat and milk.
“We light the candles every week and try to go to synagogue every week,” Ms Gelbart said. “It’s all very much a part of our lives.”
The couple met at Monash University three years ago, and Ms Adrian converted to Judaism soon after.
“I didn’t ever ask her (to convert), that was just something that she wanted to do,” Ms Gelbert said.
Senior Rabbi Gersh Lazarow said TBI encouraged members of the Jewish GLBTI community to form a meaningful spiritual connection at the synagogue.
He said the January 31 Midsumma celebration would focus on inclusion, equality and human rights.
“While historically many from the GLBTI have felt isolated or shunned from faith-based organisations, Temple Beth Israel, as part of the Progressive Jewish movement, prides itself on principles of egalitarianism and respect for others,” Rabbi Lazarow said.
There will also be a Midsumma Mass on January 31 held at St Mark’s Anglican Church in Fitzroy.
Details: tbi.org.au or 9510 1488.
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has made a significant step towards equality by publicly acknowledging for the first time “it’s okay to be gay”.
Following the JCCV’s release of a statement in support of the No To Homophobia campaign, co-convener of LGBTI Jewish organisation Aleph Melbourne Michael Barnett criticised the JCCV’s failure to publicly affirm gay people in society.
The JCCV responded with the comment: “It’s okay to be gay.”
A follow up statement confirmed the organisation’s position.
“The JCCV joined the No To Homophobia campaign because members of the GLBTI community experience harassment and abuse. This is not ok,” it stated.
“That’s why we joined the campaign, started the reference group—to acknowledge that it’s ok to be gay and to help with reducing mental wellbeing issues and harassment.”
Barnett praised the response, saying it is particularly significant given a majority of the JCCV’s constituent organisations are from the conservative, often anti-gay Orthodox Jewish community.
Barnett called on the JCCV to take further steps in support of the LGBTI community, by working with Jewish organisations like Aleph on strategies to address high rates of suicide, mental health issues and self-harm amongst young LGBTI people.
“A good way to do get this message out to the community is to make it a condition of JCCV membership that affiliate organisations implement such strategies in their organisations,” Barnett said.
Note: the background to this story can be found here.