1995 in the AJN: Fighting prejudice against AIDS sufferers

[From Trove and the Australian Jewish News]

Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 20 October 1995, page 23

Fighting prejudice against AIDS sufferers

Jackie Brygel talks to Tammi Faraday about how she reconciles her religious beliefs with her work on the Victorian AIDS Council.

Tammi Faraday: helping to universalise the AIDS issue. Photo: Lex Mrocki

AS A YOUNG Orthodox Jew working in a voluntary capacity for the Victorian AIDS Council, Tammi Faraday has often been forced to defend her job.

For the 20-year-old Leibler-Yavneh graduate, however, there is no conflict between her religion and her work.

“I have been asked how, as a religious Jew, I can work for an organisation that is condoning homosexuality,” she said, in an interview with the Australian Jewish News. “First of all, my position on homosexuality is absolutely inconsequential to the cause; Regardless of what I feel, it is not for me to judge.

“We talk of God and we talk of mercy and compassion and all these other things that people very easily forget. Ritualism is very important, but I think the essence of religion often gets lost.”

Ms Faraday said that homosexuality was “problematic” within the Torah. But by the same token, she added, the saving of a life is a fundamental precept in the Jewish religion.

“We should perpetuate that by helping people and by educating people. And it is not just gays who are affected (by AIDS).

“I think there is a syndrome in the Jewish community of being very judgmental. People should be embraced. Thank God, the incidence of AIDS is not huge within the Jewish community, but I don’t think that anybody has the right to disenfranchise a person or to make a person feel remote or ostracised. It is an issue that has to be dealt with.”’

Ms Faraday, who is currently studying law/arts at Monash University, has also been asked why she has not channelled her energies into Jewish causes. It is a question to which she has taken umbrage.

“To me, AIDS is a human cause,” she said. “It is a Jewish cause as much as any other cause. I am a very proud Jew who wears Judaism on my sleeve. But we are human and we are not immune to this disease.”

Ms Faraday first developed an interest in AIDS at the age of 14 when she read a book on a haemophiliac who had contracted the HIV infection through a blood transfusion. After spending eight months studying at the Hebrew University in Israel, she approached the Victorian AIDS Council in April this year.

Ms Faraday is now public relations officer for the Council’s Red Ribbon Project. Red ribbons, the international symbol for AIDS awareness, will be sold by shops, businesses and street sellers for World AIDS Day on December 1. All proceeds from the red ribbons go towards the support of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS.

“I was very nervous to come back to Australia after living in Israel,” Ms Faraday said. “I had been very fulfilled there and all my senses had been on overload every minute of the day.

“When I came back, I wanted to throw myself into an organisation where I felt I could provide some expertise and do something positive to help others.”

Ms Faraday also believed there were many misconceptions about AIDS with many Australians still referring to it as the ‘gay plague’.

“That is not the case,” she said. “It’s a universal disease and it doesn’t discriminate. I felt that as someone who was Jewish and a woman and a minority in this organisation, I would be able to help universalise the issue.

“Now the figures show that AIDS is decreasing slowly in the gay population, but increasing substantially in the heterosexual population… Twenty million people have been infected with the (HIV) virus thus far around the world. It is the highest killer of 22 to 44-year old Americans. It is an epidemic we are facing.”

Ms Faraday conceded she initially felt like the “odd one out” at the Council, but quickly found her niche.

“The environment here is so warm, friendly, loving and supportive. It’s a wonderful environment to work in.

“I wanted to ensure I confronted the disease head-on and be knowledgeable about it so I was not prejudiced in any way, shape or form. Knowledge is the key.”

ajn-19951020-p23-HIV

Letters: Tackling vilification | AJN

Tackling vilification

I am deeply grateful to David Southwick MP for personally extending an invitation to Aleph Melbourne to provide a submission to the Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections.  I am also grateful to the committee of the inquiry for accepting our submission.

For many years I have witnessed vilifying comments originating within the Jewish community, directed at Jewish LGBTIQ+ people.  These hateful comments, which appeared in Jewish print, broadcast, online and social media outlets, formed the basis of Aleph Melbourne’s submission to the inquiry.

The committee found our submission sufficiently compelling that they quoted from it in their report.

The Jewish community does not tolerate an iota of hate directed at it, and it should not tolerate an iota of hate emanating from it.

The committee recommended strengthening anti-vilification laws, including adding protections for LGBTIQ+ people and those with HIV/AIDS.  Doing so will make Victoria a safer place for all people, whether they are Jewish, LGBTIQ+, or any other category.

Michael Barnett
Co-convenor, Aleph Melbourne

Australian Jewish News, March 19, 2021, page 19

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