Report Reveals School Failures | Sunday Herald-Sun


“Get better security so the bullies who bullied me will get caught”

“Prioritise student wellbeing above academic excellence”

“The lack of punishment for bullies and racist or sexist jokes”

“Plz made more rights for lgbtq ppl (people) at Mount Scopus”

“Male Hebrew teachers – they are creepy …”

“Toxic, competitive culture”

“Implement a compulsory consent and respect program”

Source: Child Wise report 2022


May 28, 2023 | Sunday Herald Sun

Susie O’Brien
Suzan Delibasic

EXCLUSIVE A leading Melbourne private school ignored red flags about a senior staff member who engaged popular girls in “highly sexualised communication”, a secret report has revealed.

Sunday Herald Sun can reveal the full findings of the damning review into the culture at Mount Scopus Memorial College.

The report reveals a “lack of appropriate response by leaders to serious complaints and allegations” regarding child safety over several years.

Staff who raised child-safe concerns faced “retribution” as the school “acted to address the wellbeing and reputation of the accused staff members, over the wellbeing of students making allegations,” it states.

Students and past students reporting abuse were offered meetings “with the male principal only, meetings were held with doors closed, no formal detailed record of meetings were made”, the report states.

Girls were also asked if they wanted to “confess” anything in relation to a staff member who groomed them.

The report also details homophobia towards LGBTIQ+ students, favouritism towards top-performing students, peer-to-peer bullying and teachers talking in “degrading” terms about students.

The report by Child Wise was commissioned in February 2022 following the sacking of the long-serving director of studies Jared Alford amid findings of serious sexual ­misconduct.

The report states Mr Alford “groomed an entire school community, including staff and leadership … and worked his way into positions of trust and authority in the school”.

“Concurrently observations were made about inappropriate contact with certain ‘favoured’ students, including highly sexualised communication,” it states.

Mr Alford was facing allegations of misconduct from at least 10 women when he left the Burwood college in late November 2021.

The report said Mr Alford used the informal Jewish Life program to “expose children to harm and ongoing risk”, particularly “high achievers” and “popular girls”.

The school’s treatment of complainants was slammed in the report for being “not trauma-informed and not aligned with best practices”. Rather than tell the school community about the allegations, the school breached child safety practices by telling students Mr Alford was ill and “should be written to with well wishes”.

Mr Alford was also “invited to an end-of-year gathering and a farewell speech was given … where his contribution was celebrated” in a further breach of good practice.

Last year, Rabbi Kennard released the review’s 49 recommendations for strengthening child safety at the school. He committed to implementing them, but he did not release the full report.

A former Mount Scopus student who graduated in 2021 told the Sunday Herald Sun the findings in the report illustrated the school’s “toxic” culture. “It’s obvious why they wanted to keep this damning report a secret,” he said. “I’m still traumatised by my experience at the school, I was bullied constantly. When I made the complaint to my school leaders, they told me to basically ‘toughen up’.”

Another former student, who offered support to women making reports to the school about Mr Alford, said: “I also agree with the findings in the Child Wise report because for years the faculty has not been properly trained to deal with issues such as sexual misconduct.”

Voice Against Child Sexual Abuse director Phillip Weinberg said the Child Wise report was consistent with the accounts of Mt Scopus victims and survivors who bravely shared their experiences with his organisation.

Rabbi Kennard will retire at the end of 2023. He was contacted for comment.

Jewish Leaders Want to Ban Kanye West from Australia: ‘Don’t Want You Here’ | Newsweek

LGBTQ groups are also wary of Ye’s presence in the country, noting his apparent backflip in his support for the community when he invited rapper DaBaby to perform with him at his Donda album listening party in 2021. DaBaby has made multiple homophobic comments in the past.

“Until such time as Ye has unambiguously demonstrated he is a true friend of the Jewish people and has distanced himself from his hurtful antisemitic comments, and similarly has proven he is an LGBTIQ+ ally at least to the level he was in 2005, I support calls for the Australian government to deny him entry on character grounds,” said Michael Barnett, co-convenor of Aleph Melbourne, a Jewish LGBTQ group.

Jewish Leaders Want to Ban Kanye West from Australia: ‘Don’t Want You Here’

An Australian preacher’s homophobic rant | AIJAC

An Australian preacher’s homophobic rant 

Sep 30, 2022 | Ran Porat


Preacher Abu Bakr Zaoud: Legalising homosexuality is “the hands of the Sheitan [Devil] at work” (YouTube screenshot)

The popular Australian Muslim Facebook page, followed by 2.5 million people, has in the past promoted extremism, antisemitism and martyrdom. On Aug. 29, the page published a lecture by an Australian Muslim preacher, praising it with the words: “A brilliant lecture on LGBT from a tradi[ti]onilist Islamic view in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah [Islamic traditions] and not in accordance to liberalists or secularists or modernists who want to compromise and water down their beliefs.”

The preacher so warmly recommended is none other than Abu Bakr Zaoud from the extremist Ahl As-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah (ASWJ, “the family of those following the ways of the Prophet and his companions”). This local branch of an international fundamentalist Salafi organisation is regarded as one of the most radical Muslim groups in Australia. In 2018, and again earlier in 2022, AIJAC exposed the antisemitism, calls for jihad against Israel, and radicalism of ASWJ generally and of Zaoud personally.

The title of Zaoud’s English-language lecture this August at a Sydney mosque was “From illegal to legal and the untold dangers of homosexuality”. The video of the lecture was uploaded online accompanied by an apologetic message: “DISCLAIMER: Those who challenge the normalcy and equivalence arguments of LGBTQ advocates are predictably met with the jamming tactic of being labeled [sic.] bigots, haters, and homophobes so as to pre-empt reasonable debate. Disagreeing with LGBTQ sexual practice is neither an enticement of harassment, phobia, nor violence, but the expression of opinion firmly grounded in medical literature.”

As far as publicly known, Zaoud is not a medical professional. And examining his words in the lecture, it is hard to see how they can be understood in any other way than as not-so-disguised homophobia and hatred.

Homosexuality is “the opposite of intellect”

Zaoud opens his speech by what sounds like welcoming gay people in the audience. “I am aware that there could be among us homosexuals that are sitting or people that have these urges. And I say to these people that you are more than welcome to stay with us,” he says. But his true intentions are quickly revealed as quite different: “We want to educate you on this topic. We want to share intellectual points and proofs from the Koran and the word of [the prophet Muhammad]… this knowledge that we share gives you the ability to make correct decisions in life.”

Speaking about the different gender identities generally accepted today in the West and about same-sex marriage recently becoming legal in several countries (including Australia), Zaoud argues that today “Sexual deviation has become a widespread matter.” He later protests that “the rest of us are slowly being forced to accept all of this and to support all of this as well.”

According to Zaoud, these processes result from humanity losing its modesty. Someone in this state “is a person whose heart has died. As a result, you will find him doing whatever he pleases and whatever his desire calls him to.” After presenting several quotes from Islamic scriptures and traditions, Zaoud concludes that the Prophet was worried and concerned about “homosexuality spreading among his Ummah [Islamic Nation].”

“The first point is how did homosexuality go from being illegal and a crime punished by law,” asks Zaoud. “How did it go from that to becoming decriminalised, and became legal, and now it’s legally recognised by the majority of the world. How did this happen?”

His answer: “First and foremost, keep in mind this, any evil that goes from evil to something good, there is definitely the hands of the Sheitan [Devil] at work.” The Devil, explains Zaoud, “decorated the sin” of homosexuality by firstly “chang[ing] the name. Homosexuality is called love. Love is love with a rainbow colour, he decorates the deed, decorates the sin and people bit by bit find themselves immersed in these kinds of sins and acts.”

The next stage is to normalise the sin. “It’s continuing. This normalisation process does not stop. Everywhere you go, and in schools, it’s in your face. This is all part of the normalisation process.” Supporters of gay rights are “patient upon their falsehood. They are patient upon the evil. […] every single year there’s a pride March!” laments Zaoud.

“In Islam”, explains Zaoud, homosexuality is referred to as “the immoral shameless vulgar act and deed.” It is “THE immoral deed, meaning all the meanings of immorality are found in homosexuality. All the meanings of vulgarity are found in homosexuality.”

Moreover, in the Koran, continues Zaoud, there is a reference suggesting “a link between this deed and the intellect of a person.” Quoting Islamic traditions, Zaoud describes homosexuals as people “immersed deeply into a drunken state of confusion. They are blinded by their drunkenness, with drunkenness affects what? It affects the intelligence of a person.” It is “the complete absence of the intellect, when the mind is not thinking rationally. And this happens when a person allows his desire to overcome his intellect. A person has a desire and has an intellect, and when the desire overrides and it overcomes the intellect. Now a person is in a state of drunkenness.”

“And this is the case of the homosexuals. The mind is not thinking rationally. They would commit the immoral … based on their Shahowa [lust] and not based on the intellect.” Since male and female private parts are designed for reproduction, “anyone who uses his organ for other than the purpose [for which] it was created, you’re not using your intellect,” concludes Zaoud. When homosexuals are using these and other organs (talks about the anus) not for their biological purposes, “there is confusion. There is misguidance. There is deviance.”

Hating gays

Zaoud reviews the history of recent changes in legal and social norms that led to homosexuality being normalised, being consistently critical of gay rights advocates. For example, describing the 1969 Stonewall Riots by pro-gay activists in the US, Zaoud says that “the one who’s upon falsehood doesn’t have an intellectual argument. If he doesn’t get what he wants, he’s going to get it with violence.”

Protesting what he describes as acceptance and advertisement of homosexuality among Muslims, Zaoud warns that “in Islam, the deed is Haram [forbidden] and supporting the deed is just as bad.”

Homosexuals are dangerous because they are sexually insatiable and know no borders, says Zaoud. “He doesn’t have a limit, a person who commits homosexual sexuality. Just one doesn’t satisfy him. You find two, three, four, or five, perhaps on the same night, this is what Haram does. And you will never be satisfied and you’ll never be fulfilled no matter what a person says.”

Zaoud complains bitterly that respect for single-gender families is taught and promoted at schools, sports events etc. “I’m not a lawyer. I’m not here to advocate your cause and I’m not here to defend for your rights. I don’t support this. I don’t believe in this.”

“As a Muslim, how do we feel about homosexuality? Very simple”, explains Zaoud quoting from Islamic traditions: “I have passion, an extreme hate for your sin” (he does later sanctimoniously say that hating does not justify violence).

Next on Zaoud’s agenda: “the untold dangers of homosexuality […] There are major sexual and psychological health risks that a person needs to be aware of if he was to engage with the action of homosexuality.”

“Did you know that anal penetration is the most riskiest (sic) form of sexual behaviour that a person can conduct? It is the most riskiest [sic] form of sexual practice.” Zaoud lists at this point diseases such as hepatitis, HIV, HPV, STD, anal cancer and even monkeypox that he argues are mostly related to homosexuality.

To warn people of the dangers of homosexuality, Zaoud ‘jokes’, “I believe that on every rainbow flag [the LGBTQI+ flag], there should be a picture up the top… of a person with anal cancer,” and the crowd bursts out laughing. “This is serious”, smiles Zaoud. “This is a warning… there should be a picture just to warn the people as to what will happen, what you are going down in. This is a path of no return. There is no cure. There is no treatment for these matters.”

In addition, cautions Zaoud, there is “the punishment of Allah, the curse of Allah, the punishment that a person exposes himself to in the grave, in the afterlife before Allah… These people distorted the natural disposition of the human being.”

In the conclusion of his speech, Zaoud ridicules divisions and disagreements within the LGBTQI+ community as proof that this group is being weakened. “This won’t last. It will not last so long as we have believers upon the truth.”

ASWJ’s Abu Bakr Zaoud is spreading hatred of the other and fear against members of Australian society. His messages are clearly not acceptable or in line with Australian values of respect for the other and social cohesion, and he needs to be clearly marginalised for his extremism.

Dr. Ran Porat is an AIJAC Research Associate. He is also a Research Associate at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University and a Research Fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Reichman University in Herzliya.

Content warning: extreme homophobic and transphobic intolerance

Facebook image promoting the lecture:

Aleph vs Lamplighter | AJN

[Background: Caulfield Chabad Lamplighter editor Mendy Rimler recycles homophobic drivel in time for Yom Kippur]

Australian Jewish News – October 14 2022 – page 5


Aleph vs Lamplighter

ALEPH Melbourne has hit back at Caulfield Chabad Lamplighter editor Mendy Rimler after he recycled what Aleph convenor Michael Barnett called “homophobic drivel”.

Late last week Aleph Melbourne, a support and advocacy group for Jewish people who identify as same-sex attracted, trans, gender diverse, and intersex (LGBTIQ+), published an article on their website denouncing Rimler and Caulfield Chabad.

The article explained that both Rimler and Caulfield Chabad should “take a more responsible approach to the content they run in their Lamplighter and avoid stigmatising vulnerable minorities”.

“Doing so feeds into the alarming rates of self-harm and suicide for people who are forced to hide or feel bad about same-sex attraction.”

The criticism is due to the use of a 15-year-old piece written by Yossy Goldman that Rimler repurposed for the cover of the September 30, 2022, Yom Kippur edition of Lamplighter.



Caulfield Chabad Lamplighter editor Mendy Rimler recycles homophobic drivel in time for Yom Kippur

Disappointingly, the editor of Melbourne’s Caulfield Chabad “Lamplighter” Mendy Rimler has chosen to plaster the cover of his September 30 2022 Yom Kippur edition with a 15-year-old piece of homophobic claptrap by Rabbi Yossy Goldman.

The most challenging arena of human conduct, the one that really tests the mettle of our morality, is not how we behave in the synagogue but how we behave in our bedrooms. […] In a world of ever-changing, relative morality where gay marriages and Euthanasia have become acceptable, the Torah does indeed seem rather antiquated. […] So we read that adultery was forbidden in Moses’ day and it still is in ours. So is incest. But it wouldn’t shock me at all if the same forces motivating for new sexual freedoms soon began campaigning for incestuous relationships to become legal. And why not? If it’s all about consenting adults, why deny siblings? Given the slippery slope of our moral mountains, nothing is unthinkable any more.

Rabbi Yossy Goldman

Hardly fresh “news”, this opinion piece about sexual immorality runs the tired slippery-slope trope of “if gays can get married people will want to marry their siblings next”. This conveniently overlooks the slippery slope starting with heterosexual marriage, not gay marriage. One could easily argue that if heterosexual people want the right to get married, those in other consenting relationships might want the same legal protections as well. As for marrying one’s sibling, perhaps a wild fantasy of Goldman’s, but I don’t see anyone lobbying for such a reform.

Rimler and Caulfield Chabad should take a more responsible approach to the content they run in their Lamplighter and avoid stigmatising vulnerable minorities. Doing so feeds into the alarming rates of self-harm and suicide for people who are forced to hide or feel bad about same-sex attraction.

Unless Rimler and Caulfield Chabad want to publish material shaming the private sex lives of their heterosexual congregants, dwelling on their various peccadillos and fetishes, it would serve them well to stay clear of material that obsesses on the private sex lives of same-sex attracted people.

Gay and bisexual people are easy targets for the likes of Rimler, Goldman and their Chabad masters. My best advice for them, if they can’t find it within themselves to say anything positive about LGBTIQ+ people, is to say nothing at all. We are human, we have feelings, and we hurt when people abuse us.

Rimler, Goldman and Chabad don’t need a lesson on how it feels to be targets of hate. They ought think twice before publishing intolerant content in the name of their religious values.



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

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
Aleph Melbourne



  1. MR: Aleph Melbourne condemns Nazi defacement of resurfaced Gardiners Creek Trail (July 17 2021)
  2. Response to attack on Cranbourne Golf Club (May 21 2020)
  3. Letters: Tackling vilification | AJN (Mar 20 2021)


The growing support for Australia’s far-right Jewish movement | +61J

At times, finding the ‘centre’ in the AJA’s ‘centre-right’ philosophy can be challenging. In 2019, Adler lambasted “leftist activist doctors” who dared to attribute the bushfires to climate change. In the Marriage Equality postal vote, one of its leaders defended a controversial Bill Leak cartoon that compared queer activists to the SS. The AJA has regularly advocated for the abolition of “gender fluidity education”, which it describes as “child abuse for a Marxist social engineering agenda”.

Liam Getreu, Executive Director of NIF Australia, told me: “Jewish organisations shouldn’t platform prominent political figures who are openly racist, homophobic, misogynistic or who traffic in bizarre conspiracy theories … We won’t want their hateful, toxic views rippling through our community.”

MR: Aleph Melbourne condemns Nazi defacement of resurfaced Gardiners Creek Trail

July 17 2021

Aleph Melbourne condemns the senseless defacement and vandalisation of the freshly resurfaced Gardiners Creek Trail in Ashwood.

The presence of the Nazi swastika along with the accompanying words “KILL GAYS” is a chilling attack on not only Jews and gay people but on all minority groups.

It is unfortunate that a small number of people feel so insecure with themselves that they are drawn to destroy public property and peddle fear.

Sadly further public money will be required to erase this vandalism, which could have been put to better use.

Michael Barnett
Aleph Melbourne


Original and enhanced images of the vandalism are available at this gallery:


UPDATE – July 17, 6pm
City of Monash CEO Dr Andi Diamond advised Aleph Melbourne earlier this afternoon that a team was being dispatched to erase the vandalism

UPDATE – July 18, 11am
City of Monash attended the site of the vandalism yesterday as advised. They have covered up the swastikas with large yellow plates. The defacement is still in place, with the “KILL GAYS” wording still visible:

UPDATE – July 20, 7:30pm
The defacement has since been scrubbed from the concrete:

Star Observer
OUT in Perth

MR: Walt Secord shames gay men in speech about racism and antisemitism

Media Release
July 11 2021

Aleph Melbourne notes that on June 8 in a speech calling out racism and antisemitism, whilst invoking survivors of the Holocaust, NSW MP Walt Secord used a derogatory term used to shame effeminate and gay men.

Calling a response “limp-wristed and totally inadequate” only serves to further shame men for their mannerisms. This is an example of toxic masculinity at its worst, and contributes to the negative mental health outcomes many same-sex attracted men experience.

Perhaps Mr Secord is unaware that gay men, some Jewish, also survived the Holocaust. Being effeminate may have been a reason they came to the attention of the Nazi regime.

Mr Secord has form in relation to making homophobic comments. In 2017 he was reported to have made a similarly unacceptable remark in Parliament.

People who stand up for human dignity must not pick and choose who they stand up for. Standing up for Jews must not come at the expense of gay and bisexual men.

Aleph Melbourne calls on Mr Secord to reflect on his behaviour and issue an apology for his unsatisfactory choice of words.

Michael Barnett
Aleph Melbourne






The Hon. WALT SECORD (17:03): As the acting chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel and the patron of the New South Wales Labor Israel Action Committee, I comment on the inadequate answer given by the education Minister in relation to a shameful anti-Semitic incident involving an employee of the education department. The Minister’s answer was woefully inadequate and did not respond appropriately to the seriousness of the matter. The Minister said that she and her department reject all forms of racism, but she refused to say whether that person is still employed in her department. I am referring to an article entitled “NSW government staffer behind Hitler slur”, which was published in the 4 June edition ofThe Australian Jewish News and was penned by senior journalist Gareth Narunsky.

The incident relates to an employee of the education department posting on Facebook a photograph of Adolf Hitler with the words “It’s such a shame he didn’t finish his job.” Such a posting is reprehensible for anyone, let alone an employee of the education department. To give an illustration of the community concern about this, as at 4.00 p.m. it was the fourth most-viewed news item onThe Australian Jewish News‘ The Times of Israel website. The incident is deeply offensive to the Jewish community, especially survivors of the Shoah, those who fought Nazism and fascism and any sensible member of the community.

I also concur with the Australasian Union Of Jewish Students activist Gabrielle Stricker-Phelps, who called on the education department to take action. Sadly, the response from the education department has been limp‑wristed and totally inadequate. The education department would only say, “Our code of conduct outlines the expected behaviour of staff,” and “We cannot comment on the particulars of any case.” You have got to be kidding. The education department and the Minister should have condemned outright the actions of the departmental employee in unequivocal terms. I have witnessed and seen this Minister for several years and I am absolutely surprised that she would let this go through to the keeper. I thought that she would have taken action on this and condemned it in unequivocal terms. I am deeply disappointed.

To assist honourable members, I seek leave to table a print out of the offensive social media post, which I referred to in my question and supplementary question for written answer.

Leave granted.

Document tabled.

1995 in the AJN: Jewish Lesbians, homosexuality, and those who didn’t cope with either

In 1995 the Melbourne edition of the Australian Jewish News reported on the attendance of the Jewish Lesbian Group at Concert in the Park, and also published an article by an Orthodox rabbi seeking greater acceptance of homosexual Jews.

Article headline, Australian Jewish News (Melbourne edition), March 24 1995

The publication of these two articles helped expose the underbelly of lesbophobia and homophobia in the Jewish community, by way of letters to the Editor, which were competently countered by the Jewish Lesbian Group, the nascent Aleph Melbourne, and other supportive community members.

In a time where publishing content vilifying lesbians and gay men was not yet considered unacceptable by the Australian Jewish News, Tuvya Rosengarten, Robert Weil, Ian Mond, Eva Bugalski, Rabbi Chaim Ingram and Miriam Gallo did not hold back in telling the readership how deeply uncomfortable lesbians and/or homosexuality made them feel.

The following articles from March to July 1995 capture this tumultuous period in the community’s history.

Many thanks to Trove and those benefactors who assisted in reviving these historic editions of the Australian Jewish News.

Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 24 March 1995, page 9

Jewish lesbians ‘encouraged’ by community response to stall

Margaret Safran

THE JEWISH Lesbian Group came out publicly for the first time at a Jewish function last Sunday when they ran a stall at Concert in the Park.

The group’s stall attracted plenty of attention but “no negative response”, according to Julie (“I’d rather not tell you my surname as I don’t want to upset my parents who are very well known in the community”) who was staffing the stall

Numerous passers-by stopped to look at the books about Judaism, women and lesbianism on display. Some passed on without comment; others were curious to find out more about the group.

Julie said the Jewish Lesbian Group formed three years ago when a few Jewish women met at the Lesbian Fair. They decided to put an advertisement in a lesbian newsletter asking if there were other Jewish women interested in forming a group.

The group now has about 30 members of all ages including singles and couples, a few married women and mothers, Julie said. The group placed an advertisement in the Australian Jewish News a few years ago and received a number of very negative phone calls. But Julie said she was “very encouraged” by the positive attention the group had received at Concert in the Park.

“We are a member of a minority group within a minority group. I think people realise what it is to be hated for what you are,” she said.

Nonetheless many of the group members, some of whom worked at Jewish communal organisations or were going for jobs in the community, felt they could not afford publicly at the stall. Even Julie, a forthright woman who publicly wears a chain with both a Star of David and the double-woman lesbian symbol, said her heart “kept on going double-time”.

The group also displayed a sign giving a Caulfield post office box as a contact point for the Jewish Gay Men’s Support Group.

“I don’t know whether it is that we are more political or just more ready to come out publicly than the men.

But you’ve got to start somewhere. It’s very much a case of one step forward, one step back,” Julie said.

Concert in the Park organiser Doodie Ringelblum said there was some discussion on the committee about permitting the lesbian group’s stall.

“But basically the feeling was that as a festival we were trying to represent the entire community. And if a group within the community wanted to run a stall, we should let them,” he said.

Dr Ringelblum said the committee did not discuss which groups were holding stalls with other groups in the community. But he said there had been no unfavourable comments from anyone about any of the groups. Most people were very impressed by how well the diverse groups cooperated with one another and shared resources.

▲ For further information about the Jewish Lesbian Group, contact Sara 489-9669.


Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 31 March 1995, page 22


I WAS under the impression that Concert in the Park was meant to be a family event. On this basis I found the Lesbian stall (AJN24/3) to be totally inappropriate and in poor taste for such an event.

Sure, in this day and age of openess and enlightenment, we need to be tolerant towards the complexities of human behaviour and its many facets. But this does not mean that we have to accept them.

The Lesbian group and other fringe groups have other forums and means available to convey their message and to gain support. Concert in the Park was not one of them.

Tuvya Rosengarten
South Caulfield


Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 7 April 1995, page 24

Lesbians are family, too

I WRITE in response to Tuvya Rosengarten’s letter (AJN 31/3). Tuvya states that Concert in the Park is a family event, where Jewish lesbians have no place. Perhaps he does not understand that lesbians are part of family. We are daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers and even bubbes.

My partner and I (both nice Jewish lesbians) attended the Concert with my mother, father, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew, all of whom would have been most offended at the suggestion that I should not have been there. Had Tuvya approached the stall at the Concert, he may even have met two members of our group, a mother and her adult daughter, both of whom are lesbians.

Tuvya states in his letter that lesbians do not have to be accepted by the community. The reality is, that lesbians are extremely active in all areas of Jewish communal life. Indeed, we work in every Jewish organisation in Melbourne, making an invaluable contribution to the community. We are vital members of this community, not some “fringe group”.

It would be a great loss to the Jewish community if all lesbians were to withdraw our creative input and energy until we are accepted. Lesbians’ contributions to the community are often invisible, or unrecognised, for it is rare that we are able to “come out” in public. As one of the founding members of the Jewish Lesbian Group, (from which I shep naches), it was painful to have to decide not to staff the Jewish Lesbian stall at the Concert, because of the prominent position I hold in the Jewish community.

I find having to hide my lesbianism in the Jewish community as painful as if I were forced to hide my Jewishness in the non-Jewish community. I should be able to express my identity with pride.

Tuvya states that we have other forums to convey our message. I understood “In One Voice” to be a celebration of the diversity of Jewish life in Melbourne. Jewish lesbians are a vital part of that rich fabric. As such, our presence at the Concert was extremely appropriate. But if Tuvya wishes to suggest additional venues for our group, I would be most happy to hear them.

Hidden but Hopeful, Caulfield
(name supplied but witheld on request)


Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 7 April 1995, page 50


YES, A lesbian group was at Concert in the Park. So were Chabad, the Zionist Youth Council, the Elsternwick Jewish community, the Jewish Secular Humanist Society, the Liron Choir and the Skif Grunge Orchestra. No individual feels at home with all these groups.

But you don’t have to agree with your family to love them as family. Community means enjoying our diversity and celebrating in One Voice.

Deborah Stone


TUVYA Rosengarten (AJN 31/3) writes that the Jewish lesbian stall at Concert in the Park was “totally inappropriate” as it was “meant to be a family event”.

Perhaps it would surprise Tuvya and others to find that our group comprises mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins, etc of people at the Concert. Jewish lesbians are part of families in the community and therefore have a right to be openly represented at communal events.

Tuvya preaches tolerance, but not acceptance. As a Jew in Australia he would surely wish to be accepted, not just tolerated. Why should lesbians (or gay men) expect any less?

Melbourne Jewish
Lesbian Group


Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 14 April 1995, page 20


I BELIEVE I speak for the silent majority when I say that the various letters (AJN 7/4) regarding the Melbourne Jewish Lesbians Group make sickening reading.

It would seem that the Jewish News is no longer immune from the hijacking and manipulation of the media that has become a typical tactic of the gay lobby, in order to try and legitimise their so-called lifestyle.

From a Jewish perspective, there is no grey area as far as homosexuality is concerned, being clearly declared by the Torah to be “an abomination”.

That is not to say that it does not exist, or that those who are unwilling or unable to suppress their tendencies are to be condemned or excommunicated. But it is absurd in the extreme for these women to use such emotive catchphrases as “we are daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers, even bubbas” or to threaten to “withdraw our creative input until we are accepted” as some sort of emotional blackmail.

As far as Concert in the Park is concerned, the presence of this group at a Jewish family event would be on a par with a stall manned by the “Jewish Pork Appreciation Group” handing out free, ready-to-eat samples. I cannot imagine the community tolerating such a situation, no matter how loudly it might be argued that their members “are part of families in the community and therefore have a right to be openly represented at community events”.

To those who are lesbians, by all means unite to find safety in numbers if this is the life you choose to lead. But please refrain from peddling your wares in front of our children.

Robert Weil
East St Kilda


Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 21 April 1995, page 33


THE OPINIONS of the “Holier than Thou” people who have graced your Letters to the Editor pages in the last few weeks have incensed me. To an outsider, our Jewish community in Melbourne appears a cohesive and dynamic group, whose members care about each other and about the state of Israel. This may be true until one becomes intimately involved with the religious politics within this diverse community.

Is it acceptable for a “religious” person to be dishonest in business? Is it acceptable for a person who is “Jewish” (but not the acceptable sect of Jewishness) to be refused an aliyah at another shul? Is it acceptable for our children to be exposed to an affluent and flaunting lifestyle where there is no consideration for others? Is it appropriate for people to judge others and to gossip about them incessantly? Is it correct to treat our fellow man with disrespect? And yet, it seems that it is not acceptable for some Jews to express their sexuality in a way that they feel is appropriate; by setting up a stall at a community function for all Jews.

Do we, who resent the opinions of the “Holier than Thou” people, know or care what happens in their bedrooms and judge them for their obsessive behaviour about the Eruv or other controversial issues? Is it because it’s “socially acceptable” to be dishonest in business, to gossip and to treat people with disrespect that we all sit idle and let our children learn these distressing habits; and yet something such as homosexuality which somehow threatens the innards of most people causes their homophobia to take over.

Helen Shapira
Caulfield North

AS A “straight” couple who married under a chuppah, we are deeply offended by the homophobic, selfrighteous, vitriolic diatribe by Robert Weil and the nonsense from Tuvya Rosengarten against lesbians in our community. Who do you people think you are to preach who is or is not acceptable in our community? Get real. Families come in all shapes and sizes and Jewish families are no different. The Concert in the Park was advertised as a community day and we thought the lesbian group were to be commended for playing their part.

Bob Kochen and Leeora Black

SINCE it is the z’man (season) for asking questions, I would like to ask a few on the issue of intolerance.

Why do letters that start with phrases such as “I believe I speak for the silent majority . . .” (R. Weil AJN 14/4) often express views intolerant of something?

Why are newspapers that print letters with views contrary to our own accused ofbeing “hijacked” and “manipulated”.

How is it possible “to be tolerant towards the complexities of human behaviour …” (T. Rosengarten AJN 31/3) and in the same breath say “this does not mean that we have to accept (lesbians)?”

Why should a concert held to express the rich diversity of Jewish life exclude part of it simply because some people oppose some aspect of that diversity? And why is it justified by suggesting children are at risk: “Please refrain from peddling your wares in front of our children?”

Why do people cite religious law as a means of justifying their own prejudice?

In my humble opinion, and speaking only for myself, I understand tolerance to be about accepting (without embracing) other people with different lifestyles whether I agree or disagree with them, and having the right to criticise their views, but not the right to impose my views.

I am sure that if you poke me hard enough you will find a limit to my tolerance, but a lesbian stall at the Concert in the Park falls well within that limit.

Harold Zwier

A blessing over differences

Orthodox Rabbi Tzvi Marx argues that we need a new look at Jewish texts that appear to exclude homosexuals

DEBATE over the religious significance of unconventional sexual identity has raged in Israel since last fall’s Supreme Court ruling that El Al must give free flights to an employee’s homosexual partner, as it would to any employee’s common-law spouse. As usual, attacks on accepting homosexuals have been based on the Biblical proscriptions against a man “lying with a man as with a woman”, deeming this “an abomination” and “punishable by death” (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13).

Indeed, such arguments have long been used. Rabbi Moshe Tendler, for instance, once cited Leviticus on these pages, and urged us to “express shame and indignation” in response to homosexuality.

No matter how categorical scripture seems to be, though, one never assumes that a subject is closed. The classic example is the “stubborn and rebellious son” of Deuteronomy 21, to be stoned at the initiative of his parents. The Talmud, in Tractate Sanhedrin, creates such unlikely rules for convicting such a child that it concludes that a real one “never was and never will be”.

In a matter closer to the question of sexual “deviation”, the Bible excludes eunuchs from “entering the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:2) — that is, from marrying. Tractate Sotah, however,

explains that the prohibition applies only to one made a eunuch by human action, but not to a congenital eunuch — apparently distinguishing between culturally chosen and physically determined deviation.

There’s also a subtext of divergent rabbinic views on unconventional sexual identity in Tractate Bekhorot. There the sages discuss the Torah’s requirement (Exodus 34:19) that first-born animals be consecrated unless they are physically blemished. An animal with both male and female genitals is seen by Rabbi Ishmael as having a “blemish of which none is greater”. But others, as Rashi comments, consider it neither male nor female, but a creature in its own right!” In the latter view, a biological deviation is to be appreciated, not deprecated.

Defining sexual identity is made an issue in the opening verses of Tazria: “When a woman at childbirth bears a male, she shall be ritually impure seven days … and if she bears a female, she shall be impure two weeks” (Leviticus 12:2, 5). But

Can the Jewish community be categorical in excluding those whose differences put them outside standard sexual identity?

what of a child that is both male and female, or neither (androginus and tumtum respectively in Talmudic terminology)? Rather than exclude them from the law and the community because of their unusual sexual identity, the sages in Tractate Nidah set requirements for them between those for a male and those for a female — and so recognise such sexual identity as a category in itself.

This invites the further question, not pursued by the early sages, of how to regard a child who is conventionally male or female in some ways but not others — that is, a homosexual. While this characteristic is obviously not discernible in infancy, the longterm question is about legitimacy.

Can the Jewish community be categorical in excluding those whose differences put them outside standard sexual identity? What if those differences are a product of genes, not choice? A direction toward an answer, I suggest, can be derived from Tractate Brakhot, which teaches that one who sees a physically unusual person should recite:

“Blessed are You, Lord, who makes creatures differently”. In the 13th century, the Meiri — Rabbi Menahem Meir of Perpignan — explains the blessing as a response to “experiencing of new things, without necessarily enjoying or being troubled by them”. What it expresses is blessed wonderment at the different forms of divively created life.

This isn’t necessarily approval. It does imply acceptance, and a willingness to include in our society those destined to be different, it is consonant with the fundamental Jewish teaching that each individual is entitled to say “for me was the world created”, as stated in Tractate Sanhedrin.

Appreciating God’s creation means appreciating variations along a continuum not really divided. Reciting a benediction over human variety translates into creating a society in which differences are respected rather than attacked. The sacred texts, Biblical or rabbinic, which appear to block such inclusion invite creative reinterpretation under the impact of new insights.

▲ Tzvi Marx is an Orthodox rabbi, director of applied education at the Shalom Hartman Institute and author of Halakha and Handicap: Jewish Law and Ethics on Disability.” This comment first appeared in a recent issue of The Jerusalem Report.


Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 28 April 1995, page 18


I WOULD like to support the sentiments of Robert Weil (AJN 7/4) on the Jewish lesbians.

I know of no Jew, religious or secular, who believes that lesbianism can in any way be equated with Judaism or a Jewish lifestyle. Would those vitriolic letter writers in last week’s AJN who preached tolerance towards the lesbians want their own children to join this alternate lifestyle? If the answer is yes, then they are to be pitied and condemned.

If the answer is no, then they agree, rather than disagree, with Mr Weil, whose letter espoused tolerance towards the lesbians, provided they choose to lead their lifestyle in private, rather than “pedal their wares in front of our children” at a family concert.

The Concert in the Park was promoted as a Jewish family event. The indisputable fact is, that as long as Jewish lesbians continue to practise their lifestyle, they will never contribute to the continuity of the Jewish family. Therefore, their presence at such a family event is an affront to all who have striven, and continue to strive, for the continuity of the Jewish people.

Ian Mond
Caulfield North

THE COMPARISON Deborah Stone makes (AJN 7/4), which others have echoed, between the Lesbian group at Concert in the Park and Chabad, the ZYC, the Jewish Secular Humanist Society, Skif and the Liron Choir, is a very odd one indeed.

The variety of cultural, religious and ideological groups in the community provide avenues through which different members relate to their common Jewishness. How one can relate to Jewishness through being a lesbian, or for that matter through any expression of one’s sexual preferences and tastes, is unclear to me.

Mind you, we could change “In One Voice” to accommodate a range of sexual preference groups. Alongside the Jewish Lesbian stall there could be the Jewish Trans-sexual stall, or the Jewish Wife Swapping Club, or the Jewish Masochists, or the Jewish Women who Prefer Toy Boys.

Presumably, at the risk of allowing the concert to become “In One Vice”, we would all draw the line somewhere with such groups, no matter how hard their members worked for the community, how prominent or creative they were, or whether they were mothers, daughters, aunties or bubbehs.

The point, therefore, is not whether one is tolerant towards lesbians or homosexuals, but how is sexual preference relevant to an expression of one’s Jewishness at a communal concert? It isn’t. And it shouldn’t be.

Eva Bugalski
East Brighton

SINCE when does sending a letter to the AJN constitute a “hijacking and manipulation of the media?” (Robert Weil, AJN 21/4). He has conveniently forgotten that our letters were in response to an attack on us in a letter in defence of our right to exist, a “typical tactic of the gay lobby”. A life lived with love and caring in whatever manner is a legitimate life style not a “so called life style.”

When heterosexuals are willing and able to “suppress their tendencies” we may also consider suppressing our annate, God given tendencies. Or does he think that we were created by another God?

He accuses us of using “emotive catch phrases” when we merely stated the obvious fact that we are daughters, sisters, aunts etc. And as for “withdrawing our creative input” being “emotional blackmail” he has maliciously distorted the context in which this was written. What about his comparison of the lesbian stall with a pork stall — doesn’t that make “sickening reading”?

Does he honestly believe that a book stall would turn children gay? We believe he speaks for the silent minority, the majority having realised — in view of evidence to the contrary — that the earth is not flat!

Victorian Jewish Lesbian Group


Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 5 May 1995, page 22


WHO IS Rabbi Tzvi Marx (AJN 21/4 trying to fool — other than himself?

He knows that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, condemning sodomy as a capital offence, mean exactly what they say and have never been interpreted in any other way by Halachic Judaism.

He knows, or surely must, that references to persons of “unconventional sexual identity” (androgynus and tumtum respectively) demonstrate Halachic recognition of inbuilt physiological sexual abnormality only — nothing more and nothing less.

He knows, or surely must, that there is no real scientific proof whatsoever of a genetic predisposition to homosexuality on the part of some individuals.

And he must surely know, and should acknowledge, that Judaism has never excluded “homosexuals”, nor ever suggested that “homosexuals” are not entitled to say “for me was the world created”. It has excluded, and continues to exclude “homosexuality” which represents the very antithesis of the reason that the world was created.

Rabbi Chaim Ingram
The Central Synagogue, Sydney

ANTISEMITISM and homophobia are both outlandish bigoted concepts that result from ignorance, and that produce misinformation and cruel stereotyping.

In his letter (A//V 14/4), Robert Well writes of the “hijacking and manipulation of the media … by the gay lobby.” This extreme type of rhetoric is as absurd to me, as a homosexual, as would a statement about “the Zionist, Jewish plot to dominate the world”, be to me as a Jew.

As Jews, we have broken down many layers of antisemitism, by coming out of the ghetto, mixing with the non-Jewish world and demonstrating that we are very very much a contributing part of humankind, and not some evil dark force to be feared.

Despite all of this progress, some people (Tuvya Rosengarten 31/3) would seek to deny this same opportunity to gay Jews. For the same reason that Jewish representation would belong at a summit of world religions, a Jewish lesbian or gay group belongs at a Jewish community event. We are part of the community and we have the right to demonstrate this. We are not deviants and have no “message to convey”, other than we are really and truly a part of the Jewish world and proud of it.

The irony of it all is that we are probably one of the most diverse and representative groups within the Jewish community as can be seen from Aleph Melbourne, a support group for gay Jewish men.

This is not a group founded to promote some so called “alternative lifestyle”. We are a complex and diverse group of individuals all leading very different lives — working, socialising, interacting with our families and so on — all the things that our straight counterparts do.

In age we range from 17 to 58. In suburb, from Caulfield to Brunswick. In profession, from student to doctor to businessman. Some are religious, and others more lapsed. Many are in long term monogamous partnerships similar to those of our parents, while others are on the dating scene. And the one thing that we all have in common, in addition to being gay, is that we are all Jews — and proud ones at that.

Aleph Melbourne


HAVING followed the debate in your pages on whether or is OK or not to be lesbian, I noted that the question of whether it was OK or not to be homophobic was not directly discussed.

I believe that homophobia can be likened to agarophobia, claustrophobia or any other phobia from which people suffer. Thus, if for example, one is phobic about entering lifts, one does not blame the lift (usually) for one’s distress. One normally seeks help for the phobia. It can be the same for people suffering from homophobia.

Some of those who have entered the debate suggest that we, lesbians, should be accepted or at least tolerated by the Jewish community. I want more. I want to be judged as an individual on my individual merits.

I am proud to be Jewish in spite of antisemitism and I am proud to be a lesbian in spite of homophobia. I am also a psychologist and have seen the despair and hopelessness brought to families by this social disease.

But as a community we can fight homophobia just as we can fight antisemitism. The best and most successful way to fight homophobia is to stand together as a community, to encourage our gay Jewish members to come out of the closet and to make it safe for them to do so. We can save whole families — heterosexual, lesbian, gay — from fear, shame and guilty by saying, “Homophobia is NOT OK”.

Vera Ray


Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 12 May 1995, page 20

Lesbian families

IAN MOND (AJN 28/4) needs first and foremost to understand that being gay is generally a given not a choice. Why would we (or anyone) choose to belong to such a vilified, marginalised group — especially when we often already experience these prejudices by being Jewish?

He also needs to be made aware that there are well over 20 children of mothers in the Jewish Lesbian Group. As all but one of the mainly adult children are heterosexual (so much for our influence on children) we have contributed to the “continuity of the Jewish family”.

By rejecting our inclusion in the Jewish family he has also rejected our children and their current and future property.

He implies that the unmarried, asexual women who — for physical or psychological reasons — cannot conceive or bear children, infertile men, and those choosing not to have children should also be excluded as they do not “contribute to the continuity of the Jewish people”.

What a tragic loss!

Sue Pamplin
East Ringwood


Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 19 May 1995, page 22


I AM writing with concern for our soqiety at large and in particular for those Jewish men and women who have accepted the values of the broader community.

The words “rights”, “democracy”, “compassion”, “freedom of choice” all strike a chord of “yes” within us. They have a soothing, almost hypnotic ring to them.

The issue of homosexuality is Already a fait accompli. But let us examine what has been achieved. A minority group with an abnormal sexual preference has grown into a much larger group due to the validation of its stance by society.

One outcome of the wide acceptance of homosexuality has been not only the increase in the incidence of AIDS amongst homosexuals, but its spread throughout society. Hospitals, doctors and dentists have changed their practices to deal with the AIDS threat, as I discovered recently when I was in hospital having a baby. Rigorous checking of identification of mothers and babies and other preventive nursing measures highlighted the dangers.

One of the bases of public policy is that the only reason to limit someone’s freedom of choice is if it will harm another. (J S Mill in On Liberty). This argument was used in the debate on homosexuality. The result has been that society has accepted that consenting adults should have the freedom to choose their partners and sexual preference.

But as we now know, it is not only the consenting partners who are at risk, but the whole society. Surely we should re-examine the rationale allowing infectious disease of any nature to proliferate to such an extent.

We should indeed be compassionate towards homosexuals. But we need to extend education and healing. Perhaps those who have chosen the homosexual lifestyle should reconsider whether the benefits of it are so great and worth the risks. Whatever facilities necessary should be provided to assist them to return to the mainstream with dignity so that they may, in the Jewish tradition, choose life and not its opposite.

Miriam Gallo
East St Kilda

HAVING BEEN on the outskirts of the debate on gays and lesbians in the AJN, I now feel pressed to use my voice.

The concept of “In One Voice” speaks to me of a community united, not divided. Apparently I am wrong. Certain opinions seem to say that it is only for certain Jews.

Unless 12 years of Jewish education have failed me, I seem to recall that part of being a good Jew is being a good person, and that as well as our duties to God, we also have duties to our fellow humans.

Tolerance does not Gome with a “get back in the closet” attitude. We cannot teach people that as Jews they have a voice and must use it to counter prejudice, but as homosexual Jews, they must be silent.

To hide the existence of homosexuality from our children will prevent them from learning their duty to accept other people, and especially other Jews. To assume a person will become gay merely because they are exposed to it is to ridicule the complexity of emotions involved in one’s sexuality.

Lesbianism may have as little to do with expressing one’s Jewish identity as displaying artwork done by various community members.

The point is not how they are Jewish but that they are Jewish.

Sharon Offenberger
Lower Templestowe

EVA BUGALSKI (AJN 28/4) asks how sexual preference relates to one’s Jewishness. As an outsider (I am not a Jew but I am a lesbian) who attended Concert in the Park, it is clear to me that any minority group has to be proud and visible to be recognised and acknowledged. With such a high attendance the concert was an excellent way to show that lesbians are part of the community.

The assumption is that people are heterosexual. If it were the other way around would Ms Bugalski not want to clarify her identity? If she were assumed to be a Christian, would she not want to have her real identity known?

The Jewish women at the stall identify as lesbians. It is their human right to do so in whichever public arena they wish. It is denigrating to list types of behaviour such as wife-swapping and masochism as akin to lesbianism.

AJN readers are surely aware that gays as well as Jews were put to death by Nazi Germany. All minorities need to unite to fight oppression.

Vickie McKenzie

THE SPATE of letters in your paper over the tiny and almost invisible Jewish Lesbians’ presence at the recent Concert in the Park demonstrates how profound are the divisions in this Jewish community on basic cultural and social rights for a minority within its own midst.

The fear of people who are different shows that the issue of sexuality is one over which it is all too easy to resort to prejudice and exaggeration.

The Society for Humanistic Judaism (USA) in its Guide to Humanistic Judaism (1993) states that ‘sexual behaviour is a private matter and that all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, possess the right and deserve the freedom to live their own lives, provided they do not harm any other person or the welfare of the community. Gays and lesbians have the right to the dignity accorded to all human beings.’

I hope that those in the community who identify with other Jewish traditions are prepared openly to support such a statement in order to oppose the religious and cultural bigotry being promoted in recent correspondence.

Larry Stillman
St Kilda

This correspondence is now closed. The Editor.


IN THE letter from Sue Pamplin last week (AJN 12/5) the reference to “their current and future property “should have read “their current and future progeny.” We regret the error.


Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1935 – 1999), Friday 7 July 1995, page 28

Being lesbian & Jewish

Margaret Safran

MELBOURNE’S Jewish lesbian group, which came out publicly for the first time at a Jewish function at this year’s Concert in the Park, is determined to keep alive the discussion of Jews and sexuality.

“We are here, there are lots of us, we are politically motivated and active and have a lot to do with the Jewish community and do a lot of work for the Jewish community,” one of the group’s members, Julie, says. “Let’s keep thinking about it because we are not going away and your aunty or niece might be one.”

Another member, Sara, adds: “Or your grandmother. That seems to terrify people the most.”

The Jewish lesbian group, which formed about three years ago, has approximately 40 members in Melbourne aged in their 20s to 60s. The women come from a wide range of backgrounds and professions including teaching, social work, journalism and the police force, with many taking a very active role in the wider Jewish and/or lesbian communities. Despite the greater acceptance of homosexuality in today’s society, the vast majority do not wish to be identified, fearing for their families and/or jobs.

At least one member of the group is convinced she would be sacked if her work colleagues knew she was a lesbian (“although that wouldn’t be the reason given,” she adds). Others, especially those in the public service, are less worried for their jobs, but do not want to draw attention to their families or partners who may not have “come out”.

Nonetheless, the group managed to find half a dozen women willing to staff its stall at Concert in the Park. Sara says the group would also love to publicly debate That Jewish lesbians are kosher’ with an Orthodox rabbi and/or some of the authors of letters published in the Australian Jewish News critical of their group. She says while some of the letters were quite hurtful, even the nasty ones led to other people thinking about the issue.

One of their members, counsellor psychologist Vera Ray, will speak to the National Council of Jewish Women’s Status of Women group on July 17 (see separate story, box).

The Jewish lesbian group meets monthly with every second meeting open to non-Jewish partners and friends. Julie says the group is like any other Jewish group — “we turn up late, eat and gossip” — but also provides a “safe place” for a “minority within a minority”.

Miriam, who lives in “the other ghetto” (Brunswick), says there is antisemitism in some parts of the lesbian community. The women agree that coming out as a Jew in the lesbian community is often as big an issue as coming out as a lesbian in the Jewish community.

Miriam says coming to the Jewish lesbian group is very relaxing because she does not have to worry about who sees her or what they think.

The group sometimes goes out socially, but there is often an “internalised homophobia” and fear about being seen together, according to Sara.

Sara, who was born in Israel and migrated to Australia in the 1960s, says she had very little to do with the Jewish community before the group started. Active in the lesbian community, she helped form the Jewish group three years ago for a multicultural lesbian festival.

“It’s my way of being Jewish,” she says.

Another member, Eva, who had great difficulty admitting to herself that she was a lesbian, only joined the group because it was Jewish.

“A friend wanted me to ring Lesbian Line but I didn’t want to. I’m very Jewish so I had to find a Jewish group,” she says.

“When I really think about it, I should have known (I was a lesbian) when I was 12 or 13, but people tell you this can’t be, so you go off and get married and do the right thing.”

Many of the group members have been (or cure) married and have children. But even one gay woman and man who underwent a marriage of convenience for their families found the pretence too difficult to keep up.

“Younger lesbians find it much easier,” says Sara, who is in her 40s. “We always felt isolated and that we were the only ones.”

Leah, who is in her 60s, adds: “I grew up in an era,where there were no Jewish lesbians that I knew of, but I knew they must be lurking somewhere as I was.”

Most women have “come out” to a greater or lesser extent to their families. Some,1 such as Sara who has taken lovers to meet her family in Israel, have had very positive experiences. But other members’ parents and/or relatives have been more distressed, often because they believe they won’t have grandchildren which is a big issue in the Jewish community, according to Julie.

“But even when I was going out with blokes I knew I wasn’t going to have children with them,” she adds.

According to Leah: “The first meeting I attended my initial question and I think everyone’s initial question is ‘What did your mother say?’”

One member who came from a very traditional home once asked her mother if she preferred if she came home with a Jewish woman or a non-Jewish man. The mother instantly responded: ‘a Jewish woman’.

Others, such as Miriam, have not discussed their sexuality with their relatives or other friends in the Jewish community.

“My family would suspect, but its not something I really discuss because I don’t think it is relevant. My children don’t know, they just know I’m not a normal mother and I’m pretty outrageous anyway,” she says.

Many of the women went to see Saltpillar Theatre’s musical Falsettos, which is based around a Jewish man who leaves his wife for another man.

“The timing (of the show) was unbelievable. It touched on so many points,” Julie says.

At the theatre, they met up with the Jewish gay men’s group for the first time. But the men are even more tentative in coming out in the Jewish community than the Jewish lesbian group.

The Melbourne women are now looking forward to a national conference next year in Adelaide, where there is a very small but active group, they say.

As for their group: “We don’t teach people how to do it. We are not a sexual depravity group,” Julie says.

Leah adds: “We don’t proselytise — either as Jews or lesbians.”

Miriam concludes: “Why should we be treated any differently? We’re Jews and that’s all that matters. We all have lives, jobs and families. Sexuality should not set us aside from the community.”

The Melbourne Jewish Lesbian group can be contacted on 9849-9669.

Facing up to the pain

COUNSELLOR, psychologist, Holocaust survivor and Jewish lesbian Vera Ray, 62; believes homophobia and antisemitism spring from the same source.

“Homophobia is based on this idea of the perfect person which is too close to the Nazi superman notion. We have this idea of what is the perfect human being is, and it’s ridiculous, it’s narrow, its confining, it brings a lot of unhappiness to people and it serves no purpose,” she says.

According to Ms Ray, homosexuals who marry and try to suppress their desires are like European Jews who converted to Christianity during periods of virulent antisemitism.

“After the war a lot of the Christian Jews went back to being Jewish. As soon as the situation becomes relatively safe, we go back to where we are,” she says.

“How can Jews not have compassion for those who do not fit within the model? As a psychologist I see young people who have been rejected by their parents, and parents who are tearing their hair out because their son or daughter is gay or lesbian. I don’t think we can afford to oppress each other, particularly our children, with this kind of nonsense.”

Ms Ray says it is as if the community had its own “thought police”.

“Fear is the enemy. Parents are afraid of telling their friends they have a gay child. The child is afraid of telling their parents. Why are we so ashamed? Why are we so hung up on sex?” she asks.

Ms Ray believes the only reason Jewish lesbians may be slightly more tolerated than Jewish gay men in the community is that they are not valued as highly.

“If you are going to have such a low opinion of women that they don’t even get an honourable mention then it doesn’t really matter what they do. We are not only homophobic, but sexist.”

Ms Ray says “half the battle would be won” if parents stopped worrying about having grandchildren.

“My daughter is a lesbian and she has a child. There are many good men out there who are happy to be donors. Your biological plumbing doesn’t fall out just because you sexually and emotionally prefer the same sex,” she says.

Ms Ray says she has very little to lose by coming out as a lesbian in the Jewish community.

“On the contrary, I’m hoping parents of gay and lesbian children and hidden gays and lesbians in the community will come and talk to me. I’m in the business of educating people and dealing with injustice,” she says.

“About 80 per cent of my clients are gay. I also like to see parents of gays because they see a really truly live lesbian professional person hasn’t grown a second head and is fairly lucid. I am sometimes able to help facilitate families getting together again who have been torn apart by homophobia.

“Parents sometimes mistakenly think they will hold the family together if they pressure the child, but it does the exact opposite. Children lose parents, but the parents also lose their children. Nobody wins.”

Ms Ray would like to see parents and friends of Jewish lesbians and gays form their own group (there are already a number of similar non-Jewish organisations).

“There must be so many parents who would benefit by knowing they are not alone. They could get some support from one another,” she says.

Ms Ray, who came out in her 40s and left her husband of 22 years for another woman, had terrible difficulty telling her mother she was a lesbian.

“I was 42 when I came out to my mother. We struggled for two years. Sometimes I thought ‘It wasn’t worth it, I shouldn’t have told her, I’m just causing her pain and she’s causing me pain’. Then I thought, ‘I’m not causing her pain, homophobia is causing her pain’.

“My mother was so proud of me all my life. I told her I was a lesbian and all of a sudden she was ashamed of me.”

But Ms Ray believes the struggle was worthwhile as her mother eventually reconciled herself to the idea and even, when she was nearly 80, joined a gay march.

“I never push anyone to come out to their parents. They’ll do it when they’re ready,” she says.

Ms Ray has also been able to retain a good relationship with her husband, although at the time of the break-up there was a lot of distress on both sides.

“There was no information and no-one to talk to. I thought the world had come to an end,” she says.

Vera Ray

Today she wishes there were more people like her willing and able to talk about homosexuality in the Jewish community. On Monday July 17 she will be speaking to the National Council of Jewish Women’s Status of Women group at Shakahari Restaurant (for more information phone 9523-0535).

“I have seen so much injustice as both a child and an adult. But I am not a murderer. I am not a criminal. I’m a law-abiding citizen. I love my children, I love my dog. What more do they want?”

Vera Ray can be contacted on 9499-6901.