An open response to Isi Leibler

This article originally appeared on The Slowly Boiled Frog.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

An open response to Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler is a frequent contributor to the Jerusalem Post. Sunday he writes: “Candidly speaking: Recent sexual controversies and upheavals.”

It causes me great discomfort when a fellow Jew expresses anti-gay rhetoric. Most of us have learned a thing or two from 6,000 years of oppression. Mr. Leibler has not. Leibler begins by telling us just how wonderful he is. After explaining that he is an octogenarian:

I am no prude and when, 50 years ago, it was fashionable to demonize homosexuals I never joined the pack. I always maintained that consensual sexual relations were a private matter, I never discriminated against gays or lesbians, and I unhesitatingly employed quite a few. And despite the strict halachic prohibitions, I maintain that if gay people wish to be observant, they should not be ostracized from communal religious participation.

This is what follows next:

At the same time, I oppose gays flaunting their sexuality (for example by participating in pride parades) or promoting their lifestyle as progressive while implicitly denigrating the traditional concept of a nuclear family. They should be free to live their lives as they deem fit and enjoy all civil rights extended to heterosexual couples. But I am not ready to concede that gay couples should be glorified, as they sometimes are on TV, for supposedly partaking in a superior alternative lifestyle. I feel that this encourages young people to experiment unnecessarily with their own sexuality.

I scarcely know where to begin but I will start with the absolute certainty that a sexual orientation is not a lifestyle. Suggesting otherwise is an appeal to stereotype. It is an expression of bigotry. I am a retired CEO. My late partner was an executive with American Media. Our “lifestyle” had nothing to do with our sexual orientation. Rather, it reflected our business interests and most of our friends were straight (or at least they claimed to be).

I have no idea whatsoever what Mr. Leibler thinks is denigrating the nuclear family at the hands of dastardly gay people. He is not specific. However, what is obviously the most offensive and intellectually dishonest part of this is the notion that sexual orientation can be influenced by others or through experimentation.

It would help if Mr. Leibler knew the scientific fact that sexual orientation is a continuum with homosexual and heterosexual at the extreme ends. Nothing is going to change one’s positioning along the scale with the exception of a small amount of natural fluidity. People do not “experiment” with their sexual orientation and even if they did, they would still end up in the same place. Those around the middle might cross the 50-yard-line but not to experiment. They are satisfying a temporal attraction. Ultimately that is why all of those pray-away-the-gay enterprises have been such dismal failures. No one ever really changes.

Furthermore, Mr. Leibler does not define what he means by “glorified.” I don’t know what television he watches but in this country we see (all too few) gay couples. At best they are truthfully portrayed as the intellectual and moral equals of heterosexual couples. Again, being gay is not an alternative lifestyle. Then Mr. Leibler goes on a tear about same-sex marriage:

This brings me to the same-sex marriage issue, which has created such a global upheaval. The continuity of mankind depends on male-female intercourse. Marriage implies a heterosexual union and to religious people it is a sacred institution.

While I fully support the legal system providing gay couples with rights identical to those of a heterosexual union, surely appropriate commitment ceremonies can be devised that do not imply bracketing such unions in the same category as traditional marriages.

Jewish non-Orthodox bodies like the Conservative and Reform movements should at most be neutral on this issue, but unfortunately, they are at the forefront of calling for gay unions to be defined as traditional marriages.

Let’s get the intercourse out of the way immediately. I am not sure but perhaps Mr. Leibler believes that when gays marry, that deprives society of an otherwise heterosexual spouse (as well as his or her sexual activities to crank out children). If that is the case then Leibler is beyond the point of redemption. Moreover, marriage might be sacred to religious people which is why those same people marry in their synagogue. To others it is a civil construct.

I am not familiar with Israeli law but in this country marriage is a legal construct that may, or may not be, a religious ritual. In this country we have also experimented with the concept of separate but equal which is what Leibler is essentially advocating. Great legal minds came to the conclusion that separate but equal is inherently unequal. There is no practical reason for gay couples to have a different outcome to being wed. Calling it marriage is not only the correct term but it has no effect whatsoever on so-called traditional marriage. If Mr. Leibler truly supports equal rights for gay couples as he claims then he should vigorously support marriage equality.

Perhaps the answer is right in front of Mr. Leibler. He has the the ability to discuss these matters with conservative and reform rabbis who can explain their reasons for supporting marriage equality.

The gay marriage debate has descended into bullying and vilifying anyone who dares to defend traditional beliefs. But objecting to gay marriage is neither discriminatory nor homophobic. The slandering of all who oppose gay marriage has descended into a poisonous hate fest.

Really? It seems to me that we must entertain bullshit about lifestyles and the pernicious ability of gay people to turn straight youth gay. Then, on top of that, another layer of manure is spread in the form of the preposterous notion that same-sex marriage has some mystical effect on so-called traditional marriage — all engineered to make gay people unequal.

Does Mr. Leibler have so much as a clue about the bigotry inherent in demeaning gay people for “flaunting their life style?” We are deeply offended and rightfully so. If Leibler wants less hate then he can ratchet down his homophobia and the reaction will recede accordingly. If he wants less poison in the environment then he should turn off his spigot. And then he can cease feigning victimization as a tactic to gain traction.

The blatant bigotry continues:

The just campaign to ensure equal social and civic rights for gays has succeeded beyond all expectations. But it was never intended to promote a gay lifestyle at the expense of heterosexuality and the nuclear family. I do not endorse the belief that sexuality is fluid. Nor would I condone the silencing of traditional and religious values, which consider marriage between man and wife to be uniquely sacred.

“… at the expense of heterosexuality and the nuclear family” and he ponders why that is considered bigoted hate speech. And let’s not imply that marriage equality has an effect on the religious practices of anyone. That is just dishonest nonsense.

You can continue to read Leibler’s diatribe at the link above. I have had more than I care to have.

“Harry Elkus” and the Caulfield Synagogue anti-homosexuality protest

A document protesting a gay rabbi was being shared around the Melbourne Jewish community.
Intolerance of gay people is unacceptable.

Gay orthodox rabbi Steven Greenberg was billed as guest speaker at the Caulfield Hebrew Congregation on Friday June 16 2017:

Rabbi Steven Greenberg guest speaker at CHC

It came to our attention last week that a document “HERESY-CHC” was being distributed around the Melbourne Jewish community calling for concerned members of the Jewish community to protest this event:

Heresy pamphlet

The document contains the name “Harry Elkus” in the Author field of the document Properties:

Heresy document properties

It also came to our attention that some of the information in the flyer was apparently misleading:

 

FYI
(i just received this from a protest organiser)
==========================
Please send this out ASAP
To the Melbourne Jewish community,
Yesterday an email was disseminated to the community calling for a public protest outside Caulfield Shule during its upcoming event this Friday night.
Following consultation with leading communal Rabbonim we hereby inform the community that the planned protest has been cancelled. We discourage anyone from participating in any public protests as it will only serve to escalate the controversy surrounding the issue.
We also wish to clarify one aspect of the email distributed yesterday. Some in the community understood from the email that the (now cancelled) protest had the widespread support of the Rabbinate including, but not limited to, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) and the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ). We wish to clarify that at no point were the RCV or the RCANZ consulted about the said protest. We apologise sincerely to both Rabbinic bodies for any implication otherwise.
We maintain our view that the event at Caulfield Shule should not be under the auspices of Orthodoxy but we recognize that public protests are counter-productive.
May Hashem help us in seeing Torah true Judaism upheld in our community.

 

It is deeply disappointing and disturbing that some members of the Jewish community wish to use their religion to demonise and further marginalise homosexual people.  There is no room for discrimination or intolerance in the Jewish community.

Rabbi Is Out Of Line & Out Of Touch With The Community | JCCV

Rabbi Is Out Of Line & Out Of Touch With The Community

16 February 2015

Jewish Community Council of VictoriaMuch of the evidence presented at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse over the past two weeks has been seriously disturbing, appalling and distressing. One of the lows was the statement made by Rabbi Zvi Telsner, a senior rabbi in the Yeshivah community, that homosexuals can be ‘cured’.

This is repulsive, ignorant and insulting, demonstrating a serious departure from the views of the mainstream Jewish community.

Rabbi Telsner also linked paedophilia and homosexuality in his testimony. Any such linking is disturbing and indeed toxic. Those comments are poisonous to people of diverse sexual preference, their families and friends.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) signed up to the ‘No To Homophobia’ campaign in 2013, the first and possibly only faith community to do so and we urged our affiliates to do likewise.  26 Jewish community organisations have also signed up to the campaign, including the Australian Union of Jewish students (AUJS), Progressive Judaism Victoria, Jewish Care, Jewish Aid, the Jewish Holocaust Centre and the Jewish Museum. Obviously Rabbi Telsner, whose organisation is not affiliated to JCCV, did not sign up.

View Related Article in “Star Observer”

“I’m Gay and I’m Jewish. Do I still belong?”

Young Jewish Professionals (Melbourne) presents:
DaMinyan - A night to igniteFacebook event here.

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.

Limmud Oz 2014: the Queer sessions

Limmud Oz Logo 2014This year there are two Queer-related sessions at Limmud Oz 2014 in Melbourne.
Details below.


Sunday June 8
4:00pm – 5:00pm
Room: HB36

The Yids are all right: the hidden Jews behind British Pop
Gary Holzman
Arts | Other

It is a little known fact that a group of gay Jewish promoters had a substantial influence on the development of pop music in the late 50s and early 60s in Britain. In this session we will investigate the reasons for this phenomenon and also look in depth at the hidden Jewish promoters and songwriters behind such popular British pop and rock acts of the 60s and 70s as Cliff Richard, the Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Freddie & the Dreamers, Herman’s Hermits, The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, Fleetwood Mac, The Hollies, 10cc, Procol Harum, T-Rex and many others. Viewing vintage film & video clips, analysing song lyrics and listening to a lot of great music are all part of this entertaining session.


Monday June 9:
5:15pm – 6:15pm
Room: H2.38

Orthogay – has anything changed for gay men and women in the orthodox world? Will it ever?
Shamir Caplan
Text, Tradition and Faith | Jewish Ideas

One of the most challenging issues of our time within the Orthodox community is how to deal with homosexuality. How to reconcile the Biblical texts with modern science’s understanding of sexuality? How has Orthodoxy responded to homosexuals within the community? This is surely a defining issue for Orthodoxy in the modern era. Come join us for a presentation and respectful and open discussion on this important topic.


Aleph appreciative of JCCV stand | J-Wire

Aleph appreciative of JCCV stand

February 16, 2014 by J-Wire Staff

Aleph Melbourne has welcomed the recent statement from David Marlow, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, where he unreservedly stands up to intolerance of homosexuality.

Aleph responds to: “Homophobia, lack of acceptance and intolerance of homosexuality causes serious stress, anxiety and serious mental health issues and are not acceptable. All people should be welcomed and respected as valuable members of society and the community.”

Aleph Melbourne co-convenor Michael Barnett said “Whilst the JCCV has been increasingly passionate over the last 12 months in standing up to homophobia, and in stating that being gay is ok, this is the first time the JCCV has actually made a claim that any intolerance of homosexuality is unacceptable.”

Barnett added “Hearing these words from a representative of the JCCV shows they understand that members of the Jewish community have been hurt by intolerance of their sexual orientation, due to factors like inflexible religious attitudes and a lack of education.”

Aleph Melbourne calls on the JCCV to raise the issue of intolerance of homosexuality with its member organisations, especially those who continue to promote intolerance of homosexuality, and help build a safe, inclusive and affirming environment, that not only accepts but visibly celebrates all people as valued and equal members of the community, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

AJN Letters: Defending Orthodox rabbinical opposition to same-sex marriage

15 November 2013
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition

Letters to the editor should be no more than 250 words and may be edited for length and content. Only letters sent to letters@jewishnews.net.au will be considered for publication. Please supply an address and daytime phone number for verification.


Orthodox rabbis are being victimised

THE fuss over gay marriage has now crept into the Jewish community and is causing pain and misery to all involved.  Among the victims in all this controversy are our Orthodox rabbinical authorities’ rabbis who are being touted as the villains of the drama.

Those that are reading this letter might be aghast that I am of that opinion.  Well, let’s look at it this way – our rabbis did not write the Torah, they are only interpreting it the best way they can or know, and they represent most of the Jewish community.

But they are being pilloried from pillar to post.  They cannot accept a union between a man and another man, it’s simply not allowed as homosexual relations in the Bible are forbidden.  Sexual relations between a woman and another woman are not frowned upon but still a marriage between two females does not meet the normal criteria of a normal nuclear family, meaning a man and a woman.

If homosexual within the Jewish community want their relationships legitimised, they should not demand it from the Orthodox Jewish authorities and the rabbis should not be forced to justify their position time and time again, as they are not the authors, only the custodians of the Torah and they have every right to stand by the moral codes that they have lived by and studied all their lives.

We cannot change thousands of years of Jewish tradition just to suit modernity.

No one is saying we need to discriminate against gays or lesbians, but we also need to take into account that the onus of the debate should not be brought down upon our Orthodox rabbis who have a historical duty as teachers of our tradition to uphold the laws set down by God on Mount Sinai, and we accept nothing less of them.

They are becoming the innocent victims in all this controversy as all they are doing is defending our heritage.

SUSAN WEINER
Vaucluse, NSW

AJN Letters: Response to Susan Weiner on same-sex marriage

22 November 2013
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition

Letters to the editor should be no more than 250 words and may be edited for length and content. Only letters sent to letters@jewishnews.net.au will be considered for publication. Please supply an address and daytime phone number for verification.


No threat from same sex marriage

IN defending Orthodoxy, Susan Weiner overlooks the fact that in Australia “homosexuals” are not asking Orthodox Judaism to change one iota. We are simply asking the federal government to remove gender-based discrimination from the Marriage Act and, until such time, for states and territories to provide similar legal mechanisms. This is purely a matter of civil law and it will have no legal impact on any aspect of Jewish religious life or observance.

While Ms Weiner is justified in her concern for the welfare of Orthodox rabbis in genuine circumstances of attack, in this case her energies would be better aligned with those denied the very civil rights she has the luxury to access should she desire.

It is important to understand that all proposed legislation for “same-sex marriage” comes with adequate protections for religious ministers and will in no way impinge on hers or anyone else’s civil or religious freedoms.

In our society, people are entitled to disapprove of another person’s choice of life partner, but it is poor form to get in the way of star-struck lovers when it comes to marriage, whether they both be Romeos, Juliets or one of each. Live and let live, love and let love, Ms Weiner.

MICHAEL BARNETT
Ashwood, Vic


No threat from same sex marriage (1/2)No threat from same sex marriage (2/2)

 

Jewish Council says it is Okay to be Gay | Star Observer

Jewish Council says it is Okay to be Gay

By on November 6, 2013

gay_jewish

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.

Orthodox Union Statement on Today’s Supreme Court Rulings | Orthodox Union

In publishing the following statement from the Orthodox Union, Aleph Melbourne reiterates it’s unconditional core value of supporting equal rights for all people.


ORTHODOX UNION STATEMENT ON TODAY’S SUPREME COURT RULINGS

Today, the leadership of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued the following statement:

“In response to the decisions announced today by the United States Supreme Court with reference to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, we reiterate the historical position of the Jewish faith, enunciated unequivocally in our Bible, Talmud and Codes, which forbids homosexual relationships and condemns the institutionalization of such relationships as marriages. Our religion is emphatic in defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Our beliefs in this regard are unalterable. At the same time, we note that Judaism teaches respect for others and we condemn discrimination against individuals.

We are grateful that we live in a democratic society, in which all religions are free to express their opinions about social issues and to advocate vigorously for those opinions. The reason we opt to express our viewpoint in a public forum is because we believe that our Divine system of law not only dictates our beliefs and behaviors, but also represents a system of universal morality, and therefore can stake a claim in the national discourse. That morality, expressed in what has broadly been labeled Judeo-Christian ethics, has long had a place in American law and jurisprudence.

We also recognize that no religion has the right to dictate its beliefs to the entire body politic and we do not expect that secular law will always align with our viewpoint. Ultimately, decisions on social policy remain with the democratic process, and today the process has spoken and we accord the process and its result the utmost respect.

The Orthodox Union is proud to assert its beliefs and principles in the public forum, and will continue to do so in a manner that is tolerant and respectful of all of our nation’s citizens, but which is also authentically based upon our sacred ancient texts and time-honored traditions.”

OU | Enhancing Jewish Life