Jewish schools react to proposed law | AJN

LEGISLATION TO PROTECT LGBTQI+ TEACHERS

Jewish schools react to proposed law

By CARLY DOUGLAS
December 2, 2021, 1:00 pm 

PROPOSED legislation that would prohibit religious schools in Victoria from firing or refusing to hire teachers based on gender and sexual identity has been met with a mixed reaction from within the Jewish community.

The Andrews’ government bill, introduced to Parliament in October, seeks to protect LGBTQI+ Victorians’ right to work in faith-based schools.

Last month, a group of religious leaders from varying faiths sent an open letter to Victoria’s Attorney-General, Jaclyn Symes, opposing the legislation, stating that it “unfairly targets religious bodies and educational institutes”.

Among the signatories was Rabbi Shimon Cowen from the Institute for Judaism and Civilisation. He told The AJN that the legislation is “an incredible invasion of religious life,” accusing the state government of attempting to “edit Judaism”.

He called politicians who support it “hypocrites,” noting that parliamentarians are allowed to discriminate based on political views and activity when it comes to the staffing of their office.

But most Jewish schools were generally more supportive.

Bialik College principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, who proudly recalled that his was the first school in Australia to sign up to the Marriage Equality campaign, told The AJN, “We are all created equally and I strongly encourage the law to support this, and prevent discrimination.”

Without it, he reflected, “Future generations would look at us with the same incredulity that we hold when we consider those who opposed the emancipation of slaves, universal suffrage or civil rights.”

The King David School principal Marc Light concurred, stating, “We oppose any legislation that discriminates against people based on their gender or sexual identity.”

He added, “It is important that LGBTQI+ students get the message that they are not alienated, excluded or rejected on the basis of their identity.”

Helen Greenberg, principal at Sholem Aleichem College, said, “We strongly embrace any changes that allow Victorians to continue to be free to live and work free from discrimination.”

Leibler Yavneh College principal Cherylyn Skewes agreed, noting, “Our view is clear. No staff member should be subject to discrimination or termination on the basis of their sexual identity.”

Noting that the legalisation would remove the right of schools to sack a staff member because of their sexuality, Mount Scopus Memorial College principal Rabbi James Kennard said, “Since that would never happen at Mount Scopus, the bill is not especially relevant to our school.”

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum of Yeshivah–Beth Rivkah Colleges had some reservations about the bill. He said that “while people’s private lives are not a factor in their hiring, a school was not generally an appropriate place for staff to discuss or flaunt their sexual behaviour, whether heterosexual or homosexual.”

He also pointed out that while “the aims of the legislation to prevent discrimination were laudable, there was some concern that activists could potentially misuse the legislation by challenging the curriculum, or even the teaching of certain sections of the Torah”.

But not everyone is on board. A member of another Orthodox school community told The AJN that if the bill were to pass, it “could be a problem” because they would not have the “flexibility they would need regarding LGBTQI+ staff teaching their students”.

On a federal level, after a 2018 pledge by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the PM recently introduced his Religious Discrimination Bill to the floor. The legislation – if passed – will offer protection for faith-based schools, institutions, hospitals and aged-care facilities that wish to prioritise applicants of their faith. While it will be several months before the Senate votes on the bill, the legislation could override the Victorian Government’s anti-discrimination bill.

ABC RN Roundtable: Discrimination & faith based schools

Discrimination & faith based schools

Sunday 25 November 2018 9:30AM (view full episode)

Religious schools signsA Senate inquiry looking into the the issue of whether faith-based schools should be allowed to discriminate against students, teachers and staff is due to report on Monday.

It’s examining whether exemptions which allow religious schools the right expel same sex students and dismiss gay teachers should stay in place.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised amendments to discrimination law to make clear no student at religious school should be expelled on the basis of their sexuality.

Guests:

Michael Kirby, former High Court Judge

Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, Principal of Bialik College, Melbourne

Abdullah Khan, Principal of the Australian Islamic College (Perth & Adelaide) and Chair of the Islamic Schools Association of Australia

Mark Spencer, Executive Officer Policy, Governance and Staff Relations at Christian Schools Australia

Bialik College calls for religious exemptions allowing LGBTIQ students, teachers and staff to be excluded to be scrapped

Bialik College says discrimination against staff, students and teachers on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is unacceptable.

Bialik College

Aleph Melbourne welcomes Bialik College’s submission to the Senate inquiry into legislative exemptions that allow faith-based educational institutions to discriminate against students, teachers and staff.

Submissions to the inquiry are open until November 26 2018.

See our table of responses from Jewish schools across Australia.

 

20181119-Bialik-College-Submission-to-Discrimination-Inquiry

 

Bialik Principal issues statement on school’s support for marriage equality

Following on from the announcement of Bialik College becoming the first school in Australia to declare support for marriage equality, the school’s principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner has issued the following statement on their Facebook page:

Bialik College is proud to join Monash University, Swinburne and over 800 other organisations, in confirming our support…

Posted by Bialik College on Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Bialik College urges the community to support Keshet

Last Friday, July 31 2015, the Principal of Bialik College, Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, issued this letter urging the community to support the application of Keshet Australia to become an affiliate member of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria at the plenum meeting on Monday August 3.


 

31 July 2015

Shalom Kehilla,

Rarely do I write to our Bialik community to pass comment on events beyond the College, but such is the situation at the moment with regards the inclusion of members of our community that I feel obligated to write.

It is with horror that we turned on our computers this morning and opened our newspapers to learn of the knife attack at the Gay Pride event in Jerusalem. The attack appears to have been perpetrated by a member of our own community and this makes the situation all the more shocking.

The Jewish people are a mosaic of difference. Whether we are Orthodox or Progressive, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, practising or non-practising, gay or straight we are all members of klal Yisrael, the people of Israel.

The rainbow spectrum of our community, and I use the term ‘rainbow’ deliberately, is something that we should celebrate. The idea of inclusion of those whose lifestyles are different to what may be seen as mainstream, but contribute positively to the community without impinging on the freedom of others, is a fundamental tenet of modern liberal Jewish values.

As the Jewish Community Council of Victoria debates on Monday whether to include Keshet, a group representing Jews who may not identify as heterosexual, I would like to express my personal view as Principal of a cross-communal pluralist Jewish school that the inclusion of such members of the community in our institutions should not be a matter of debate but simply a matter of fact.

Having just commemorated Tisha B’Av, the date when so many calamities have befallen the Jewish people and when we bemoan ‘baseless hatred’, now is the time to come together as a community and make a positive stand for inclusion.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy Stowe-Lindner
Principal


 

Bialik to be a ‘safer’ school | AJN

Bialik to be a 'safer' school
Bialik to be a ‘safer’ school
Australian Jewish News (Melbourne edition)
March 8 2013, page 12

Letters to the Editor: letters@jewishnews.net.au
(250 words max and include not-for-publication contact details)


QOSA video: