Jewish Care Victoria is proud to have walked in the 24th Annual Midsumma Pride March on Sunday 3 February.
Together with eight other Jewish community organisations, Jewish Care staff, volunteers, leaders and Board members, including Jewish Care CEO Bill Appleby and President Mike Debinski, marched under the ‘Jews of Pride’ banner.
The Midsumma Pride March is part of the Midsumma Festival, a 22-day annual celebration of LGBTI+ arts, culture, and the diverse communities that exist within the larger LGBTI+ community.
Speaking of the importance of Jewish Care walking in the Midsumma Pride March, Jewish Care employee Doron Abramovici said, “Marching under the umbrella of ‘Jews of Pride’ showed a unity like I’ve never seen before in our community. Having the CEO and President of Victoria’s largest Jewish services provider march sends a powerful message to community members who identify as LGBTI+ and should not be understated.”
“As Jewish Care’s Pride banner said, there is strength in diversity,” said Jewish Care CEO, Bill Appleby. “We know that we, as a community, are at our strongest when we celebrate our differences and stand with each other.”
“Jewish Care values inclusion for all members of our community,” added Jewish Care President Mike Debinski. “Marching alongside LGBTI+ members of both the Jewish and wider communities, as well as other communal organisations, is one way we can outwardly express our commitment to supporting LGBTI+ people.”
Jewish Care Victoria is committed to developing and implementing inclusive practices for all members of the Victorian Jewish community. In addition, to participating in the Midsumma Pride March, Jewish Care continues to work towards achieving Rainbow Tick Accreditation in 2019.
Shavuot is a celebration of the revelation of knowledge.
I experienced a revelation this Shavuot by attending a forum held by the Young Jewish Professionals at the home of Rabbi Moshe Kahn, director of Chabad Youth. To find members of the Orthodox Community constructively discussing the issue of homosexuality in our community was indeed a refreshing revelation.
More than 100 mainly young and Orthodox members of the community listened intently and respectfully to the three man panel discussing the issue of being Jewish and homosexual.
Philip Searle discussed his experience of coming out in the Jewish community. His gratitude to his family, friends, and Rabbi for their support and concern was strongly evident in the moving words of this eloquent young communal leader.
Former JCCV president and family law expert Michael Lipshutz highlighted the legal changes that have transpired in Australia, and felt that he has seen the attitudes of the Jewish community mature in parallel. As an example, he felt that the barriers that once prevented a Jewish gay support group from joining the JCCV probably no longer exist.
Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, the Vice President of Orthodox Rabbis Australia, talked of his practice of offering Aliyot to the Torah to gay people, and of his fervent defence of this practice when challenged by congregants who are less tolerant of diversity. He highlighted his inability to reconcile God’s love for His people, with the plight of Jewish gay people who are forbidden by the Torah from acting on their biological inclinations. When pushed, however, he conceded that it is often said that “where there is a Rabbinic will, there is a Halachic way”, and that he could not rule out the possibility that in the future rabbinic leaders might find a way to overcome the problem of such prohibitions, whilst still maintaining the paramount integrity of the Torah as they see it.
As a board member of Keshet Australia, working to build sensitivity, acceptance and care in all sectors of our community, it was extremely gratifying for me to see the leadership that Rabbis Kahn, Glasman have taken in facilitating such a forums. All involved are to be congratulated.
Future discussions may gain additional perspectives by including mental health professionals who might give insights into the serious risks including youth suicide that GLBTI Jews still face due to family and communal attitudes. As a community we are taking steps in the right direction, but there is still much to be done.
Keshet is committed to educating the Australian Jewish community about GLBTIQ Jews. We look forward to seeing more events promoting the Jewish value of Ve’ahvta L’riecha Kamocha in the future.
Within Progressive Judaism, we start with a strong emphasis on the human position. We also believe that every human being is ‘made in God’s image’, and that God is a God of love, kindness and justice. Whilst the majority of people are predominantly heterosexual, it is clear that a significant number are not, and we do not accept that God wishes them to be forced into relationships and structures that are not as loving, healthy and supportive as they could be.
Since we believe that Torah is a revered but ultimately human document, written by our ancestors, inspired by God and seeking to answer the question ‘What does God want of us?’, we recognise the duplicated prohibition in Leviticus that ‘a man should not lie with another man as with a woman’ as one of those simplistic and time-bound human rules, developed in the context of needing to produce as many children as possible to create a numerous nation (and army) – and one that has, sadly and tragically, led to enormous prejudice, bigotry, hatred and violence against a particular group within all monotheistic religions over the subsequent millennia.
Back in Genesis 2, the observation is made, in the name of God, that a person should not be alone. However much you love your animals, they are not the same as another person. The context of the creation story on Genesis 1 is on reproduction – the trees and vegetation with their seed in them, the very first command – even before humans have been created – to the creatures and birds and insects: ‘Go forth and multiply’. When God created humanity – male and female at the same moment – they too received the same instruction – the first command to humanity, but with the added responsibility to ‘khivshuha’ – to ‘master’ or ‘care-take’ the earth. After Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden (the naive innocence of childhood where everything is provided), they get down to propagation (chapter 4) – the explanation for the population of the world. Male and Female equals children!
So this relationship which produces children was seen as ‘God’s natural plan’ (though sometimes with more than one wife!) and was formalised in ‘marriage’ which was then seen as a ‘God given’ or ‘holy’ structure (the agreement to form such as unit is termed ‘kiddushin’, sanctification). Hence, as with homophobia, marriage as a divinely sanctioned heterosexual union has also drawn heavily on the Hebrew bible as it has become the norm in monotheism.
Today we acknowledge that we cannot be sure of God’s will, and that Torah scholarship does not spell it out definitively and fully. We view and review our generations of experience and scholarship with our wish for truth, right, justice and compassion and our understanding of psychology, history, coercion and oppression in the name of religion and God. We seek to do God’s will, as our ancestors did, but with the awareness that we may not be right, and can only do our best.
In March, 2000, the Central Conference of American Rabbis agreed that “the relationship of a Jewish, same gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual”. In Britain, too, homosexual Jewish couples were able to celebrate a Commitment Ceremony. In 2009, the Rabbis of the Union for Progressive Judaism (Australia, New Zealand and Asia) resolved to permit its rabbis to officiate at same gender commitment ceremonies between two Jews. At that stage we were not ready to use the specific term Kiddushin but could use the term ‘bestowing Kedusha’. A document may be used and referred to as a Ketubah. A Khuppah may be used as it may be understood to represent the Jewish home being established.
We have agreed not to call the ceremony Marriage for the time being even where we may be legally entitled to do so, but we have written to the government to call for full Marriage Equality – so that marriage may now be recognized as a binding legal and social commitment between two adults. Marriage serves as a recognised and long-term legal and social structure in the modern world. Those who live in a permanent relationship without the benefit of the formal recognition may still suffer from some social stigma and may be disadvantaged, for example in pension rights, and any such inequity is unjust and unacceptable. For these reasons, the Rabbis and leaders of the UPJ now wish to see marriage redefined as the permanent and exclusive relationship between two people, whether a man and a woman, two women or two men, and support Marriage Equality. We were the only religious group to provide supportive testimony to the two Parliamentary enquiries into it, but hope that others will soon join us! We also support Keshet (keshet.org.au), who are committed to challenging the ongoing prejudice and discrimination within the Jewish community against homosexuality.
Jonathan Keren-Black is Rabbi at The Leo Baeck Centre.
We educate and rally the Jewish community to advance LGBT civil rights. Keshet was instrumental in mobilizing Jewish community support for equal marriage rights in Massachusetts and, as a founding member of the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality, helped advance the Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Bill, finally signed into law in 2011. In Colorado, Keshet is partnering with LGBT and Jewish organizations to rally Jewish community support for civil unions.
The Australian Jewish News
Friday January 4, 2013
Training the GLBTI trainers
KESHET Australia – a local group representing the rights of the Jewish gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) community – is seeking expressions of interest from rabbis, educators, and community professionals to take part in a US training program.
Workshops in January and May this year will provide programs for “training the trainers”, said Keshet Australia convenor Jonathan Barnett.
The workshops, organised by the Keshet Training Institute in the US, will teach these individuals how to train their own organisational staff to treat GLBTI individuals in an affirmative and inclusive manner, he said.
Keshet Australia is offer a limited number of partial scholarships to applicants who show a commitment to sharing the insights gained at these workshops with colleagues in the Australian Jewish communities, Barnett said.
Barnett said applicants need to detail why the wish to attend the Keshet Training Institute and how they hope to share learned knowledge in their local Jewish communities.