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)

 

AJN Letters: Response to Bialik joining SSCV – March 15, 2013

15 March 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.


Note: the letters on this page refer to last week’s story Bialik to be a ‘safer’ school.


The importance of inclusion for all

MAZAL tov to Safe Schools Coalition Victoria Jewish schools The King David School, Sholem Aleichem College and now Bialik.

Safe Schools Coalition Victoria is a coalition of schools and individuals dedicated to creating safer educational environments where same sex attracted and gender questioning young people are supported, where every family can belong, where every teacher can teach and every student can learn. I am proud of these schools for taking this proactive step. As a lesbian parent, it means so much for my children to know that they are safe, secure and included at school.

SHAUNA SHERKER
Melbourne, Vic


All Jewish schools should be ‘safe’

WE welcome Bialik College as a new member of Safe Schools Coalition Victoria, in a week that also saw Geelong Grammar join us in showing their commitment to supporting diversity.

There are now 93 members of the coalition, from all sectors of the education system – government, independent, and religious. Our program works in partnership with the Department of Education and the Department of Health to actively support gender and sexual diversity in schools.

Research from Australia shows that it takes more than just general anti-bullying policies and practices to make schools truly inclusive. Increasing the visibility of gender and sexual diversity throughout the school, and inclusion across the curriculum, help to make young people feel not only safe, but able to be themselves.

We would love the opportunity to work with more Jewish schools to ensure that same sex attracted and gender diverse students, staff, and families that form part of all these school communities are not just free from bullying, but healthy and happy.

ROZ WARD
Coordinator,
Safe Schools Coalition Victoria


AJN Letters: Response to the appointment of Mark Dreyfus as Attorney-General – February 15, 2013

15 February 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.


Commending Dreyfus

A HEARTY mazal tov on the appointment of Mark Dreyfus as federal Attorney-General.

I am heartened by his solid support for removing discrimination in the federal Marriage Act introduced under the Howard government in 2004, which purposefully prevents same-sex couples and intersex people from obtaining a civil marriage.

It is also reassuring that Dreyfus backs the inclusion of protections under proposed federal anti-discrimination legislation on the grounds of gender identity and sexuality.

These changes will greatly benefit the Jewish community by ensuring our families and children are better protected, less susceptible to discriminatory practices and able to celebrate loving, committed relationships on par with the rest of society.

MICHAEL BARNETT
Ashwood, Vic


AJN Letters: Marriage Equality – a response to Rabbi Gutnick, another from Rabbi Ingram – November 2 2012

2 November 2012
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.


Time to update view on marriage

IN response to the opinion piece by Rabbi Moshe Gutnick in The AJN (26/10), I find it remarkably ironic that he should enjoy the freedoms and rights that come with the laws of Australia, and yet he lectures on what marriage should and should not be, based on reasoning that originated elsewhere and from a very different historical and time context.

It is time that people like him updated their views, aligned themselves with basic human rights and embraced the idea of a fair go for all, as is the supposed Australian ideal.  As usual, gay rights are being misconstrued and twisted into taking away from or devaluing heterosexual rights, when in fact we simply want what our parents, siblings and friends enjoy – the right to get married, the right to have a fabulous party and the right to be left alone and not dictated to by some stranger who thinks their values can somehow inform what I may or may not do.

DAVID REID
Brisbane, QLD


Standing up to political correctness

THE predictable flood of emotive and irrational invective (AJN 26/10) against my sober refutation based on Torah outlook (19/10) of Justice Rothman’s views on homosexual marriage (12/10) graphically illustrates why the courageous public stand against the rising tide of political correctness of 150 prominent Australian doctors opposing same-sex marriage speaks far more loudly than the fact that 1000 other doctors endorsed it.

After all, it isn’t everybody in professional life who wants to take an unpopular public stance on an issue and risk insult, vitriol and ostracism from a vociferous interest group, as well as from those preferring to espouse the popular “wisdom” of the day.

Of the five letters published, not one dealt with the points I raised.  Three were rude and insulting and one expressed the intolerant desire to silence me as well as all those who disagree with them.  Sadly, they reveal more about their authors than the subject of their criticism.  But thank God free speech is still alive and well in The Australian Jewish News.

RABBI CHAIM INGRAM
Bondi Junction, NSW

AJN Letters: Marriage Equality – Responses to Rabbi Chaim Ingram – October 26 2012

26 October 2012
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 rational basis for opposing gay marriage

IN his response to Justice Stephen Rothman’s article, “Marriage Rites Are Rights For All” (AJN 12/10), Rabbi Chaim Ingram (AJN 19/10) rejects as “patently risible” Rothman’s view that “current opposition to same-sex marriage is irrational”.  Rabbi Ingram then continues: “Opposition to homosexual marriage is eminently rational.”  However, other than baldly stating that such opposition is “eminently rational”, Ingram provides little evidence of precisely how that opposition is rational.

The closest Ingram comes is citing the opinion of 150 doctors that marriage is between a man and a woman exclusively is the basis for a healthy society.  However, the Australia Medical Association (AMA) has rejected the stance of those 150 doctors.  In fact, the AMA president has reportedly said the doctors’ claims are irresponsible and at odds with medical evidence.  The AMA president cited a growing body of evidence that children of gay and lesbian parents are just as happy with themselves and their own sexuality as children of heterosexual parents with no difference in development, psychological adjustment, or peer popularity.

Moreover, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) – the largest professional association for psychologists in Australia, which represents more than 20,000 members – has endorsed the American Psychological Association’s calling for marriage equality.  In a unanimous resolution, the APS has called for legalisation of same-sex marriage, on the basis of psychological evidence showing the mental health benefits of marriage, and the harm caused by social exclusion and discrimination arising from not having the choice to marry.

I ask Rabbi Ingram to have another attempt at explaining the rational basis for opposing same-sex marriage.  In particular, I ask the rabbi: What is the rational difference between a committed, exclusive relationship of one man and one woman and a committed, exclusive relationship of one man and one man or one woman and one woman?  The rational difference cannot be children, since one does not need to have to children to get married in Australia; and one does not need to get married to have children.  What, then, is the patently rational difference?

TROY SIMPSON
Fraser, ACT


The reality of homosexuality

DOES Rabbi Ingram have any compassion for those whose natural sexual desires are toward their own, rather than the opposite, sex?  Homosexuality has been observed in animal species as well as in humans, so perhaps some people are born that way.  What has the Orthodox rabbinate to say on that?

The Torah also has a command that “wayward” sons be brought to the community to be stoned.  Naturally the application of this law is abhorrent and the rabbis have found ways around the law.

But when it comes to homosexuality, an ancient prejudice that has lead to suicides, only the Progressive rabbis have made a positive step to justice.

Tell me rabbi: How would gay marriage in any way affect those of us in heterosexual marriages?  How could it change our relationships with our spouses and children?  Why, rabbi, do you take such a strong stand on this subject?

PETER COHEN
Bentleigh East, Vic


Most medics are pro gay marriage

Rabbi Ingram refers to 150 doctors who oppose changes to the Marriage Act that would allow same-sex attracted and intersex people the right to marry the person of their choice.  What he conveniently neglects to mention are the over 1000 Australian medical practitioners who have signed their names to support such legislative changes, on the basis of credible medical evidence.  The list of names and research papers are all available at drs4equality.com.  With stark headlines such as the recent “Suicide rates high for Orthodox homosexual youths” in The Jerusalem Post, and in the face of the evidence presented by Doctors for Marriage Equality, it doesn’t take much to realise that people like Rabbi Ingram are exacerbating the problems their communities are facing.

Contemporary scientific and medical understanding is so completely foreign to what was acceptable decades ago, let alone 4000 years ago.  Rabbi Ingram must learn to move with the times or be rendered a prehistoric relic who does more harm than good.

Michael Barnett
Ashwood, Vic


Disgusted at rabbi’s homophobic views

I AM ashamed that Chaim Ingram’s homophobic and offensive comments were allowed in last week’s letters.  I am extremely disappointed and embarrassed by this representation of our community.

Being a philosophy student and an atheist secular humanist Jew, I am once again shocked by this widely held view in the religious community.  Ingram tries to apply logic to his emotional plea and fails miserably.  We, as people, are meant to spread love, compassion and kindness, and this letter is taking us in the other direction.

JAKE FEHILY
Melbourne, Vic


How would rabbis react to gay kids?

I AM writing to express my disgust at the letter from last week’s AJN from Rabbi Chaim Ingram in reply to Justice Stephen Rothman’s article (12/10).

Again it displays the total ignorance and intolerance of many of our rabbis.  It is disgusting in its content.

What would many of the so-called rabbis say if they personally had a gay son or daughter? I fortunately belong to a congregation on Melbourne where are rabbis are understanding and very tolerant of all sexual relationships, and welcome heterosexuals and homosexuals equally, remembering we are all created equal in the sight of God.

A letter like this is a sure way of losing many Jews from the various congregations.

MARCUS MOSS
Black Rock, Vic

AJN Letters: Marriage Equality – Rabbi Chaim Ingram responds to Justice Stephen Rothman – October 19, 2012

19 October 2012
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.


Rothman wrong on same-sex marriage

Justice Stephen Rothman’s article “Marriage rites are rights for all” (AJN 12/10) is intellectually flawed several reasons:

While he, like everyone, is entitled to express his view, to state that “current opposition to same-sex marriage is irrational” is patently risible.

Opposition to homosexual marriage is eminently rational. It is based on the universal age-old, time-hallowed, sacred definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Will Justice Rothman perhaps advocate a similar change to the definition of death and redefine it as, say, “the loss of a will to live”, thus paving the way for voluntary euthanasia? After all, it is less conscience-pricking to kill an already dead man.

Will he, moreover, accuse those opposed to such a radical redefinition (and redefining marriage is no less radical) of being “irrational”?

Such intolerant pejorative labelling is redolent of the anti-intellectual tactics of the far left.

That can be no meaningful comparison between opposition to circumcision, a practice sanctified nearly four millennia ago by Abraham, progenitor of the three monotheistic faiths accounting for 60 per cent of the world’s population, and opposition to same-sex marriage which, prior to the 21st century, was instituted in only the most decadent ancient cultures.

Justice Rothman rightly cites evidence that female circumcision “injures the ‘victim’ both physically and psychologically”.

However, there was other medical evidence he didn’t mention.

Earlier this year, 150 prominent doctors – including Victoria’s deputy chief psychiatrist – publicly declared in the face of political correctness that in their considered medical view marriage between a man and a woman exclusively is the basis for a healthy society.

Even supposing the evidence is not conclusive, should Justice Rothman not take it into account?  Worse, on what intellectually sound basis does he excoriate those who do and tell them they are irrational?

Justice Rothman declares that homosexual marriage is “not antithetical to the values of society in which that minority resides”.

I beg to disagree.

The values of Australian society are founded on what is often termed Judaeo-Christian ethic and which Jews term the Noahide Code, according to which homosexuality is one of a handful of offences (and prawn-eating is not one of them), which one is bidden to resist even on pain of death.

RABBI CHAIM INGRAM
Bondi Junction, NSW

AJN Letters: Marriage Equality – Responses to Rabbis Gutnick & Ingram – November 9 2012

9 November 2012
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.


We should not impose our laws on society

I WAS displayed by Rabbi Moshe Gutnick’s column about same-sex marriage (AJN 26/11).  He raises and then dismisses the key point that civil, non-religiously affiliated celebrants can perform legally recognised marriages in Australia.

Contrary to his claim, this is indeed an indication that the civil status of marriage is not based on a “Judeo-Christian, and indeed biblical, foundation”.

Speaking of a biblical foundation, I find it especially interesting that Rabbi Gutnick then raises a “slippery slope” argument that approving same-sex marriage would lead to the permitting of a marriage between a man and two women because in the recent parshah, Vayetze, Yaakov enters into that exact relationship with Rachel and Leah!

Australia prides itself on multiculturalism, and one of its most attractive features is the lack of religious influence in its civic life. I’m sure it would not occur to Rabbi Gutnick to insist that other marriages forbidden to Orthodox Jews, such as marriage between a Cohen and a divorcee, should be forbidden by civil law in Australia.  Similarly, Jewish law regarding marriages and homosexuality should not be imposed on the larger Australian community.

JANICE GELB
South Yarra, VIC


Australia not beholden to the Jewish view

Rabbis Moshe Gutnick (AJN 26/10) And Chaim Ingram (AJN 19/10) have very different approaches, but each does not deal with the fundamental issue.  Rabbi Gutnick’s comment on the place of Judeo-Christian ethic in Australia is misplaced.  The only mention of God in relation to the Australian Constitution is in the preamble to the Imperial (UK) Act, not in any operative provision of that Constitution, and the mention is that the people were “humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God”.  So am I.

Australian democracy is quite different to most.  Firstly, voting is compulsory.  The majority in Australia is not silent; it votes.  Secondly, voting is preferential.  The person elected represents a consensus of the majority in the electorate.

The combination of the two factors forces political parties to the centre; to appeal to the majority are not sectarian interests, who will then turn out to vote on one or more issues of concern.

Thirdly, Australia, despite its history of bigotry, particularly to blacks, gays and new immigrant groups, is extremely tolerant; laissez-faire, not moralistic.  It allows people to do what they like as long as it doesn’t interfere with them.

The best example is the Australian reaction to the AIDS epidemic. We did not suffer at the hands of religious bigotry.  We educated and provided needle exchange; and Australia was the only major western country in which the incidents of AIDS fell in the gay community and was never an epidemic in the heterosexual community.

Australia owes much to the Judeo-Christian ethic, but only indirectly, and we have significantly departed from it: e.g. stem cell research (inconsistent with Christian, but not Jewish, ethos); abortion; and same gender relationships.  Democracy is not a product of the Judeo-Christian ethic.

Rabbi Gutnick threatens polygamy and incest as the possible result if marriage is broadened.  He must have read the parshah: Abraham had three wives and married his niece!  Each act would be illegal in Australia.

The Judeo-Christian ethic (what Rabbi Ingram calls the conduct of Abraham, being over 6000 years old) allowed and encouraged polygamy (at least one male with more than one wife); it allowed slavery (up to six years); and it permitted Abraham to marry his niece, Issac his cousin, Esau his first cousin, Jacob his first two cousins (through both his mother and father).

Australia has determined that same gender relationships should be legal – they can be recognised as de facto couples. If the Judeo-Christian ethos prevailed, as Rabbi Gutnick suggests, this would not have occurred.

Perhaps same-gender marriages are not, in the Jewish view, made in heaven.  But the Jewish view does not prevail in Australia.  We do not live, thank God, in a theocracy; we live in a democracy.

The only issue is whether a couple legally living together (or who want to) should have the choice of marriage.  This change does not affect Orthodox Judaism, but it does effect true tolerance to those who are currently suffering discriminatory treatment.

And in the end, it’s about treating others as we would want to be treated (or not doing to them that which we would find hateful); everything else is just commentary.

JUSTICE STEPHEN ROTHMAN
Bondi Junction, NSW


Exceptions to the rights to marry

DICTIONARY definitions of marriage recognise “mutual relation of husband and wife” being “a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family”.

Justice Stephen Rothman (AJN 12/10) regards marriage as a universal rite with rights for all; however, Rabbi Gutnick (AJN 26/10) surely has debunked that assertion by reminding us that incestuous or polygamist marriages are not acceptable so rites and rights have some exceptions.  Why?  Because that is our Judaic tradition.

Respect, love the one’s fellow man, tolerance, diversity, compassion for weaknesses within us all and equal standing before our creator is a sine qua non also contained within our Judaic traditions.  For millennia, during times of upheaval, confusion and bedlam, we have been a light unto the nations and therefore let us not change widely understood definitions of marriage or the teachings of Torah that form the basis of civilised society and family in order to satisfy a vocal interest group.

ADAM RAPAPORT
Bondi Junction, NSW

Time to stop the in-fighting | AJN Letters

8 Jul 2011
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition

Time to stop the in-fighting

JUDAISM on gay marriage – yes or no – can wait; I’m fascinated with Peter Cohen’s implicit support for all things natural – “Could God be behind such a cruel joke?” ( AJN 24/06).

Science also points to genes that naturally predispose humans to anger or violence. If proven, the implications are many. Yet, since when does humankind decide right and wrong based on what the penguin fraternity are up to? Are we merely animals or something more?

As for his swipe at Orthodoxy, and praise for Progressives – let’s for a moment drop the term thrust upon traditional Jews by Reform 250 years ago to make everyone else look irredeemably anachronistic. Judaism was inherently progressive, inclusive, innovative and societally savvy. Just that we’ve seen less and less of this Judaism for oh – about 300 years (except, curiously, in the Sephardi world). What Judaism has neglected to explain is that Jewish laws are like formulae: the inputs to variables change with the times; only the formulae are rigid.

As Judaism gradually stops Woody Allening over slippery slopes and competing movements, we will again occupy ourselves as to how to keep members of the community “in”, rather than “bad” people “out” – and words like Orthodox and Progressive can all safely go the way of the dodo.

MICHAEL SASSOON
Bondi, NSW