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.”
The experience of LGBTQ+ members of the Sydney Jewish community has ranged from celebration to rejection. After the success of the marriage-equality vote in 2017, the movement for greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ people is growing. Yet a 2020 study showed that four out of five LGBTQ+ people felt worse than they did after the same-sex marriage vote. What further changes are needed?
This month’s NSW Jewish Board of Deputies plenum will feature a panel discussion moderated by Josh Kirsh, chair of the Board of Deputies LGBTQ+ Working Party.
The panellists will be: Dr Kerryn Phelps and Jackie Stricker-Phelps, both of whom campaigned for marriage equality, Jonathan David, president of the Jewish LGBTQ+ support group Dayenu, Danielle Meltzer, a transgender woman who grew up in Sydney, and Galit Taub, a graduate of Moriah College who aims to make religious Jewish spaces more inclusive for LGBTQ+ individuals. The plenum will be held both in person and online on Tuesday 16 March at 7:30pm.JBOD plenum: More changes needed for the LGBTQ+ community? | J-Wire
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen lost his honorary position at Monash University for using his Monash email address to campaign against marriage equality
What is this proceeding about?
- In 2015, Dr Shimon Cowen, an alumni of Monash University (Monash) had held honorary positions with Monash for many years. Over the years he had undertaken specific tasks for payment. In 2015, he held an Adjunct Research Associate position with Monash’s Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (the Centre).
- Dr Cowen was also the Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilisation (the Institute). The Institute has no affiliation with Monash University.
- In early December 2015, Dr Cowen used his Monash email account to send to a group of municipal councillors a booklet which he described as, “a comprehensive briefing on [same-sex marriage] from the standpoint of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.”
- Two local councillors raised issues with Monash via email.
- One asked whether the Vice-Chancellor condoned the publication of what the councillor viewed as “blatant bigotry and homophobia” from a University email account (the Complaint). The Councillor copied the Complaint to Dr Cowen.
- The other councillor advised Monash that Dr Cowen was “still using his” Monash “email address to lobby municipal councillors”. I refer to this below as ‘the Notification’. Dr Cowen does not seek the name of the ‘notifier’.
- The University investigated the issue. The outcome for Dr Cowen was most serious. Monash’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts (the Dean) declined to continue his ongoing honorary appointment, in the context that at the time Monash was in the process of appointing him to an Associate position.
- The Dean’s email advising Dr Cowen of the outcome said this action was taken because Monash had received “several complaints” concerning his use of his Monash email address to lobby members of the community concerning same-sex marriage in relation to his activities associated with his Institute, with the implication that the Institute is associated with Monash.
- Dr Cowen appealed that decision to Monash’s Vice-Chancellor.1 In a short 12 January 2016 email she advised she had considered Dr Cowen’s letter of appeal and the broader issue. She confirmed the Dean’s decision, saying she was aware of and endorsed that decision at the time it was made.
- Under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), Dr Cowen requested copies of all:
- Complaints received by the of the Vice-Chancellor’s Office and/or the Dean’s Office relating to his use of his Monash email account; and
- Correspondence to and from the Dean’s Office, and to and from the Vice-Chancellor’s Office, relating to revocation of his appointment as affiliate of Monash’s Faculty of Arts.
- Monash released to Dr Cowen a set of redacted documents. Dr Cowen sought review of that decision by the then Victorian Freedom of Information Commissioner. When the Commissioner did not make a decision within the requisite timeframe, Dr Cowen sought review at VCAT on the basis that his request was taken to be refused.
- In March 2017, the issue came before me for hearing. Dr Cowen represented himself. Monash was legally represented. I heard the case and reserved my decision.
The offending email sent by Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen:
On 11 Dec 2015, at 11:46 AM, Shimon Cowen <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
With the impending plebiscite on same-sex marriage, I thought it helpful to set out a comprehensive briefing on this matter from the standpoint of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
This took the form of a short booklet of talks which I, as a Jewish Rabbi (and son of a former Governor General of Australia, Sir Zelman Cowen), gave under the auspices of a Christian University, Campion College, in NSW. It sets out what I think is a shared perspective of the Abrahamic (Jewish-Christian-Islamic) faiths and perhaps wider yet.
I mailed the booklet to a number of Victorian Municipal Councillors. In the event that you did not receive a copy, or overlooked one which may have come in the mail, and would now like one please let me know. I received requests for some 100 copies from Councillors in NSW.
Even though you as a councillor may not be making statements on this matter, since you are close to networks of “grassroots” Australia, I thought you might be interested to see and share this material.
Please email me if you would like me to mail you a copy of this booklet at no charge. It is called “There is more than this…” I would be happy to send you more copies should you want them.
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen,
Director, Institute for Judaism and Civilization
An exploration of the transformation of attitudes toward LGBTIQ people within Melbourne’s Jewish community from the 1990s to current day.
(Click above or here to register)
Melbourne’s Jewish Community: Going from “gays not welcome” to “we support marriage equality” in under 20 years
3:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Sat Sep 22, 2018
Community groups in action
An exploration of the transformation of attitudes toward LGBTIQ people within Melbourne’s Jewish community from the 1990s to current day. This session includes the screening of a 10 minute documentary “Aleph Melbourne – Celebrating 20 Years – 1995-2015”. It also includes an exploration of how the 2009 shooting at the Tel Aviv LGBT Youth Centre was the catalyst for a series of events that shattered the decade-long silence since the Victorian Jewish community leadership rejected the membership application of a gay men’s group to them endorsing marriage equality 8 years later.
Learning objectives/outcomes:A greater understanding and appreciation of the issues, sensitivities and nuances around LGBTIQ inclusion in Melbourne’s Jewish community.
30 minute Oral Presentation and Video
Convenor, Aleph Melbourne
SUMMARY OF JCCV’S LGBTI INCLUSION ACTIVITIES
2015 – JCCV 1st ever LGBTI Symposium held with approximately 80 attendees with panels from the LGBTI Jewish spectrum. Attendees were cross-denominational.
2016 – Youth video winner announced form previous year’s completion.
2017 – Mental Health Forum in light of RCV’s statement to the government’s plebiscite
“A decade of strong advocacy for LGBTI equality and inclusion! I am very proud to have volunteered for the JCCV for a decade and served on the board for almost 4 years. We have achieved great things together! #lgbti #lgbtiinclusion #mentalhealthmatters #socialinclusion #lgbtijews Big shout out to John Searle, Anton Block, Nina Bassat, Jennifer Huppert, Original Reference Group members Julie Leder, Nathan Rose, Andrew Rajcher, Sally Goldner, Immediate part Executive Director David Marlow and the community for welcoming change.” — Doron Abramovici
January 3 2018
CONCERNS OVER SECRECY OF RUDDOCK RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REVIEW
Aleph Melbourne is deeply concerned with the announcement that all public submissions to the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review will be kept secret.
There is a lot at stake for the respect and dignity of LGBTIQ people alongside that of members of religious communities. Any review of freedom of speech requires a full, frank and honest exchange of views.
The notion that submissions to an inquiry should be kept secret flies in the face of the very intention to investigate the freedoms that are under threat.
It would be better for the Turnbull Government to provide full transparency rather than create a tension in our communities. There should be no freedom that is so important that the decision-making process needs to be hidden from view.
The Jewish community is well aware of the risk that discrimination carries. For decades we have been at the forefront of ensuring that people of all backgrounds are free to go about their lives with minimal impact to their personal liberties.
The potential is that the Ruddock Review will see the introduction of new rights giving faith-based organisations greater freedom to discriminate. It may well be that a Christian business that could refuse to provide goods or services for a same-sex wedding, because of their sincerely held religious beliefs, could also refuse to serve a Jewish wedding based on the same sincerely held beliefs.
For further comment contact Michael Barnett – 0417-595-541
Maccabi Victoria is delighted that marriage equality has now been legislated and that all Australians regardless of their sexual orientation will be treated equally under Australian law.
Maccabi Victoria President Brian Swersky stated, “I am both a proud member of the Jewish community and a proud ally of the LGBTIQ community. At a community level, I think it is of utmost importance that all people, no matter their gender, sexuality or orientation are welcome to each and every Maccabi club or program. On a personal level, I have seen the hurt this debate has caused, as my daughter and her wife have been called hurtful things because of their love for each other.
May every child of every Maccabi Victoria club always know that they have a place in our clubs and our hearts no matter who they are or who they love. No matter the colour of their skin or the language that they speak. No matter their physical or cognitive ability.
We recognise the impact that the debate and survey has had on some members of our community and hope that anyone facing mental health concerns as a result will seek appropriate support and assistance.”
Anyone seeking support and assistance can download a copy of the JCCV LGBTI Services Directory at www.jccv.org.au to seek support from an appropriate service provider.
Thanks go to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry for standing on the right side of history in declaring support for marriage equality.
— Aleph Melbourne (@alephmelbourne) November 29, 2017