The Australian Jewish Times (Sydney) Thu 29 Jul 1982; Page 22
Gay Jews resent attitude of community
The conservative values of the Sydney Jewish community make homosexuals feel oppressed, Kim Gotlieb, organiser of “Chutzpah”, a Jewish Gay Liberation group, said recently.
Mr Gotlieb was a member of a three-speaker panel on the topic, “Can Jews Be Gay?”, for the Jewish Free University (JFU) in the Hakoah Club last Wednesday-week.
Other speakers represented two points of the spectrum: Marian Apple, wife of Great Synagogue’s Rabbi Raymond Apple, who gave the Orthodox viewpoint on homosexuality and Rabbi Brian Fox of Temple Emanuel, Woollahra, who presented the Liberal view.
“Gay Jews do not want to be accepted into the community by pretending they are ‘straight’,” Mr Gotlieb said.
“We want acceptance for what we are and freedom to celebrate it.”
Mrs Apple and Rabbi Fox said gays should not form their own houses of worship.
They should be integrated into the community by means of greater participation in established synagogues and communal organisations.
Homosexuals will be accepted into either Orthodox or Liberal congregations because they are Jews, Mrs Apple said.
Jews come to synagogue to pray and all else should be forgotten, especially one’s sexual preference.
According to Mr Gotlieb, however, synagogues are established on a premise of certain rules and laws which abhor homosexuality.
Gay Jews, by virtue of what they practice, are in direct opposition to the principles laid down by the community, he said.
“It is important for gay Jews to feel valid members of a congregation, to be able to sit among other Jews and pray.
“But because gay Jews do not adhere to the social norms they remain on the outside, never fully being accepted or integrated,” Mr Gotlieb said.
“How can we be integral members of a community when everything we stand for is regarded as an abomination?”
The oppressive nature of the community’s accepted mores towards gays can be compared with the persecution of Soviet Jewry, Jews who wish to retain their religious beliefs even though they are forbidden by the State.
It is hard for gay Jews to feel part of a congregation because they cannot openly celebrate their homosexuality.
For this reason several gay-lesbian synagogues have been established in the USA.
At present there is no recognised gay synagogue in Sydney.
“We remain alienated from the community and self-reliant for support,” Kim said.
“If we attend established synagogues we are only accepted on the basis of a pretend heterosexuality and not in terms of our real selves,” he said.
If we are to be members of a congregation we want our true selves to be recognised and accepted, not the mask the community would like us to assume, he said.
The Jewish community neither discriminates nor punishes homosexuals, Mrs Apple said.
“To be gay is punishment enough. Even in moral judgment, the deed is regarded as criminal and not the individual,” Mrs Apple said.
“I think Sydney congregants are big enough to accept homosexuality.
“Judaism has certain rules, however, concerning marriage,” she said.
“There is no way an Orthodox rabbi would write a marriage deed for two men or two women because this would be as good as recognising homosexuality as an acceptable practice.
“The Jewish community will accept gays, but it is often they who feel unaccepted, social misfits,” Mrs Apple said.
PAST AND PRESENT
Orthodoxy makes an assumption about the past and present in its laws pertaining to homosexuality, Rabbi Fox said.
Science says there is no such thing as “normal”.
“Who says that a husband and wife and 2.3 children makes a relationship perfect or better than a relationship between two males or two females?
“I would be prepared to perform a wedding between homosexuals, but there would be problems for me to consider, such as publicity, communal attitudes and how the non-Jewish community perceives the Sydney Jewish community,” he said.
“I believe two males or two females can say something positive about relationships, in some cases much more than a man-woman relationship, if two real souls are going together.
“Homosexuals may be able to teach heterosexuals about relationships,” he said.
“When the Orthodox value implies ‘family’ it assumes that every male is fit to be a ‘father’ and every woman a ‘mother’, when both roles may be totally inappropriate for the individual,” Rabbi Fox said.
“Many people are not equipped emotionally or psychologically for these roles in life.
“To say that status is punishment enough does not produce a community of difference.
“The Sydney Jewish community wreaks hurtful attitudes within this kind of social framework,” Rabbi Fox said.
We live in a society which breeds racism and antiSemitism so what gives us the right to point the finger at people and persecute them because they are different. Many homosexuals desperately want to feel authentic Jews, Rabbi Fox said.
“Chutzpah” is a social Jewish gay-lesbian group which was formed two years ago in Sydney.
It has a membership of about 25 people.
It holds regular monthly meetings to celebrate Jewish festivals, as well as theatre parties and picnics.
It is largely a support group for gay Jews, to create a feeling of belonging.
Chutzpah is a member of the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish organisations, Kim added.
• Kim Gotlieb