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.

The elephant in the room: sex education in our Jewish schools | +61J

Religious Freedom Review: ECAJ ‘cautiously welcomes’ findings + Schools reject discrimination | AJN

See also:

ajn-20181221-p5 ECAJ cautiously welcomes findings + Schools reject discrmination

ECAJ ‘cautiously welcomes’ findings

December 23, 2018

THE Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has “cautiously welcomed” the long-awaited release of the Religious Freedom Review and the federal government’s response.

The government has endorsed 15 of the 20 recommendations in the report, which was handed down in May but only released last week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government plans to introduce a Religious Discrimination Act, employ a Freedom of Religion Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission and look to introduce a range of other amendments.

The issue of whether religious schools should be allowed to discriminate based on LGBTI+ status has been deferred for the time being.

“Discrimination on the basis of a person’s identity – including their religious identity – is unacceptable … we [also] respect the right of religious institutions to maintain their distinctive religious ethos. Our laws should reflect these values,” Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter said last week.

“Our commitment to striking an appropriate balance is clear. We are committed to finding a way forward that cuts through the political debates about whether some rights are more important than others.”

ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said that although the roof body believed religious freedom in Australia is not under threat, “as both an ethnic and a faith community we support the government’s intention ‘to further protect, and better promote and balance, the right to freedom of religion under Australian law and in the public sphere’.”

He said there “should be little controversy” about the endorsed recommendations, but did say the introduction of a Religious Discrimination Act will be more contentious.

“On the one hand the legislation will prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s religious belief or activity … on the other hand there will be similar exemptions to those in other anti-discrimination legislation,” he said.

“In practice, however, some difficult situations may arise in which one or the other principle will have to give way, and where no broad social consensus exists as to which principle ought to prevail.”

Wertheim added the creation of the Freedom of Religion Commissioner role was “good sense”.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council director of community affairs Jeremy Jones said the government would have a “difficult task trying to get the correct balance between protecting the right of all Australians to enjoy religious freedom while also trying to ensure that we can have full and robust discussion on matters of concern”.

GARETH NARUNSKY

Jewish community responses to religious discrimination in schools

Jewish Community responses to the removal of discrimination against staff and students at religious schools.

This table will be updated as further details come to hand.
Last update: 5:54pm 04-Dec-2018

Organisation (click for statement)StateRemove exemptions
Bialik CollegeVIC
The King David SchoolVIC
Mount Scopus Memorial CollegeVIC
Leibler Yavneh CollegeVIC
Mount Sinai CollegeNSW
Emanuel SchoolNSW
Institute for Judaism and CivilisationVIC
Aleph MelbourneVIC
Sholem Aleichem CollegeVIC
Moriah CollegeNSW
United Jewish Education BoardVIC
Yeshivah & Beth Rivkah CollegesVIC
NSW Board of Jewish EducationNSW
Board of Progressive Jewish EducationNSW
Carmel SchoolWA
Sinai CollegeQLD

Mount Scopus calls for removal of legislation allowing exclusion of students and staff on basis of sexuality

Mount Scopus Memorial College calls for the removal of discrimination against staff and students on the basis of sexual orientation.

Mount Scopus Memorial College

Aleph Melbourne warmly welcomes Mount Scopus Memorial College’s submission to the 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.

20181118-Mount-Scopus-Memorial-College-Submission-40

The hypocrisy within the Jewish community of calling for a “respectful” debate (or silence) on Marriage Equality

On Monday September 4 2017 the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) issued a statement advising citizens to vote No in the upcoming federal government postal survey on marriage equality.  A backlash to this statement ensued, with no less than Rabbi Daniel Rabin, President of the council that issued the statement, and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry distancing themselves from the aforementioned statement.

On Wednesday the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) issued a statement calling for “a respectful debate in the lead up to the same sex marriage survey”.

Also on Wednesday Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, Senior Rabbi of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation and President of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand, issued a statement explaining his rationale for participating in a position of silence on the postal survey.

On Thursday Rabbi Daniel Mirvis, Senior Rabbi of the Mizrachi Centre, issued a statement saying of the upcoming postal survey: “I plan on remaining silent on the matter”.

On Friday Rabbi James Kennard, Principal of Mount Scopus Memorial College issued a statement urging “all who choose not to remain silent to ensure that all comments, on all sides, are made with respect, sensitivity and understanding”.

By calling for a “respectful debate” the underlying message being sent is that debate must be respectful over whether the Marriage Act should continue to exclude same-sex and other non-heterosexual couples.  Ultimately this amounts to insisting on a polite conversation on the merit of legalised discrimination.

Engaging in silence on a matter of discrimination amounts to tacit endorsement of the status quo.

But what if the topic of conversation were not Marriage Equality, but instead the banning of non-medical circumcision, the banning of religious slaughter of animals, government support for BDS, or the removal of religious and racial protections?

Would it still be acceptable to have a debate, or maintain silence, on any of these topics, respecting the underlying premise of each issue?

Would Jewish community leaders stand around and silently tolerate the wider community respectfully debating the merits of these topics, with a laissez-faire approach to the conversations?

Probably not.

Yet it’s acceptable for some senior Jewish Community leaders to insist on tolerating a “respectful debate” or maintaining a silence over whether the government can continue to enshrine discrimination in the law against a marginalised and highly vulnerable minority group for no good reason.

And this isn’t double standards?  Where is the respect in that?

Rabbi James Kennard calls for respect when commenting on same-sex marriage survey

I will not be making any comment on the Same-Sex Marriage survey, or on the various public statements that have come from members of the community, since it is not my role, as a Rabbi, or a Principal or even a humble citizen to tell any other person how to vote.

I would urge all who choose not to remain silent to ensure that all comments, on all sides, are made with respect, sensitivity and understanding.

Media Release: Aleph Melbourne welcomes Mount Scopus Inclusivity Statement

ALEPH MELBOURNE
MEDIA RELEASE
JULY 22 2016

Aleph Melbourne welcomes the “Inclusivity Statement”[1] issued to parents by Mount Scopus Memorial College on June 20 2016.

This statement is the first public acknowledgement by the school for the need to offer specific support to same-sex attracted and gender diverse students, as well as students from rainbow families.

Whilst the school has not yet adopted a comprehensive program such as that offered by the Safe Schools Coalition Australia[2] (SSCA), this is an important first step, as it offers a foundation for the school to build on.

Increasingly, the Australian school landscape is understanding that the era of marginalising same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender diverse students is over and is seeking better ways to include and value the diversity of these students.

Strong leadership has already been demonstrated in the Victorian Jewish school community, with The King David School, Sholem Aleichem College and Bialik College being long-standing members of SSCA.

As Mount Scopus finds its feet in supporting their previously neglected students, it will discover a fantastic surge in performance from those students it enables to be authentic to themselves.  The more support these students receive, whether at school, at home or in the community, the more they will thrive.

Aleph Melbourne looks forward to further initiatives from Mount Scopus Memorial College that actively demonstrate support for their LGBTIQ students and wishes the school a hearty congratulations for taking this first brave step.

Media contact: Michael Barnett – 0417-595-541

[1] http://aleph.org.au/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2016_07_20_-_Mount_Scopus_Inclusivity_Statement_Letter.pdf[2] http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org.au

Mount Scopus continues to ignore the needs of its LGBTQ students

Posted on Facebook by Daniel Baker on August 20, 2013 and reproduced with permission:

Mount Scopus continues to ignore the needs of its LGBTQ students. Here is my most recent letter to the Principal and the head of the Board:

Dear Rabbi Kennard and Ms Kennett,

Thank you for your email dated August 12.

I must say that I am disappointed with your response. My emails dated 24 June and 25 July were responses to and questions on Rabbi Kennard’s letter dated 18 February, and it seems disingenuous to suggest that that letter could somehow provide the answers to the very comments and questions it raised. I have explained in a number of emails why Rabbi Kennard’s response was insufficient and, in some cases, erroneous – for instance, in its comparison of homosexuality to Shabbat violation. The school’s refusal to respond to these concerns raises serious questions about its commitment to equality and student well-being.

Additionally, and beyond the immediate issue of same-sex attracted students, I must say that your response raises concerns about the way the School treats concerned stake-holders. When I began calling on Mount Scopus to join the SSCV, and when my campaign was gaining significant public attention, Rabbi Kennard urged me to keep this matter private. He promised a constructive and meaningful dialogue in the interests of protecting the safety and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer students. While I appreciated his letter dated 18 February, I do not think that a single letter followed by continued refusals to engage further constitutes real dialogue. To the contrary, it seems to reflect a lack of good faith on the part of the Principal.

As I have acknowledged on numerous occasions, it is of course the prerogative of the Principal and the Board to determine the school’s direction. What I seek is not an immediate policy change along the lines I have suggested, but a considered response to the 5 key points I raised in my email of 25 July. Those points are directly raised by Rabbi Kennard’s letter of 18 February, and the School’s claim to care about its same-sex attracted students cannot be taken seriously until they have been addressed.

I note that according to your email the correspondence between me and Rabbi Kennard was addressed at a recent meeting of the Board. Are you willing to make the notes of this meeting available to the public?

I look forward to your response.


Comment by Jonathan Barnett on letter by Daniel Baker

 

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
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