Zoe Goodhardt, Liebler Yavneh College, religious freedom and equality

One parent at Leibler Yavneh College is reported to not value “freedom and equality” for her children despite the school stating it won’t discriminate against LGBTIQ students and staff.

On the front page of The Australian today (“Keeping religion alive lies at heart of family’s values”; Dec 14 2018) Brad Norington and Elias Visontay write of parent Zoe Goodhardt’s decision to send her children to Orthodox Jewish school Leibler Yavneh College:

20181214 The Australian front page

When it comes to freedom and equality, she says there are plenty of other schools for parents to enrol their children, but choosing a school for Ezra, Rami and ­Jasmine was about choosing a community.

The article concludes with:

Mr Morrison confirmed yesterday that his government had ­accepted most recommendations of a review by former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock into religious freedoms.

Attempting to defuse a parliamentary impasse over the treatment of gay students within religious schools, Mr Morrison will refer this issue for further ­review by the Australian Law ­Reform Commission.

Legislation enabling same-sex marriage has created theological and ethical difficulties for several religious schools, including Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Coptic-Christian and Catholic, where it may clash with traditional teachings

On November 27 2018 J-Wire reported of Leibler Yavneh College:

Principal Cherylyn Skewes and Chair Avi Gilboa stated: “Our College ethos is underpinned by Jewish Law (Halacha) which mandates love and compassion towards our fellow. As such, we ask that the Senate Inquiry ensures that no student or staff member suffers any form of discrimination including those relating to sexual orientation and gender.

It’s unclear exactly what Zoe Goodhardt had in mind when she was responding to a question from The Australian on “freedom and equality”, but what is clear is the position Leibler Yavneh College has made on not discriminating against LGBTIQ students and staff.

It’s disappointing comment was not sought by The Australian from the school’s principal, as this would have offered the necessary degree of balance and perspective that is typically absent from this publication’s content.


Keeping religion alive lies at heart of family’s values

Zoe Goodhardt with her children, Ezra, 6, Jasmine, 1, and Rami, 4, at their home in Caulfield, Melbourne. Picture: David Geraghty
Zoe Goodhardt with her children, Ezra, 6, Jasmine, 1, and Rami, 4, at their home in Caulfield, Melbourne. Picture: David Geraghty

Sending her three children to Leibler Yavneh College at Elsternwick, in Melbourne’s southeast, is a form of “life insurance” for Zoe Goodhardt.

But this is an insurance policy like no other. It is the guarantee, Ms Goodhardt says, that her family’s Jewish faith and way of life can continue untrammelled.

So it is no surprise as rising secularism clashes with the beliefs and values of traditional faiths that Ms Goodhardt, 32, has rushed to support Scott Morrison’s pledge to protect religious freedom.

The Prime Minister’s commitment to overhaul federal discrimination laws, revealed in The Australian yesterday, is intended to introduce new provisions prohibiting discrimination against the right of individuals to practise their religions.

“I think it’s our right, and the right of the school, to cultivate a community at the school in line with their ethos and values,” Ms Goodhardt says.

When it comes to freedom and equality, she says there are plenty of other schools for parents to enrol their children, but choosing a school for Ezra, Rami and ­Jasmine was about choosing a community.

At Yavneh College, that community is based around the modern orthodox school’s mission to adhere to Jewish law (Halacha), ethical behaviour (Derech Eretz) and Zionist ideals.

Mr Morrison’s pledge on religious freedom will allow Yavneh to keep its strict admission policy permitting Orthodox Jews only.

“I know the kids could get a great education at a public school, but I want them to grow up in a community with our values,” Ms Goodhardt says.

“It’s problematic to think that the school I and my family have grown up in wouldn’t have the right to continue with their ­culture.”

Ms Goodhardt, a marketing manager, lives with her husband, Dan, and their children in Caulfield North, a suburb in the heart of Melbourne’s Jewish community, the nation’s largest.

Both also attended Yavneh.

Zoe Goodhardt’s parents were the children of Holocaust survivors, originally from Lodz, Poland, who arrived in Australia after the war looking for a safe Jewish community.

Mr Goodhardt, a counter-­terrorism analyst, arrived from England as a boy with his parents, whose similar quest was “for a free Jewish community”.

The family, says Ms Goodhardt, feels safe but with much thanks to the Jewish community in Melbourne that has been able to grow. Daughter Ezra, 6, has just finished Grade 1 at Yavneh while Rami, 4, has completed senior kinder at the school; Jasmine, 1, will start at the Yavneh creche next year.

In its mission statement, ­Yavneh says the school strives to develop resilient, independent learners equipped to “participate effectively as Jews in the outside world”. The school embraces Australian heritage as well, encouraging students to take pride in it and contribute to the nation’s future.

Mr Morrison confirmed yesterday that his government had ­accepted most recommendations of a review by former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock into religious freedoms.

Attempting to defuse a parliamentary impasse over the treatment of gay students within religious schools, Mr Morrison will refer this issue for further ­review by the Australian Law ­Reform Commission.

Legislation enabling same-sex marriage has created theological and ethical difficulties for several religious schools, including Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Coptic-Christian and Catholic, where it may clash with traditional teachings.

Teacher loses job at Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne after revealing she is transgender

Livia Albeck-Ripka from The New York Times reported in her October 18 2018 article “In Some Australian Schools, Teachers Can Be Fired for Being Gay”:

In Melbourne’s Orthodox Jewish community, a teacher reported losing her job after revealing she was transgender.

It is alarming to read that a teacher has lost her job because she revealed her gender identity and not for any failure to perform her duties as a teacher.

This sends a message that transgender people cannot freely express their gender in a workplace that is exempt from adequate anti-discrimination protections, thereby making their workplace unsafe for them.

Transgender people experience significant levels of discrimination in society due to intolerance, which feeds into elevated levels of suicidal ideation.  Schools should be places of learning and knowledge, not intolerance.

If a teacher was sacked for revealing a Jewish identity this would be seen as anti-Semitism, yet it seems there’s another standard for Jewish schools when the act of revealing a gender can lead to termination of employment.

This is a clear case of double standards and is entirely unacceptable.

The Wellbeing of LGBT+ Pupils A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools | Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Together with KeshetUK, the Chief Rabbi has been working to produce this unique and essential guide for Orthodox Jewish schools on the welfare of LGBT+ pupils.

SOURCE: The Wellbeing of LGBT+ Pupils: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools

Guide for Orthodox Jewish schools on the welfare of LGBT+ pupils.

For many months, together with KeshetUK, the Chief Rabbi has been working to produce this unique and essential guide.

Entitled “The Wellbeing of LGBT+ Pupils: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools”, it is aimed at school leaders, and sets out how they should provide for the welfare of LGBT+ students.

Following the release of the document, the Chief Rabbi said, “This is a document which I believe is an extremely significant milestone and will have a real and lasting impact on reducing harm to LGBT+ Jews across the Orthodox Jewish community. Our children need to know that at school, at home and in the community, they will be loved and protected regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.”

Dalia Fleming, Executive Director of KeshetUK said, “KeshetUK is proud to have worked closely with Chief Rabbi Mirvis and Jewish LGBT+ people to create “The Wellbeing of LGBT+ Pupils: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools”. KeshetUK now looks forward to working with with schools, Rabbis and educators across Jewish communities, supporting them to implement this guide so they can ensure their LGBT+ students reach their potential, free from homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, discrimination and fear.”

In order to view the full document click here.

201809-The-Wellbeing-of-LGBT-Pupils-A-Guide-for-Orthodox-Jewish-Schools

Aleph Melbourne – Championing LGBTIQ inclusion and advocacy in the Jewish community

20 December 2017

January 1995 saw the formation of a social group for gay Jewish men in Melbourne. The group was called Aleph Melbourne, to be distinct from the now long-defunct Aleph Sydney.

The need for a separate men’s group was due to the existence of the Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria, formed in 1992. It was JLGV’s desire to remain women-only, so Aleph filled the niche for men.

In the early years Aleph convened in private houses, had a committee, a meet-and-greet arrangement for new members, and a busy calendar of events.

Aleph was promoted through a small advert in the Jewish News, and also word of mouth.

I helped set up the first web page and email address for Aleph, both hosted on the then-popular Geocities service offered by Yahoo.

Due to a change in the group’s leadership in the late 1990s the committee decided to hold monthly drop-in meetings at the premises of the Victorian AIDS Council, then at 6 Claremont Street, South Yarra. The drop-in nights were a success for a long time, however dwindling attendance saw an end to these meetings in 1999.

Toward the latter half of 1998 the committee decided to apply for membership of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, in an effort to increase awareness in the Jewish community of issues that gay and bisexual men faced. Such issues included social isolation, discrimination, HIV/AIDS, and the emerging awareness of negative mental health outcomes and suicide.

In May 1999 our membership application failed to receive the two-thirds majority vote required from the council’s membership. To say our application for membership was controversial was an understatement, as it attracted front-page news, heated debate and full letter columns in the Jewish News for weeks and weeks.

Aleph felt the white-hot anger of the Orthodox leadership for daring to stand up for our individuality and acceptance. We also discovered there was a ground-swell of acceptance from many socially inclusive organisations, most notably the Progressive Jewish community, along with a large number of high school students, Zionist youth organisations and university students.

The rejection of our application by the JCCV took a huge toll on our small group which led to the committee folding and the group going into hiatus. However I felt that the need for the group was still strong and maintained a vigilant telephone and email presence.

Operating on a shoestring budget, we continued holding functions in private homes and offered support as best as we could.

Around 2007 we felt that continuing on as a gay and bisexual men’s group was marginalising those in the community who were transgender and so after consulting our membership we elected to become fully inclusive, accepting anyone with a Jewish identity as a member, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

We also noticed a need to cater specifically to Jewish youth and so Young Aleph was formed in 2007. A dynamic leadership team and fun events saw packed attendances for weeks and weeks. Young Aleph was a hugely successful experiment that ran until approximately 2009.

The shooting at the Tel Aviv LGBT Centre on August 1 2009 was a turning point for Aleph Melbourne. The now-dormant Melbourne-based AJN Watch blog wrote some hideous commentary about this event, degrading and vilifying gay men in the process. As an advocacy group, Aleph Melbourne reached out to the JCCV and asked for their help to combat this intolerance.

Whilst no practical support was initially forthcoming, the JCCV eventually succumbed to strong pressure from Aleph Melbourne and in late 2009 formed a reference group to start investigating the needs of LGBTIQ Jews. The JCCV has since become an advocate for LGBTIQ inclusion and awareness.

Over the years Aleph Melbourne has attended Pride March, Mardi Gras, In One Voice / Concert in the Park, International Holocaust Remembrance Day events, and the Midsumma Festival.

We made a documentary in 2016 commemorating our 20 year anniversary (1995-2015). This short film has screened in many film festivals around Australia and overseas. Most notably it was included in the Belfast Human Rights Film Festival and the prestigious St Kilda Film Festival.

Whilst Aleph Melbourne has provided a safe space for same-sex attracted Jews for many years now, most recently we have seen an increase in the need for support for transgender and gender-diverse people.

Statements calling for respect for LGBTIQ people together with statements of support for marriage equality, from organisations like the JCCV, Maccabi Victoria and the National Council of Jewish Women, have paved the way for a greater level of acceptance for LGBTIQ people.

Aleph Melbourne continues to offer a home for those Jews who do not identify as heterosexual, who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, or who may identify outside the gender-binary.

The tide has turned in the Jewish community. We have come a long way since 1995 and look forward to an exciting 2018 and beyond.

Michael Barnett
Co-Convenor – Aleph Melbourne

Beit Aharon Synagogue statement supporting marriage equality

 

Please share the following statement:

The leadership team at Beit Aharon, together with Rabbi Shamir Caplan, want to make clear our views in light of the upcoming survey:
1. As a community we oppose all discrimination
2. Changing the law to have marriage equality will have no effect on how Judaism is practiced in our community or the broader Jewish community
3. Therefore a yes vote in the upcoming survey about Marriage Equality is the most consistent vote with our Shule values

Shira Hadasha expresses disappointment with the Rabbinical Council of Victoria’s statement against marriage equality

Shira Hadasha is disappointed to read the statement of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria encouraging Australians to vote no in the proposed postal vote on same sex marriage. The issue is of civil law reform which will not compel any religious leaders or institutions to conduct marriages outside the parameters of their established practice. Accordingly the statement is not necessary and serves no purpose other than to further hurt and marginalise LGBTIQ Jews and their families.

The suggestion that same sex marriage being legalised in other countries had “concerning impacts on the education system and religious freedom” goes well beyond the scope of the proposed change to the law and we question its factual basis.

As an inclusive orthodox congregation, Shira actively seeks ways to welcome all Jews into Jewish life and community, and to honour the core Jewish value of kevod habriyut, respect for the dignity of all people.

 

Rabbi Shamir Caplan issues compelling statement supporting Orthodox Jews who wish to vote Yes on marriage equality

 

CIVIL SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

For several years, this is the response I have given to people who have asked about whether it is acceptable for Orthodox Jews to support civil recognition of Marriage Equality.

Those who know me are aware of my strong stance on the importance of acceptance, inclusivity, and dignity for all people. Here, let me address the issue from a more legal-philosophical perspective, which I think has a broader appeal in the Orthodox community.

Let me begin by asking a different question. If we lived in a society in which Freedom of Religion was not enshrined in law, would it be permissible for Orthodox Jews to vote YES if asked about creating such a law? I think most people would say it is in fact permissible to support the enshrining of Freedom of Religion in law, even though practically, it legally allows people to do all sorts of things (such as worship idols) that would seem to be explicitly against the Torah. So how could we support this?

The answer is, in an open democratic society, the best way to preserve my Freedom of Religion, is to preserve EVERYONE’s Freedom of Religion. Even if it means, in the process of doing so, I am essentially defending the legal rights of people who will choose to use those rights in a way that I my find problematic. But that’s the way law works. It is meant to be consistent and impartial. So in the process of preserving my rights, I am also preserving the rights of others.

In fact, I would further posit that most would consider it permissible for Orthodox Jews to actively and publicly campaign for the instituting of Freedom of Religion in their place of residence, using the same rationale.

In my mind, the maximal expanding of rights for all, as a means of preserving one’s own rights, applies to marriage, as well. Let me give an example that is germane to Orthodox Jews. According to Jewish law, it is acceptable to marry one’s first cousin. Not that I specifically recommend this, but it is in fact one’s right according to our tradition, and it was not an uncommon reality in times past. Now, what would happen if our government were to decide one day that this should be defined as incest? (By the way, according to the Marriage Act in its current form in Australia, you are able to marry relatives. See here) Would we not protest that this was curtailing our rights to decide who we want to marry, as observant Jews? Would it not be better for the secular government to get out of the business of deciding who can and cannot marry (save for the protection of minors, etc)?

In this way, we can argue that the best way to protect our rights to marry whom we choose is to protect everyone’s rights to marry whom they choose…

It is for these reasons that I believe it is permissible for Orthodox Jews, regardless of their feelings about the permissibility of homosexuality, to vote YES in the upcoming survey regarding Marriage Equality.

ARK Centre Statement on Same Sex Marriage

ARK Centre Statement on Same Sex Marriage

Response to the RCV:

As an Orthodox Jewish Community Centre ARK Centre rejects the recent statement released by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria with regard to the upcoming Same Sex Marriage postal plebiscite “encouraging citizens to vote ‘no’ to reforming the Australian marriage laws.”

We do so for two main reasons:

First, the plebiscite is a secular matter, not a religious one. There is separation between church and state in this country and this vote poses no threat to our ability to freely practice our religion.

Second, as Jews we need to be sensitive to matters of discrimination. We must never take any freedoms for granted. We have fought for generations to ensure our own religious liberties and must never back down from advocating for the abolition of any and all discrimination.