New PJV president’s 2020 vision | AJN

The Australian Jewish News
Friday, January 11, 2013
Page 6

New PJV president’s 2020 vision
Peter Kohn

NEW president of Progressive Judaism Victoria (PJV) Brian Samuel said he was confident of exciting times ahead, as he took office at the annual general meeting.

Samuel, who has spearheaded PJV’s new marketing strategy, has also worked on its Vision 20-20 program, looking at the organisation’s goals for the year 2020.

The past president of Temple Beth Israel, Samuel paid tribute to Dr Philip Bliss – who stepped down as PJV president after a three-year term – crediting him with transforming the organisation from a synagogue-based body into a communally based one, which incorporates The King David School and Netzer youth movement.

Samuel signalled further changes in the coming year, with a strategic development day on February 10 to lay the groundwork for Progressive Judaism at the end of the decade.

He welcomed former state MP Helen Shardey, who has taken on a community-relations portfolio, and will strengthen links between the PJV and the broader Jewish community, and within State Parliament.

In his report, Bliss outlined advances in outreach to smaller regional communities during the past year, as well as in education, Israel awareness, the United Israel Appeal Progressive Trust, shlichut (recruiting volunteers from Israel), and gay rights.  “As I stand down, I know this year will be very exciting and rewarding.”

The meeting was addressed by Menachem Leibovic, deputy chair of Keren Kayemeth LeYisrael – Jewish National Fund, who have an update on his organisation’s ties with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.

PJV board member Jonathan Barnett – a fire safety and forensic engineer who was on the investigative team set up by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York – spoke about how the 9/11 experience has led to preventative engineering for the future.

GLBTI parent support network established | AJN

17 Aug 2012
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition
Enquiries:; 0467 508 868.

GLBTI parent support network established

KESHET Australia, a rights group recently formed to protect Jewish children who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (GLBTI), is forming a parent support network.

Jonathan Barnett, Keshet’s president, said parents are a critical factor in the wellbeing of children, not least when they are becoming aware of their sexuality.

“Parents are a big issue. How parents respond to their kids coming out – whether it’s a 14-year-old or a 24-year-old – really can make a big difference to how the kid feels and how they feel connected to family and the community. It’s part of our bigger mission,” he told The AJN.

“It’s not just the child that has to come out but the parent, and they come out to their friends and family,” he added.

Barnett said the three sets of parents founding the network have all gone to Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG), a mainstream support group.

“But what they all observed was that nobody else was Jewish and they wanted to be with other Jews who understand the Jewish community.”

The group is being formed as an addition or alternative to PFLAG. “We’ll have kosher cake, for example, and that’s one of the little differences,” he said.

Barnett reflected that perhaps Orthodox families need the service more than Progressives, “but everybody needs it”.

In a letter to The AJN, Barnett stated: “In our community, where success is often defined in terms of heterosexual relationships, marriage and grandchildren, there are many parents of GLBTI children who experience feelings of despair and even isolation. Keshet parents believe that there is a need to reach out and talk about these common concerns.”

Keshet Australia was formed earlier this year as an advocacy group for the Jewish GLBTI community, based on the Keshet organisation in the United States. The local group has strong informal ties with Progressive Judaism Victoria.

Download a Keshet information flyer here.

Gay youth: teaching the teachers | AJN

10 Feb 2012
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition

Gay youth: teaching the teachers

IN JONATHAN Barnett’s eyes, the most important goal is for Jewish secondary school students “to feel wanted and part of the Jewish community”, irrespective of their sexual orientation.

“The consequences of not being welcomed by the Jewish community range from depression and psychiatric problems to suicide, and God forbid, that’s the last thing we ever want,” the American-born fire safety engineer told The AJN.

Barnett, who is gay, is the convenor of Keshet (Hebrew for ‘rainbow’), a group that seeks to train Jewish educators, youth leaders and rabbis so they can deal with senior school students who have identified with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) community.

Keshet Australia stems from the Keshet organisation in the United States, which has so far trained about 700 educators. There are plans now to incorporate Keshet Australia as a notfor-profit organisation, which will implement a training and support program somewhat along the lines of Safe Schools Victoria, Barnett said.

While the local group has strong informal ties with Progressive Judaism Victoria (PJV), Barnett, a PJV board member, said there were GLBTI Jews across the Jewish spectrum, “whether they be Progressive or Orthodox”.

“It’s not a Progressive issue or an Orthodox issue, it’s a Jewish issue. It’s not an issue of simple tolerance, it’s an issue of the community embracing its own members, and its members include GLBTI Jews. But if you’re going to teach people to really create a warm environment, they have to understand what’s needed, and they need to understand it in a Jewish context,” he said.

“The Keshet program has been developed with a focus on our traditions and our texts. It looks at Torah and Talmud and the evolution of Jewish thought and philosophy.”

Once Keshet Australia has been incorporated, there are plans to bring an American educator to Australia to offer workshops.

“One of the reasons we’re not part of the Progressive movement is that the [Jewish] community is more than the Progressive movement,” he said, adding he was elated that the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has indicated its support for Keshet.

But asked if he expected strong opposition from educators at Orthodox Jewish schools, Barnett said: “We’re reaching out to teachers of day schools, and rabbis and others, because they too are worried about their kids. No one can tell me that the Orthodox don’t care about children.

“Nobody in the Jewish community, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t support gay kids. The issue is how do we do it. We’re not going into the schools to do the teaching. We want to give the educators the tools so they understand how to reach their own children in a way that’s appropriate to them and their philosophy.”

Barnett said he was hopeful that some Orthodox Jewish educators would become involved and that he had already had expressions of interest from teachers at Orthodox Jewish schools.

Last month, the PJV and Keshet organised an open forum linked to a Theatreworks production of Mother Son, a play on a gay Jewish theme. Half the proceeds benefited Keshet, and attendees took part in a discussion after the show with writer-performer Jeffrey Solomon.

JCCV president Nina Bassat said the roof body had asked Keshet how the Victorian Jewish community could help. “Given that it’s educating the educators in an area where there’s a lot of misinformation, we’ve said let us know what kind of support we can give you.”

A JCCV report last year found GLBTI members of the Victorian Jewish community were subjected to widespread marginalisation.

Progressives to embrace far-flung Jewish Victorians | AJN


2 Dec 2011
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition

Progressives to embrace far-flung Jewish Victorians

PJV will extend a hand to the GLBT community.

VICTORIA’S Progressive Jews will further broaden their scope to welcome those who feel detached from the Jewish community.

At the annual meeting of Progressive Judaism Victoria (PJV) on Monday, president Philip Bliss outlined a threepoint outreach program to be rolled out in the next year.

An outreach committee is being formed to extend a Progressive Jewish voice to fringe areas of Melbourne and to regional Victoria, with plans to raise awareness of PJV in Melbourne’s outer suburbs and in the Geelong area, as well as enhancing Kehillat Sdot Zahav, the nascent central Victorian Goldfields congregation.

PJV will also extend a hand to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and will run educational workshops for rabbis and volunteers on the most effective ways to build bridges with it.

PJV will establish a presence on Victorian university campuses to provide an alternative Jewish resource to Chabad.

Reflecting on PJV’S first year of operation since it was reconstituted from the old Victorian Union for Progressive Judaism, Dr Bliss stated: “Next year will be most exciting in terms of getting on with our projects.”

At its annual meeting, at the King David School, the Progressive roof body welcomed Lior Argaman, the new PJV shlicha who arrived from Israel with husband Didi and son Adam. Argaman was previously based in Jerusalem where she directed the shnat program of Netzer Olami, the international Progressive youth movement for three years.

Special guest was recently retired Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) president John Searle, who is the new chair of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC).

He outlined the highlights of his JCCV presidency, emphasising his aim of “bringing in Jews who are outside the tent”, and spoke about the JCCV’S work with Jews formerly from India.

Developing guidelines for constructive interfaith relations, and combating racism and anti-semitism, specifically the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement, were also priorities of his JCCV presidency, he said.

During that time he forged new links with police, the Victorian Multicultural Commission, state ministers, and VEOHRC.

Searle said one of his aims as VEOHRC chair will be to find increased communal support for refugee children.

Keshet fundraiser Midsumma event: Mother/SON

Progressive Judaism Victoria invite you to their Keshet fund-raiser evening on January 18 2012 during the Midsumma festival.  Half of the proceeds of this evening go toward the Keshet program, to benefit GLBT people in Victoria.

See the flyer below for details or check out the event on Facebook.  More details of the event on the Midsumma and Theatre Works sites.  Note, you must book directly via PJV if you want to assist the Keshet fund-raiser.

Mother Son Flier

Keshet is coming to Australia

Jonathan Barnett is bringing Keshet to Australia.  His message:

We have a committee and we have a plan. We will be bringing Keshet’s educational program to Australia. Contact me if you’d like to be involved.

Read about this exciting initiative here.

Contact Jonathan on 0467-508-868 or if you are interested.