Jewish submissions to the Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill

Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill

All submissions

6 Council of Progressive Rabbis and the Union for Progressive Judaism (PDF 2422 KB) [backup copy]
6.1 Supplementary to submission 6 (PDF 3073 KB)  [backup copy]
128 Rabbinic Council of Australia and New Zealand (PDF 68 KB) [backup copy]
131 Rabbinical Council of NSW (PDF 131 KB) [backup copy]
133 Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ) & Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) (PDF 33 KB) [backup copy]

Council of Christians and Jews: Religious Forum on Same Sex Marriage

Council of Christians and Jews (Victoria) presents

Religious Forum on Same Sex Marriage

Six representatives from a variety of religious streams will discuss their various theological points of view on same sex marriage.

Rabbi Adam Stein: Kehilat Nitzan Conservative Congregation
Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson: Uniting Church Minister (Retired)
Rabbi Fred Morgan: Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Israel
David Schütz: Exec. Officer, Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission
Rabbi Shamir Caplan: School Chaplain, Mt Scopus Memorial College, Rabbi Beit Aharon Congregation.
Pastor Mark Tuffin: School Pastor, Luther College



Sunday, 21 October 2012, at 2.00pm

Lecture Room, TD 121 Building, Swinburne University

on the ground floor of the TD building on the corner of

John Street and Park Street Hawthorn

Admission $10.00

We cordially invite you to attend, and if possible please advise the CCJ office.

Tel: 9429 5212 or email:



Rabbi Caplan is School Chaplain at Mount Scopus Memorial College, where he coordinates the Talmud program, and serves as Rabbi of the Beit Aharon Congregation. He is on the board of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association and on the steering committee of Mitzvah Day, a Jewish Day of Service and Social Justice. He is married to Tania and they have three young children.

Rabbi Fred Morgan studied the religions of India and taught Religious Studies in the Department of Theology, University of Bristol, U.K. before entering Leo Baeck College to train as a rabbi. He lectured at Leo Baeck College for 10 years and was made an Honorary Fellow in recognition of his contribution to the College. In 1997 he came to Melbourne with his family to take up the position of Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth Israel. His involvement with interfaith work goes back to the beginning of his rabbinate. He was and remains an active member of the CCJ, and has addressed many interfaith conferences, published widely on the subject, and has led synagogue tours to India and Europe. His wife Sue is a Pastoral Care Coordinator; they have three adult children.

Lorraine Parkinson is an ordained Minister of the Uniting Church in Australia. She has been a parish minister (now retired) and continues to conduct worship in various congregations. Lorraine also conducts seminars Australia-wide on the Teachings of Jesus, the Problem of Evil (in a world created by a good God), and Christian-Jewish relations. She is chair of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania’s Working Group on Christian-Jewish relations and for 10 years was a member of the national dialogue between the Uniting Church and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. For the past five years Lorraine has been married to the Rev Dr John Bodycomb (both having been widowed) and between them they have six children and sixteen grandchildren.

David Schütz has fulfilled the role of Executive Officer for the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne since 2002. Previous to his reception into full communion with the Catholic Church, he was a Lutheran pastor for nine years. In his “spare” time, he conducts adult faith formation classes for Anima Education, cantors in the Cathedral and his parish in Blackburn North, and blogs at He is married to Cathy Beaton, and has two daughters, Maddy and Mia.

Adam Stein is the rabbi of Kehilat Nitzan, Melbourne’s only Masorti/Conservative community and synagogue. He received a BA in Judaic Studies from the University of California, San Diego, with minors in Theatre and Philosophy. Adam spent a year studying at the Hebrew University, and another, after completing his undergraduate degree, at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. He subsequently received Rabbinic ordination and a Master’s degree in Education from American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He and his wife Tamar moved to Melbourne in August 2011 after he had served as a rabbi for two years in Kansas City.

Mark Tuffin is an ordained minister of the Lutheran Church of Australia. He is currently serving as chaplain at Luther College in Croydon, Victoria. Mark has an undergraduate degree in Human Movement Studies with a diploma in teaching from the University of Queensland, and a Master’s degree from Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary in Minnesota, USA. He was ordained in 1993 and has served congregations in Brisbane and South Australia before taking up chaplaincy work in Victoria three years ago. He is married with four children.

AJN Letters: Homophobia, Bullying & Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen – March 2 2012

2 Mar 2012
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition

Letters to the editor should be no more than 250 words and may be edited for length and content. Only letters sent to will be considered for publication. Please supply an address and daytime phone number for verification.

My norms are not your norms

AS A proud gay Jew, who follows the Orthodox practices, I found little comfort in last week’s article “Tackling homophobia in the schoolyard” (AJN 24/02). They may preach against judgment, but that gives them no right to belittle us. “Universal norms” is not a “heterosexual union” Rabbi Cowen; that is your norm, in the same way that my norm is to be with someone of the same gender.

As for Rabbi Gutnick, your suggestion of submitting to celibacy is something to be ashamed of. It’s extremely narrow to perceive sexual diversity as purely physical and then to suggest that they deprive themselves of the same pleasures as everyone else. We don’t just need to be treated as equals, but we need to be recognised as equals. As with you, I too was created in God’s image – don’t ever forget that!

There is an Orthodox medium: accept and live. I pray that others of sexual diversity find the same strength to look beyond the community’s “tolerance” and seek those who accept: and most importantly, that they accept themselves.

Caulfield, Vic

Sexual orientation and the dignity of difference

THE AJN should be congratulated for publishing a plurality of rabbinic and other views about schools programs to combat bullying.

Bullying and vilification on the basis of sexual orientation is as much a scourge as is bullying and vilification on grounds of faith, race or ethnic origin.

Teaching high-school students that some people happen to be homosexual (or happen to be Jewish or black or from a minority ethnic group) celebrates only that they should enjoy the dignity of difference, a phrase that hails from the most hallowed halls of Orthodoxy.

Coogee, NSW

Rabbis opinions should not be silenced

RABBI Fred Morgan’s criticism of Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen’s attitude to homosexuality in “The realities of the human condition” (AJN 24/02) is based on relativism. But if no behaviour is “normative”, is anything normal? And is it not a rabbi’s and ethicist’s task to give guidance?

Our homosexual brothers and sisters, treated with love and respect, should celebrate their acceptance. Instead, some demand that their sexuality be celebrated. And some ridicule religion, but demand the utmost respect.

The Safe Schools Coalition Victoria website reveals a homosexuality-promoting group ensconced in a university, with programs even for kindergarten children. Sensitivity programs are fine, but the indoctrination of a minority ideal isn’t.

A society that values tolerance and prizes free speech must respect the right of Rabbi Dr Cowen to air his views. Those who disagree with his views should debate them, instead of trying to silence him, as though he was a blasphemer.

Chatswood, NSW

The right way to tackle the scourge of bullying

A WORLD that is threatened by terrorism and is exposed to violence and immorality in the media is a breeding ground for anti-social functioning among both children and their adult role models. It is no surprise that bullying in schools and through social networking sites is on the rise. We need strong remedies to address the problem of bullying.

Do I want my Jewish children in school today to have their moral and ethical education regarding bullying initiated by our present day government answerable to every lobby group?

Even if some of what they propose to teach is on track in their “Safe Schools Coalition”, I know with a mother’s love that some of the methods they espouse are far from appropriate for any school age child.

We should be most grateful to Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen who has courageously spoken out in these challenging times against a “politically correct” but dangerously flawed approach to bullying.

Inspired by the greatness of his own father who helped to bring healing and peace wherever his work took him, Rabbi Cowen’s writings show us how to return to the universal values, the moral and ethical absolutes of Torah and the Noahide Laws.

The Torah absolutes simplify everything. Our children learn that God is greatly good and that we are all made in His image therefore we all have great goodness.

A child with good self-esteem who feels loved and wanted at home and who is modelled good behaviours will not become a bully.

St Kilda East, Vic

Halacha is out-of-date on homosexuality

AS a heterosexual atheistic Jew I would like to address the GLBT issue featured last week. I am one of the very large number of Jews in Melbourne who do not believe in God, the divinity of the Torah or any other supernatural phenomenon.

I have learnt much ethical wisdom from many Jewish sources, but I believe they are all ultimately human in origin. There are however numerous aspects of halachic law I see as archaic, immoral and tragic. Some have fortunately been relegated to a status of inactive irrelevance by rabbis of previous centuries. These include the laws permitting slavery and polygamy. I see the biblical prohibitions against homosexuality as now crying out to be similarly shelved in the backwaters of Jewish history. Halacha actually recommends capital punishment for homosexuals in certain situations.

Jews more than most should have learnt from history that it is evil to persecute minorities and threaten them with execution.

I believe homophobia is as offensive as anti-semitism, and homophobic attitudes within the Jewish community must be challenged by every rational and responsible Jew.

To ignore homophobia is to condone it. I encourage those who are committed to orthodoxy to challenge their rabbis to be courageous on this issue.

Caulfield, Vic

Why the rabbi has got it wrong

IN an article recently published in the Australian Family Association journal, Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen writes that the real goal of the homosexual “anti-bullying” program for schools is “the teaching and validation of homosexual behaviour at the early stages of child education”. He further argues that homosexual behaviour is a moral wrong.

Rabbi Cowen is essentially claiming that the homosexual “anti-bullying” program for schools has an agenda hidden behind the overt purpose of eliminating bullying behaviour.

This claim deserves condemnation for two reasons:

Firstly, because it seeks to discredit a program aimed at protecting vulnerable young people in our community.

Secondly, because it validates the discriminatory attitudes on which the bullying behaviour overtly relies for its justification.

Even accepting that Rabbi Cowen himself agrees it is unmistakeably clear to “all good and reasonable” people that “the bullying of a child on any grounds is reprehensible and must be stopped”, arguing that homosexuality is abnormal behaviour undermines any anti-discriminatory message.

Writing from his religious perspective Rabbi Cowen reflects the attitude of religious authorities down the ages when he says that “however common or strong homosexual impulses may be in certain individuals, that will not make homosexual practice permissible”.

That position has ever been used by some to justify the vile persecution of those who are different to the majority.

We stand alongside those Jews and others who firmly believe that we need to be accepting of the wide variety of sexualities that are manifest in our community.

Bullying and exclusion – whether by schoolchildren or by rabbis, or indeed by anyone else – needs to be combated. Regardless of traditionalist religious interpretations, it is vital that the Jewish community, and the wider community, become places of inclusivity and belonging.

Australian Jewish Democratic Society

Tackling homophobia in the schoolyard | AJN

24 Feb 2012
The Australian Jewish News Sydney edition

Tackling homophobia in the schoolyard

In an article published in a journal of the Australian Family Association, Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, founding director of The Institute for Judaism and Civilisation, expressed his concerns about programs to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.  In the wake of the controversy, Rabbi Cowen explains his position, while Rabbi Fred Morgan, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick and Dr Jonathan Barnett share their opinions on the issue.

The realities of the human condition | AJN

24 Feb 2012
The Australian Jewish News Sydney edition

The realities of the human condition

Responding to Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen’s controversial article on homosexual anti-bullying programs in schools, Rabbi Fred Morgan says his views on “normative” behaviour ignore the realities of the human condition.

MY impression of Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen is that he is a gentle man. When he spoke from the bimah at Temple Beth Israel at his father Sir Zelman Cowen’s state funeral, despite Chabad strictures on their rabbis entering Progressive synagogues, he showed that he is also a compassionate man, someone who is able to appreciate what it means for each of us to be created in God’s image.

I am perplexed, therefore, how a caring individual like Rabbi Cowen can express views about homosexuality that are so hurtful and damaging, as he did recently in an article in the journal of the Australian Family Association. Unfortunately his views made the front page of the free broadsheet mx. The report in mx quoted a leading member of Aleph, Melbourne’s Jewish gay group, as saying that the rabbi’s views are “delusional”. It also quotes a press release from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry distancing Australian Jewry from Rabbi Cowen’s remarks.

The crux of the rabbi’s argument lies in the word “normative”, which he uses repeatedly in his article. For example, in rejecting the value of educating teachers about homosexuality as part of an anti-bullying campaign, he claims it is “using bullying as a pretext to teach all schoolchildren that homosexual conduct is equally normative with heterosexual conduct”. For Rabbi Cowen, what is “normative” really matters since it defines the style of life that a person should lead. There is a “norm”, and those who are homosexual do not fit it. Rather than basing the “norm” on observations of human behaviour, including the experience of homosexuals, the rabbi bases his “norm” on an ideological principle that, in his view, takes precedence over the realities of the human condition.

What precipitated Rabbi Cowen’s article? It seems to be the decision of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and other bodies to seek to educate teachers in how to deal sensitively and compassionately with students in their classrooms who are becoming aware of their homosexuality. These students face ostracism and bullying because we still live in a predominantly homophobic society.

“Keshet”, meaning “rainbow”, is an American-based, Jewish-focused program that trains teachers to be aware of these issues in the classroom. A group has been set up in Melbourne to bring Keshet to Australia. Rabbi Cowen does not seem to believe that programs like Keshet should be used to train teachers in Jewish schools about how to give support to students who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity.

What Rabbi Cowen seems to overlook is that Keshet and similar programs are not about what is “normative”. They do not seek to lay down how people should behave. They are about reality – how people are in fact.

Since an appreciable percentage of the population is homosexual in fact, students who are becoming aware that they are or may be gay or lesbian need to be supported in that exploration as much as students who are exploring their sexuality as heterosexuals.

They need to be supported by teachers who are there not to declare what is “normative” and what is “abnormal”, but rather to offer support to all their students by recognising the differences among them, protecting them from prejudice and attack, and giving them confidence in expressing their deepest sense of self.

School bullying program sparks heated debate | AJN


24 Feb 2012
The Australian Jewish News Sydney edition

School bullying program sparks heated debate | AJN


“I’m a thousand per cent behind stopping bullying of homosexual children.”
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen

A LEADING Australian rabbi has come under fire for attacking programs that aim to prevent gay children being bullied at school.

Writing in the journal of the Australian Family Association, Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, convenor of the Institute for Judaism and Civilisation, claimed, “Our society and societies around the world are in the grip of a major social struggle over whether society will accept and teach homosexual behaviour as normative.”

While stating, “it is totally and unmistakably clear that the bullying of a child on any grounds is reprehensible and must be stopped,” Rabbi Cowen added, “this must be radically separated from the moral agenda of the homosexual ‘anti-bullying’ program for schools,” which he claimed “is seeking to legitimate homosexual behaviour in the earliest stages of child education”.

Referring to the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria (SSCV), which is funded by the Department of Education and trains teachers in combating bullying of students for their sexual orientation, he said, “It requires schools to teach (‘celebrate’) the acceptability of homosexual behaviour as a norm. By so doing, it flies in the face of over 3000 years of religious and cultural tradition since Sinai. In terms of the world religions and world civilisation, it is teaching something which is a moral wrong and fundamentally unethical.”

In a further criticism of the program, he said it encouraged students “to lock themselves into a sexual identity in early or pre-adolescence”.

Rabbi Cowen’s attack on SSCV made headlines in Melbourne commuter newspaper mx, drawing criticism from SSCV coordinator Roz Ward, who described his views as “offensive”.’

Fellow academics at Monash University also weighed in, with Monash Education Faculty Members Against Homophobia penning a letter in which they called the views “uninformed” and “profoundly damaging”.

Meanwhile, writing in this week’s AJN, Rabbi Fred Morgan said Rabbi Cowen failed to realise that such programs “do not seek to lay down how people should behave.they are about reality – how people are in fact.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry distanced itself from Rabbi Cowen’s views, stating it “welcomes any government program designed to counteract bullying that has the support of victims and educators”. It described Rabbi Cowen as “highly respected in our community”, adding “that does not mean that his views on any subject are representative”.

Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia president Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, however, defended Rabbi Cowen’s view of the program. “While bullying in any form is abhorrent , including the bullying of someone because of their sexual orientation, the solution is not to ‘celebrate’ an orientation that is against Torah teaching.

“In the absurd, would one expect of an Orthodox school, where perhaps someone was being bullied for not observing the laws of kashrut, to combat that bullying by‘celebrating’ the eating of non-kosher food?”

He stressed that the Orthodox viewpoint was not homophobic. While “there is no doubt that the Torah forbids male homosexual acts,” he said those who may choose to engage in a prohibited act “must always be made to feel welcome and they must never be made to feel that they lose their Jewish identity or ability to worship as Jews”.

Dr Jonathan Barnett,convenor of Keshet, a group which plans to provide training for teachers in Jewish schools in protecting gay adolescents from bullying, said of Rabbbi Cowen’s views:“it may be one way of interpreting Torah, although I don’t think it’s the correct way, [but] I’m worried about today’s children. Do we turn our backs on them? I don’t think Rabbi Cowen means to turn our backs on them either, but it’s an issue of how we help the kids.”

Stressing that “I’m a thousand per cent behind stopping bullying of homosexual children,” and insisting “I am absolutely not homophobic,” Rabbi Cowen told The AJN this week,“our tradition teaches us that every person possesses a soul made in the image of God, and we must have respect for persons for that reason alone.”

He added, “I most certainly do think that bullying of all children, including homosexually inclined children should be tackled in schools. The way this should be done is in ways taught by experts in the area of bullying such as Evelyn Field. She teaches the bullied child methods of ‘bully blocking’and taking the wind ‘out of the bully’s sails’, which works for all pretexts of bullying. If, in conjunction with this, some reinforcing ethic is to be taught which is universally acceptable, it would be that every human deserves respect as possessing a special potential.”