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

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



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.

Limmud Oz 2014: the Queer sessions

Limmud Oz Logo 2014This year there are two Queer-related sessions at Limmud Oz 2014 in Melbourne.
Details below.

Sunday June 8
4:00pm – 5:00pm
Room: HB36

The Yids are all right: the hidden Jews behind British Pop
Gary Holzman
Arts | Other

It is a little known fact that a group of gay Jewish promoters had a substantial influence on the development of pop music in the late 50s and early 60s in Britain. In this session we will investigate the reasons for this phenomenon and also look in depth at the hidden Jewish promoters and songwriters behind such popular British pop and rock acts of the 60s and 70s as Cliff Richard, the Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Freddie & the Dreamers, Herman’s Hermits, The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, Fleetwood Mac, The Hollies, 10cc, Procol Harum, T-Rex and many others. Viewing vintage film & video clips, analysing song lyrics and listening to a lot of great music are all part of this entertaining session.

Monday June 9:
5:15pm – 6:15pm
Room: H2.38

Orthogay – has anything changed for gay men and women in the orthodox world? Will it ever?
Shamir Caplan
Text, Tradition and Faith | Jewish Ideas

One of the most challenging issues of our time within the Orthodox community is how to deal with homosexuality. How to reconcile the Biblical texts with modern science’s understanding of sexuality? How has Orthodoxy responded to homosexuals within the community? This is surely a defining issue for Orthodoxy in the modern era. Come join us for a presentation and respectful and open discussion on this important topic.

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.