Dr Mary Lou Rasmussen of Monash University speaks about Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen

Title: The Rainbow Report – Freedom of Speech Pt 2
Author: Joy 94.9
Summary: Doug speaks with Dr Mary Lou Rasmussen of Monash University about the uproar created by the homophobic remarks of Rabbi Shimon Cowen, and the implications for academic freedom of speech
Published: Wed, 22 Feb 2012 9:41 AM
Duration: 13:28
Download: RAINBOW REPORT 21022012 PART 2.mp3

JCCV update on Melbourne gay radio JOY 94.9 FM – Nov 4 2011

Further to the post on November 3 about the analysis of the JCCV’s report, here’s the podcast of the interview.

Title: The Rainbow Report-Progress Part 3
Author: Joy 94.9
Summary: On this edition of the Rainbow Report Doug with the assistance of his co-host, Chris Warwick from the Defence Force Gay and Lesbian Information Service and hopefully our new producer, speak with Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black from the Centre for Progressive Judaism about the report that looks into GLBT vilification and discrimination in the Jewish community.
Published: Fri, 4 Nov 2011 2:08 PM
Duration: 14:51
Download: RR_PODCAST_04 11 2011_PART 3.mp3

Rainbow Report – Slow Progress at the JCCV?

Last month Doug Pollard spoke to the JCCV’s outgoing President John Searle about the progress of their investigation into vilification of and discrimination against GLBT people in the Jewish community.  Tomorrow he discusses the findings of the JCCV’s investigation with Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black from the Leo Baeck Centre.

Tune in to JOY 94.9 in Melbourne or via live streaming on www.joy.org.au at 12:30pm (UTC/GMT+11) on Friday November 4 2011.

If you’d like to know a little more about Jonathan, this article will give you an idea of the wonderful person that he is.


Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black

Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black



“Regular listeners will know that I’ve been following the story of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and their somewhat tortuous relations with the gay and lesbian community

This week saw the publication of their report into GLBT discrimination and vilification in the Jewish Community, and it’s fair to say that while it was progress of a sort, most seemed to feel it was far too little.  Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, from the Leo Baeck Centre for Progressive Judaism in Melbourne, gives us his reactions to the report.”

Transcript of Oct 7 2011 interview with John Searle on JOY 94.9

(Podcast of interview here)


Transcript of interview between Doug Pollard, Tim Newton and John Searle
Recorded at the JOY 94.9 studios in Melbourne
October 7 2011


VOICEOVER: You’re listening to a JOYcast from GLBTIQ community radio station JOY 94.9

DOUG POLLARD: And this is Doug Pollard bringing it to you with the able assistance of Tim Newton.

(off-topic discussion)

Now, um, a little while back there was a move by the Victoria’s peak Jewish body, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, to reach out to the GLBTI Jewish community, um, and to find out, to try and get some handle on the level of discrimination, homophobia, whatever else, in the, ah, Jewish community – particularly the gay Jewish communities.  And the man who headed that up is the surely to be departing head of the Council, John Searle.  Welcome back yet again to …

JOHN: Doug thank you very much for having me.

DOUG: … the Rainbow Report.  We’ll have to get you a permanent seat here I think.

JOHN: It’d be a pleasure.

DOUG: OK, umm, what’s happened? What’s happened to this review, this enquiry? Where are you at with it now?

JOHN: We’ve by and larged finished making all the enquiries within our community, having previously made enquiries outside of the community, and we’re in the process of finalising the report, er which I’m delighted to say should be released within the er next two to three weeks I would have thought.

DOUG: Hmm.  How many submissions did you get?

JOHN: Not very many.  Ah, if I said between four and six that would probably be an accurate number.

DOUG: Ooh, that’s a, that’s rather a small sample on which to base the report on isn’t it?

JOHN: Well look it’s a very small sample and I’m disappointed about that because ah … my, my initial reaction was that there would be plenty of people who’d wish to provide submissions but that appeared not to be the case.  But thankfully we’ve also been able to speak to a lot of people within some of our relevant community organisations to try to get a feel for their perspective on the issues and what’s going on in schools and other places, to provide a useful report that I think more than anything else, will open members of the community’s eyes to these issues.

DOUG: OK.  Um now there was an issue we spoke about with Rod Mitchell on this program about some length about the confidentiality issue.  Um, there’s a two-fold problem with that one.  One was that you were not allowing anonymous submissions at that stage, and the other one was that nobody knew, nobody knows who is on that reference group.  Now, have you moved to address those issues?

JOHN: We did er take steps to have the submissions put to another organisation such as the er Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission, or perhaps the La Trobe.  Er, neither of those organisations were able to assist at the time, which was a pity.  Ah, so therefore we had to maintain it as it was because we couldn’t find a third party who we would er be comfortable with to receive the submissions.  In relation to the identity of the people who were on the reference group, my expectation is most if not all of those people will sign the report with their names, but ah, they’ve been (pause) they’ve confided to me they’ve been reluctant at this stage to put their names out in the public domain for fear of, er frankly, some vilification and discrimination, strangely not from the non-gay communities but rather from the gay communities and other people who perhaps haven’t yet appreciated the extent of the work we’re doing.

DOUG: OK, well one of the people who raised these issues with me and was particularly concerned about um the anonymity of the board members, was, um, the veteran gay campaigner, Mannie de Saxe and he joins us on the line now.  Good afternoon Mannie.

MANNIE DE SAXE: Good afternoon Doug.  How are you?

DOUG: I’m very well.  Now, ah, we have John Searle here with us, did you hear what he just said, about …


DOUG: How do you react to that?

MANNIE: Ah, well one of the main points that I wish to answer, to have answered is, are people like ALEPH on, represented in the group? And are people, groups like Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria represented on that reference, ah, group? And if not, why not?

DOUG: Well there you are John, straight to the …

JOHN: Well the short answer to the question is ah yes, there are representatives from people who are affiliated with each of those organisations on the reference group.

MANNIE: Well then why are they not wanting to have their names in the public arena?

JOHN: The reluctance to put their name in the pubic arena has come about predominantly because there’s been some people within the GLBT communities who, perhaps through lack of understanding of what we’re doing, have been exceedingly critical and, ah, vilifying of the work of the reference group and whilst we’ve been undertaking that work, they’ve not, er, relished the prospect of being vilified or discriminated against.

DOUG: Can I come in here John and add another question in? You said earlier on that you only had very, very few submissions, and that you hadn’t been able to use any kind of anonymising service to receive those submissions, and as I said until now the members of the reference group have also been anonymous.  Do you think those things taken together account for the reluctance of people to make submissions, one that they didn’t want to put their names to things in case they too got some come-back? And secondly, because they didn’t know who was going to be reading them?

JOHN: I don’t think, er (pause), the lack of knowledge as to who compromised the, or, sorry, who comprised the, er, reference group would have been a significant issue.  I can understand there may have been some people who were a bit reluctant to put submissions in to the JCCV.  Ah, there wasn’t very much we could do about that, as I said we tried to have them received by the Human Rights & Equal Opportu … or, Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission.  They weren’t at the time able to assist.  Neither was the La Trobe University unit so they had to stay with us.  But I think also of importance is the fact that this report is the beginning of the Jewish community dealing with these issues.  I would hope it’s not going to be the end of the Jewish community dealing with these issues, and there may well be further opportunities to advance these issues as we go through the years.

DOUG: Um, you were talking about um (chuckles) some trenchant criticism that you’d had from certain members of the Jewish community; that certain member of the Jewish community has just messaged, who says ah BS there is NO official representation from ALEPH on the reference group.  That’s from Michael Barnett.

JOHN: All I can say is I have people sitting in that room who tell me they are involved with ALEPH.  Er, I have no reason to disbelieve them.

MANNIE: What is their level of expertise, that they can sit in judgment on, ah, some of the submissions, I mean there are only four to six submissions so there’s not an awful lot of judgment to be made…

TIM NEWTON: They’re Jewish!  That’s their expertise.

DOUG: (chuckles)

MANNIE: That is not a judgment.  That is not someone who can sit in ah judgment on, on gay Jewish issues.  The fact that they’re Jewish – I mean, we’re Jewish.  So?

JOHN: Mannie, I think the critical issue here is it’s not a matter of sitting in judgment.  My concern in establishing this reference group was that there was serious issues involving er the GLBT communities of vilification, of discrimination, mental health issues, and we as a community had never seriously looked at these issues …

MANNIE: That is true.

JOHN: … and said we have to do something about it.  So the job that I took upon myself was to start doing something about these issues and to say we in the Jewish community are really in many respects no different to the rest of the community.  There are issues here, they cannot be swept under the carpet, they cannot be ignored.  If we have students in our schools who are struggling with their sexual identity, who are having trouble with these issues, we need as a community, if they are in our community schools, to develop strategies to assist these people, to make sure that they are provided with a safe and secure environment, regardless of their sexual identity.

MANNIE: Well shouldn’t there have been some link on the JCCV web pages to the reference group, and there is no link.

JOHN: Well there’s certainly an opportunity for people to contact the JCCV, as you did Mannie and, er, ask questions about it.

MANNIE: Right …

JOHN: I think all questions that have been submitted or all emails that have come in to me, I’ve very promptly responded to.  You will know that from the quick response you received from me to your email.  The critical point here I think – there are different ways of dealing with issues, and knowing that our community has never looked at this issue before, meant I think that we had to deal with it in a very sensible way rather than ruffling feathers, produce something that we can put to our community that will open people’s eyes, that will educate them and will be a starting point to make sure that these issues are dealt with on an on-going basis for the betterment of everybody.

DOUG: OK gentlemen, I’m going to have to call time now because, ah, we are running towards the end of the program.  There’s a couple of SMS’s here.  Mannie, thank you very much for joining us and putting your questions …

MANNIE: Thank you …

DOUG: … and ah …

JOHN: Thank you Mannie.

DOG: … whilst you’re on line, thank you for still being out there carrying the rainbow flag.

MANNIE: (laughs) Thank you.

DOUG: (laughs) OK that was Mannie de Saxe there, I think probably the oldest gay activist in Australia, he’s in his eighties, which is wonderful.  Ah message …

TIM: You’re number two.

DOUG: … ah message … Yeah thank you … message here from Richard ah who says could it be that the reason you got so few submissions is that many in the Jewish community generally are accepting on this issue? As a secular Jewish man my friends and family are loving and accepting, ignoring the strongly religious of course, who have too much say in the community anyway.

JOHN: Look it’s possible.  I think the feedback we’re getting is that the younger generations are far more accepting than previous generations.  Interestingly, not all of the submissions were received from members of the GLBT communities.  Two were from, er, heterosexual people.

DOUG: OK.  We’re going to have to cut it off here.  Thank you John for joining us today yet again.

JOHN: Thank you for having me.

DOUG: Good luck with your report.  We look forward to ah seeing the results.

VOICEOVER: This JOYcast is a free service brought to you by JOY 94.9

[ Thanks to Fiona Jones for providing this transcript. ]

JCCV update on Melbourne gay radio JOY 94.9 FM – Oct 7 2011

Further to the post on October 6 about an update from the JCCV’s president John Searle, here’s the podcast of the interview.

Title: The Rainbow Report-Spring Cleaning part 4
Author: JOY 94.9
Summary: On this edition of the Rainbow Report it’s all about spring cleaning. Doug with the help of co-host Tim Newton, bring some old issues out of the closet to see how things have gone. They speak with John Searle, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, and Mannie de Saxe about the campaign that John has launched to ask feedback of GLBTI Jews.
Published: Fri, 7 Oct 2011 3:17 PM
Duration: 11:43
Download: RR_PODCAST_07 10 2011_PART 4.mp3


Rainbow Report Spring Cleaning – An update from the JCCV

In August Doug Pollard spoke to the JCCV’s President John Searle about their investigation into vilification of and discrimination against GLBT people in the Jewish community.  Tomorrow he has another chat with John Searle to see how their investigation is progressing.

Tune in to JOY 94.9 in Melbourne or via live streaming on www.joy.org.au between midday and 1pm (UTC/GMT+11) on Friday October 7 2011.


“Rummaging deeper in the cupboard we came up with an interview we had with the departing head of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, John Searle. He was launching a campaign asking for feedback from GLBTI Jews – we’ll hear how it went.”


Interview with JCCV’s John Searle on GLBT radio JOY 94.9 – Aug 5 2011

[Related posts on ‘Call for Submissions‘]



Transcript of interview between Doug Pollard, Rob Mitchell and John Searle
Recorded at the JOY 94.9 studios in Melbourne
August 5 2011


VOICEOVER: You’re listening to a JOYcast from GLBTIQ community radio station JOY 94.9.

DOUG POLLARD: Good afternoon and welcome to the Rainbow Report, this time on the subject of acceptance. Now recently the LGBT Reference Group of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the peak Jewish Community body in the state, put out a call for submissions regarding and I quote “vilification, discrimination and mental health concerns in that segment of the Jewish community” and joining us this morning to talk about it is the president of the JCCV John Searle. Good afternoon John.

JOHN SEARLE: Good afternoon Doug and thanks very much for having me on the show.

DOUG: You’re very welcome. Now first off for listeners who don’t know can you explain what this reference group is, that you have.

JOHN: The reference group was formed a couple of years ago because one of the platforms I initiated on assuming the presidency was to try and include as many Jewish people within the broad confines of the community tent and it struck me there were clearly groups of people, Jewish people, who were for one reason or another, not associating with the community, not inside the tent. So I wanted to try and broaden the tent as far as possible and there was clearly some empirical evidence that suggested just like everywhere else there was discrimination, there was vilification of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community within the Jewish community.

DOUG: Yep. Ah, now this is…  So who is on this generally speaking, in general terms, who is on the reference group? Are they people from the Jewish GLBTI community?

JOHN: Yes, together with representatives of a couple of other Jewish organisations, but there seemed little point having the reference group unless we had members of the GLBT communities.

DOUG: Indeed.  Indeed.  I just wanted to get that point clear…

JOHN: Absolutely.

DOUG: … for people who don’t know. Now you are calling for submissions from members of the Jewish GLBT community but not exclusively from members of the Jewish GLBT community.

JOHN: That’s right, although the emphasis has clearly got to be from members of the Jewish community. We’re trying to better inform ourselves as to the position in our community. I don’t know that our community is going to be particularly different from any other community, or the broader Victorian community. On most issues my message is that we are Victorians, the issues that we face are exactly the same as everybody else and I think that’s probably correct in this instance but I do want to get as much information as possible from Jewish members of the GLBT community, to assess the current situation.

DOUG: OK.  So where have you publicised this initiative?

JOHN: It’s been publicised in the Australian Jewish News, on a couple of websites which are Galus Australis and J-Wire, and we are getting it out to the student youth bodies as well so that hopefully it’s getting as wide a possible dissemination.  I’m happy to be speaking about it here, that’s one of the reasons I am delighted to be here, and I have also spoken to I think it was the Southern Star in relation to a call for submissions.

DOUG: So you are putting it out both within the Jewish community and within the GLBTI community…

JOHN: Yes.

DOUG: Because there may be some members of the Jewish community who don’t actually connect much with the Jewish community for precisely the reasons that this aah precisely the reasons that you’ve set up this inquiry.

JOHN: Absolutely and that’s why it’s got to have a wider distribution list.

DOUG: Ok. So what sort of thing are you wanting to hear about? You’ve said relevant experiences, positive or negative.

JOHN: Well generally speaking when you call for submissions you always hear the negative, I think that’s human nature.  That people like to complain more than they like to praise.  What I’m expecting of course is to hear far more of the negative responses than the positive responses but I think to get a really accurate picture as to what’s going on in the community we need to hear from people who have had the negative experiences and the positive experiences.

DOUG: Hmm.  Now this obviously, as Rob and I have discussed on many occasions, talking about GLBTI youth in particular, this obviously has an impact on the suicide rate so presumably that’s going to be one of the things you are going to be looking at, the suicidal thought and ideation that happens among GLBTI youth as a result of discrimination?

JOHN: Indeed and it’s something we’ve already tried to look at.  Of course it’s difficult sometimes to get figures and to get statistics as to not only how many youngsters have unfortunately committed suicide but what the cause was, but we’re speaking again to as many people as we can to try to find out as fully as we can what the position is.

DOUG: Yeah, because the problem is that if people do commit suicide or attempt to commit suicide because they’re unhappy about the fact that they’re gay, that’s going to be the last thing they want people to know, isn’t it [indistinct]?

JOHN: Exactly.  And I think that’s another reason why it’s so important to have members of the GLBT communities on our reference group because they’re more likely to hear of things than we are.

DOUG: So why then have you asked for no anonymous submissions, because if people are uptight about their sexuality and uptight about the discrimination they’ve received at the hands of members of the Jewish community, why would they then out themselves to you as leader of that community?

JOHN: I suppose the cover-all is that confidentially is assured.  We’re aware of that, but a couple of people on the reference group committee said “look it’s better to call for submissions from people who are prepared to identify themselves that may produce more honesty than simply allowing the people to have the veil of anonymity”.

DOUG: But you could have achieved that by having a more arms length process couldn’t you, by having say some academic or some medical professional as it were sort of act as the first stop on this route to you.

JOHN: It’s a pity you weren’t on our subcommittee and gave us that suggestion frankly but at the end of this process if we don’t believe we’ve been successful and if we don’t… if we believe that’s the reason why, then I think that’s a great idea to take at the next step.

DOUG: John, I wanted to ask you one or two more things before you go.  What will actually happen to the responses that you get to this.  I mean, what will they be used for, and so forth?

JOHN: The intention is to prepare and produce and then disseminate amongst our community a report on firstly our findings from these submissions and also the findings we’ve had from representations made to the subcommittee over a period of time from numerous people.  The whole point of the exercise is not only to educate ourselves but to then educate our community and to get the message out there in very clear terms that vilification is just not on, discrimination is not on and people need to appreciate there are serious mental health issues that flow from all of this and people within our community need to understand there is no place for vilification or discrimination.

ROB MITCHELL: Um, John, it’s good to hear you say that because just listening to you, and I’ve never met you before, but one thing really has just… has occurred to me over the last few minutes, is the JCCV, which is the peak body for Jewry in Victoria…

JOHN: Correct.

ROB: … and you’re the head of the JCCV.  Um, I think you’re a really powerful bloke and I suspect that because you’re very powerful that there are going to be people within your community who would like to say something about the way they’ve been treated on the basis of their sexual orientation, either with interacting with people in the community or via their schooling, but they’re going to be frightened to do it.  And the work that I’ve done in sport it’s…  I can see a parallel there because you’ve really got to have a third, you know like a third party.  There will be people that will want to talk to you and give you their experiences, there is no doubt about that, but I’m just thinking that would it not be a good idea to involved a third entity, now whether it’s the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission or whether it’s you know a university, to put that completely you know third party into the loop so you know my feeling would be that you would get a lot more responses and they won’t be worrying, you know, about what you’re thinking and I take what you say at face value about confidentiality and transparency but you know we’re sitting here and we’re not clearly 17 or 16 or 19 or whatever, we’re sitting here talking about this in a completely different context and I am just wondering, you know that’s something you can initiate when you walk out of this studio, that that’s something that could be then disseminated into the press.

JOHN: If I could interrupt you there it’s something I will initiate when I get out of this studio.  Part of the reason of having this reference group is to inform ourselves and to take advice from people who are far more experienced and knowledgeable in this area than we are.  The advice you’ve given me sounds very sensible, so we’ll act on it.

ROB: [Indistinct] I think you’ve got to talk about elephants in the living room and you know people like Michael Barnett and so on have been vociferous critics…

DOUG: And speaking of Michael who’s just messaged in, um, “In ’09 John Searle said he only wanted input from members of the Jewish community, but offered to get… and I offered to get the best people in the GLBT community involved and that was rejected”.

JOHN: Well I reject any suggestion that it’s been rejected. I had a meeting initially at which Michael Barnett and a number of other people were present.  A number of those other people… are part of the reference group.

DOUG: Ah.  Right.

ROB: Alright.  So I just wanted to just draw out that reference you made to mental health.  The other reason I’m suggesting that you get a third party in there like the Commission or… and preferably the Commission is that I think if we look at the horrendous rates of suicidal thought and depression particularly in the younger members of the Victorian community and obviously the Jewish community, you will get where you want to go a lot faster by working with organisations like Headspace for example, you know, to…  What we need is a, is a very collaborative approach.  The other thing that you can do is really take people on who are discriminatory.

DOUG: Well look we…  I am sure this is all…  You’re doing all your work on air now. We’re eavesdropping on your meeting.  Um, I, we’ve gotta wrap it up there, but thanks very much for coming in today John and we do urge anyone in the Jewish GLBTI community to get in contact with the reference group. They do that by?

JOHN: Well, ah, the address is here, send it confidentially by email to president@jccv.org.au or it can go confidentially in an envelope posted to The President, JCCV, 306 Hawthorn Road, South Caulfield, Victoria.  But can I say the next ad that appears will have another address if I can organise it with the Equal Opportunity Commission at that location for people who can send confidential submissions to a third party.

DOUG: OK.  Thanks for that John.  That was John Searle there, the president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria.

Rainbow Report on Acceptance – Vilification in the Jewish Community

Tune in to JOY 94.9 in Melbourne or via live streaming on www.joy.org.au between midday and 1pm (UTC/GMT+10) on Friday August 5 2011 to hear Doug Pollard interview JCCV President John Searle.  Details below.


“Within religious communities I think it’s fair to say that we are for the most part in the early stages of that journey, except for a few enlightened souls like, for example, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And the Jewish community here in Victoria is no exception. The President of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, John Searle, joins us to talk about the latest steps toward acceptance his organisation is taking, with an inquiry into vilification, discrimination and mental health in the LGBTI Jewish community” (Call for Submissions)

Transcript of interview with ADC chairman Anton Block on Gay & Lesbian radio JOY 94.9


Transcript of interview between Doug Pollard, Tim Wilson and Anton Block
Recorded at the JOY 94.9 studios in Melbourne
July 1 2011


VOICEOVER: You’re listening to a JOYcast from GLBTIQ community radio station JOY 94.9.

DOUG POLLARD: And this is Doug Pollard bringing it to you with the able assistance of Tim Wilson from the Institute of Public Affairs.  Now, according to their website the Anti Defamation Commission quote “fights anti-Semitism and racism, educates against hate and promotes good interfaith relations”.  And now according to an article in the community newspaper Southern Star, a motion was recently passed at a board meeting to include GLBT issues as part of their overall agenda to stand up for human rights.  Now this piqued my interest so I have invited to join us on the line now to explain what the ADC does generally and what this latest move means is Anton Block, the chair of the Association.

DOUG: Good afternoon Anton.

ANTON BLOCK: Good afternoon Doug, how are you going?

DOUG: I’m going really well.  So for people who don’t know can you just give us an outline of what the Anti-Defamation Commission does?

ANTON: Yeah sure.  So we’re an organisation whose primary role is to combat racism with a focus on anti-Semitism.  And we do that in a number of ways.  We deal with incidents when they arise from time to time.  We engage in education programmes specifically aimed at building relationships and bridges with other ethnic communities so you know, taking that to the pro-active approach to demonstrate that as Jews we are people who share common values and common purposes in life as other ethnic mainstream communities.  And in addition to that, from time to time, when there are matters before Parliament or issues out in the community which require some advocacy type issues to be done on their behalf, to be advocated say for example matters relate to the Jewish community well then what we will do is in partnership with organisations such as the Jewish Community Council of Victoria or the Ethnic sorry or the Executive Council of Australian Jewry we will submit submissions or advocate on behalf of that particular issue.

DOUG: Now this addition of GLBTI to the remit, um does that mean that you are now going to be engaging with gay community groups in the same way that you have been engaging with ethnic community groups?

ANTON: I don’t think so?  Um, the way this issue has sort of evolved in terms of coming within our remit, it’s always sort of been there in the background and what the Board has recognised is that it is an issue which needs to be more included, that’s a poor expression, needs to be more um, we need to be more aware of it in terms of how we approach vilification issues um so in fulfilling our objective of minimising vilification of people and groups in our society um vilification of GLBT members, if can I use that word, are something at we should just be conscious of and be aware of.

TIM WILSON: Anton, Tim Wilson from the Institute of Public Affairs here.  You were talking before about how this isn’t your first time.  Can you give us a few examples of how you’ve engaged with other identity groups or community groups or people from different ethnic backgrounds, how you’ve worked in that space in the past?

ANTON: So for example one of our main projects is an event or a thing called the Multi-faith Leaders Programme and what we do is um we run a leadership camp um for 3 or 4 days a year where we invite members of a whole lot of different religious groups whether they be the Baha’i community or the Buddhists or um Hindu Islamic community and so on and there are members there of the Jewish community and Christian communities and it’s sort of targeted at the sort of 20-30 something age group and it’s a facilitated programme whereby we try and build those relationships and bridges and so on between members of the respective ethnic and religious groups.  Then throughout the year we run a series of activities where we build upon um the programmes and the things that we’ve done at the camp.  So it’s very much a focus programme in terms of building those bridges with people who are in their sort of 20 ah.

TIM: So what it sounds like is you’re trying to drive, we were talking about this before, cultural change within the Jewish community as well as other communities.  Will… will the issues you’ve addressed… raised about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people be included in those types of, ah, ah, programmes now?

ANTON: Um don’t know.  We haven’t yet sort of started talking about how the programme is going to be run next year.  Um the camp itself happens in February so obviously for this year it’s completed already, um and certainly I think it’ll be something that we will be putting on the agenda in terms of expanding the reach of the issues that we cover at the camp.

DOUG: You know one thing that’s intrigued me a little about this is that um you have a bit of a problem within your own community within the Jewish community about homophobia, I think it’s fair to say, in that there are some very strong anti-gay statements coming out of the ah orthodox end of the Jewish community and there is a very big divide between for example the approach that orthodox people take and the approach of the reform branch who have actually sort of come out in favour of same-sex marriage.  How are you gonna, that’s going to be a bit of a sensitive thing for you to get involved in isn’t it?

ANTON: It depends what issue you are going to get involved in.  If the issue is dealing with vilification of gay and lesbian people then that’s one issue. If you are going to try and tackle the issue about that homosexuality is against what it says in the bible and so on that’s something completely different.  We won’t be dealing with that issue, that’s an issue of what’s called halacha, of orthodox law, and that’s not something that we can change or influence or have any role in respect of.  What we’re about is ensuring that all people whether they be black, white, gay, straight, whatever, are respected as being human beings and that’s the focus of our activities.

DOUG: Yeah, as I say I think that’s going to be a bit of a difficult one for you.

TIM: [indistinct] I think you’re being unfair there, I think you can see a clear distinction about the focus on principle and recognising there is religious diversity and how people interpret that.  I think Anton this is an admirable programme and I think what we should do is wish you luck.

ANTON: Thank you.

DOUG: We certainly do wish you luck, we wish luck anybody who is fighting on our side and wish luck to anyone who’s fighting discrimination.  As I say I was just a little concerned about where you draw that particular line.  I mean it’s something the Christian community has a problem with as well because we have people who take a very fundamentalist line um I think it would be called…

ANTON: Sorry you are floating in and out a little bit of….

DOUG: Sorry it would be called doctrine in Christian terms and who stick very closely to the literal word of the bible and there are other people who have an interpretation of the bible which is rather different and I think probably it’s something very similar in your community.

ANTON: Yeah, look I agree with that and um I suppose how one approaches these issues is sometimes you’ve got to um take on the event as it presents itself and sometimes it’s discussions to be had quietly with people involved and sometimes it’s a far more broader approach that’s sort of appropriate in terms of some sort of educational approach so it is a little bit of um consider each time it might happen or does happen and say well what’s the best way of moving this forward.

DOUG: Mmm hmm.  And say “perhaps you know you might have put that a bit more tactfully” to people from time to time.

ANTON: Sorry I didn’t hear what you said.

DOUG: I said perhaps remind people that they need to be a little more tactful about things sometimes.

ANTON: Oh yes, absolutely.

TIM: I think respectful.

ANTON: Yeah, people need to respect each other’s differences and um

DOUG: Because I’ve heard some fairly extreme language being used in the past from fundamentalists of all stripe whether they’re Muslim, Christian or Jew and I think that’s where the respect thing is kind of missing.

TIM: But the respect thing also goes both ways Doug and one of the frustrations I’d say I continually have is the open hostility to people in, who are religious because there are some people within their community who hold different views and it requires gay people to be respectful of religious people as well.

DOUG: I’m sure Anton agrees with that one.

TIM: [laughter]

ANTON: Sorry I might have but I’m only hearing every third word so I don’t know what you said.

TIM: We are you giving your thumbs up Anton.

ANTON: Oh good!  Well I do agree with that!

ALL: [laughter]

DOUG: Tim was basically just saying that sometimes gay and lesbian people aren’t as respectful of religious people as they might be

ANTON: Yes well…

DOUG: And it is in fact a two-way street.

ANTON: Look that’s right and unfortunately there are intolerances on both sides and I suppose one of the questions that might flow from that is “well what are the sources of their intolerances” and often it’s reactive, someone’s made to feel inferior and so on and so they lash out.  So it’s all about an educational approach and it’s about respecting each other, and sometimes one has to work harder in um advocating that because um you are starting from a position of um negativity.

DOUG: Yup, yup.  Well ah we wish you the best of luck with this Anton.

ANTON: Thank you.

DOUG: And we look forward to catching up with you perhaps in a little while to see how it’s all been going.

ANTON: Only with pleasure.

DOUG: Particularly if you are have any particular story about this where you’ve dealt with something we’d love to let the world know about it.

ANTON: Not a problem.

DOUG: Alright.  Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.

ANTON: Thanks Doug.  Thanks Tim.

DOUG: That was Anton Block there, the chair of the Anti Defamation Commission.  I still think it’s a difficult position he’s put himself in, in many respects, because there is this huge difference of opinion within the Jewish community particularly and particularly the orthodox are very very trenchant and very unpleasant in the way they push their view at times.

TIM: Well but I think there is a diversity of opinion in all communities Doug and there are people who I find who are gay who have a position which I find quite intolerable, don’t show respect in the way they should from time to time an…

DOUG: Oh you shouldn’t be such a right-winger.

TIM AND DOUG: [laughter]

TIM: No, I’m all about respect and making sure we engage in a civil discourse.  That’s what I do for a living and so I don’t think they’ve put themselves in a position. I think we should be congratulating them.

DOUG: Oh I agree with you there.

TIM: But the flipside of that is they’ve clearly also got an agenda which is within the Jewish community and driving a position of respect um in that community as well so I think their contribution is going to be incredibly valuable. I think we should be very appreciative of the fact that they’ve taken this as part of their broad… and they clearly have influence in other religious communities and ethnic communities as well.

DOUG: Oh I entirely agree that any effort in this direction has got to be encouraged and has got to be applauded and um as I say I think they’ve taken on a difficult one but I’m glad they’re doing it.

TIM: Yeah well.

DOUG: I’m very glad they’re doing it.

TIM: You’ve got to bite the bullet…

DOUG: This is Tim Wilson and Doug Pollard.

ADC chairman Anton Block talks on Gay & Lesbian radio JOY 94.9

Listen to the podcast of the interview (July 1, 2011) with Doug Pollard (JOY 94.9 “Rainbow Report”), Tim Wilson (public policy analyst) and Anton Block (Anti-Defamation Commission chair).