“A decade of strong advocacy for LGBTI equality and inclusion! I am very proud to have volunteered for the JCCV for a decade and served on the board for almost 4 years. We have achieved great things together! #lgbti #lgbtiinclusion #mentalhealthmatters #socialinclusion #lgbtijews Big shout out to John Searle, Anton Block, Nina Bassat, Jennifer Huppert, Original Reference Group members Julie Leder, Nathan Rose, Andrew Rajcher, Sally Goldner, Immediate part Executive Director David Marlow and the community for welcoming change.” — Doron Abramovici
JCCV working to improve inclusion and reduce mental health tragedies for our LGBTI community members
Last night, about 40 community members, organizational leaders, mental health experts and service providers, including at least seven Orthodox Rabbis, attended a very informative and moving Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) LGBTI Mental Health Forum.
The Forum heard from speakers and panelists from SANE Australia, Headspace, Jewish Care Victoria, Keshet Australia, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and Hatzolah. Community members and professionals also shared relevant anecdotes and personal stories.
JCCV President, Jennifer Huppert stated, “It is most important at this time while the community is enduring a divisive and emotionally damaging same sex marriage debate, that we focus on respect, inclusion and avoiding creative havoc with the mental health of vulnerable members of our community, in particular our LGBTI youth.”
Apart from sharing the terrible statistics for mental health problems and suicide rates for the LGBTI community, and especially our youth, speakers described many of the problems faced:
Lack of support
Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
Isolation and alienation
Loss of family and community connections
Which all can lead to self-harm, depression, and worse.
Young LGBTI youth face a FIVE times higher risk of suicide compared to non-LGBTI youth.
Rabbi Daniel Rabin, President of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria spoke about inclusion and the need for Rabbis and other community leaders to be welcoming.
Rabbi Rabin stated, “We are all members of the community, like letters in a Torah scroll. If one is missing, the whole is invalidated.”
“As one of my LGBTI congregants with young children said to me, ‘What make me comfortable to attend the Synagogue and its activities is because I don’t feel judged when I participate”
Speakers spoke about the importance of family and community support, and issues of coming out.
Medical practitioner and mental health advocate Dr Dov Degen stated, “I hope for a future where we won’t have to come out as gay or straight. We will just be able to say, “I am me”, and that will be enough.”
Orthodox Psychologist Zipporah Oliver OAM aligned the discussion with Orthodox Jewish values and said that we should remember to focus on:
– Saving a life and minimizing harm
– Loving a fellow Jew
– Chessed – Kindness
The panel of speakers highlighted steps that families and community leaders needed to take to improve mental health outcomes and prevent serious damage, included:
– Be welcoming:
– Accept difference
– Support the vulnerable and those struggling
– Refer to appropriate service providers
– Don’t be judgemental
– Provide an inclusive environment
– Must name and address mental health problems
– Must have the conversations
– Must be careful in your language and display understanding and empathy.
On Monday September 4 2017 the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) issued a statement advising citizens to vote No in the upcoming federal government postal survey on marriage equality. A backlash to this statement ensued, with no less than Rabbi Daniel Rabin, President of the council that issued the statement, and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry distancing themselves from the aforementioned statement.
On Wednesday the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) issued a statement calling for “a respectful debate in the lead up to the same sex marriage survey”.
Also on Wednesday Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, Senior Rabbi of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation and President of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand, issued a statement explaining his rationale for participating in a position of silence on the postal survey.
On Thursday Rabbi Daniel Mirvis, Senior Rabbi of the Mizrachi Centre, issued a statement saying of the upcoming postal survey: “I plan on remaining silent on the matter”.
On Friday Rabbi James Kennard, Principal of Mount Scopus Memorial College issued a statement urging “all who choose not to remain silent to ensure that all comments, on all sides, are made with respect, sensitivity and understanding”.
By calling for a “respectful debate” the underlying message being sent is that debate must be respectful over whether the Marriage Act should continue to exclude same-sex and other non-heterosexual couples. Ultimately this amounts to insisting on a polite conversation on the merit of legalised discrimination.
Engaging in silence on a matter of discrimination amounts to tacit endorsement of the status quo.
But what if the topic of conversation were not Marriage Equality, but instead the banning of non-medical circumcision, the banning of religious slaughter of animals, government support for BDS, or the removal of religious and racial protections?
Would it still be acceptable to have a debate, or maintain silence, on any of these topics, respecting the underlying premise of each issue?
Would Jewish community leaders stand around and silently tolerate the wider community respectfully debating the merits of these topics, with a laissez-faire approach to the conversations?
Yet it’s acceptable for some senior Jewish Community leaders to insist on tolerating a “respectful debate” or maintaining a silence over whether the government can continue to enshrine discrimination in the law against a marginalised and highly vulnerable minority group for no good reason.
And this isn’t double standards? Where is the respect in that?
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.
Message to my St Kilda Shule community (and others):
Two days ago the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) issued a statement encouraging people to vote “no” in the upcoming postal survey on same-sex marriage. The statement caused significant distress and hurt in the community. Its President has since issued a sincere public apology for which I commend him and its Vice President has resigned in protest. Given my position as a past President of the organisation several members of the St Kilda Shule congregation and others in the community have inquired as to my involvement in the said statement.
I had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the drafting or approval of this statement. I believe the statement was ill-conceived and served no purpose in advancing the cause of Orthodox Judaism. Instead, it alienated many members of our community and caused damage which was entirely preventable. Members of my Shule and others have a right to know where I, as their rabbi, stand on this matter and I trust the above will allay their concerns. I note that at the time of writing this we are only hours away from the High Court’s ruling on the legaility of otherwise of the postal vote, but irrespective of its decision I believe the above information remains relevant.
Having regard to the above I have also been asked about the position of the federal Rabbinic body (RCANZ) over which I currently preside. Our position on traditional marriage and the exemptions we expect for religious institutions should the Marriage Act be amended was submitted to the Government in January as part of the Senate’s Exposure Draft into the Marriage Amendment Bill. It followed full consultation of all our member rabbis across Australasia and is publicly available online.
When the Government announced in August its plans for a postal vote my Executive Committee made a conscious decision that it would be unwise to issue any statement, let alone one telling the community how to vote. Our reason for remaining silent was simple – we viewed weighing into the debate in the current climate as counter-productive and I believe the events over the past two days have justified our decision.
Notwithstanding this, I have been criticized by some in the community for my silence. They have perceived this as a sign of weakness and a cowering to political correctness. I wish to state in the clearest possible terms that I catergorically reject this criticism. In the wise words of King Solomon “there is a time to speak and a time to be silent” and now is a time for the latter.
The fact is that we as rabbis choose silence over statements on a regular basis – and for good reason. There is any number of non-halachic behaviors occuring on a daily basis within the Jewish community. We witness rampant desecration of Shabbat, widespread consumption of non-kosher, soaring intermarriage rates and we can only wonder how many heterosexual couples use the Mikvah regularly before cohabitation (and as some have pointed out the current debate on same-sex marriage relates to civil law, not Halacha). Yet we don’t see Rabbinic statements, proclamations or sermons telling people how to live their lives – and the reason has nil to do with weakness or political correctness. It’s because we know instinctively that doing so will alienate the very people we’re trying to bring closer to Orthodoxy. Instead, we as rabbis focus on the positive and so it should be. I do not regret my approach to date and quite frankly I hope others will follow suit.
Wearing my St Kilda Shule hat I can only reiterate that which I’ve stated multiple times from the pulpit, in the newspapers, on the radio, on social media and in conversation, that our Shule has an open door policy for all Jews irrespective of their sexuality. I will never judge anyone for the way they live their lives and I hope others won’t judge me for the way I live mine.
“The President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Anton Block, has rejected as “alarmist” suggestions that an amendment to the definition of marriage in Australian civil law will in some way open the door to a future infringement of the religious freedoms of those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage. He was commenting on a controversial statement issued by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) urging Australians to vote “No” to proposed reforms to Australia’s marriage laws that would recognise same sex marriages.
“The RCV statement was issued without proper thought or understanding of the way Australia’s Constitution and legal system work”, Mr Block said. “There is no basis for believing that a change to the civil law definition of marriage would be a potential threat to the rights and freedoms of religious institutions and leaders to conduct religious marriages or to affirm religious teachings about marriage. Religious marriages are outside the scope of the Marriage Act, which relates only to civil marriages. It is alarmist to suggest otherwise, and wrong for the RCV to use its authority in religious matters in this way.”
Mr Block added: “All people are entitled to have their dignity respected, regardless of their ethnicity, religious affiliations and beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, or any disability.”
The President of the RCV and at least six other rabbis who are members of the RCV have since dissociated themselves from the RCV statement.
I would like to personally address the recent RCV statement on the upcoming postal vote and any hurt that it has caused in the community. The RCV should not have told people how to vote and refrained from making a divisive statement.
The statement has caused immense anger and pain and has alienated many who already feel isolated within the community. I deeply regret the hurt that has been caused and as President of the organization I sincerely apologise for this.
I feel that at this point any comment I make on inclusivity will sound disingenuous and I will take the overwhelming responses I have received as an opportunity to reconsider how future Halachik statements are disseminated in regards to sensitive community issues.
The statement released by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria on same sex marriage is wrong for many reasons. We believe the debate around same sex marriage and the associated legislation is a civil matter not a religious one. To interfere in a matter of civil law, and attempt to influence all citizens, goes beyond the scope of the RCV.
The statement has already caused deep distress to many across our community.
It is divisive and damaging and is also likely to further alienate many others from Orthodoxy, if not Judaism itself.
Caulfield Shule members can be assured that Rabbi Genende was strongly opposed to the RCV releasing a statement at all on this matter. The Rabbi has since resigned from the Executive of the RCV.
Caulfield Shule stands by its reputation of being inclusive, speaking out about injustice, building tolerance and drawing people closer to Judaism in a way that is personally meaningful.
We take this opportunity to wish all of our members a Shana Tovah and may the new year bring health and happiness to us all.
Anthony Raitman – President
Rabbi Genende – Senior Rabbi
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.
This Monday (Sep 4 2017) the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) issued a statement (incorrectly dated Sep 9 2017) advising the Jewish community to vote “No” in the proposed postal survey on whether the Marriage Act should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Changes to the Marriage Act enabling same-sex marriages will not impact authorised ministers of religion, as the existing protections under the Marriage Act will remain in force, allowing them to refuse to solemnise those marriages they object to.
The letter issued by the RCV draws on misleading, inaccurate and irrelevant information, failing to cite any sources.
Civil marriage in Australia is not subject to the requirements of Jewish law (Halacha). Orthodox rabbis have no right to interfere in the lives of people who do not wish to engage in an Orthodox Jewish marriage.
It would be appropriate for the RCV to desist from issuing negative statements on civil marriage while there is no proposed impact to their ability to perform their religious duties.