Heaven Bent

Heaven Bent coverHeaven Bent : Australian lesbian,gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex experiences of faith, religion and spirituality.

Edited by Luke Gahan and Tiffany Jones, with a foreword by Senator Louise Pratt,

Published September 2013, Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne.

paperback RRP: $29.95 | ISBN: 978-0-9874037-4-2 | 334 pp.

Listed below are the five contributors who have a Jewish connection.

David Rosenberg

Born in Jerusalem, David and his family moved to Australia when he was 3 months old. He grew up in a Jewish Orthodox community in Sydney and currently lives in close to his family in the prominent Jewish neighbourhood of Bondi Junction. When his community discovered his same-sex attraction, Rosenberg was sent to New Jersey USA to attend a Jewish ex-gay program known as ‘JONAH’ – Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality. Today, David and his husband Elcid are both active members of the Sydney Gay Jewish group ‘Dayenu’ and attend a Masorti congregation that welcomes all people no matter what their background or status. Rosenberg has a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from the University of New South Wales and is currently undertaking a postgraduate degree in law. In January 2013 David and his partner officially became husbands, in a Jewish ceremony conducted by their Rabbi.

Ellen Kessler

Ellen migrated to Australia from the United States in 1989 on ‘Strong Humanitarian Grounds’ on the basis of her same sex relationship. Ellen has spent her life writing, and when her spiritual beliefs became more self-evident in 2007 she began connecting the two. Although she does not invest much conviction in the dogma of Judaism, it is undeniable that her Jewish faith, and in turn the mysticism of the Kabbalah, has helped her to develop personally and spiritually. Ellen now lives in Brunswick Victoria and works as a community development officer in the western suburbs.

Sally Goldner

Sally Goldner has been an active participant in Melbourne’s queer community for the last fifteen years. This includes ongoing involvement with TransGender Victoria, Radio 3CR’s “Out of the Pan,” Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, and Bisexual Alliance Victoria. Previous involvement includes PolyVic, Zoe Belle Gender Centre, BENT TV and Seahorse Club of Victoria. She is the focus of an autobiographical documentary “Sally’s Story” and was noted in The Age’s Top 100 most creative and influential people in Melbourne in 2011. She is also a spoken word performer and stand-up comedian. Brought into the world via two Jewish parents, Sally describes herself as ‘technically Jewish.’ An incredibly diverse range of religious and spiritual experiences has enriched her life. As a teenager, Sally attended the all-boys Brighton Anglican Grammar School in Melbourne and while at university Sally joined the Australian Union of Jewish Students on a tour of Israel and became deeply fascinated by the Bahá’í Faith. Sally has given an address at the Metropolitan Community Church in Melbourne and has a connection to Wiccan and Pagan Spirituality.

Kevin Ekendahl

Kevin Ekendahl is the Liberal Party candidate for the federal seat of Melbourne Ports. Often known as the “Bagel Belt” of Melbourne, the electorate sees the conservative Jewish communities living next door to a growing LGBTI community. The clash between religion and the secular is central to the spiritual journey of Kevin – a Jewish man who was baptised Catholic at age seven. Kevin’s maternal grandparents left the Franco religious dictatorship of Spain to seek freedom in Australia. His grandparents struggle for secular government and freedom of choice had an incredible impact on Kevin’s spiritual and political journey. Ekendahl has an incredible sense of spirituality and while at high school he was a member of ‘The Solidarity of Our Lady’ – a group run by the more religious students. Kevin’s family afforded him the choice to choose his own path in life – a value that he desires to share with the people of Melbourne Ports.

David L Shmerler

Dr David L Shmerler PhD is the Director of Psychological Services and the outgoing Director of the pre-doctoral Internship Training program at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York. Dr Shmerler also maintains a private clinical practice in Manhattan where he specializes in work with the LGBT community. Additionally, Dr Shmerler has substantial experience working with HIV+ individuals, through both his past affiliation with clinical research programs and current provision of training to the Kings County psychology trainees. As part of the didactic seminar series on cross-cultural treatment issues, Dr Shmerler provides annual training on clinical work with LGBT individuals. Dr Shmerler is an out gay, Jewish man and is engaged to be married to Dr Eric Rodriguez, his co-author and long-term partner of over twelve years.

JCCV says no to homophobia | AJN

See also:
Media Release: JCCV tackles homophobia but must prove it is serious
No To Homophobia

Friday, March 29, 2013
The Australian  Jewish News
Page 7

JCCV says no to homophobia


THE Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) will join the “No to Homophobia” campaign and is asking its affiliate organisations to sign up too.

The “No to Homophobia” initiative aims to challenge all forms of harassment and discrimination faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (GLBTIQ) people.

The campaign aims to reduce the incidence of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic harassment in Victoria – and beyond – by empowering people who identify as GLBTIQ as well as the broader community to respond and speak out against this harassment.

According to JCCV president Nina Bassat, the campaign promotes respect between people and healthy relationships, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identification.

Bassat acknowledged the emotional turmoil members of the GLBTIQ community can face, whether it be at school, in the workplace or in the wider community.

“No-one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity;’ she said. “The mental wellbeing issues in relation to bullying, depression and lack of self-esteem can be catastrophic.’

By Jewish organisations joining the campaign, the JCCV not only anticipates a greater level of understanding and awareness within the Jewish community, but also an education with respect to what constitutes homophobic, biphobic and transphobic harassment. For instance, phrases such as “That’s so gay’.

Sally Goldner, a spokesperson for Transgender Victoria and a member of the JCCV’s GLBTIQ reference group, said as a transgender person she has been received fairly well by the Jewish community, and feels this move can only make people more tolerant.
“This is an amazing step forward that pushes diversity higher. It’s sensational,’ she told The AJN.

The JCCV will officially request that its affiliates become part of this campaign at their next plenum meeting in May.

Report raises concerns for Jewish GLBT community | AJN

4 Nov 2011
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition

Report raises concerns for Jewish GLBT community

“I was concerned that some rabbis still practised or recommended some form of aversion, or conversion therapy.”
Sally Goldner
JCCV GLBT reference group

A NUMBER of recommendations for tackling “discrimination, harassment and abuse” faced by members of Melbourne’s Jewish gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community have been put forward by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV).

In a report issued by a reference group comprising members of the JCCV executive, and the GLBT Jewish community, as well as representatives from Jewish Care and Australian Jewish Psychologists, concern was also expressed over the resultant mental-health issues those affected could experience, such as depression and suicide

JCCV president John Searle said the study was the first of its kind, and that he hoped it would help improve foster tolerance and acceptance.

“We have recognised the need to deal openly with issues of vilification and discrimination in our community, and hope that this report will play a part in educating members of the community so as to reduce prejudice and incidence of mental health issues among our GLBT community members,” Searle told The AJN.

The report also identified challenges facing the Orthodox community, which it said must reconcile “the rulings of Jewish law with the need to ensure that all people are treated with compassion and acceptance”.

The report offers a number of recommendations, including increasing the level of education within schools, professional development programs for rabbis, and the adoption by all community organisations of a policy prohibiting discrimination and vilification based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

Spokesperson for the transgender community, and a member of the JCCV reference group Sally Goldner, said the report had shed light on the challenges facing the Jewish GLBT community.

“The report has given us a really clear picture of where things are at, which we didn’t really know,” Goldner said.

“There was anecdotal evidence, but what this has done is put it into a succinct picture so we know where to move forward.”

Goldner described the dialogue between the GLBT community and the wider Jewish community as “pioneering”.

“The report is a great step, and if the things it recommends can happen in the next three years and we check and see further progress, I think that’s excellent.”

But there is still cause for concern according to Goldner, who said there were some disturbing findings.

“I was concerned that some rabbis still practised or recommended some form of aversion, or conversion therapy. That is disconcerting both objectively and as someone who has been through the psychological side of attempted conversion therapy. It’s a very frightening process, and I’m concerned that anyone would still think that might be possible.”