Almost twelve years ago, in 1999, Anton Block seconded the motion for the gay Jewish social and support group Aleph Melbourne to become an affiliate member of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV).
As history dictated in May 1999, this motion, put a second time after the first was deemed void due to a technicality at the March plenum meeting, failed to pass and the application by Aleph Melbourne was rejected by the JCCV. No further application for membership by Aleph Melbourne has been made since and, particularly during the term that Block was president, no invitation to reapply for membership was extended by the JCCV.
Having since served a three-year term as President of the JCCV (2006-08), and now appointed to the position of Chairman of the JCCV’s Anti-Defamation Commission, there has been nothing but silence from Block on his one-time support for gay Jews.
But why did Block go silent on this matter? Is he fearful that if he openly supports visibility and inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in the Jewish community he might face a backlash from the Orthodox sector of the Jewish community? He will only stand to gain support and adulation from the large Progressive, Conservative, secular and other sectors of the community that express their unconditional support for GLBT Jews.
I understand that Block is on the mysterious “GLBT Reference Group” that the JCCV formed in December 2009. However his inclusion in this group has not been made public, as the JCCV has refused to disclose its membership. If Block is on this reference group, as I believe he is, then he must speak up about it, and he must speak up as to why he sits on it. I hope it’s for a more altruistic reason than kudos.
I put it to Block that maintaining this silence is harming the entire community, along with his credibility. The alarming rate of suicide amongst same-sex attracted youth does not bypass Jews. It is imperative that Block takes an active and vocal stance on fighting all intolerance of and working toward unconditional acceptance, visibility and inclusion of GLBT people in the Jewish community. Only then will he show he is capable of being a genuine leader in his community.