Merv Barnett on Aleph Melbourne’s exclusion from the JCCV

Cartoon by Merv Barnett depicting the lack of GLBT representation in the JCCV’s community umbrella.

My father Merv Barnett penned this cartoon in June 2008 in response to a JCCV advertisement in the Australian Jewish News showing the dozens of organisations represented by the JCCV.  Glaringly absent from the tree of community organisations was Aleph Melbourne, or any other organisation representing the interests of GLBT Jews.  Needless to say this is still the case.  Hopefully 2012 will bring a more positive outlook toward GLBT Jews from the JCCV’s leadership.

20080621 Aleph Melbourne beyond the JCCV fence - Merv Barnett
Aleph Melbourne beyond the JCCV fence - Merv Barnett - 21 June 2008

Christmas Day 2011

Yesterday was Christmas Day.  For me it is the culmination of an annoying time of the year when I avoid shopping centres and am surrounded by a peculiar sense of cheer that is predominantly about gift-giving, family coming together and consuming food and wine.  It doesn’t seem to me to be a time that most care to reflect on what it is they’re actually celebrating.  Not that most these days would want to.

It’s not a time of the year that evokes any fond childhood memories in me, and in fact aside from the pleasure gained from having learnt some of the more traditional Christmas carols at the state primary school I attended, Christmas then was actually a time of the year that made me feel awkward.  This was because I had to tell those students at school who got all sorts of fabulous gifts for their Christmas that I didn’t get presents from Santa because my family didn’t celebrate Christmas, a completely incomprehensible concept for them.

I saw my first white Christmas yesterday, not that it mattered an iota to me, although it was unusual for an Australian summer.  There was a violent hail-storm over much of Melbourne mid-afternoon.  It was stormy all day, and in fact from first thing, before I got up to go to the gym at 7:30am there had been rolling thunder looming.  I quite enjoyed the tempest, but I was concerned that my car might have been damaged by the hail.  Fortunately mine escaped unscathed, unlike others that I saw had holes through their windscreen in very telling fashion.

Annoyingly, I found my driver side window had been down and a lot of water had come into my car during the storm, which is really weird because generally I don’t leave my windows down when the car is unattended.  Today I’m trying to dry out the car’s interior.

What I did enjoy about yesterday was the quality time my partner Gregory and his children spent with their mother Jennie, giving and opening presents in the morning, and then at lunch with Gregory’s sister Angela and her family.  It’s been a lovely tradition that I’ve shared in over the past four Christmases.

I had to laugh though, earlier in the day, as I went to collect a cake for a Chanukah party this afternoon that I’m helping organise.  I went to Danish Nosh, in Glenhuntly Road, South Caulfield.  It’s a cake shop that sells traditional Jewish / Eastern European cakes and delicacies to a predominantly Jewish / Eastern European clientele.  Disappointingly, the shop was closed today but it was open yesterday on Christmas Day, so I went yesterday.  As I walked in I was greeted with the sound of Christmas Carols on the sound system.  After paying for my pear and cinnamon cake the delightful assistant of Asian background wished me a merry Christmas.  I suspect the irony of her actions escaped her.  It made me chuckle, and made my Christmas Day.

Paul Winter’s vilification of GLBT people has strong Nazi overtones

Paul Winter posted a deeply offensive and vilifying comment on the J-Wire news site that resonated with strong Nazi overtones. The comment was removed by the editor of J-Wire further to my complaint.

On December 21, 2011 a message was posted by Paul Winter of Chatswood, NSW on the J-Wire news site in response to an article I wrote about marriage equality:

20111221 J-Wire Paul Winter comment

The entirety of this comment is offensive in the extreme.  The author states that GLBT people are “abnormal”, “disabled”, “developmentally immature”, “confused”, “not fully developed”, “in need of counselling” and implies that we are not capable of having “fully functioning and fulfilling” relationships.

Winter’s anti-intellectual ramblings are reminiscent of that employed by the infamous dictators who relegated undesirables to sub-human status.

Further to a complaint by me regarding the deeply offensive and vilifying nature of the comment, the J-Wire editor Henry Benjamin swiftly removed the comment.  Fortunately the damage done by publication of the comment had been mitigated.

I hope never to see this sort of language published ever again on any web site, especially a Jewish one.

Galahs on High

Two Galahs nuzzling each other made me wonder whether they were showing affection for each other, or were just acting instinctively.

Feathery softness, pink and grey
Perched high on the power line
Two Galahs, best mates
Nuzzling close, friends, or more?

A beautiful sight from down below
Seen whilst driving, in the morn
Peacefully playful, tender, together
The simplicity of the moment

Two creatures in the wild
Loving, caring, bonding, sharing
Or a primal instinctive behaviour?
They don’t care, neither should we

A pair of Galahs, high on a wire
Oblivious to all but themselves
A reward to see, in pink and grey
Few finer ways to start my day

A message to Kelly O’Dwyer MP about marriage equality

A message to Kelly O’Dwyer MP to help her understand why marriage equality is so important to me and my partner Gregory, and to the many other Australians who are currently denied the right to marry the person of their choice.

I’ve recorded a message to Kelly O’Dwyer MP in response to claims that she is yet to be convinced of the need for marriage equality.

I also sent Kelly my message via her web site and by post.

AME gets all tweety about my equal love letter to Kelly O’Dwyer MP

Australian Marriage Equality tweets a link to my letter to Kelly O’Dwyer MP. Wootage!

Two reasons why the ECAJ must vocalise its support for marriage equality

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry calls for “equal empowerment”, “social egalitarianism” and “a belief in the equality of humankind” yet to date has not vocalised it’s position on marriage equality. I present two reasons why doing so will be to its advantage.

On December 3 2011 the Australian Labor Party voted in favour of supporting marriage equality.  This was promptly followed by a statement of support from the Union for Progressive Judaism and simultaneously a statement of opposition from the Orthodox-based Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia.  J-Wire then reported a message from Jewish Community supporting Marriage Equality (J4ME) along with a statement from the ECAJ:

Peter Wertheim, the executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told J-Wire that his organisation had no policy in place relating to same sex marriage.

The ECAJ recently passed a motion that calls for “mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the [Jewish] community” and also acknowledges “that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community”.  This motion appears on the ECAJ Platform.

Peter Wertheim has recently been promoting via email the fact that Israel is the most GLBT-friendly place in the Middle East and that it is the only safe place for GLBT people to live openly and out in the Middle East.  Indeed, the Israeli situation for GLBT people is mostly good.  In some cases Israel is actually more advanced than Australia in affording GLBT people human rights.  One such case is that Israel recognises foreign marriages of same-sex couples whereas Australia has chosen to legislate against such recognition.

I wish to make two points regarding the recent support from the ECAJ for GLBT people and the promotion of Israel as a relatively safe GLBT space.

Firstly, the human rights and equality that GLBT people in Israel have been afforded have come about through changes to civil law and have for the most part been independent of (Orthodox) Jewish law or “halacha”.  If halacha was the law of the land in Israel, GLBT people would have no equality or recognition in any form.  This is evidenced by the aforementioned ORA statement and the general attitude of Jewish Orthodoxy to homosexuality.  This religious intolerance of homosexuality is not dissimilar to that which exists in the Islamic states that surround Israel.

It is the secular and progressive attitudes toward equality and human rights that has made Israel the beacon of tolerance and acceptance of GLBT people in the Middle East that it is.  With ongoing work in this area, such as that around surrogacy and parenting (here and here), Israel will become an increasingly proud oasis of acceptance for GLBT people and will no doubt be further promoted as such by Zionist advocates.

Secondly, with the ECAJ calling for respect of GLBT people in the community and the acknowledgement that there is “unlawful discrimination” against GLBT people, such as in the case of the Australian Federal Marriage Act, I find it hard to understand that the ECAJ chooses to remain silent on marriage equality.

In fact, this silence betrays the ECAJ’s platform on Social Inclusion, where it states:

1. Social Inclusion
This Council:
1.1 NOTES that it is the vision of the ECAJ to create and support a community in which all Australians, including all Jewish Australians:
(a) feel valued and their cultural differences are respected;
(b) have a fair opportunity to meet their material and other needs; and
(c) are equally empowered as citizens to participate in and contribute to all facets of life in the wider community;
1.2 NOTES that as Australians we take great pride in what we see as the uniquely Australian values of social egalitarianism, “mateship” and a “fair go”;
1.3 REAFFIRMS our profound commitment on behalf of the Australian Jewish community to the dignity of difference, gender equality, and a belief in the equality of humankind;

Here the ECAJ is calling for “equal empowerment”, “social egalitarianism” and “a belief in the equality of humankind”.  To my understanding, marriage equality fits all of these three concepts.  To clarify, egalitarianism is defined as “affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people.”

I believe the ECAJ does want marriage equality to be legislated, but has not yet taken the time to think about the implications of not vocalising its support for it.  The ECAJ is an organisation that has a genuine concern for the human rights of all people in every nation on this planet.  Further, it is inherent in the Jewish psyche to understand what deprivation of human rights can lead to.

I sincerely urge the ECAJ to consider its stance on marriage equality in general and speak out in favour of removing the legislated discrimination that all GLBT Australians face when it comes to recognition of our relationships.  It is without a doubt in the ECAJ’s best interests to advocate marriage equality, as doing so will have the double reward of making Australia a better place for all its citizens, and simultaneously making the beacon of light in Israel, the country that it is so proud of, shine even brighter.

Once upon a time, in 1984 …

Just like a fairy-tale, once upon a time (in 1984) Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said she’d fight for homosexual rights.  But with the power of the big job going to her head, she decided equality for gays was a bad, bad thing, and changed her tune.  Perhaps she’d even forgotten about the old days, the idealistic, head-rushing days of her student youth.  Will there be a happily ever after in this fairy tale?

1984 Julia Gillard's student election commitment to support homosexual rights
1984 Julia Gillard's student election commitment to support homosexual rights