The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has proven itself to be the premier act in the 2010 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. JCCV President John Searle, the funny-man heading up the three-ring circus of hilarity, has some very funny things to say that will have you in hysterics.
In what might seem to be a well-intentioned initiative, funny-man Searle has established a reference group to see just how badly the lives of Jewish gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are in the Victorian Jewish community. How caring. How sweet. How nice. How disingenuous.
The JCCV has a track-record of being the most vocal anti-gay organisation in the Victorian Jewish community. At the May 10 1999 plenum meeting it rejected a membership application from Aleph Melbourne, a social and support group for (at the time just) gay and bisexual men. Not only did it reject the application, but the hate and intolerance expressed at this infamous meeting by “respected” members of the Jewish community such as the late Rabbi Emeritus Ronald Lubosfsky and Rabbi Chaim Gutnik (the then President of the Rabbinic Council of Victoria) toward the Aleph Melbourne and gay people generally paralleled the animosity aimed at Jews in a Nuremberg Rally in WWII. Read the minutes of this meeting. They are captivating and deeply embarrasing to the JCCV. A sorry would be a start.
John Searle states (AJN 16/04/10, p5):
Research suggests that issues of depression, mental health disease and suicide are higher among people in the GLBT community.
Oh really Johnny boy? And why might this be the case? Are homosexuals defective? Are we unique? Perhaps we just don’t cope so well? No. Sit up and listen, Searle. Orthodox Judaism is the problem, Searle. People who promote intolerance of homosexuality are the problem, Searle. People who reject the notion that homosexuality is acceptable are the problem, Searle. People who hide this intolerance are the problem, Searle. You are the problem, Searle.
The JCCV may be well-intentioned (or at least want to seem to be so) in setting up a reference group to research the problems affecting GLBT Jews, but while there are people like John Searle buffooning and big-noting themselves around the place and not addressing the real problem of religious intolerance of homosexuality, they may as well just sit back and do nothing. No, nothing probably would be better than what they are currently doing, because by deflecting the issue and not pointing the blame at Orthodox Judaism, they are actually exacerbating the problem.
John Searle owes it to every person in the Victorian Jewish community to stand up and say that any intolerance of homosexuality is unacceptable, that GLBT Jews are normal, worthy members of the Jewish (and wider) community and that same-sex relationships are healthy, valid and will benefit the community.
If the clown at the head of the three-ring circus calling itself the JCCV cannot do this, he must stand down from his sad performance and let a person with genuine concern for the lives of the most vulnerable, marginalised and disenfranchised people in the community do the job he claims to be doing.
The following story appears in the Australian Jewish News, April 16 2010 edition, p5.
Jewish Care and the Australian Jewish Psychologists Group have become partners with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) in promoting the wellbeing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) members of the community.
In addition, Jewish GLBT advocates in Sydney are now calling for a similar subcommittee to be established across the border.
The JCCV GLBT reference group, which was formed late last year in response to community concerns about discrimination, met last week to forge strategies and plan partnerships with medical and social service providers.
JCCV President John Searle said Dr Nicky Jacobs, president of the psychologists’ group, will have direct input to the reference group.
“Research suggests that issues of depression, mental health disease and suicide are higher among people in the GLBT community,” he said.
“We need to come to grips with these matters, and ascertain the extent to which these are experienced within the Jewish GLBT community. The critical work of the reference group will them address there issues as they exist in our community.”
The JCCV president also highlighted the importance of getting Jewish schools involved.
“Young people at school who are facing issues concerning their sexual orientation may be faced with issues of bullying or discrimination. We need to better understand that and educate our community so that doesn’t occur.”
Sally Goldner, a member of the JCCV reference group and a spokesperson for TransGender Victoria, told The AJN the initiative “can reach across to people who, on the surface, might not understand these issues”.
“We’re able to put both the GLBT perspective and the Jewish perspective together and work out the best solution,” she said.
Roy Freeman of Sydney-based Jewish GLBT group Dayenu hailed the reference group’s work and said he hoped a similar group could be established within the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD).
“It’s good to see that finally the JCCV is acknowledging that there are issues,” he said. “There’s been a lot of animosity between the JCCV and the [GLBT] community.
“It would be good to see [the JCCV] working with some other GLBT organisations as well, such as LGBT Health, which is an Australia-wide organisation,” he said.
Dayenu is currently in the process of applying for JBD membership and Freeman is urging the NSW roof body to formulate a policy on Sydney’s Jewish GLBT community.
He quoted statistics on suicide prevention that show that GLBT Australians are 12-14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.
“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any similar research within the Jewish community specifically, but there’s no reason to believe those statistics would be any better. I believe those mental health issues are connected to the attitude toward homosexuality from certain parts of the Jewish community,” Freeman said.