Responding to Corey: there’s an elephant in the room at the JCCV and it’s far from kosher

Apr 28, 2013

Yesterday I wrote a blog “The JCCV Puppet Show 2013“.  Today Corey posted a comment on it:

Personally I think this is childish and unwarranted.

No organisation or community has EVER gone from “homophobic” to “acceptance” over night. There has always been some with an organisation who harbour their old prejudices.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t benefit in doing SOMEthing rather than NOthing…

All this cartoon tells me is that the author has been so personally hurt by some in the JCCV that his pain is too great to see any glimmer of good in their action towards inclusive behaviour.

Perhaps my message was too subtle for Corey, so I will elaborate (although I hoped this would have been clear from the Aleph Melbourne media release issued on March 28).

The JCCV has put their name to the No To Homophobia campaign.  Any ordinary person would understand this to mean that they say no to homophobia.  Not just some homophobia, but all homophobia.  By comparison, take the issue of anti-Semitism, which is an area of concern for the JCCV.  They have the Anti-Defamation Commission to look after that for them, and through the ADC they attempt to stamp out all anti-Semitism.

Now from my humble perspective, when I read that the JCCV has signed up to No To Homophobia, I trust they are actually taking this initiative seriously and with no less concern for homophobia than they have for anti-Semitism.

But here’s the thing.  There’s a big fat elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, and that’s the biblical prohibition on homosexuality, Leviticus 18:22, that the Orthodox section of the Jewish community feel compelled to uphold.  It’s about as black and white as it gets: Homosexual sex is forbidden.  Now if that’s not homophobic, then nothing is.  Incidentally, the Orthodox community seem to have no qualms about not stoning to death those who commit homosexual activity, as required under Leviticus 20:13, although maybe that’s because civilised societies don’t stone people to death any more (much like civilised societies aren’t actually intolerant of homosexuality any more).

Leviticus Elephant

The JCCV Leviticus Elephant

I mention Leviticus 18:22 because in 2013 the Orthodox leadership in the community are steadfastly intolerant of homosexuality, and further, are intolerant of equal recognition of homosexual relationships under the law and under the religion.  You may wonder why this is an issue here.  Let me tell you.  If the JCCV is going to call for no homophobia in the Jewish community, then this means it is calling for no intolerance of homosexual people, no intolerance of homosexual relationships and no intolerance of homosexuality.

And this is an impossible situation for the JCCV because the Orthodox member organisations of the JCCV are not suddenly going to start embracing homosexuality just because the JCCV has signed up to No To Homophobia.  And further, the JCCV will willingly continue to accept the not-insubstantial membership dues (and any other financial contributions) of these organisations that are currently intolerant of homosexuality.  It should be noted that the spiritual leaders of many of these organisations belong to the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, itself unaffiliated with the JCCV, that made a submission to the Australian Senate calling for the homophobic discrimination in the Marriage Act to remain in place.

There is no amount of “good-will” that the JCCV can dish up that will make any thinking person believe it is sincere about saying no to homophobia while it actively nurtures organisations that themselves are actively intolerant of homosexuality in the Jewish and wider community.  It’s that simple.

Lastly, for those who say “Saying no to homophobia is a start, even if it’s just saying it” (and no, that doesn’t cut the “we don’t tolerate some anti-Semitism” test), how about the JCCV actually does something practical, like any one of these:

  • Recommend all Jewish schools join up to Safe Schools Coalition Victoria
  • Recommend the government doesn’t exempt religious organisations from discriminating against LGBTI people in Anti-Discrimination legislation
  • Call for the removal of discrimination in the Marriage Act that prevents same-sex attracted and intersex members of the Jewish community from getting married
  • Rebuking members of the community, lay and spiritual, who make public homophobic claims, such as that of Rabbi Shimon Cowen, Rabbi Chaim Ingram, Dr Miriam Grossman, Robert Weil, Ilana Leeds, and the “AJN Watch” blog.  Their standard yelp “Don’t give them oxygen” simply doesn’t cut it, considering just how strongly they rebuke purveyors of anti-Semitism
  • Establish a properly funded rigorous investigation into the rate of self-harm and suicide from members of the Jewish community who are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Extend an invitation to LGBTI Jewish organisations to become members of the JCCV, as an act of goodwill (especially considering they rejected the last application from a long-established LGBTI Jewish organisation)
  • Start praising the stellar work of the Progressive and Conservative Jewish communities.

I hope that this explains why the JCCV must prove that it is actually engaging with the community to break down homophobia and not just taking the lazy way out (in order to tick the “We’re LGBTI inclusive” box on government grant applications, to ensure its funding sources don’t dry up).  Until then it will remain nothing more than a three-ring circus replete with puppet and clown show.


IDAHO and the JCCV

May 17, 2011

Today, May 17 2011, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).  Many organisations and people go to great effort to acknowledge the occasion and take a stand against homophobic and transphobic intolerance in society.

Take for example the head of Victoria Police, Chief Commissioner Simon Overland.  He has a pretty supportive message.  Similarly, Dr Helen Szoke from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has an unambiguous message on inclusion.  Even Hilary Clinton and Jeremy Browne each had a message of support.

As I’ve previously mentioned, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria set up a reference group to investigate the issues affecting GLBT people in the Jewish community.  They’ve also made it pretty clear, via their messenger of intolerance Rabbi Chaim Rapoport (here and here), that GLBT people are not welcome as members of their organisation, despite JCCV President John Searle saying that “racism and prejudice in all its evil forms will not be tolerated.”

This week the JCCV published a number of media releases.  There was one on how they’re getting on well with the Catholic community,  another on working with Victoria Police on combatting anti-semitic hate crimes, yet another on working with people with disabilities, and lastly one on welfare organisations in the community (mind you, not one of them openly advertises services supporting GLBT people).

I had trouble finding the JCCV media release on how they’re supportive of initiatives that combat homophobic intolerance in the Jewish community in this week of IDAHO.  I tried to find one, but I just couldn’t see it.  I guess they had it all prepared, but didn’t manage to get it out in time.

Now I’ll just have to wait until next year’s IDAHO to see if the big bad JCCV bully has learnt a lesson from the wider community and has realised it’s time to stop creating the hate and intolerance and start fighting it.

And lastly a message to John Searle.  You talk about racism and prejudice in all its evil forms.  Take a look in the mirror mate.


Jewish News – Letter to the Editor – Internet Hate

May 3, 2010

From: Michael Barnett <mikeybear69@gmail.com>
Date: 3 May 2010 02:11
Subject: Letter to the Editor / Your Voice: On Internet Hate
To: AJN Letters to the Editor <letters@jewishnews.net.au>
Cc: yourvoice@jewishnews.net.au

I refer to the cover story on Internet Hate in last week’s edition.  The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) oversees the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission (BB ADC).  It also auspices a reference group “to address issues of vilification and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Jews as well as mental health issues occasioned by exclusion”.

In August 2009 I brought to the attention of the BB ADC the situation where a Jewish blog site in Melbourne was publishing hate material targetting gay Jews in Melbourne and Israel.  Deborah Stone of the BB ADC responded by saying “Unfortunately my board is not prepared for our organisation to engage with discrimination issues beyond our specific remit of antisemitism and racism”.

I put it to the JCCV now that if they, and in fact the entire Jewish community, are serious about Internet based hate material then a zero-tolerance for all forms of hate targetting people in the Jewish community must be established.  It is unacceptable to selectively fight some types of hate and turn a blind eye to others.

It is also incongruous of the JCCV to claim to be addressing discrimination against GLBT Jews at the same time as not speaking out against the hate material targetting GLBT Jews.

The Jewish community must speak out against homophobic hate from within it’s own walls and not be the perpetrator of hate if it wants the wider society to help when it claims to be the victim of anti-semitic hate.

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood
0417 595 541


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