A response to Rabbi Daniel Rabin on marriage equality

Rabbi Daniel Rabin posted the following on Facebook:

Was a great experience to chat with some of the Year 12 students at Bialik College today and discuss homosexuality in Judaism and issues surrounding same-sex marriage and the upcoming postal vote.

Some of the things we talked about was the great sensitivity and emotion surrounding this topic and the need to be incredibly mindful that there are differences of opinion in this regard.

People on both sides need to respect the differing views.

It is totally unacceptable to denigrate, insult or hurt others because they don’t share your opinion.

I have seen signs of “Stop the Fags” posted around and I think that is disgraceful. I have written previously, in particular about the Jewish community, that we need to be accepting and inclusive of all Jews regardless of their sexual orientation. Signs like these can cause vulnerable people to take their lives.

At the same time, if someone does not support the marriage act changing, don’t immediately call them homophobic or assume they are being hateful or bigoted.

I encourage civilized conversation on both sides and hope we can live our lives with mutual respect, courtesy and care for one another.

Rabbi Rabin is president of The Rabbinic Council of Victoria.  On September 4 the RCV issued this statement (incorrectly dated September 9):

Sep 4 2017 - RCV statement supporting No vote on marriage equality postal survey

Daniel Rabin is also the rabbi at the North Eastern Jewish Centre (NEJC) in Doncaster.  I grew up in Doncaster and attended the synagogue there in the 1980s and 90s.  I went to Sunday school there and had my bar mitzvah there.  The religious community there was a big part of my life and that of my family for many years.

I also attended Bialik College in the early 1980s.

When I was at the NEJC and at Bialik I was struggling with my sexuality.  I had been struggling with it since around 1979, and the struggle continued for 16 years until 1996.  During this time I had no support, no positive role models and no one to tell me that I wasn’t broken, wasn’t an aberration, wasn’t an abomination and wasn’t abnormal.  I was also incessantly bullied on my perceived sexuality for most of my school years.

After I came to terms with my sexuality I stopped attending NEJC, withdrew my financial support and stopped active religious observance because I was repulsed that part of the Orthodox religious service was to read a passage from the Torah that said men who slept with men were an abomination and that the penalty for doing this was their life, or words much to that effect.

Words can hurt, even if they are token.

In 2017, the rabbi of my former synagogue has told students at my former school that people, people like him, who oppose equal treatment of all citizens under the law of Australia should not be considered homophobic, or assumed to be hateful or bigoted.

That’s fair enough.  He is perfectly entitled to express those views.  However simultaneously he should not be surprised when people, people like me, look at the words he uses and wonder how he could not possibly be seen to be homophobic, or assumed to be hateful or bigoted.

What Rabbi Rabin is doing is in effect asking for the law to treat people in a heterosexual relationship in a manner that advantages them over people who are in other types of legal, consensual relationships.  His arguments and his logic are spurious, drawing from speculation, fear-mongering and deliberate misinformation.

Rabbi Rabin is welcome to practice his faith and to express his religious obligations within the sphere of Halacha and the remit of his responsibilities as both a congregational rabbi and the president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria.  However he is not welcome to interfere in the lives of people who wish to enter into civil marriages, especially those people who are not doing so in an Orthodox Jewish context.

To my mind, it appears as bigotry when I see religious leaders using their faith to treat as lesser or deny certain people the same rights they enjoy under civil law.

To my mind, it does appear hateful, not to mention deceitful and disingenuous, when religious leaders imply or infer that children raised by both biological parents are more deserving of their parents than children of adoptive, same-sex, gender-diverse and other parenting configurations.

To my mind, it does appear homophobic when religious leaders use their authority to spread misinformation, lies and deceitful propaganda about homosexual people, the relationships we have, the indignities we endure, and the intolerance and discrimination we face.

Rabbi Rabin asks for respect.  He forgets that respect is earned, not demanded.  At present, while Rabbi Rabin asks for people, people like him, to deny me the right to marry the man I love, the man I want to have look after me in sickness and in health, the man who I would give my life for, I feel little respect for his views.

Rabbi Daniel Rabin could learn a few things from those who want to remove discrimination under the law, not enforce it.  He may be a teacher of Torah, but he is yet to become a teacher of humanity.

Postscript – September 7 2017

Rabbi Daniel Rabin has issued a personal apology on Facebook for the RCV statement:

I accept this apology and call for the RCV to withdraw their statement and issue a similar apology for the hurt and insensitivity of their actions.

History repeats at Bialik College

Bialik College has had a troublesome time with two of its principals, ironically connected over a thirty year time span.


I started high school in 1981 in Year 7 at the brand new Hawthorn East campus of Bialik College.  The principal of the school was David Goldsmith.  At some stage between 1981 and 1982 the school council unexpectedly terminated the employment of David Goldsmith.  This was a shock to everyone and to the best of my knowledge no explanation was given for the decision.  Abraham Feiglin was installed as the interim principal before a permanent replacement could be found in Michael Pincus.

Three years ago, in late 2008, Bialik College employed Joseph Gerassi as the replacement for long-standing school principal Genia Janover.  Genia Janover announced her resignation in 2007 after 20 years of service to the school as principal, having started in 1988.  This week, on August 24 2011, almost three years after starting, Joseph Gerassi’s employment was suddenly(*) terminated amidst a cloud of mystery.  No explanation has been given by the school council for their decision, although they will be holding an information meeting with the school community on September 1 to explain their decision and discuss relevant issues.

I’m not drawing any comparison between the sacking of the two Bialik College principals David Goldsmith and Joseph Gerassi, each 30 years apart.  Nor am I placing any judgement upon the decision made by the school council for their recent decision.  However what is most ironic for me about this most recent situation is that Graham Goldsmith, the President of the school council that made the unanimous decision to terminate Joseph Gerassi’s employment, is the son of sacked Bialik College principal David Goldsmith.

While I’m writing this missive, a journey down memory lane in some regards, I’m reminded that Graham Goldsmith was one of my scout leaders at 3rd Doncaster West.  I have fond memories of that time.

I have always looked at Bialik College as one of the leading schools in Victoria, and perhaps Australia, setting a high standard in academic excellence.  I wish all associated with the school the best for the future and hope that the right leadership for the school can be found promptly.

* As a postscript to this piece, I wish to clarify my use of the word ‘suddenly’.  My intention was to avoid bias or emotion in writing this piece, but simply present the facts as they appeared.  I was initially contacted by several people who commented on the apparent suddenness of this situation.  I understand that these decisions are not made lightly and there will have been careful consideration leading up to them.  It is not the purpose of this piece to present, investigate or question the underlying issues of this situation.