Caulfield Synagogue President Robert Weil smears gay people following his transphobic attack

June 5, 2015

The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse has brought to light a litany of hideous sexual abuse against children.  Consistent with past behaviour, Robert Weil has again tried to smear homosexual people, this time by labelling paedophiles exposed in this Royal Commission as “gay”, evidenced in a comment posted on J-Wire story “Transgender wedding in New Zealand“:

Robert Weil says:

I’ll grant you it wasn’t well handled at the Yeshivah Michael, but it wasn’t Rabbi’s who “caused the mess”. The mess was caused by sexual predators who delighted in sodomizing little boys. The Rabbis you refer to were not the perpetrators, unlike the gay Catholic priests at Ballarat and the gay teachers at Knox Grammar.

Robert Weil

Robert Weil

The sexual orientation of paedophiles is irrelevant and does not contribute in any way to the abuse.  Further, the victims of some of these male paedophiles were girls as well as boys.

The following comment by Robert Weil compounds the bigotry demonstrated in his attack, this time on transgender people.  He diminishes the merit of the relationship reported in the story by labelling it as a “dysfunctional situation” and presenting it as shameworthy:

Robert Weil says:

Ben, don’t be so dismissive of Rabbis. They understand far more than you, as they are generally the ones that have to be called in eventually to try and clean up the mess caused by dysfunctional situations such as this. Have some sympathy for the parents too.

Neither the wedding nor the relationship are dysfunctional.  The couple are normal, happy people in love with each other.  That they lack the support of family members is unfortunate and not their fault.

Ordinarily I’d be less alarmed by this type of transphobic and homophobic attack, putting it down to ignorance of the harm caused by such attitudes.  However what disturbs me most is that the author of these comments is the President of the Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, and as such holds a position of influence in the Jewish community in Melbourne:

Robert Weil - President - CHCThe prejudice on display here demonstrates a considerable disregard for a vulnerable and marginalised segment of society.  Physical attacks on homosexual and transgender people are not uncommon, are frequently brutal and may even result in permanent disfigurement, disability or death.  More common though are the self-loathing, helplessness and isolation that same-sex attracted and gender diverse people feel due to intolerance and bigotry, leading to poorer mental health outcomes, self harm and possible suicidal behaviour.

It would be helpful for Robert Weil and those who align with his intolerant perspective on sexual orientation and gender diversity to become more informed about the harms their attitudes can cause to the members of their community.

In 2015 there is no excuse for ignorance of these issues.  Over two years ago the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) began promoting the No To Homophobia campaign.  Robert Weil’s synagogue, Caulfield Hebrew Congregation (CHC), belongs to the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria, a JCCV Affiliate.  It is incomprehensible that CHC would have been oblivious to the JCCV’s push for its affiliates to join in the No To Homophobia campaign, given that the JCCV recruited at least 25 other affiliates accordingly.

It is my hope that the board of the CHC, together with their spiritual leadership, are able to formulate a way forward that includes education on sexual orientation and gender identity, whereby they can proudly put their name to saying No To Homophobia, and stamp out the small-minded and harmful attitudes demonstrated here by their President.  Doing so will strengthen their community, build social cohesiveness and hopefully save lives.  Failing to grow in this way can only do irreparable harm.

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When saying No To Homophobia can look more like window dressing than genuine support for a cause

June 21, 2013

On June 3 the City of Darebin Council passed the following motion:

City of Darebin logo

THAT building on its support for the No to Homophobia campaign expressed on 10 December 2012, Council commit to No to Homophobia’s ‘Promise Campaign’, thereby ‘giving its word to stand up against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Always’

Impressive.

In March this year, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria announced they were joining the No To Homophobia campaign.  At their May 6 plenum meeting they advised they would not pass a motion in support of saying No To Homophobia or calling others to do so, and instead simply made an informal recommendation to its affiliates:

JCCV logo

MOTIONS BEFORE THE PLENUM

The motions on the agenda regarding the ‘No to Homophobia’ campaign and Child Protection were actually recommendations to the JCCV affiliates and not motions which needed to be voted upon. Nina Bassat read the recommendations to the Plenum on the ‘No to Homophobia’ Campaign and the offer from the Child
Protection Reference Group.

Nina Bassat requested that Affiliates advise the JCCV if they sign up to the ‘No To Homophobia’ campaign, and requested that Affiliates respond to the questions in the Child Protection Briefing Paper prepared by Andrew Blode and presented at
the Council of Presidents.

Not so impressive.

This week I asked the JCCV if a motion was put to their plenum that preceded their March announcement to support No To Homophobia, given that there was no minuted record of it in their March plenum minutes.  They were unable to provide confirmation of such but advised me they would make enquiries to establish if there was.  Watch this space.

window dressing

And so, here we have two sizeable organisations who have both signed up to saying No To Homophobia, the City of Darebin which has made a firm documented commitment to the cause at council level, and the JCCV, not so much.  A pity really, because in the absence of such a motion their level of commitment could be perceived to be lacklustre.


Australian Society for Polish Jews says No To Homophobia

June 4, 2013

ASPJ logoIt just came to my attention that The Australian Society of Polish Jews and Their Descendents Inc., a little known organisation in Melbourne’s relatively small Jewish community, signed up as an Organisational Supporter of the No To Homophobia campaign in early May this year.

A testament to their support of No To Homophobia is the addition of the No To Homophobia logo to their web site:

ASPJ says No To Homophobia

(As I write this article, the inaugural Jewish organisation to support No To Homophobia, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, does not yet sport the No To Homophobia logo on their own web site.  Hopefully they will see there is merit in proudly saying No To Homophobia, just like the ASPJ have done.)

Following the lead of the JCCV signing up to No To Homophobia in March this year, the ASPJ are to be congratulated on being the first individual organisation in the Victorian Jewish community to sign up to No To Homophobia.

I hope their lead paves the way for many more organisations to also say No To Homophobia.


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

April 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.


The JCCV Puppet Show 2013

April 27, 2013

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria is trying to convince people they’re against homophobia.  Yet they take bucket-loads of money from numerous member organisations that are deeply intolerant of homosexuality.

Here’s my response to their GLBTI Statement from Nina Bassat AM.  Click on the image to enlarge.

JCCV puppet show 2013


AJAX Football Club must say “No to Homophobia”

September 9, 2012


From: Michael Barnett <mikeybear69@gmail.com>
Date: 9 September 2012 10:09
Subject: Asking for AJAX Football Club to support AFL’s “No to Homophobia” campaign
To: Ian Fayman <ianfayman@yahoo.com.au>, Ronnie Lewis <rlewis@matchexecutive.com.au>, Mark Feldy <mfeldy@bigpond.net.au>, Peter Kagan <pkagan@bigpond.net.au>, Michael Sojka <msojka@rosepartners.com.au>, Bernie Sheehy <bernard@sheehysaw.com.au>, Darren Seidl <DSeidl@rk.com.au>, Gary Blusztein <bblusztein@bigpond.net.au>, Gary Blieden <bliedz@hotmail.com>, John Rochman <johnrochman@gmail.com>, Adam Slade-Jacobson <asladejacobson@qualitas.com.au>
Cc: Jason Ball <jasonball8888@gmail.com>, Rob Mitchell <rmitchell@rjm.it>

Dear AJAX Football Club,

I am writing to ask for your club to support “No to Homophobia”.  Please read this story in The Age and consider distributing it, along with the associated petition, to the members of your club.

Story: ‘I didn’t know any footballers who were gay’
Petition: I’ve experienced homophobia in Aussie Rules Football first hand — now it’s time to end it.

In addition, please consider issuing a statement of support from the AJAX Football Club.  It would send a strong message and support your clubs aims:

Ajax will assist in the development and improvement of its members, not only by requiring and facilitating the highest standard of physical fitness and skills associated with Australian Rules Football-but also general aspects of life and community to further their careers.

AJAX shall strive to achieve the most successful onfield team performances at all levels whilst maintaining its unique Jewish identity.

I have copied Jason Ball on this email.  He would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.  Additionally I have included Rob Mitchell, who has a close connection to the AFL and takes a keen interest in these matters.

Lastly, I’d like you to read this blog I wrote after meeting Olympian Daniel Kowaslki:

I urge you to bring this matter up with Maccabi Victoria at your earliest convenience, as it is in the best interests of the welfare of all members of AJAX FC and Maccabi Victoria.

Sincerely,
Michael Barnett.
0417-595-541


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