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 dichotomy of the Jewish leadership when it comes to Hitler and homophobia

August 19, 2012

A guaranteed way to find out if the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Anti-Defamation Commission are still in business is to report a rogue Hitler reference to them and measure how many milliseconds it takes for them to issue a media release and demand an apology by the perpetrator.  Take for example this recent example involving Macquarie Bank.

Yet these very organisations have moral constipation when rabbis from their community, such as Chaim Ingram or Shimon Cowen, to name two of the more obnoxious, say that gays should consider taking their lives for being homosexual, or make claims that we can be cured of our homosexuality, as if it’s an illness.

Imagine for one minute if a Muslim or Christian cleric were to say that Jews should consider taking their lives for their religious beliefs or because their way of life was considered an illness.  It has been proven by their past actions that the ECAJ and the ADC, along with other organisations such as the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and every other Jewish organisation in the country would be screaming livid.   Yet stunned silence when it comes to these anti-gay statements by Jewish “leaders”.

I hold in complete contempt every single person and organisation complicit in the silence that is being perpetrated when these vile rabbis are not howled down.  Why are people so scared to speak out against these perpetrators of hate?  What illness has affected this community when they are more outraged at statements of hate and intolerance against them than those from their midst?


The AJN should have a standing apology for Chaim Ingram

July 28, 2012

This week the Australian Jewish News apologised for a fairly base comment by Chaim Ingram they published in last week’s edition of the paper.  I’m grateful the AJN acknowledged they shouldn’t have printed the particular comment and more-so that they made hasty amends by publishing an apology.

However, if they feel the need to give Ingram an ongoing platform to voice his bigoted and homophobic bile, the least they could do is have a standing apology for him in every edition of the paper.  Better yet, they could just not publish him.


Kosher Rabbis of Australia Party

July 25, 2012

In the lead up to the 2013 Australian federal election two prominent organisations in Australia’s Orthodox Jewish community have joined up to create a new religious force in Australia’s political sphere.  After extensive consultation and introspection the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) and Kosher Australia (KA) have teamed up to form the Kosher Rabbis of Australia Party.

The party platform is founded on the complete kosherification of Australia, from the perspective of the Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law.  At present Kosher Australia provides certification for products that are acceptable under Jewish dietary laws (kashrut).  However should the party win a seat in government it will propose legislation to have all food and drinks labelled “Kosher”, “Mostly Kosher” or “Non Kosher (but we’ll certify kosher for an additional fee)“.  The level of certification will be based on a sliding scale of fees.  Halal certification will be permitted but only under the revised name “Kosher Halal”, and of course will be subject to an additional “co-Semitic” fee.

The party also proposes legislation to counter any form of activity that falls outside that acceptable to its strict Orthodox Jewish standards.  This would include a ban on both trading and driving over the Jewish Sabbath and Jewish holy days, converting churches, mosques and other non-Jewish prayer halls into up-market residential developments, cancelling Christmas and Easter, making the sale of pig meat illegal, compulsory circumcision for all boys, modest attire for women, banning masturbation, strict alignment with Catholic clergy child-abuse cover-up tactics, and enforcing a no-sex before marriage policy (with a special emphasis of the latter being a pre-requisite for all members of parliament from the Prime Minister’s office down).

The ethos of the party demands a culture free of hypocrisy in Orthodox Judaism.  It feels that if it is compelled to decry the legalisation of marriage between perverted couplings of homosexuals (and lesbians), it must also decry all activities in society that come in conflict with its unforgiving religious dogma.  Party head (and Chef de Douche) Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, together with party Campaign and Propaganda Manager Rabbi Chaim Ingram, say there’s no room for double standards when it comes to interfering in the lives of Australian citizens and in particular vulnerable minority groups.

Look out for a complete list of candidates and policies on the party’s web site http://www.krap.org.au, soon to be launched.  And remember the campaign slogan: “Making our Australia more Kosher for you, one snip at a time”.


Chaim Ingram defends the Torah at the expense of his community

July 20, 2012

In the article “How to get rid of the hyphen” (AJN 20/07/12; p24) Chaim Ingram writes:

As a result, [non-Orthodoxy] has redefined who is a Jew and now it seeks to redefine what is a sacred Jewish partnership. Because make no mistake, accepting homosexual marriage and solemnising homosexual union in a sanctuary – which no other faith community in Australia has done – has succeeded in driving a greater wedge than ever between us. Non-Orthodoxy embraces it while Orthodoxy sees it as a sin for which one must be prepared to give up one’s life if necessary.

I have been outspoken in the Jewish community for well over a decade now on the need for understanding and acceptance of people who are same-sex attracted.  What drives me is the desire to prevent others from harm and suffering when confronted with ignorant and repressive attitudes toward sexuality.

Chaim Ingram should ask himself why people like me are challenging the timeless religious beliefs he clings on to so desperately.  I can assure him I am not doing it to take his religion away from him.  The reality is that the outdated attitudes toward human sexuality that he defends have been proven to drive up rates of suicide and self-harm in same-sex attracted youth in religious communities.

Those not bound to an immutable interpretation on the Torah are realizing they must be proactive in empowering themselves and their children with modern attitudes toward human sexuality through programs such as Safe Schools Coalition Victoria and Keshet.  Ultimately they will be raising happier and healthier children.

One only has to take a look at the extensive list of references on the drs4equality.com web site to understand why an increasing number of Australian medical practitioners are putting their name to marriage equality and programs that increase acceptance and integration of same-sex attracted people into communities.

It’s the overwhelming list of medical and mental health reasons that are driving this attitudinal change in thinking.  The longer Chaim Ingram holds onto his outdated values the more harm he does to his community.


20 Jul 2012
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition

How to get rid of the hyphen

In THE AJN on July 6, ‘postdenominational’ Rabbi Gary Robuck issued a passionate plea for Jews of all persuasions to ‘deal kindly with one another’. From his Orthodox perspective, Rabbi Chaim Ingram responds.

Love for one’s fellow Jew must transcend denominational boundaries.

UNDOUBTEDLY sincere as North Shore Temple Emanuel Rabbi Gary Robuck’s cri de coeur is, I fear he, like most who write on this topic, is skirting the main issue. To illustrate: let me quote a well-known story from the Talmud concerning the formidable Beruria, wife of Rabbi Meir. Certain sectarian Jews (possibly Sadducees) were harassing the rabbi constantly. In his exasperation, he wanted to imprecate them in his prayers. However, his wife Beruria persuaded him that the Psalmist (104:35) teaches that one’s thoughts ought to be directed not against the offender but at the offence. “Rather pray,” she said. “They will see the error of their ways and re-evaluate!”

It is not for any Jew to judge another. Only God may. A rabbi may feel he must excoriate values and ideologies that he believes are anathema to Torah. But he must never excoriate the practitioners of those values and ideologies who he feels are in error.

I have tried always to stay true to this principle. I try not to deal unkindly with anyone. Members of Reform congregations have sat happily at my Shabbat table. All are welcome at my Torah classes regardless of their denomination. In one of my communities in England, the president of the local Progressive congregation was a regular attender – and we had many spirited and spiritual discussions without sacrificing our friendship. A former spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel Woollahra was welcomed to a shiur given by the late Rabbi Shmuel Roth of Adass. Some of my colleagues have hosted Reform spiritual leaders for Shabbat at their homes. Love for one’s fellow Jew must transcend denominational boundaries.

However, when it comes to accepting ideologies that conflict with one’s own, one has to ask the following question: What am I trying to protect? And is what I am trying to protect important enough to risk conflict or not?

Let us take an example. A difference of opinion arises between a newly married couple about whether to purchase pine or mahogany furniture for their living room. It goes without saying (or it should) that, regardless of the strength and validity of each one’s preference, this should not be an issue that causes even a ripple of domestic disharmony. Both partners must avoid conflict at all costs rather than dig in their heels over such an issue.

However, what if the marital conflict is over a fundamental principle of how to educate their children? One partner is a staunch advocate of faith-based, traditional schooling for their child, while the other considers such schooling indoctrination and wants his child to mix freely with children of all faiths. It is utterly unrealistic for a family counsellor to tell the couple to “speak nicely to each other” and everything will work out. It won’t! There is a fundamental conflict of parenting ideology here, which ought to have been uncovered years earlier before they tied the knot and will almost certainly destabilise the marriage. Neither will back down because each believes he or she is acting in the best interest of the child they both are trying to protect.

For the Orthodox Jew, the God-given Torah is that child. He will not say or do anything that might put Torah at risk. He certainly will not recognise any ideology that, as he sees it, seeks to destroy its soul.

No Orthodox rabbi can accept the validity of an ideology that conflicts with basic principles of Jewish faith – belief in a unique, omnipotent, omniscient, incorporeal, indivisible, accessible, loving, just God; belief in the divinity, the eternal validity and the essential unchangeability of the written and oral Torah; belief in a messianic golden future where “the world will be perfected under the dominion of the Almighty”; and belief in a world beyond the grave.

The Sadducees denied the last of these principles. Christianity denied elements of the first and the second. And sadly, non-Orthodoxy has denied the second and indeed remains equivocal on the others! As a result, it has redefined who is a Jew and now it seeks to redefine what is a sacred Jewish partnership. Because make no mistake, accepting homosexual marriage and solemnising homosexual union in a sanctuary – which no other faith community in Australia has done – has succeeded in driving a greater wedge than ever between us. Non-Orthodoxy embraces it while Orthodoxy sees it as a sin for which one must be prepared to give up one’s life if necessary.

I believe it is for those Jewish leaders outside Orthodoxy to now make the following honest assessment: How important is ideology to them? How important are their liberal principles? For hard-core Reform leaders, one would imagine: pretty important. For self-confessed “post-denominational” Jews as Rabbi Robuck refreshingly describes himself, one might think: less so.

Therefore, I issue a challenge to him and to those of his colleagues in Australia who think like him. If ideology to you is truly not as important as communal unity, rejoin the mainstream. Rehitch your isolated, static carriages to the train that is going forward. Because make no mistake – and recent articles in The AJN attest to it – Orthodoxy, particularly on the right, is growing while nonOrthodoxy is dwindling.

If you are concerned about rightward trends, form a concerted voice on the left. Be a dissenting voice even, if you must. But let yours be a voice like Rabbi Yehoshua’s in the Talmud who, though he passionately held his colleague to be wrong regarding the date of Yom Kippur in a given year, acquiesced for the sake of unity.

Let’s all be post-denominational Jews. Orthodox was a word coined by the first generation of Reform secessionists. Before that there were only Jews. Let’s restore the status quo. But let it be a status quo based on the values that pertained before the 19th-century divisions set in.

Let us indeed deal kindly with one another. But let non-Orthodoxy acknowledge that, in the words of Billy Joel, “we didn’t start the fire!”

Rabbi Chaim Ingram is honorary rabbi of the Sydney Jewish Centre on Ageing, honorary secretary of the Rabbinical Council of NSW and director of the Kol Shira Learning Centre.


Orthodox rabbis champion homosexual acceptance and same-sex marriage

June 14, 2011

[SOURCE]

Our friends over at AJN Watch have published a delightfully accepting and heart-warming piece about homosexuality and marriage equality.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Please thank them for their care and concern.

PS.  If the link above is broken, try this backup PDF version.


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