A response to Rabbi Daniel Rabin on marriage equality

September 6, 2017

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.

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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.


Australian Masorti rabbi Adam Stein speaks out against Dr Miriam Grossman

June 30, 2012

I applaud Rabbi Adam Stein of the Melbourne Conservative/Masorti Synagogue Kehilat Nitzan for taking this responsible and appropriate stance in relation to a communication about tomorrow’s talk at Glen Eira College by Dr Miriam Grossman.


From: […]@kehilatnitzan.org.au
Sent: Thursday, 28 June 2012 12:24 PM
To: […]
Subject: News sheet follow up regarding Sex Education Event

Dear Kehilat Nitzan members,

I wish to apologise for sending out a notice about an event called “Sex Education – Protecting Our Children’s Well-Being.” The shule was sent an email asking us to promote the event (as was every shule in the community, it seems), and I should have read the announcement more carefully. If I had, I would have noticed that the sponsor is the Australian Family Association, which is devoted to denying marriage and even civil union rights to loving gay and lesbian couples. I would have noticed that, contrary to what the title might imply, Miriam Grossman seems to be a crusader against sex education in schools. After a couple of hours of research late last night, I found her to be in agreement with the chair of the program, Shimon Cowen, who calls homosexuality “an abnormality, which as far as possible should be treated.” It seems this program may be part of Dr. Cowen’s recent anti-gay screeds found in the past few months throughout many issues of the Australian Jewish News and even the MX paper found at train stations, attacking the Safe School Coalition Victoria for its approach to preventing bullying and sex education, at least in part because they teach that being gay is OK. In Dr Cowen’s view, it is not and should be fixed. (This so called “Reparative Therapy,” by the way, has been debunked as damaging in study after study. Even the study he cites time and again was retracted by its own author. See the five letters to the AJN a couple of weeks ago by psychologists and psychiatrists attacking Cowen for his damaging views.

Miriam Grossman obviously does not like the way sex education is run in America, and perhaps Australian schools. You may agree or disagree with her, and may even decide to go to the event. I’ll be doing a consecration at a cemetery at the time; otherwise, I might go myself to hear what she has to say.

The email we received and sent out stated “The following Public Address has been approved by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and Rabbis of all denominations” The Rabbinical Council of Victoria contains only Orthodox rabbis, and I would be surprised to hear of any non-Orthodox rabbis approving of this talk.

Please accept our apology for sending out a notice for a program which does not in any way reflect the Worldwide Masorti Movement and especially not the values of Kehilat Nitzan. For an approach to sexuality, and homosexuality, which better reflect a Masorti/Conservative view of halachah to which I adhere, I suggest the following resources:

  • The teshuvah (Jewish legal responsum) from 2006, by Rabbis Dorff, Nevins, and Reisner titled HOMOSEXUALITY, HUMAN DIGNITY & HALAKHAH (click on the title to download)
  • The section on sexuality in the wonderful new volume from our Movement called The Observant Life. The Kindle version for your Kindle, iPad, Smartphone, or computer, can be purchased here.

Please be in touch if you have any thoughts or questions on these or other topics.

Shabbat Shalom,

Adam Stein


Our Rabbi

Adam SteinRabbi Adam Stein became the rabbi at Kehilat Nitzan in August 2011. He received his ordination from The Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He also earned a Master of Arts in Education from AJU. Before coming to Kehilat Nitzan, Rabbi Stein was the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom in Kansas City, Missouri.

His journey to the rabbinate began in high school and in college at the University of California, San Diego, when he spent his junior year at Hebrew University and summers at Camp Ramah and the Brandeis Collegiate Institute. Following college, he studied in Israel at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.

In addition to Judaism, Rabbi Stein counts among his great loves his wife Tamar, his parents, sister, extended family and… Macintosh computers.

Office Hours

Rabbi Stein is in and out of the office meeting with congregants, at funerals, making hospital visits, and so on. He will be available in the office (Level 1, 230 Balaclava Road, Caulfield Junction) on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons between 2 pm and 4 pm if you want to meet with him. You can call him at 0422 674 455 or send an email.



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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