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Melbourne’s Largest Synagogue Celebrates GLBTI Festival

December 20, 2013 – 10:23 am26 Comments

From Temple Beth Israel:

glbti2Editor’s note: homophobic comments will not make it through moderation.

Temple Beth Israel (TBI) is proud to host the first ever celebration of the Midsumma Gay and Lesbian Festival in a Victorian Synagogue on Friday 31 January 2014.

In partnership with Keshet, the national GLBTI (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Intersex) Jewish advocacy group, the Shabbat Service will focus on issues of inclusion, equality and human rights in the lead up to the final weekend of the Midsumma Festival 2014.

Leading members of the Melbourne Jewish community will be honoured at the evening service in recognition of their contributions to the Jewish GLBTI community.

Among those selected for an honour are Kristen Adriaan and Ilana Gelbart, Melbourne’s first gay couple to have a Jewish commitment ceremony earlier this year at Temple Beth Israel.

TBI Senior Rabbi Gersh Lazarow says that all Jews should feel welcomed and accepted in a Synagogue.

“Temple Beth Israel is a long-standing friend of the GLBTI community, and has been a home for many members of this group.” “We actively encourage members of the Jewish GLBTI community to form a meaningful spiritual connection at TBI.

While historically many from the GLBTI have felt isolated or shunned from faith based organisations, Temple Beth Israel, as part of the

Progressive Jewish movement, prides itself on principles of egalitarianism and respect for others.” Says Rabbi Lazarow.

Founded in 1930 by a few visionaries in the Melbourne Jewish community, Temple Beth Israel is the original Progressive synagogue in Australia and New Zealand. It is one of the most active and spiritually creative forces in the Australian Jewish community running a plethora of programs for all age and interest groups.

Keshet President Jonathan Barnett welcomes the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the community within the setting of a synagogue. “Keshet strives to cultivate the spirit and practice of inclusion in all parts of the Jewish community. To bring about long term change in institutional practices and beliefs we work in partnership with community leaders, such as TBI rabbis”, says President Barnett.

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    To members of the Orthodox Jewish Community, what the reform movement in this city or Country do in their places of worship, is irrelevant.

    The fact is, that we in the Orthodox Community who, unlike those in the Reform Movement, believe in the divinity of the Torah and the laws as taught to us by our Rabbinical Authorities, will never accept Gay unions/marriage.

    TBI Rabbi Gersh Lazarow says that all Jews should be welcome in and accepted in a Synagogue, as if all Jews are NOT welcome in Orthodox Synagogues. I can assure him that at The Orthodox Synagogue I attend, we would not deny an Aliyah to a homosexual, nor would we turn any member of the gay Community away.

    However, as members of our Shul recently discovered,when their gay son “married” his non-Jewish gay partner, we draw the line at either conducting Jewish or otherwise commitment ceremonies between gay couples, or recognising those ceremonies.

    I believe that it is only a matter of time before gay marriage is made legal in this Country through an act of Parliament. This will allow gay couples to have a secular ceremony, and good luck to them should I be correct in my prediction.

    But it is interesting to note, that the law permitting Gay marriage should it come into being, will in no way compel religious institutions to conduct gay marriages, if those ceremonies are against the religious laws and commandments of that faith.

    I understand Mr. Barnetts angst and his hope that there will be “long term change in institutional practices and beliefs”, however I can assure him that the long term practices and beliefs for Torah observant Jews and their Synagogues, are non- negotiable.

  • Feigele says:

    Oh,well. Whatever it takes to gather a minyan

  • reuvain says:

    Largest, isn’t that stretching it a bit. I doubt the have the attendance, of Mizrachi, Yeshiva on Shabbat.

  • ex-TBI member says:

    Enough with the ‘progressive’ oxymoron.

    ‘Progressive’ actually means ‘regressive’, because the Reform throw 3000 years of Jewish Torah, law and history down the toilet. No commitment, no logical consistency, no integrity. It’s all just a relativistic joke to them. No wonder that TBI is only full two days a year.

    Most weeks, Temple Beth Israel can barely fill the small upstairs shule. It’s mainly yartzheits and converts attracted by their absurdly-low standards in ‘conversion’.

    And I write this as a former member of Temple Beth Israel. I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours there.

    Now, about this Midsumma event…fine, let them have it. I don’t mind. Hope they enjoy it. The Reform specialize in socially-divisive wedge issues and attacking the Orthodox. That’s their shtick as they approach demographic annhiliation and intermarriage rates hovering upwards of 80% (see the recent Pew report).

    Sadly, they stand for little else.

  • OJ says:

    What does the word Synagogue in the headline mean?

  • WasThere says:

    I agree with OJ…..
    The word “Synagogue” has no place in the headline…..

  • The Refo says:

    Ex-Tbi member, you really took the words out of my mouth :) Like you, I was also associated with TBI once. You ony have to slightly scratch the surface of their sanctimonous “activism” to reveal hypocrisy and perhaps something even far more sinister. Havng attended King David and Temple Beth for many years i was exposed to their ugly side – their racist, arrogant and obnoxious attitude toward russian jews, sephardim, asians, blacks etc, etc – I can write an entire thesis. I’ve witnessed it all.

    I’m assuming TBI will make “history” twice – not only will they host an LGBT “festival” but will also be the first “synagogue” to have novelaties like oyster kilpatricks and pork roast on the menu. And, it’s not the attitude of reform that should be of concern, but of some “orthodox” people in our community who try to twist halacha to make an issue which is clearly against Torah…”acceptable” and in line with “halacha.” But where are they going to draw the line? Will they eventually say that everything is acceptable according to Torah or will they stop at some point? Will they one day twist halacha and say that two consenting adults – a brother & sister- be allowed to marry according to Torah? Will the red line be redrawn & the goal posts shifted every decade with every demagogic “social” issue..or is there an end in sight?

    And while we’re on the topic of hypocrisy – I love how the left are championing “issues” like gay marriage but have nothing to say about the execution, jailing, torture and persecution of gays in the islamic world. The hypocrisy starts with Barak Obama – who made gay marriage a centre piece of his campaign- but doesn’t end there, Worse then silence, the left collaborates actually muslim fundamentalists. Not only does the Obama administration support the muslim brotherhood but actually has members of the muslim brotherhood in his administration. He is also quite comfortable in cozying up to and rehabilitationg Iran – a country that publicyly hangs gays, So while they “champion” gay “marriage” in the west they have absolutely no problem with collaborating and supporting those who execute gays in other countries. Go figure.

    Still on the topic pf hypocrisy – I love the disclaimer above warning that “homophobic comments will not make it through moderation.” I guess after letting through hundreds of hateful comments trashing other groups on this blog, you have to draw the line somewhere and show everyone just how enlightened and “politically” correct you are.

  • ex-TBI member says:

    Excellent post from The Refo.

    You know the interesting thing? At Temple Beth Israel, most of the members aren’t particularly Left-wing. A large proportion (maybe the majority?) would vote Liberal. Generally, it’s a lot of wealthy families who won’t observe Judaism with intellectual maturity….but they feel guilty entirely abandoning their heritage.

    So they pay the exorbitant TBI fees and drive to this Christianized shule twice a year for the High Holidays and the occasional yartzheit.

    Very few TBI members would vote for the Greens. I’m sure that a majority don’t privately support gay marriage. So why the gay festival at TBI?

    The same old story. It’s PR. It’s about differentiating themselves from the Orthodox. (Even though the Modern Orthodox and Chabad welcome gay jews into their shules).

    That’s all Reform stands for these days. Finding a stick to beat the ‘old-fashioned’ Jews with.. so they can look like the ‘good guys’ in the left-wing media. Oh, and keeping the seats warm by attracting converts who want to say they’re Jewish without all the boring icky bits like, um, 4000 years of Jewish law.

    It’s simultaneously funny and sad.

  • It’s interesting and disappointing to see the virulent attack on TBI and Progressive Judaism. As the president of Keshet Australia, I’m interested in helping all GLBTI Jews remain part of the Jewish community; whether their community is Progressive, Chabad, modern orthodox or any other stream.

    My main objective is to help Jews feel part of the community and in doing so; prevent isolation, depression and the suicide that all too often comes with being ostracized.

    When I talk about “institutional practices” I am talking about recognizing all of our members and embracing their full participation in our community’s life. This is something that is not done in many of our congregations.

    When I talk about “beliefs” I am talking the harmful practice of shunning our GLBTI members because we believe they are not following their faith because of their sexual orientation.

    I am not asking anyone to change their view of Torah. I am asking that we treat all Jews as human beings made in God’s image. I am asking that we keep a warm and welcoming place for GLBTI Jews. I am asking that we do this in the name of decency and in keeping with the values written in Torah.


    As is his wont,Jonathan Barnett makes unsubstantiated and baseless claims. I say baseless, because he never gives any examples where he can swear on a stack of Bibles, or even one Bible and actually name names, or even one name, where a Gay Jew has entered an Orthodox Synagogue and been treated differently to a Heterosexual.

    If Gays feel marginalised when they enter an Orthodox Synagogue, much of this is due to their own insecurities. This is not what is termed,a so called homophobic comment, because the same applies to people who attend an Orthodox Synagogue who may either not have learnt to read Hebrew, or had very little exposure to their Jewish faith.

    They may be there to commemorate a Yarzeit for the first time, and they feel uncomfortable, because they have no idea when they have to say Kaddish, or saying it Phonetically rather than in Hebrew.

    In my Synagogue such a person is welcomed made feel as comfortable as possible, and assisted with his needs.

    I am sure that even Mr. Barnett understands that Gays do not wear a badge or a sign on their foreheads saying I am Gay. So that when a Gay person enters an Orthodox Shul, unless they make a proclamation to the effect that they are Gay, no one would know, so why should they feel uncomfortable, unless it is due to their own insecurities.

    And if by chance there are people in the Shul that know that the person is Gay , as I do about one of my fellow Shul goers, then these people as far as I have personally seen, treat the gay person no differently than any other Mitpalel.

    If Mr. Barnett believes that TBI is the only place where Gays would be likely to receive the respect that they deserve, then he is seriously misinformed.

    I know members of TBI, that are anti-gay,certainlky anti-gay marriage, and they are not happy with the direction that TBI has taken. Since they rarely attend the place, they probably won’t say anything anyway.

    The fact is, Mr. Barnett,as uncomfortable as it may be for you to accept,,Homosexuality flies in the face of the prohibition against same sex individuals engaging in sexual relations, and is totally against Halacha.

    But as Orthodox Jews, in fact as Jews and Human Beings in general, it is not for us to interfere in the personal sexual proclivities of others. That is their own personal business, and between them and their Creator.

    At our Shul, we don’t care who you are or where you come from, as long as when you enter the doors into the Synagogue, you conduct yourself with decorum.

    You will be welcomed if you are not known to the people there, asked if you have Yarzeit, and if you come on Shabbos or Monday and Thursday, will be given an Aliyah if you do have Yarzeit. No one will ask you about your sexual orientation.

    It is about time, Mr. Barnett, that you desisted from pointing fingers and making baseless accusations. Until you can actually expose the Shuls that have ostracised Gays, denied them entry into their Shul, or denied them an Aliyah, or treated them in a disrespectful manner, and name the names of the people whom you believe have been treated in such a manner, then your accusations hold no value.

    As far as the attack on TBI and Progressive Judaism is concerned, Ex TBI member said of the festival “good luck to them I hope they enjoy it”, not an attack at all.The Refo in fact attacks many in the Orthodox Community, and quite rightly points out the hypocrisy of supporting Gay Marriage while remaining totally silent on Gay executions.

    As is usual, Mr. Barnett, you see what you want to see, while avoiding the reality. Yes, Gays have been the subject of discrimination over many year, not as long as Jews though.

    The gays in Australia, have never had as much acceptance ads they do now, and as I have stated before, it will only be a matter of time until Secular gay marriage ceremonies are permitted in this Country.

    All this time, Anti- Semitic attacks against Jews in this Country have increased on a year by year basis.

    When considering that fact, I am sure that the Jewish Community of Australia, would love to have just 50% of the acceptance that Gays in our Country have.

  • TheRefo says:

    Jonathan Barnett, I guess it all comes down to a matter of perception. Whilst you might preceive our comments to be a “virulent attack on TBI and progressive judaism,” “Ex-TBI member” and I would view our comments as a genuine criticism of an institution we only know too well. And seeing that we are both former members…we might just both know what we’re talking about. And it’s certainly easy to dismiss any criticism as an “attack”…

    All jews – regardless of who they are – should be made to feel welcome in shul. But there’s a difference b/w making someone feel welcome and actually endorsing their choices in life. I would opposse any shul that hosted a midsummer festival extolling and promoting the virtues of shabbos violation and eating shell fish as much as I oppose the promotion of this festival and the “commitment ceremonies” that TBI hosts for gay couples. Yet any jew who doesn’t observe the laws of shabbos and kashrut, should and must be made to feel welcome at shul, just like gay couples.

    And if you bothered to notice, I’ve spent as much of my post – if not more- to “attacking” people in the orthodox community for their twisting of halacha as I do “attacking” the reform and also “attacked” the left in general (not just TBI) for their down right hypocrisy.

  • bobby basrah says:

    Having close friends who are TBI members (attending max twice a year plus a wedding/barmitzvah/yarzeit or 2, which, BTW, seems to be the average there), I asked one of them to do some research for me.
    What he found out was that the majority of members in TBI (and I presume most Reform temples) include in their family at least one convert, someone married to a convert or offspring of converts.

    (I recall some years ago the AJN had an article about one of Melb’s founding Jewish families. The article noted that 6 (IIRC) generations of that family had their weddings and bar mitzvahs at the Toorak Rd/Bourke St – MHC.
    The latest Bar Mitzvah, however, was at TBI. It didn’t take long to find out that the BM boy’s mother was a Reform ‘convert’ making the poor kid a gentile in the eyes of Halacha (and Orthodox Jewry).

    That seems to be the main purpose of Reform and their temples everywhere. The LA/Hollywood temples have been accommodating film stars marrying out for several generations now, and the local franchise was not too far behind..
    We know exactly how “Jewish” halachically these converts and their offspring are. Exactly as Jewish as before they fell in love with his/her non-Jewish fiancé.

    So why the big surprise when the TBI and their ‘rabbis’ welcome Midsumma? Not only do they get some attention but also a way to get a crowd one Friday a year.
    And maybe even a new source of membership (in addition to the ‘converts’), the gays.

    NOTE: To any TBI convert reading this, please understand that I mean no malice to you. In the eyes of observant, serious Jews, you are a true ‘rachmonus’, having been duped by Reform clergy into believing that after doing a few study sessions with him or her, you are now a true Jew.

    Indeed, many intelligent and well-meaning Reform converts upon realising the truth of their “Jewish” status and genuinely wanting to bond to our religion go through the process all over again under the careful and sympathetic eyes of learned rabbis and rebbetzens. And as we often see, many of these genuine geirei tzedek put to shame FFB Jews with their strict observance of Torah and Mitzvos.

    Sadly those remaining in the TBI-type places must accept that their conversion is considered by the Torah as a sham. And while female TBI convert’s children are, according to Halacha, considered to be gentiles, they do have the option if they so wish to become fully-fledged Jews by converting Halachically. As for the children of male converts, if the mother is a genuine Jew, they are considered to be Jewish. But read on..

    The really dreadful thing that the TBI rabbis here and everywhere do, is to allow non-halachically divorced women (ie not having received a “get”) to remarry. (I am of course referring to indisputable ‘Jewish’ women).
    When these (second/third) marriages produce children, these poor kids are sadly by definition of the Halacha, 100% mamzerim – illegitimate. And forever they and any offspring that they may have – even if they observe all of the Taryag mitzvot – can never marry.

    This is sad and tragic. Ask any of our rabbis here how often it happens that when such a child who has come closer to Yiddishkeit visits an Orthodox rabbi to discuss his future wedding, how shocked and traumatised he is to learn that it cannot be.

    So TBI and all others who care so much for the gays, asylum seekers and aborigines, why not do something about the holocaust of YOUR OWN MAKING?
    The hundreds and possibly thousands of such mamzerim who will never be able to live a normal Jewish life.

    The ‘Reform’ rabbis could easily avert this tragic state of affairs by simply swallowing their pride and insist that before any second marriage takes place, they ensure that the bride has received a Kosher get.
    Will they do it? Somehow I doubt it. They are more concerned about the gays than their own members children. Sad.

  • Sunshine says:

    Loving the homophobic comments without actually saying anything from Jews who have no right to judge anyone.

    I’m with you jonathan

    And BTW statistically 2 out of 10 of your shul goers are gay and the fact that u don’t know that says plenty about the tolerance in orthodox Jewish Shuls.

  • Water of Life says:

    Actually the most problematic conversion that I have heard of in recent times is by one of the ‘registered’ Orthodox Beit Dins, so lets not get too excited about Reform conversion.
    Also if the marriage is not legitimate there is no issue with subsequent marriages and mamzerut. All we would have to prove is that there was one Chabadnik as one of the witnesses, and the whole thing would be canceled since there was one problematic witness.
    Perhaps the Orthodox should clean up their own house before casting stones at the Reform.

    This would go for those who are writing the obituaries for the Reform movement. There are no issues that require your attention in your own communities?

  • bobby basrah says:

    Water, red nisht kain shtussim

    A married woman who divorces her husband and wishes to remarry – MUST have a Kosher Get.
    If she remarries without it, she is considered an ‘eishes ish’ and any children she bears (and subsequently their children) are illegitimate (mamzerim).

    If you had any feelings for another human being, you wouldn’t be debating this with anti-Chabad nonsense.
    Innocent kids, Jewish kids, are potentially being destroyed by the Reform clergy but you only have sympathy for gays.

    I don’t know who or what you are but isn’t there a chance that one day maybe someone even in YOUR family will be shocked to learn about his/her halachic status?

  • Truth Needs No Defender says:

    Water of Life, sadly everything Bobby wrote is 100% true. The way that conversion and divorces are sanctioned and allowed in the Reform/Conservative/Progressive (etc) Judaism movements, have caused great distress to many children born from these marriages, and subsequently a lot of pain. In Israel, the Rabbanut has to turn away many hopeful couples who have made aliyah from countries all over the world because somewhere, somehow a conversion on the mother’s side was not “halachically” acceptable. I have personal friends that had to delay marriages and engagements and suffer embarrassment because they were unable to get married.
    In the work we did in the United States, we met numerous people who went to Jewish schools their whole life, attended Israel programs, but were not considered Jewish by the eyes of Jewish law because of their highly questionable halachic status. Unfortunately their mothers had converted through the Reform or Conservative movement, and only when their kids were at marriageable age, did all the truth come out of exactly who they could and could not marry.
    It is an awful situation that these “alternative reform” movements have created in the USA, UK and more recently in Australia (and frankly all over the world). There needs to be consistency across the board and some kind of governance on what these movements are doing in the name of Judaism.
    It takes it toll on society, individuals and families, and these non halachic conversions need to stop.
    Can you imagine if a medical movement turned around one day and said that you can be a qualified doctor in one year? How much moreso should a significant amount of time and dedication be devoted to a change/conversion in an entire religion. It should be something that is done the proper way, the same way we have been doing it, the Torah way, the Halachic way.

  • Water of Life says:

    Unless the marriage was not kosher to start with.

    The truth is that the rabbis bend over backwards to ensure people do not end up as mamzerim. And when we have a whole community that can be assumed that a majority are ovdei avodah zara, we can undo all the marriages that they witness.
    This is not nonsense, it is dissolving thousands of marriages that no longer need a get.

    As to your nasty dig about my family (I may even call it rishus, so that now we can cancel any weddings you have been a witness at), I have long suspected that there would not be a single Jew in the world who does not have some problematic ancestor, but we put in efforts to sweep it under the carpet.
    The only truly kosher Jews without any dodgy lineage would be the converts. Could that be why the Haredi reformers of the religion are so against converts? Feeling a bit inferior and insecure?

  • Gentile says:

    I’ve been trying to learn more about ‘Jewishness’ lately so that I can form a balanced view of your community. That’s mainly because I’ve recently seen a lot of negative press towards Jews in response to the Palestinian crisis.

    Anyway, that led me here and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments about this article. It’s clear that you’re all just normal people endeavouring to do the right thing as you understand it.

    In terms of the debate here though, what I don’t understand is, which part of “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” can be harmonised to permit the celebration of GLBTI relationships? It seems fairly cut and dry to me but I might be missing something…


  • Sunshine says:

    I can see here that it is your type of Jew Bobby that is rascist, homophobic and completely intolerant.

    Who bloody cares about how ” Jewish”
    Someone is. I though being a good person was far more important.

    Do I belong to the same religion? What the hell has happened to all of you. Years if persecution has made you as NA as the persecutors.

  • Another ex-TBI member says:

    Bobby’s comment is excellent.

    I don’t see any homophobic comments on this thread. Just criticism that TBI is more interested in playing the culture wars than respecting Judaism.

    I went to King David School and TBI for many years. The entire institution has failed. 98% of the kids have almost no knowledge of Yiddishkeit, Torah or Jewish history. They don’t care. They’re mostly more interested in shopping.

    You can’t blame them. Why should they care when their parents (and their sadly-ignorant rabbis) treat Judaism and our Torah with disdain? They just chuck out all the difficult bits.

    Sure, there’s problems in the Orthodox communities too. But that’s not an argument for silencing salient criticism of the Reform. As it says in the Talmud, the Torah wasn’t given to angels. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. But at least the Orthodox generally treat the Torah and our heritage with respect.

  • Sunshine says:

    Respecting the Torah?

    Orthodoxy is judgemental, sees women as second class and forces relationships between people . Does what suits it obeying some laws and not others and after reading all 613 mitsvot wonder who really wrote them.

    Incest father on child is not forbidden, women are unclean when me situating and so many breaking laws punishable by death

    Lepers are to be excluded?

    Move on , we don’t live in those times anymore.

    Congratulations TBI u are getting under the nose of the black hat cult. You must be doing something right

  • Boom Boom says:

    Editor: Please do not write gratuitously nasty jokes about any denomination. Failure to comply will result in suspension of your account.

  • Ben says:

    Sunshine: “Incest father on child is not forbidden”

    Where did you see that?

  • Sunshine says:

    Every type of incest us forbidden but that one is not there.

    If you read them you will see the assumption was made that it should be there but it was never written.

    There’s more though and I would suggest every Jew read them. Some are outrageous

  • Ben says:

    The first sentence says that all close relations are forbidden 18:6. It certainly includes this. There is hardly any closer.

    It’s really quite straight forward why it was not mentioned specifically. It’s just not worth answering everything on a public anonymous forum like this. You never finish. Like trying to respond to all the conspiracy theories etc that get thrown.

    When asked privately these types of issues, I haven’t had problems discussing and explaining.

  • Another ex-TBI member says:

    Editor: this is skating very close to the line of being a content free personal attack. Please note, personal attacks contravene Galus commenting policy.
    Sunshine, you don’t present a very convincing case. You can barely seem to write coherently, for a start…

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