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An open letter to the JCCV plenum

August 3, 2015 – 6:02 pm7 Comments

By Bracha Rafael:

Shira Banki vigil

Yaron Brener

Lehavdil is one of my favourite Hebrew words. It’s a shorthand that conveys a rather convoluted sentiment: that though two things are not equivalent, one thing speaks to another.

The thing, today, is death. Death, and hate.

Shira Banki’s death is the result of a hate crime. Her death occurred far from Melbourne’s Jewish community, but in a place close to our hearts: Jerusalem.

We did not kill her, but someone like us, another Jew, did.

She was targeted because she participated in the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade.

Her death is not a tragedy. It is an outrage. It is an outrage because such a thing is preventable.

Now, lehavdil.

It is not an understatement to say that lives are on the line when we talk about social inclusion of LGBTIQ Jews.

It is not within the Melbourne community’s power to effect the prevention of hate crimes in the state of Israel.

Lucky us, our challenge is not to prevent the murder of children. Our challenge is to protect the mental health, self-esteem, and Jewish connectedness of children.

Our challenge is to ensure that whatever difficulties the Orthodox among us face reconciling their obligations in the realm of sexuality with their obligations in the realm of adam lachaveiro, of pikuach nefesh, that tonight those difficulties are surmountable.

Tonight our community, in its pluralistic glory, votes on Keshet’s formal inclusion in the Melbourne Jewish community’s peak body.

This is not merely an administrative question. Tonight LGBTIQ Jews are looking at the Melbourne community and asking: is there a place for me here?

Sixteen years ago, the community answered that question with a resounding no.

Tonight, the assembled delegates of the 52 organisations that comprise the Jewish Community Council of Victoria have the chance to correct that error.

The bar to entry is high, higher than it was in 1999. Keshet needs 75% of the attending delegates to vote yes.

It is my fervent wish that Keshet’s inclusion tonight takes place anti-climatically, as a matter of course, without the ugliness that was on shameless display when Aleph’s bid was debated.

And it is my firm belief that this vote must take place in the open, by a show of hands. No one should be free to hide behind a secret ballot.

For organisations bound to vote no by boards populated by people on the wrong side of history—we will forgive you.

For organisations brave enough to vote yes in the knowledge that segments of your constituents will be disappointed—we will applaud you.

For organisations who might think that a secret ballot will afford them cover in the event that Keshet is unsuccessful—think again.

The community is watching, the community is hoping, the community is mourning for Shira Banki.

Let’s do something good. Let’s make some space.

See you tonight.

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  • Steven says:

    Orthodox Rabbis are not concerned with this as they have no gays in their community. If, however, one of their children happens to be gay, they get sent far away to another city in another country. Of no concern to them. Hence, no gays in their community.

  • Unanimous in favour. No fanfare. No fights. A simple show of hands all wanting to move forward. No indication of anyone wanting to go backward. A day in which the Jewish community sent a message to every other cultural, ethnic and faith community to say it’s ok to say it’s ok to to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer.

  • Steven says:

    Good result. Thank you.

  • Ron Burdo says:


    I don’t know which community you refer, but at least in the orthodox congregation in which I am a member, the Rabbi held a Shiur about this issue, and said explicitly that people are welcome regardless of their orientation.

  • Robert Weil says:

    Steven, your first comment is disgusting and bears no resemblance to the truth. Just the sort of hate speech you wrongly accuse others of. If anything would create paranoia and psychological issues in the gay community, it is moronic outbursts such as that.

  • Steven says:

    Robert, please let me know how many OTD kids get booted out of home solely because they are OTD, and then google Faigy Mayer and Judy Brown etc etc. How much more so if they are gay.

  • letrers in the age says:

    Congrats to the Australian Jewish Diaspora

    Let’s all move foward and embrace diversity.

    In lieu of the hate directed towards Manny Waks and his family , this nasty behavior has damaged the community.

    There is only pity for those that don’t embrace change.


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