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Jewish peak body votes for LGBTIQ inclusion

August 5, 2015 – 4:48 pm7 Comments

By Alex Fein:

Keshet vote

Photo courtesy of Michael Barnett

The unprecedented vote at the Jewish Community Council of Victoria to admit LGBTIQ support and advocacy group, Keshet, was not without controversy.

Robert Weil, President of one of Melbourne’s largest synagogues, Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, had been a vocal opponent of Keshet’s acceptance as an affiliate of the Jewish peak body.

Mr Weil wrote in the comments section of online Jewish affairs magazine, Galus Australis:

With all the issues facing our community, and the dark clouds hanging over world Jewry, I cannot understand all the energy being wasted over this nonsense. I am old enough to have been present at the JCCV plenum in 1999 when the application for Aleph to affiliate was soundly defeated. The reason was not simply because of any campaign launched by the orthodox community. The difference was that the “J” in the JCCV of those days stood for Jewish values.

He concluded:

…if “Keshet” feels it should become an affiliate of JCCV, and it’s role as an organization is merely to prevent abuse of gays and lesbians, then there is no logical reason that they shouldn’t be accepted. Is there a wider agenda though? We’ll wait and see.

This was not Mr Weil’s first confronting statement with regards to Jewish LGBTIQ inclusion, leading many to believe that Caulfield Hebrew Congregation would vote against Keshet’s acceptance.

Mr Weil’s views were at odds with others on the board as well as the synagogue’s rabbi. When Mr Weil raised his hand in favour of Keshet’s inclusion on Monday night, it became clear that the synagogue’s board had prevailed.

Many in the Jewish community view Caulfield Hebrew Congregation as representative of mainstream Jewish religious identity and values.

Keshet, which means “rainbow” in Hebrew, works to challenge prejudice and discrimination in the Jewish community, and hosts a range of education programs and support groups.

Following the vote, Jonathan Barnett, Keshet President, said that the vote sends “a very strong statement about inclusivity in the Melbourne Jewish community.” He added that the functional significance of Keshet’s inclusion is that Keshet is now far better placed to engage in dialogue and outreach within the Jewish community. “The community is now aware of our existence, and that means we will be able to meet our goals more effectively,” Dr Barnett said.

Tonight Keshet is hosting a program on Jewish same-sex parenting. The details can be viewed here.

Correction: the photo accompanying this article was mistakenly attributed to R. Gersh Lazarow. It was in fact taken by Michael Barnett.

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7 Comments »

  • letters in the age says:

    Welcome back Alex..

    There is a pot of Jewish Gold at the end of the Rainbow

    Despite having an openly gay yet contradictory Human Rights Commissioner who wants religious groups to discriminate and play ridiculous cultural war games…his controversial statements should not be taken seriously anymore…except the hard right wing who are a minority in the Jewish community. .

    Long overdue. ..Happy Mardi Gras people. ..see you all there next time in Sydney with bells on!!

    Cheers

  • It’s nice that you used the photo I took as the image for this article. Thanks Galus!

  • Alex Fein says:

    Apologies, Michael. We’ve changed the attribution and published a correction at the bottom of the article.

  • BARRY MOND says:

    Alex,

    It is one thing to arrive at the conclusion, that Mr. Weil, President of the CHC was outvoted at Board Level over the Keshet JCCV issue.

    Mr. Weil raising his hand in favour of Keshet’s inclusion would have attested to that.

    However, I wonder on what basis you came to the conclusion that Mr. Weil’s views “were at odds” with Rabbi Genende, Caulfield Shul’s Rabbi.

    Were you perhaps privy to the private discussions they may have had on the subject?

    Did you in fact, bother to contact Rabbi Genende and seek his opinion about Mr. Weil’s comments?

    If you did speak to the Rabbi, did the Rabbi, confirm to you that he and Robert Weil “were at odds” over the issue?

    Did you contact Robert Weil to inquire of him whether or not he and the Rabbi “were at odds” over the issue?

    If you did none of this, then your opinion as to Mr. Weil’s and Rabbi Genende’s combined thoughts on this issue, are pure speculation and frankly disgraceful muckraking from someone who would most likely pride themselves on only seeking to express views which are fact, rather than fiction.

    While, as you put it “many in the Jewish Community view Caulfield Hebrew Congregation as representative of mainstream Jewish religious identity and values”, the fact is that those “mainstream Jewish religious identity and values”, must all be compatible with Halacha.

    And if they are not compatible with Halacha, then the Rabbi of CHC will never condone them.

    Keshet, is an organisation whose mantra is to look after Jewish young homosexuals and lesbians and others who have doubts and fears over their sexual identity. And to that end, their work should be applauded.

    Unlike you, Alex, my own conversations with Robert Weil, reveal that he is fully supportive of that ideal, and the work that Keshet perform.

    His only concern is that Keshet do not go outside their declared policy and use the JCCV as a platform to air subjects such as Orthodox Rabbis performing “Gay marriages”, which are totally against Halacha.

    Mr. Weil attended the JCCV meeting with another delegate from the CHC.

    Had Mr. Weil so desired, he could have absented himself when the vote was taken, and left it to the other delegate to vote on CHC’s behalf.

    He did not.

    He stayed and raised his hand together with the other delegate.

    What this proves, is that your criticism of Mr. Weil is nothing more than a cheap shot with no basis in fact.

    In the time that Rabbi Genende has been the Rabbi, and during Mr. Weil’s four year term as president, to the best of my knowledge and his and Rabbi Genede’s, CHC have never knowingly discriminated against anyone who is Gay and no Gay man has ever been denied an Aliyah in the Shul.

    Unless we have become a totalitarian society, Mr. Weil is entitled to express an opinion which differs from others.

    You have every right to criticise that opinion.

    However, when you do so without any factual evidence to back up your critique, you demean both yourself, and this site.

    Barry Mond

  • Bracha Rafael says:

    Barry,

    Mr Weil’s views are in the public domain and were brought expressly to this site.

    Rabbi Genende’s views on the importance of social inclusion, particularly of LGBTIQ members of the kehila are also in the public domain, not least in his Kol Niddrei address from last year.

    It is not speculation to state that these two views are at odds.

    A reasonable person, reading Mr Weil’s comments on this site prior to Monday’s vote, would not have assumed he intended to vote in favour of Keshet’s inclusion.

    The fact that he did so is therefore newsworthy, and, in my opinion, to his credit.

  • BARRY MOND says:

    Bracha Rafael,

    Unless a person has first hand knowledge of a conflict between two individuals as Alex Fein claimed in her article, then to state unequivocally that Mr. Weil’s views were at odds with Rabbi Genede’s is frankly disgraceful.

    Mr. Weil’s views which, as you point out are in the public domain, have always concerned themselves around the issue of Gay Marriage.

    Like many others in the Jewish Community, there are thousands of people of all faiths, who are totally against Gay Marriage.

    Mr. Weil has always stated that this is his personal view, and not necessarily the view of the Caulfield Hebrew Congregation and it’s members, and that he is always expressing that view in his capacity as a private citizen.

    Mr. Weil has NEVER expressed a view that he has an issue with Gays per se.

    In fact, I am aware that Mr. Weils closest Non-Jewish friend of over 40 years standing is Gay, and is suffering from a terminal illness.

    Mr. Weil visits him every week. Certainly not the act of the Homophobe of which Mr. Weil is often accused of being.

    Mr. Weil’s objection to the inclusion of Keshet in the JCCV, was based solely on his concern that while Keshet was established to look after the needs of young Jewish Gays who have issues, he felt that there was a danger that once included into the JCCV, Keshet might attempt to expand it’s purpose and try and introduce the issue of Gay Marriage at JCCV meetings.

    He felt that if this did occur, it would cause divisiveness within the Jewish Community.

    However, upon further reflection, Mr. Weil changed his mind and voted for the motion.

    So, I repeat what I said in my post. Had Mr. Weil so desired, he would have absented himself at the time of the vote, leaving it to the other delegate to vote on behalf of CHC.

    He did not. He remained in the room and voted for the motion.

    Now for the important point that I made in my post, which you have obviously overlooked.

    Why do I happen to know this? Because unlike Alex Fein, I took the time to actually speak to Mr. Weil.

    As far as Rabbi Genende is concerned, once again you missed the point of my post.

    Rabbi Genende, is, as you correctly point out, all for inclusion. However, as an Orthodox Rabbi, he has actually stated that he must draw the line at Gay marriage for Halachic reasons.

    On that, Rabbi Genede and Mr. Weil, are like minded and are absolutely not at odds at all.

    The fact that Mr. Weil has an issue with gay marriage has never impinged on his Presidency at the CHC, or his capacity to treat everyone who enters the portals of the CHC, with equal courtesy and dignity.

    I defy anyone to come forward and state unequivocally that they were denied either a seat, or an honour at CHC during Mr. Weil’s Presidency, because they were Gay.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Weil has not been afforded the same courtesy.

    Due to his views on Gay marriage he has been the subject of disgusting smears and insults on social media, by leaders of Jewish Gay Organisations who demand to be treated with the very dignity and respect, which they deny Mr Weil.

    Unlike you, and Alex Fein, Bracha, as a reasonable person, before I accuse anyone of anything, I check my facts, and if I cannot do so, I do not make assumptions, let alone make spurious accusations based on those assumptions.

    People do change their minds. Mr. Weil has proven that to be a fact.

    I repeat again what I said in my post.

    Stating as a definitive fact that Rabbi Genende and the President of his Congregation are at odds without first speaking to Rabbi Genende, was both demeaning and insulting to both gentlemen.

    I am sure that Alex Fein’s credibility is most important to her.

    Without that credibility, she as a blogster, and this blog site is worthless.

    Hopefully, she, and you Bracha will learn a valuable lesson from this.

    Don’t assume anything. Assuming, can make an ass out of you and me.

    And always check your facts, before you make what you purport to be a statement of fact.

    Barry Mond

  • Dianne Roseman says:

    Anyone with some knowledge of his genuine personal views accepts that Rabbi Genende would, if he could, even go as far as officiate at gay weddings.
    Unfortunately (for him) this is not yet happening – even in the furthest “left” Orthodox communities in the IS and elsewhere.

    And I, myself, am convinced that post-CFC, the good rabbi will indeed be reciting the Sheva Brachot at gay weddings

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