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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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