JCCV, GLBT and Halacha, together We Can Move Forward
16 February 2011
The ground breaking work being undertaken by the Gay, Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Sexual Reference Group, convened by the JCCV, was recently endorsed by Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, Orthodox Rabbi and medical ethics adviser to UK’s Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Rapoport is also the author of Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View (Vallentine Mitchell, 2004).
Recently in Australia on a private visit, Rabbi Rapoport made time to meet Jewish leaders, in particular the JCCV personnel, to discuss the issue of Halacha and Judaism, a sensitive and often controversial subject.
In these conversations, Rabbi Rapoport made the following suggestions:
Halacha is not changeable; don’t fight it;
Support GLBT individuals and educate the community to improve mental wellbeing for all;
Invest energy in pragmatic assistance rather than fight the political agenda and;
Remind people to treat GLBT relationships as all others; Be good and kind, apply a healthy intuition, common sense and religious perspective as with any relationship issue.
“The JCCV will only be involved in saving lives and seeking more acceptable solutions to issues such as mental wellbeing, family breakdown and religious expulsion"
These suggestions reassured the JCCV GLBT Sexual Reference Group that it is clearly on the right track. The group is comprised of members of JCCV, Jewish Care, the Australian Jewish Psychologists Group and interested others. Approximately 50% of members are from a GLBT background. Their aim is to promote wellbeing for GLBT members of the Jewish community. As JCCV President John Searle, has said, “We cannot change where Jewish law stands on these issues but we can determine the wellbeing and needs of GLBT Jews and figure out ways to support and include them within our community.”
Rabbi Rapoport’s aims are clear. A GLBT person should not lose their life, their family, their community or their G-d. While Rabbi Rapoport does not condone GLBT sexual practices, he believes that the GLBT community are either born or nurtured to be so. Being GLBT is not a question of lifestyle choice, so observant Jews must make incredibly difficult choices on how to live their lives. In turn, the Jewish community must manage the situation as best as possible in line with the maxim of ‘Ahavas Yisrael’, the underlying principal of the Torah as taught by Rabbi Akiva, ‘love your fellowman as yourself.’
Rabbi Rapoport contends that the GLBT community must accept that they cannot become official members of the JCCV as this would fracture the Jewish community. However, the JCCV has a responsibility as the roof body to what it can do for the GLBT community within this restriction.
Searle says that although the JCCV leaves questions of Halacha to the Rabbonim, the JCCV remains guided by principles of inclusion and support for Jewish people to live meaningful lives. “The JCCV was set up as an umbrella organisation to protect the needs of all Jews in the Victorian Jewish community and is hence obliged to investigate areas of concern and provide support structures as necessary.”
“The JCCV will follow the approach of Rabbi Rapoport and not be involved in gay rights such as the public fight for recognition and solidarity in the GLBT community. The JCCV will only be involved in saving lives and seeking more acceptable solutions to issues such as mental wellbeing, family breakdown and religious expulsion,” stated Searle.
Rabbi Rapoport argues that by removing the politics, the JCCV can help people to live with themselves, their family, their community and their G-d. In this way, the JCCV can do so much more for individuals and the community than through lobbying and promoting gay rights.
Searle stated that “the GLBT Sexual Reference Group will look at education, sponsoring seminars to raise awareness of Jewish theology on GLBT matters and building understanding amongst pedagogues and mental health professionals. This will encourage an environment amongst our schools, religious organisations and community towards GLBT members that is inclusive and supportive.”
Searle concludes that “a key facet of the JCCV mission is to facilitate harmony and positive relationships between all the various elements of the Victorian Jewish community.”
For further enquiries about the GLBT Sexual Reference Group, contact John Searle on 9272 5566.