A RECENT statement from a leading Melbourne-based Jewish group that said homophobia was unacceptable has been hailed as a turning point for the Victorian Jewish community’s relationship with its LGBTI members.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has been ramping up its LGBTI-related activities over the past few years, including signing up to the No To Homophobia campaign and convincing over 25 of its member organisations in the Jewish community to do the same. Previous public statements by the JCCV have linked prejudice to negative mental heath outcomes for LGBTI people and said it was “okay to be gay”.

Executive director David Marlow responded to calls by the co-convenor of LGBTI Jewish organisation Aleph Melbourne Michael Barnett to clarify the JCCV’s position on homophobia.

“Homophobia, lack of acceptance and intolerance of homosexuality causes serious stress, anxiety and serious mental health issues and (is) not acceptable. All people should be welcomed and respected as valuable members of society and the community,” Marlow said.

Barnett told the Star Observer the statement is more significant than other LGBTI-related comments by the JCCV, arguing that calling homophobia “unacceptable” allowed the community to hold the council and its member organisations to account.

The JCCV represents a broad cross-section of Victoria’s Jewish community, including many Orthodox Jewish organisations with prevalent homophobic views.

Barnett believed such an explicit stand against homophobia was significant as the JCCV represented a broad Jewish community.

Speaking to the Star Observer Marlow agreed, and also believed the JCCV was one of the first representative organisations from any major religion in Australia to take a stand against homophobia.

Marlow said while the anti-homophobia initiatives have enjoyed broad support from JCCV members, there was some resistance.

“There have been some on the more Orthodox side who have not been as welcoming but there are certainly Orthodox synagogues and some Orthodox rabbis who are very welcoming, and some who are not,” Marlow explained.

“You can have your position from a religious standpoint, but from the point of view of how you deal with people and how you accept people and how you treat people — that’s the angle we’re trying to take.”

Marlow didn’t disagree with Barnett’s claim the wording of his most recent statement was significant, but said the JCCV was committed to education as a way to hold some member organisations to account for harmful homophobic views.

“We have a diversity of views on a range of issues from all our affiliate members… If we kicked an organisation out because we disagree with them, that doesn’t change them or fix anything,” he said.

Marlow said he expected the gradual shift in social attitudes around LGBTI people would continue to be reflected in the views of the JCCV’s member organisations.

 

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