More LGBTI education is needed in the Jewish community according to a panel of both Jewish and LGBTI community leaders in Melbourne this month.
Gay Jewish support group Keshet Australia held its first community forum on August 5 at the Lamm Jewish Library.
More than 60 people attended the meeting including Jewish parents and LGBTI people.
The audience heard from former Jewish Community Council Victoria (JCCV) president and current Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission chairman John Searle, Safe School Coalition Victoria co-founder Roz Ward, Keshet Australia president Jonathan Barnett and Doron Abramovici, co-author of the JCCV report on LGBT Jews.
The JCCV report, released last November, found links between mental health illness such as depression and discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity.
The audience heard about its findings and took a closer look at the need for more LGBTI education in Jewish schools.
The report said Jewish school students in more Orthodox schools could find it harder to ‘come out’ and recommended schools join LGBTI education programs such as the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria.
However, Barnett told the Star Observer just one Jewish school, The King David school had joined up so far.
Barnett said he did not know why other Jewish schools had not signed up but said he was amazed so many community members were concerned about the issue.
“The numbers and the diversity of attendees show that this is something people have been waiting for,” he said.
He said Keshet was eager to broaden the discussion into other issues for LGBTI Jewish people.
“We’re dealing with the schools, we’re dealing with the universities, we’re dealing with parents.”
Barnett said he hoped Keshet would eventually look to older LGBTI needs in the Jewish community.
Keshet Parents, a support group for Jewish parents of LGBTI people also held its first meeting in July.
Barnett said the parents group went so well they were planning their next event for September 2.
Keshet members are planning a week-long event of seminars for religious school teachers in the Jewish community in April next year.
Gay Jewish support group Aleph convener Michael Barnett said the forum was a great way to get the community talking about these issues.
“I think having representation of various community organisations and general public there probably is a great way to start a dialogue and start acknowledging work needs to be done.”