COMMENTS made by a senior rabbi linking homosexuality and paedophilia, and claiming homosexuality could be “cured” have been condemned by Victoria’s Jewish community.

Head of Melbourne’s Yeshivah Centre Rabbi Zvi Telsner told the current royal commission into child abuse last week he believes gay people could be cured “through therapy”, just as he believed the same to be true of paedophiles.

In a statement today, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) called Telsner “out of line and out of touch with the community”.

“This is repulsive, ignorant and insulting, demonstrating a serious departure from the views of the mainstream Jewish community,” it said.

“Rabbi Telsner also linked paedophilia and homosexuality in his testimony. Any such linking is disturbing and indeed toxic. Those comments are poisonous to people of diverse sexual preference, their families and friends.”

Jewish LGBTI youth organisation Aleph Melbourne praised the JCCV’s response, and called on Orthodox rabbis to follow the example of other Jewish communities.

“I welcome a strong statement from the JCCV distancing calls from within the Orthodox rabbinate that homosexuality can be cured along with any misguided notion that it is, in any way, aligned with paedophilia,” said convenor Michael Barnett.

“Rather than victimise people with diverse sexual orientation and/or gender identity, these Orthodox rabbis could look to their peers in the Progressive and Conservative Jewish communities, who are actively acknowledging and affirming these people.”

“The people they victimise have committed no crime and do not deserve their contempt and ignorance.”

Telsner’s testimony was part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse’s examination of how Jewish schools in Melbourne and Sydney have responded to allegations of child sexual abuse dating back to the 1980s.

The JCCV has made significant steps towards addressing homophobia in the state’s Jewish community over the past 18 months, including signing up to the No to Homophobia campaign and receiving a HEY Grant for a project to reduce abuse, harassment and intolerance of LGBTI people in the Jewish community.

(Image credit: ABC News)

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