A growing rift in Melbourne’s Jewish gay community saw a war of words via email last week with members of gay Jewish support group Aleph accusing current convenor Michael Barnett for being too hostile towards the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV).

Barnett told Southern Star he would not comment on the inner workings of Aleph or discuss any leadership challenge. He said he sent emails criticising the JCCV because he believes they are ignoring “intolerant” views on homosexuality in the Jewish community.

“Until the JCCV acknowledges that the real issue is religious intolerance from Orthodox Judaism, they won’t actually make any progress,” he said.

In a public letter to JCCV president John Searle, Barnett describes the JCCV as “the most shameful, leaderless organisation in the Victorian Jewish community”, and accused the organisation of taking a “wanton” approach to tackling homophobia.

Southern Star reported last September on growing discord between Aleph and the JCCV over what Barnett said was a failure by Searle to publicly denounce homophobia. His comments were sparked by the 2009 murder of two people at a Tel Aviv gay and lesbian youth centre. Since then the relationship between the two has progressively soured and Barnett has now been criticised by his own members for sending hostile group emails.

An Aleph member who asked not to be named told Southern Star other members of the 80-strong group had been “embarrassed” by Barnett’s constant “angry” emails and the group is now discussing ways to establish a new executive committee which may or may not include Barnett.

The JCCV set up a Jewish GLBT reference group late last year to tackle homophobia and transphobia in the Jewish community, however, it excluded Aleph.

The JCCV said they have “tried hard” with Barnett, however, his approach had been too aggressive and he misunderstood the “politics” involved.

Jewish GLBT reference group member Sally Goldner told Southern Star she thought Barnett had done a “great job” in the past of discussing homophobia in the Jewish community, however, his current “negative” style was not productive.

“I understand Michael’s angry about this, but you’ve got to calm down and be more constructive,” she said. “I think it is possible to reach an understanding.”

The JCCV last week announced community group Jewish Care and the Australian Jewish Psychologists Group would be represented on the GLBT reference group.

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