KESHET Australia has become the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s (JCCV) first LGBTI affiliate organisation after being unanimously voted in on Monday night.

The landmark decision marks the first time an LGBTI organisation has joined a peak Jewish community group in Australia.

[showads ad=MREC]Keshet president Jonathan Barnett said this was a milestone.

“Although the rest of the community seems surprised, I wasn’t,” he told the Star Observer.

“Keshet helps LGBTI people feel a sense of belonging to the community, and everything we do is in line with Jewish values.

“This is a positive acknowledgement that we’re here, we’re real, and we should be heard.”

The decision comes 16 years after another LGBTI Jewish support group, Aleph Melbourne, failed to achieve a majority vote to join the JCCV.

JCCV president Jennifer Huppert believes this is an indication of how much the community has changed.

“The Jewish community reflects the general community,” she told the Star Observer.

“Things have changed over the last 20 years in Victoria, and this just reflects the changes more broadly in our community.

“I think it sends an important message that the Jewish LGBTI community are accepted as full members of our community.”

A 2011 report by the JCCV suggested it was harder for Jewish LGBTI people to come out in the Jewish community than in other communities.

Barnett believes Keshet’s new membership will help Jewish LGBTI people to feel more accepted, and will allow him to reach out to the community more easily.

“I’m really thrilled that the work Keshet does is being recognised and that the organisation is being seen as legitimate by the community,” he said.

“By being part of the community, it means that people will say, ‘oh, you’re not just a group of four or five people, you’re people, you’re a community,’ and that’s important.”

JCCV executive director David Marlow said this decision would have a positive impact.

“This vote may not change the world, but will change the way many in our community feel about the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, Huppert said the decision was a win for the LGBTI community at large: “The vote was a victory for inclusion and a strong statement by the Jewish community against homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and intersex exclusion.”

Huppert also used the meeting to highlight the stabbing incident at Jerusalem Gay Pride last week, in which an extremist Orthodox Jewish man stormed parade marchers and stabbed six people. One of the victims, aged 16, died from her stabbing wounds on Sunday night.

“The attack in Jerusalem is a despicable act,” she said.

“Bigotry, intolerance and hatred are not acceptable in any community, here, in Israel or anywhere.

“Everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity should feel free and safe in their daily lives.”

The JCCV meeting also voted in favour of a new Social Inclusion Disability Policy aimed at reducing stigma and improving inclusion and access for members of the Jewish community with a disability.

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