The Caulfield Synagogue in Melbourne has disassociated itself from derisive comments made by one of its board members on social media against LGBTQI diversity. The Caulfield Hebrew Congregation (CHC), set up in 1943,  and well known as the Caulfield Shule,  announced that its board members will undertake gender diversity training.

The comments on social media by board member and office bearer were called out by Aleph Melbourne, a city-based Jewish LGBTQI advocacy and support group, for “dehumanising LGBTQI people.”

The board member had made the comments, now deleted, last month in response to a post about rainbow flags in Jerusalem. “Wonderful. Is there not one part of Eretz Hakodesh that can be spared from being defecated on in the name of “diversity”. The comparison to the candles of the menorah is absolutely sickening,” the post read.

Subsequently, he sought to withdraw the words used and issued an apology.

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 “It has come back to me that some of the wording in my above comment has caused offence to various people and I do apologize for this. My feelings about the original post on which I commented are strong, but I do admit that my language, particularly the word ‘defecated’ was overly offensive and therefore I withdraw it and apologize unreservedly.” (Screenshot provided by Aleph Melbourne).

Michael Barnett, co-convenor of Aleph Melbourne, said this was not the first time the board member had made comments against LGBTQI communities.

“I’m very pleased to see that Caulfield Hebrew Congregation have distanced themselves from the recent distasteful homophobic remarks made by one of their board members on social media,” Barnett told Star Observer. “The person involved has on no less than 10 occasions since 2007 made public comments disparaging LGBTQI people. However, I believe that with the CHC board resolving to undertake appropriate diversity training and with the sincere apology issued, I am confident that this disappointing chapter will be closed. I am also confident that those involved have come to appreciate the significant impact of their words on a vulnerable group of people, who have for a long time faced extreme persecution and hostility.”

Aleph Melbourne also acknowledged Rabbi Ralph Genende of the CHC “for his decade-plus leadership in being a proponent for the acceptance of LGBTQI people.”

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 David Mond, President of the CHC in a letter dated July 12, 2020, said that the Caulfield Shule as a “Modern Orthodox Zionist organisation,” was “committed to our core values of equality, respect, inclusivity and social responsibility.

“We do not condone any forms of intolerance or vilification directed towards any individual or group regardless of race, religion, gender, or gender diversity. I would also like to advise that all members of the board have committed to undertake training in gender diversity and agree that all CHC representatives and board members must be careful and conscious that any comments made by them through social media can reflect on the CHC and must NOT be inconsistent with our core values and ethos. We specifically dissociate CHC from any comments recently made on social media and confirm that we consider these views are inconsistent with our core values and ethos.”

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