25 August 2011



From Mannie De Saxe, (Member of Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne)
PO Box 1675
Preston South
Vic 3072
Email: red-jos@red-jos.net
29 August 2011

This submission is divided into specific sections to address particular issues, but the main purpose is to show how homophobic many in the Australian Jewish communities are and to show that discrimination continues unabated while many people and groups in Australia and around the world are busy learning that homosexuality and heterosexuality are as related to each other as left-handed and right-handed are, as well as blue-eyed and brown-eyed.

1) Kitty Fischer
2) Parents of Jewish Lesbians and Gays UK
3) Jewish, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, HIV
4) Jewish leaders and homophobia
5) Lists of Australian and International people who are known to be Jewish and Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, HIV
6) Australian Jewish academics and homophobia
7) The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand

The word homophobia is recent although its actions are centuries old. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1990) defines homophobia as a hatred or fear of homosexuals. The most common term of abuse in Australia and used universally for any number of reasons but mostly to abuse homosexuals is the word “poofter”. This is vilification writ large and for those trying to come to terms with their sexuality it is so hurtful that many particularly young people find they cannot cope and commit or try to commit suicide.

This part of the tragedy of gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV (GLTH) members of our communities is one that is not sufficiently recorded because very often the causes of the suicide can not be pinned down to specific reasons.

Religious communities selectively quote sections of a book written by old men some thousands of years ago as having meaning in 2011 and as being their reasons for their hatred of homosexuals. However homosexuals are usually born to heterosexual people, so the words in that old book are totally irrelevant.

1) Kitty Fischer

The following item refers to a person who was Jewish but not lesbian. Her story is told by Konrad Kwiet in an interesting essay published in a book from Melbourne University Press some 10 or so years ago.

Kitty Fischer who died in 2001 was an Auschwitz child Holocaust survivor. Kitty arrived in Auschwitz with her parents and younger sister in 1944. They had been transported from their home in Czechoslovakia and on arrival at Auschwitz the parents were separated from their two daughters who never saw their parents again.

Kitty was in her early teens and her sister a few years younger and she told the story of their survival as being achieved by a man with a pink triangle which Kitty thought was another religion because the Jews wore their yellow stars. This man brought food to the two girls which helped them survive and when a working group was being put together to go to a clothing factory outside Auschwitz he persuaded them to say they were seamstresses and they were selected.

Kitty and her sister survived those last few months before they were liberated but she never found out what happened to the man with the pink triangle. They eventually managed to get to Australia where they lived until their deaths in the latter part of the last century and the beginning of this century.

When Kitty was living in Sydney during her last 15 or so years of life she remembered the man with the pink triangle by becoming involved with the care of gay men who were dying of AIDS. She also became a founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial Project, and when it was completed and its dedication took place in Green Park in Sydney’s Darlinghurst in 2001, Kitty was there in her wheelchair. This was the last event in which she was involved and she died of leukemia a few months later.

As someone who had suffered so terribly in her lifetime from discrimination, and hatred, Kitty understood that the GLTH communities were suffering from much the same prejudices and abuse that she had suffered as a young Jew living in German-occupied Europe during the Second World War. She did her best to reduce that discrimination as much as she was able within her limited resources. She will be long remembered.



2) Parents of Jewish Lesbians and Gays UK

The stories below are from the United Kingdom but apply equally to Australia where many young people experienced similar horrors from their “loving” Jewish parents:
A Mother’s story (about 1998)

My daughter left home at 19 to (as I found out later) find herself! Some time later she came home for a weekend and asked if she could speak to me without her father being present. I guessed something was wrong and immediately asked if she was on drugs or was she pregnant? She denied both of these and I then asked her if she was gay.
By this time she was crying her eyes out and could only nod and asked how I had guessed. We fell into each others arms and both of us cried buckets. I told her that nothing had changed and that she was still our daughter and that we loved her very much.

After about 20 minutes, during which we just hugged and cried, she said she was so happy as I hadn't pushed her away or disowned her as many of her friends' parents had with their children. She then went out for a cigarette and to calm herself down and I went to tell her Dad! He just cried and asked me two questions:-
"Does that mean I won't be able to cuddle her anymore?" and "Does that mean I will never walk her down the aisle?"

From London Jewish News 19 June 1998

"The love learning to speak its name"

Katrin Levy hears of a group of parents trying to come to terms with the homosexuality of their children

What would you do if one of your children looked you in the face and told you he/she was gay? Some parents react with anger and throw their children out of the house. Others fight to come to terms with their feelings of embarrassment. "A gay child is the same person they were yesterday," says Myrna Julius, one of organisers behind a support group of Jewish Parents of Gays and Lesbians (JPGL). "The only difference is their sexual preference.

And this from a Melbourne Jew about the same issue:

Henry Herzog says in Galus Australis:
November 6, 2009
I really feel for those Jewish homosexuals who were brought up in orthodox homes but once they became aware of their sexuality, they were rejected by the parents and community. That is truly heartbreaking.

3) Jewish, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, HIV

Many Australians who are Jewish and gay, lesbian, transgender, HIV are on public record as a combination of these descriptors and their life stories are as interesting as their careers:
The following article was published in The Age newspaper on 8 January 2003:

Gay, Jewish and itinerant, an artist reflects

The Jewish Museum aims to represent diversity in a new exhibition, writes Suzanne Carbone.
He is a Jewish man without a home and knows isolation and loneliness. The fact that he is gay adds another element, but because he is an artist he can depict such feelings.

The Jewish Museum of Australia intends to share his experiences and will hold, for the first time, an exhibition to coincide with Midsumma - Melbourne's gay and lesbian festival.

The works by gay Jewish artist Sam Schoenbaum, 55, reflect his peripatetic life and pay tribute to gay Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

The St Kilda museum's director, Helen Light, is nervous about how the exhibition will be accepted and does not want to offend Orthodox Jews, but is adamant that the museum has to reflect community diversity.

"Homosexuality is not acceptable within Orthodox Judaism and yet there are a lot of Jews in our community who are gay," Dr Light said. "Our museum is about representing the community, not saying how people should live but how people do live."

The exhibition, Strangers & Sojourners, runs from January 21 to February 9.
The museum has held exhibitions by gay artists, but Schoenbaum's is the first dealing with homosexuality.
Schoenbaum, an internationally renowned abstract and conceptual artist, is based in Melbourne but has no fixed address or phone. He was born in a displaced person's camp in Austria in 1947 and moved to Melbourne in 1951. His art career took off when he was 27 and his works are now in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, the National Gallery of Victoria, and the Jewish Museum of Australia.

Exhibition coordinator Eugene Barilo von Reisberg said both he and Schoenbaum were amazed and jubilant that the Jewish Museum agreed to present an exhibition in conjunction with Midsumma.

"I wanted to have the best gay Jewish artist that there is in Australia and Sam is the one because he is a respected and professional artist," said Mr von Reisberg, manager of the Charles Nodrum Gallery, which is supporting the exhibition.
Schoenbaum's work has imagery of pink triangles, suggesting persecution of gays.
The exhibition was not welcomed yesterday by Rabbi Yitzhak Groner of the Yeshivah Centre, who said: "I am totally against it."

But Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn, of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation, said the museum was an independent organisation and ran exhibitions as it saw fit. "The Torah, the basis of Jewish law and life, clearly speaks against homosexuality," he said. "Therefore, from where we sit, we wouldn't be involving ourself in the exhibition."

In Carlisle Street, St Kilda, yesterday Yoram Raz, 24, from South Caulfield, said: "It's OK for him to be who he is as an artist, but I don't understand what drives people to have gay relationships."

Student Netz Goren, 28, from Israel, said Jewish law was outdated and he supported the exhibition. A woman who described herself as deeply religious said the museum's stance would cause a stir "not just among the Orthodox community but among some of the elderly ladies who work at the museum as volunteers".

Michael Barnett, convenor of Aleph Melbourne, a support group for gay and bisexual Jewish men, believes the wider Jewish community will support the exhibition. "Unless the art is controversial I don't see what the issue is," he said.

I am making this submission because if those of us who believe the JCCV is irrelevant don’t make some publicity about the issues then indeed nothing in the Jewish communities will ever change.

4) Jewish leaders and homophobia

Items like the following story reported on the ABC do not show organizations such as JCCV in a very favourable light and their attempt to create a secret Reference Group to address homophobia and its related ills and which has had no publicity and whose members remain a closely guarded secret do not inspire confidence that anything dramatic will come from people making submissions at this stage.

Jewish leaders accused of ignoring homophobia

Alison Caldwell reported this story on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 18:34:00 ABC programme PM on Radio National

MARK COLVIN (Presenter of Radio National’s PM) A rift is developing in Australia’s Jewish community over the treatment of homosexuals.

A major gay and lesbian support group claims Jewish community leaders are ignoring discrimination and hate language aimed at homosexuals. It wants Jewish representative bodies to come up with a clear policy upholding gay rights.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: When two young people were shot dead in Tel Aviv last month at a gay and lesbian youth centre, Melbourne-based Michael Barnett wanted nothing more than for the leaders of the Australian Jewish community to take a stand against violence towards homosexuals. But he says his calls for action fell on deaf ears.

MICHAEL BARNETT: The Israeli leadership, the Prime Minister, the President of Israel, they spoke out against intolerance and hatred and said you know, everyone deserves respect.

Yet in Melbourne where there is the family of one of the two people killed, there wasn't even a single statement from the community leaders.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says the silence from the Jewish leadership was symptomatic of a much deeper problem.

MICHAEL BARNETT: There's a lot of intolerance of gay people in the Jewish people. Calling gay people perverted and disgusting, comparing gay people to people who commit incest or bestiality, there's all this language that gets used from people like some rabbis in the orthodox world who speak out against gay people.

ALISON CALDWELL: Michael Barnett is the coordinator of Aleph Melbourne, a support group for homosexual people in the Jewish community. He believes representative groups are afraid to express their support for homosexuals for fear of offending ultra-orthodox groups in the community.

MICHAEL BARNETT: I want every state and national Jewish peak body in Australia to have a specific, unambiguous policy addressing the persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews in regard to homophobic hate and intolerance, irrespective of whether it originates from outside or inside the Jewish community.

The policies must be enforced with the same zero tolerance afforded to anti-Semitism and holocaust rhetoric and other hate crimes.

ALISON CALDWELL: Much of his anger is levelled at a Jewish blog which recently described homosexuality as "depravity and debasement" and extolled the virtues of reprogramming homosexuals.

In July, a Sydney rabbi wrote to the Australian Jewish News, comparing homosexual intercourse with adultery, bestiality and incest.

JOHN SEARLE: If it's a matter that's guided by religious laws, then those laws will presumably be applied. Now I can't say very much about those because I'm not an expert in those areas.

ALISON CALDWELL: John Searle is the president of the Jewish Community Council in Victoria. It describes itself as the roof body of Victorian Jewry. On its website, it says it shows zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism and racism but it has nothing to say about supporting or protecting gay or lesbian people within the Jewish community.

JOHN SEARLE: If we need to rewrite a policy that was written some time ago, we can certainly look at that and if it needs to be adjusted in any way, we can adjust that.

ALISON CALDWELL: John Searle says he's against vilification of any sort.

JOHN SEARLE: The JCCV has issued statements condemning vilification of all minority groups, including vilification based on grounds of sexual orientation, sexual preference.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says the council has sought advice from numerous sources on how to be more inclusive and will invite gay and lesbian support groups to events in the future.

Michael Barnett says it's not enough.

MICHAEL BARNETT: Lip service, motherhood statements, platitudes, rhetoric, anything but "yes, we're going to do this and take it seriously".

JOHN SEARLE: I reject the allegation or assertion that inviting people to participate in community events is simply lip service.

ALEX FEIN: My blog is called The Sensible Jew.

ALISON CALDWELL: Jewish blogger Alex Fein has written about the issue in recent weeks. She says the vast majority of Jews support homosexuals and describes those who don't as minority extremists. But she says groups like the Jewish Community Council of Victoria need to be more proactive.

ALEX FEIN: It's not enough to say that homophobia is problematic. I think all people of good faith would like to see concrete action.

MARK COLVIN: Alex Fein the author of the blog known as the sensiblejew.wordpress.com, ending Alison Caldwell's report.

5) Lists of Australian and International people who are known to be Jewish and Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, HIV

Lists below show many people who are well known locally and overseas and whose activities identify them publicly as Jewish as well as gay, lesbian, transgender, or people living with HIV.


Sam Schoenbaum

Laurie Collinson

Dennis Altman

Kerryn Phelps and Jackie Stricker

Joan Nestle and Di Otto

Esther Singer

Rebecca Cox and Fiona Doherty

Janey Stone

Dawn Cohen

to mention a token few!


Marcel Proust

Wittgenstein brothers

Leonard Bernstein

Magnus Hirshfeld

Moises Kaufman

Allen Ginsberg

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

Gertrude Stein

Harvey Milk

Phyllis Lyon

Pieter-Dirk Uys

Robin Tyler and Diane Olson

Tony Kushner

David Leavitt

David Halperin

Larry Kramer
Roger Horwitz

Mark Feldman

Aaron Copland

to mention a small number for this submission.

6) Australian Jewish academics and homophobia

In his book, “Defying Gravity – A Political Life”, published by Allen and Unwin in 1997, Dennis Altman wrote (pages 186 and 187):

“AIDS has brought me close to the workings of government – but also to the vagaries of power. Between 1990 and 1992 I was a member of the Australian National Council on AIDS (ANCA), then chaired by Peter Karmel, a distinguished economist and emeritus vice-chancellor of two universities, was another in the string of secular Jews, like Peter Wilenski, Hannah Arendt and Henry Mayer, with whom I have felt particular affinities. I remember him describing the reaction of some of his professorial colleagues when he accepted the role of chief spokesman for the government’s AIDS policies, and his surprise and shock at the depth of homophobia they revealed..”

7) The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand

Finally I think it would be a good idea if members of the JCCV read the book by Shlomo Sand called “The Invention of the Jewish People”. It would be revealing to discover the origins of those Jews who are affiliated with this group.

You don’t need to be Jewish to be homophobic, but it helps!

Mannie De Saxe (Member of Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne) 29 August 2011

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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm