Sydney Beth Din at odds with The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies

September 20, 2017 by J-Wire Staff
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At their monthly plenum in  Sydney this week, The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies overwhelmingly passed a resolution last night in favour of same sex marriage, approximately 99-1.

But the Sydney Beth Din has reacted to the vote by releasing a statement accusing the Board according to its views in operating outside of its traditional parameters in working on lay matters.

Jeremy Spinak
President, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

The resolution at the Board of Deputies following these principles was tabled by the NSWJBD’s president Jeremy Spinak:

STRONGLY ASSERTS that Rabbis must continue to be able to conduct marriage ceremonies in accordance with Jewish Law as they see fit

REJECTS any attempt to impose a belief or value system on the Rabbinate or observant Jews or prescribe to them requirements that are in conflict with Jewish Law

OBJECTS to any attempt to silence or stifle legitimate and fair minded debate on the issue of marriage equality regardless of the position taken.

REAFFIRMS its commitment to freedom of religious practice and religious education in Australia.

ACKNOWLEDGES that that as a matter of Orthodox Jewish law (halacha), same sex marriage is not permitted

NOTES THAT:

  •   The question before Australia at the upcoming postal plebiscite is one relating to civil, not religious, marriage.
  •   Australian law and society has long allowed for same sex relationships between consenting adults.
  •   Many Jewish people are already in marriages that are recognised as such under Australian law yet are not recognised in Jewish Law.
  •   Current laws prohibit persons, other than religious organisations, from discriminating on the basis of homosexuality or gender.
  •   The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies represents the whole Jewish Community in NSW, including those who are LGBTI and their families, friends and loved ones.
  •   Many couples in our community who are in committed, loving relationships are unable to have their relationship recognised by the state as a marriage in the same way that committed, loving relationships between heterosexual couples may legally be recognised.
  •   The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is committed to fighting all forms of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, homosexuality, gender and disability and to supporting all members of our community as they strive for equality under the law.AND RESOLVES
  1. To call on the Federal Government to ensure protections for practice of religious freedom and religious education;
  2. To support the elimination of discrimination against same sex couples under Australia’s civil law by extending legal recognition to marriages between same sex couples who choose to marry; and
  3. To support equal treatment under Australian law to same sex couples who choose to marry.

But the Sydney Beth Din has responded by issuing the following statement:

“Our nation has been asked to vote on whether or not the marriage act should be changed to allow for same sex marriage. It has been clear in media coverage that our community has been divided on the issue and in particular between the Orthodox Rabbinate who have taken the view that the Torah does not allow for same sex marriage and the Reform view that marriage should also include same sex marriage.

While some have put forward the view that marriage is secular in nature, and not the realm of the Rabbinate ,  others have put forward the view that even state marriage in Australia should reflect – what is sometimes called the Judaeo Christian ethic – biblical teaching. Until now the Beth Din was of the view that the relevant positions had been given adequate coverage and there was no need for us to comment on the obvious.

It is therefore disappointing that the NSW JBOD has chosen to take sides in this debate and encourage a Yes vote. It has left us no choice but to dispel any confusion  and to make crystal clear the position of Orthodoxy. The JBOD has traditionally been an organisation that has dealt only in lay matters and it purports to represent all streams of Judaism equally. This it has not done.

Taking a view that marriage in and of itself  is purely secular is already taking a side, and then as a result giving itself the right to tell the community to vote Yes is , in our view, a self serving argument and totally outside its mandate of equally representing the entire community. We say categorically that in this instance it does not represent us or those who are loyal to the teachings of the Torah, Talmud , Maimonides and The Codes of Law.

We find it astounding that the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and its Rabbis were so roundly criticised and indeed bullied and forced to apologise , for telling people how to vote, and now the Board of Deputies, has done precisely that. So is it only acceptable to have an opinion if you are not a Rabbi and the opinion is yes?

No amount of pseudo- rabbinical gymnastics or twisted logic  could with any modicum of intellectual integrity suggest that the Torah would allow same sex marriage civil or otherwise. In fact the Talmud and Midrash are full of statements to the contrary.

It is a tenet of our faith that all humans are created in the image of Almighty

G-d , regardless of race, gender , religion or sexual orientation and are deserving to be treated accordingly. Those forms of government that have removed God from the equation , such as communism and Nazism, have invariably persecuted minorities including gays. Belief in a Creator who endows unalienable rights is the only sure protection for all humans and all minorities. Our belief in a Creator empowers us to reject any forms of homophobia or discrimination.

However it is equally a tenet of our faith that the same One G-d who created humans in His image, revealed His will to humanity at Mount Sinai, with the giving of His Law. This includes what are called the seven Noachide laws which are intended for all mankind, and which the Torah teaches is our duty to disseminate. The Bible – His Law – unequivocally teaches that marriage is only between a man and woman and this mirrors the first union, blessed by G-d, that was between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. From Adam and Eve and their union all humanity descends. It is uniquely this union of a man and woman , that has the potential to  lead to procreation and the continuation of humanity, that is  blessed with the name  Marriage.

How apt it is, that these words are written on the eve of Rosh HaShana when in every Orthodox synagogue  we commemorate God’s creation of the world and in every Amidah we pray that “all who have breath in their nostrils shall declare the Lord G-d of Israel is King and his sovereignty shall be over all”. Clearly a concept now apparently rejected by the motion of the JBOD.

While we live in a secular society with freedom of religion, this does not mean freedom from religion, and we believe a silent majority of our population either accept the Judaeo-Christian concept of a G-d to whom we are accountable, or live by the tenets of the Judaeo-Christian ethic .This ethic and belief in G-d and the Bible encompasses all the monotheistic faiths and for all of us marriage can have only the one meaning, the union of a man and a woman.

No one within the Jewish community or outside of it,  should be confused  by the resolution of the BOD. On this occasion it does not represent the entire community nor does it have a mandate to purport to do so. In our view it is a vote that should never have been taken if the Board of Deputies was to retain its credibility as a representative roof body. It certainly does not and can not  represent Orthodox Judaism

The Rabbis of the Sydney Beth Din will be voting no. Anyone, who wishes to follow halachic advice , should  do the same.”

The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies declined to comment on the Beth Din statement although CEO Vic Alhadeff told J-Wire the Board had received  “flood of positive responses”.

Comments

4 Responses to “Sydney Beth Din at odds with The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies”
  1. Baron Revelman says:

    Michael Barnett, I find your comments quite incredulous.

    You state that it is “shameful that a religious body should interfere ……..”. Given that the very institution of marriage was first recorded in the Torah, which I believe makes it a religious matter, what possible other position could you imagine the Rabbanim should take?

    Your assertion, “These Rabbis have no idea …….” is equally incredulous. Numerous Rabbis have written, in even more numerous forums of their own interactions with homosexual congregants and, in those same articles have always stated that whilst they cannot accept or condone the homosexual act, they warmly the welcome the individual. I am aquainted with many Rabbanim and I can assure the very great majority of them are very well educated in the trials and tribulations of the homosexual community and do much work in easing the burden of those people.

    You argue that they should not interfere in a civil matter but, the fact is they are all called upon to perform weddings and until the Govt. introduces legislation to protect the religious right to not perform a ceremony outside of their beliefs, they may well have much to fear from some areas of the community who may launch an argument to be entitled to a “religious” homosexual wedding.

    Most people on the “No” side that I have spoken to, are quite accepting of the homosexual community being granted a civil union commensurate with all the civil rights that they already have, but object to changing the definition of marriage from the union of a man and a woman for the purposes of procreation.

    • Michael Barnett says:

      Many same-sex couples already parent, and they do so without needing marriage. Changing the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to get married will not make it any easier or harder for same-sex couples to start families. It will just make their families happier and stronger, and that is something everyone would want.

      There is no good argument to deny equality under the law to same-sex couples.

  2. Michael Barnett says:

    Shameful that a religious body should interfere in a matter of civil law that they have no jurisdiction over. These rabbis have no idea of the discrimination same-sex couple face under the law by being denied marriage. They should make an effort to educate themselves.

  3. Lioudmila Levina says:

    Agree by 100%

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