ECAJ head says rabbinic council statement on marriage quality was “without proper throught”

September 8, 2017 by J-Wire Staff
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The President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Anton Block, has rejected as “alarmist” suggestions that an amendment to the definition of marriage in Australian civil law will in some way open the door to a future infringement of the religious freedoms of those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage. 

He was commenting on a controversial statement issued by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) urging Australians to vote “No” to proposed reforms to Australia’s marriage laws that would recognise same sex marriages.

“The RCV statement was issued without proper thought or understanding of the way Australia’s Constitution and legal system work”, Mr Block said.  “There is no basis for believing that a change to the civil law definition of marriage would be a potential threat to the rights and freedoms of religious institutions and leaders to conduct religious marriages or to

Anton Block

affirm religious teachings about marriage.  Religious marriages are outside the scope of the Marriage Act, which relates only to civil marriages.   It is alarmist to suggest otherwise, and wrong for the RCV to use its authority in religious matters in this way.”

Mr Block added: “All people are entitled to have their dignity respected, regardless of their ethnicity, religious affiliations and beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, or any disability.”

The President of the RCV and at least six other rabbis who are members of the RCV have since dissociated themselves from the RCV statement.

In the meantime Shira Hadasha reports it is disappointed to read the statement of the Rabbinical Council of Victorian encouraging Australians to vote no in the proposed postal vote on same sex marriage.

They said: “The issue is of civil law reform and will not compel any religious leaders or institutions to conduct marriages outside the parameters of their established practice.  Accordingly the statement is not necessary and serves no purpose other than to further hurt and marginalise LGBTIQ Jews and their families.

The suggestion that same sex marriage being legalised in other countries had “concerning impacts on the education system and religious freedom” goes well beyond the scope of the proposed change to the law and we question its factual basis.

As an inclusive orthodox congregation, Shira actively seeks ways to welcome all Jews into Jewish life and community, and to honour the core Jewish value of kevod habriyut, respect for the dignity of all people.”

The Progressive and Masorti communities were represented by Rabbi Kim Ettlinger and Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins who issued a statement saying:

Judaism is guided by the belief that every human being is created “in the image of the divine,” as it says in Genesis 1:27, “And God created humans in God’s own image; in the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them.”

Alongside this basic principle, we recognise the call of Torah (The Jewish Bible) to pursue justice in an equitable manner” (Deuteronomy 16:20, “Justice, justice shall you pursue”), as well as the obligation to show respect and dignity to all people, kinsman and stranger alike (Leviticus 19:18, 33-34).

Therefore, we believe that every individual regardless of age, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation has equal rights and should be treated accordingly. Regardless of circumstance or context, discrimination against any person, whether it arises from apathy, insensitivity, ignorance, fear, or hatred, is inconsistent with these fundamental beliefs. We oppose discrimination against all individuals, including the GLBTIQ community, for the stamp of the divine is present in each and every one of us.

We believe that two people who wish to join in lifelong union through a wedding ceremony should be able to do so without prejudice. Rabbi Ettlinger believes “prejudice causes hurt and pain and in this case even more so when people only want to celebrate their love and so marriage equality and voting “yes” is essentially for communal harmony and civil rights.” Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins added ““Religion’s mythic traditions should guide us to moral insight, and those insights in turn must be based in facts, evidence and commitment to equal rights in civic society.”

On this basis, the rabbis of the Rabbinic Council of the Union for Progressive Judaism Moetza and its parent body the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ), along with the rabbis and lay leaders of Masorti Australasia support marriage equality and the rights and privileges therefore afforded.

We encourage our members to vote YES.


2 Responses to “ECAJ head says rabbinic council statement on marriage quality was “without proper throught””
  1. Rabbi Chaim Ingram says:

    Alarmist? Without proper thought? Has Anton Block troubled himself to consider the implications raised in David Singer’s article, also posted on JWire?

    The same-sex marriage survey …now there’s an animal to which the description “without proper thought” aptly applies. Wearing his lawyer’s hat rather than his communal one, would Block care to address the vagiaries that will be thrown up in any draft legislation should G-D forbid a yes vote be returned?

    Unfortunately, the potential Kafkaesque scenarios to which the RCV statement points are only too real.

    To Michael Barnett: if the urging of the Victorian rabbinate for “compassion, sensitivity, understanding …love …empathy” still isn’t enough to save it from the hostile charge of “intolerance” then, Heaven help us, we are indeed inhabiting a Carrollesque universe.

  2. Michael Barnett says:

    A strong and important statement from the ECAJ. Kudos to them for speaking up against intolerance.

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