Just last week in Jerusalem, at their annual pride march, a man described as an ultra-orthodox Jew stabbed 6 people. He was heard to say that he was doing the work of god.
We balance this with the news this week from the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) who admitted Keshet, a group for gay Jews into their association. Showing us that despite religion, you can actually accept people for who they are.
The JCCV decision comes at the end of a very long road of agitation and negotiation by my husband, Michael Barnett. He has no direct involvement with Keshet, but he has been tirelessly working away in the background.
Several years ago he broke off communication with the JCCV, well, the other way around, they stopped communicating with him, he has been working hard to change opinions, to challenge the status quo and to break through.
The journey for Michael goes back to 1999 when the JCCV decided not to admit Aleph, another support group for gay Jews, into their ranks. In fact, not only were they against it there were a number of ultra-orthodox organisations that said some particularly nasty things.
I haven’t known Michael for that long. In our time together I have watched him take on the JCCV leadership and tell them things that they just didn’t want to hear. And this journey has not been easy.
I recall sitting at a meeting with Aleph and the JCCV and the response from the JCCV leadership was less than desirable and amounted to Michael being abused and yelled at.
The JCCV then established their own GLBTI Reference Group and froze Michael out. Despite this he continued to do his work of trying to break down the barriers for young gay Jews, always with the aim of removing those barriers to help reduce the suicide rate for those growing up in the Melbourne Jewish community.
Michael may never be recognised for the job he has done. You can’t take your finger and trace a map of the 1999 Aleph knock back to the Keshet acceptance.
Keshet becoming an associate of the JCCV is a lot of work by many people, the current JCCV leadership has steered the way and the Keshet team have been fully engaged.
Michael has also been putting in and talking with people along the way, doing what he does so well. Making connections.
The road to today has been carved by Michael Barnett, others have come along behind him and been able to take advantage of his work. That’s the way it works.
I and indeed our family have supported Michael in this journey, we’ve been the sounding board, his personal advice centre. We’ve had the tough conversations, we’ve acknowledged when the good things happen. We heard his pain, we saw it on a regular basis. Above all we took this man and loved him. Because he was right.
The important part here is that finally we have the orthodox part of the JCCV supporting the gay people, accepting them, becoming a better and more whole community. The same people who opposed this move all those years ago. This will have an effect on those young questioning people. Maybe this acceptance will save lives.
My admiration for Michael is boundless. In the face of adversity he has stayed the path.
I’ve told Michael that he should take pride in this result. It is his work that delivered this result.
I’m proud of him, the work that he has done.