Melbourne’s Bialik College, a Jewish day school, has become the first Australian kindergarten through high school institution to support marriage equality.
Michael Barnett, convenor of Aleph Melbourne, which provides guidance and support for Jewish, gay and bisexual men, said: “As a member of the Safe Schools Coalition, Bialik College is showing genuine leadership and vision by supporting marriage equality. The school clearly understands that giving children equal opportunities in life enables them to achieve their full potential.”
“As a former student of Bialik College, I am exceedingly proud of my first high school today,” Barnett said, adding that the school has “come a long way since I attended in the early 1980s. I would have had an easier time at school, experienced less bullying and felt less isolated if the school had told me it was ok to love boys and that I could even marry a man when I grew up. That validation would have made a huge difference to me, particularly at that formative stage of my life.”
Bialik Principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, a former head teacher principal at London’s Jewish Community Secondary School told JTA: “We have a number of families at Bialik who are same-sex relationships. The rainbow spectrum of our community, and I use the term ‘rainbow’ deliberately, is something that we should celebrate.”
Stowe-Lindner said that “the idea of inclusion of those whose lifestyles are different to what some may see as mainstream and who contribute positively to the community without impinging on the freedom of others, is a fundamental tenet of modern liberal Jewish values.”
Bialik is a member of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia – a national coalition of organizations and schools working together to create safe and inclusive school environments for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families. The coalition is funded by the Australian government and, in Victoria, by the Victorian government.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated that there may be a plebiscite to allow Australians to vote on the issue of same sex marriage but a positive result would still have to face the legislature to become legal.
Reform and Progressive Jewish communities in Australia perform same sex ceremonies. Marriage celebrant Nitza Loewenstein told J-Wire: “I have performed many commitment ceremonies. There are no documents although I have seen parents present their offspring with ketubahs. As far as rights are concerned the law will recognize they are in a de facto relationship but not a marriage.”