Australia’s peak Jewish body and many synagogues have rejected a statement by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria urging people to vote no in the same-sex marriage postal survey.
In statement released on 4 September, the Rabbinical Council urged a no vote on the basis the Torah “clearly upholds traditional heterosexual marriage as the ideal family unit”.
“We are concerned regarding the impact that a change in the definition of marriage will have upon the strength of this fundamental societal building block,” it said.
The statement also cited concerns over the “long-term impact” that legalising same-sex marriage would have on “education systems and religious freedom”.
Last Thursday, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry president, Anton Block, responded that the statement was issued “without proper thought or understanding of the way Australia’s constitution and legal system work”.
“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 affirm religious teachings about marriage,” he said.
“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.”
The president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and at least six other rabbis who are members of the council have since dissociated themselves from the statement, although it has not been withdrawn.
The president, Rabbi Daniel Rabin, who was reportedly outvoted by other council members, said the council “should not have told people how to vote and refrained from making a divisive statement”.
“The statement has caused immense anger and pain and has alienated many who already feel isolated within the community,” he said.
“I deeply regret the hurt that has…