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Jewish Pride marches on but one Jewish group withdraws from Midsumma over safety concerns

As aggression from pro-Palestinian protestors overshadows the opening of Melbourne’s pride festival, a Jewish organisation say it cannot risk sending staff to the annual march.
Ruby Kraner-Tucci
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Happy faces marching in the Melbourne Midsumma pride march in 2023

Jewish groups are reconsidering their involvement in this year’s Midsumma pride festival. Image: Michael Barnett/Supplied.

Published: 24 January 2024

Last updated: 19 March 2024

As aggression from pro-Palestinian protestors overshadow the opening of Melbourne’s pride festival, a Jewish organisation says it cannot risk sending staff to the annual march.

Pro-Palestinian protestors attacked the Labor Party’s LGBTQ+ group Rainbow Labor Network Victoria at the opening of the Midsumma pride festival last week, shouting slogans about Gaza and damaging items.

Fears that a Jewish group could also be attacked have prompted community care provider Jewish Care Victoria to withdraw from the Midsumma Pride March on Sunday 4 February.

Jews of Pride, a coalition including the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria, Keshet Australia, Temple Beth Israel and others, will still participate – and plans to broadcast Hebrew music from its sound truck to demonstrate solidarity with Israel.

Jewish Care Victoria staff and volunteers will not be participating in this year's pride march. Image: Michael Barnett/Supplied.
Jewish Care Victoria staff and volunteers will not be participating in this year's pride march. Image: Michael Barnett/Supplied.

Jewish Care, which is Rainbow Tick accredited, has participated in the pride march for four years. The organisation's leadership said it had made the “difficult decision” to withdraw because it has a legal obligation to protect staff.

“We are acutely aware of the ethical dilemma in deciding to not march this year. We have taken external advice and have carefully considered the options. The decision has not been taken lightly however we must uphold our duty of care and ensure the safety of our staff,” said a spokesperson from Jewish Care.

The crisis at the Melbourne pride event follows a major issue over whether Jewish groups should participate in the Sydney Mardi Gras.

Midsumma CEO Karen Bryant told The Jewish Independent that it will not stop groups who are protesting peacefully about matters that impact them, including the Israel-Hamas war, as long as protests do not turn violent or discriminate against other attendees.

Midsumma has informally called for a ceasefire and condemned violence in Gaza on social media and Bryant said the board is in discussions about releasing a formal statement on the Israel-Hamas war – echoing the Sydney Mardi Gras’ contentious open letter and decision against accepting Israeli sponsorship.

“Freedom of expression, within all our communities, is really important. We believe in universal principles of human rights and non-violence,” Bryant said.

“[Midsumma] won’t stop people from expressing their views but those views cannot be discriminatory.

“People who are promoting non-violent solutions to issues and are wanting to call out oppression – that is allowed to happen at a Midsumma event. But they would not be allowed to target any other contingent of our marches, [and] who are members of the LGBTIQ communities. It needs to be kept specific to the war and not about any cultures or faiths.”

Bryant stressed that if a group were to directly target a Jewish contingent, there would be swift action and depending on the degree of the threat, they would be asked to immediately address their behaviour or be removed from the event.

She says she has briefed several Jewish groups about Midsumma’s safety mechanisms, which include a strong security and Victoria police presence; dedicated marshals and additional senior staff; close monitoring of social media; and a carefully curated marching order that accounts for sensitivities between contingents.

“There are a lot of LGBTIQ groups and others that are pro-Palestine with regards to the current conflict... I think it's fair to say that it's possible they will attend.

“We do everything we can to create a safe space for all our communities and it’s important that everyone feels welcome within that. It is a heightened time, but we would be hoping that the Jewish contingents feel that they can march in a safe way.”

Pride as Jews

Jewish Care is still encouraging its staff and volunteers to support the march by participating as individuals or joining Jews of Pride, a coalition of Jewish LGBTQ+ groups and allies.

Jews of Pride’s co-contingent coordinator Michael Barnett told The Jewish Independent that the coalition has formally decided to participate in the Midsumma march following a “strong and positive” response from the broader community.

“It’s a sense of connectedness for the whole Jewish community. To have a strong proud Jewish presence in [the] pride march is vital for a community that is constantly facing adversity,” said Barnett, who is also co-convenor of Aleph Melbourne and a LGBTQ+ activist.

JCCV president Philip Zajac said the community’s participation emphasised both the place of queer Jews in the community and the role of Israel as a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ people regardless of their nationality.

“We take our responsibility to represent all Jewish people in our community seriously. We also take pride in Israel, which remains one of the only counties in the Middle East that does not discriminate or vilify those who identify LGBTQIA+,” Zajac said in a statement.

Jews of Pride's famous "sound truck" plays Jewish music on the pride march. Image: Michael Barnett/Supplied.
Jews of Pride's famous "sound truck" plays Jewish music on the pride march. Image: Michael Barnett/Supplied.

This year, Jews of Pride’s signature “sound truck” will include a refreshed soundtrack that Barnett says is more “identifiably Jewish”, standing in solidarity with the people of Israel and providing a “sense of purpose” to the local community who are facing ongoing antisemitism.

“Here we have, in 2024, a strong proud Jewish queer contingent, allies and community members, coming together under one banner promoting inclusion, diversity, acceptance, love and peace,” Barnett concluded.

“It would make me feel very proud if we could, at some point in the future, march with our Palestinian queer brother and sisters, together with the Jewish community.”


EXCLUSIVE: Dayenu to participate in Mardi Gras despite hostility (The Jewish Independent)

Rainbow Labor’s stall at Midsumma Carnival targeted (Star Observer)

About the author

Ruby Kraner-Tucci

Ruby Kraner-Tucci is a journalist and assistant editor of TJI. Her writing has appeared in The Age, Time Out, Law Society Journal and Dumbo Feather Magazine. She previously reported on the charity sector as a journalist for Pro Bono News and undertook internships at The Australian Jewish News and Broadsheet Media.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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