Principal Claims Jewish Day School Fired Him Because He’s Gay

A gay man is suing a Jewish day school in Melbourne, claiming he was unfairly fired as principal last year because of his sexuality.

Joseph Gerassi alleges his dismissal from Bialik College in August 2011 was in breach of Australia’s Fair Work Act, and is suing the school for millions of dollars.

He’s believed to be the first openly gay principal of a Jewish school in the country.

The board of directors at Bialik told Gerassi to resign or it would fire him because it had ”lost confidence in his ability to lead the school,” according to a letter from school president Graham Goldsmith, who claims more than a dozen staffers threatened to quit Gerassi wasn’t axed. After his termination, Gerassi was allegedly told by Goldsmith to not speak about it to anyone for nine months if he wanted to keep getting paid for the rest of the school year.

The main Jewish denominations have historically approached homosexuality quite differently: Reformed Judaism welcomes LGBT rabbis since the 1980s and same-sex marriages since the 1990s—Conservative Judaism has done the same, though more recently and with more trepidation. Homosexuality is shunned, however, in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Bialik College, which has more than 1,000 students from preschool through high school, prides itself as “Australia’s only cross-communal Jewish school embracing the entire Jewish community regardless of affiliation or practice and with a strong and positive relationship with Israel.”

Gerassi, who came from Johannesburg to work at Bialik in 2009, is seeking compensation for loss of income, shock, distress, humiliation and damage to his professional reputation.