Murder of Israeli student: police obtain CCTV footage in hunt for Aiia Maasarwe killer

By: Mark Schliebs

The Australian

18 January 2019

Aiia Maasarwe was murdered on her way home. Picture: Instagram.

Detectives now have CCTV footage from the tram Aiia Maasarwe travelled on before she was killed outside a shopping centre in Melbourne’s north, Victoria’s public transport chief has confirmed.

This came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the killing of the 21-year-old Israeli student as “the most despicable of crimes.

Public Transport Victoria Jeroen Weimar told 3AW this morning that footage had been provided to detectives hunting Ms Maasarwe’s killer, who attacked her when she was on her way home from a night at a comedy club early on Wednesday morning.

There was certainly footage … on that particular tram Aiia was travelling on,” Mr Weimar said. “That’s been provided to Victoria Police.

“What’s on that footage and what other images they’ve obtained from that, obviously I can’t comment on that. But I can confirm that CCTV files and images have been provided from the tram and from the other trams that Victoria Police are working on.”

He said “about a third of trams are fitted with CCTV” across Melbourne.

PM speaks out on ‘despicable’ crime

In Fiji, Mr Morrison sent his condolences to Ms Maasarwe’s family.

“On behalf of myself and Jenny and my family to her family, (we) just pray you can find whatever comfort you can in the worst of all circumstances,” he said.

He said Ms Maasarwe’s murder was the “most despicable of crimes” and Australians must remain vigilant as Victoria Police continue the hunt for her killer.

“Every woman in Australia, every person in Australia, should be able to travel home safely,” the Prime Minister said in Fiji today.

“I can’t begin to think what I could say to her family. I know what I’m thinking about her attacker.”

“I know the police will do their job and they’ll deal with it. But the rest of the country has to wake up today and deal with the most despicable of crimes.”

Mr Morrison said stopping violence against women was a “top priority” for the government.

“We must be forever vigilant and that’s why I’m so sickened by the attack,” he said.

People leave floral tributes near where Aiia Maasarwe’s body was found Picture: AAP

“We have put in $350m for programs to address domestic violence across Australia. There will be a fourth action plan that will be announced in between now and the next election.

“It’s a top priority order issue for our government and should be … (we must) redouble our efforts on every occasion. It’s just so shocking. I’m speechless.”

Melburnians will attend a vigil at the Victorian parliament later tonight as they cope with yet another horrific random murder of a young woman in the city.

Ms Maasarwe’s body was found on Wednesday morning about 50m from the 86 tram stop, where she got off after a night out and started the 1km walk to her lodgings near La Trobe University in Bundoora.

Police are investigating whether she was followed, much like ­Eurydice Dixon, a young Melbourne comedian who performed in a city comedy club and was followed home and killed.

Ms Maasarwe was speaking to her sister in Israel when she was attacked, with her sibling hearing her cry out and drop the phone.

‘This is not the Melbourne I grew up in’

Bill Shorten wants to reassure international students and their families that Melbourne was safe, and that Victoria Police would catch and punish the killer of Aiia Maasarwe.

The Opposition Leader has joined Scott Morrison in voicing his shock over the murder of Ms Maasarwe, with the Prime Minister calling it the “most despicable of crimes.” He has also called out a Victorian senator who tweeted out gruesome details of her death.

“I’ve got teenage children who, you know, use public transport in Melbourne. This is not the Australia or the Melbourne that I grew up in. It is shocking,” Mr Shorten said.

“I want to say to parents whose young people come to Australia, this is shocking but this is not Australia. So, my feelings for the grief of this family, just very strong.

“I want to reassure them that our police are amongst the best in the world. They will successfully catch, and our legal system will punish, the wrongdoer.”

Mr Shorten criticised Justice Party senator Derryn Hinch, who published information from police sources about the murder that they have not wanted to reveal officially.

“I do think that people who are in positions of power and influence shouldn’t put out information automatically when the police have got a different strategy to catch and convict the wrongdoers,” he said.

“I don’t want to give what Senator Hinch has done any more oxygen than that”

Senator Hinch took to Twitter this morning to defend his tweet: “To all the do-gooder Tweeters attacking me for telling the gruesome truth about the Bundoora rape/ murder. This brute is still out there. My tweet was for the memory of Jill Meagher and Eurydice Dixon.”

Official statement of the Embassy of Israel concerning the death of Israeli citizen, Aiia Maasarwe

Symbols of hate show far-right on the march

By Mark Schliebs
The Australian
January 7, 2019

Right: QLD Senator Fraser Anning. Left: Far Right protesters at St Kilda rally

Jewish leaders say an increase in neo-Nazi imagery being posted in public locations has coincided with Australia’s far-right groups broadening their focus from anti-Islam protests to target other ­minorities.

Members of the crowd at a far-right rally at Melbourne’s St Kilda Beach on Saturday were seen giving Nazi salutes and a helmet bearing the SS logo was photographed, days after a sticker bearing the image of a swastika was put on the front gate of a Jewish aged-care home.

A swastika was also spray-painted on to a children’s playground in nearby Caulfield — which has a strong Jewish community — on the day of the rally, shocking the chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission.

“Imagine how traumatised and upset a Holocaust survivor, taking their grandchild to this playground, would be when confronted with this evil symbol of genocide,” Dvir Abramovich told The Australian.

Targeting what they claimed was an issue with violence by African youth and migration, the protest organised by far-right figures Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson ­attracted an estimated 100 supporters — including Queensland senator Fraser Anning.

The protest was dubbed “Reclaim St Kilda” — similar to the “Reclaim Australia” anti-Islam rallies of recent years embraced by Mr Cottrell, Mr Erikson and the United Patriots Front group linked to both men.

That alt-right group went on to campaign against same-sex marriage before turning its sights on African youth in Melbourne.

Three people were arrested at Saturday’s rally, which saw an estimated 200 counter-protesters come to the beach. There were some scuffles but no serious violence took place.

One person was arrested for possessing drugs, another for breaching bail and a third for ­carrying weapons, described as large fishing sinkers.

Nyuol Chol, the secretary of the South Sudanese Community Association, said alt-right protesters would still have held a rally aimed at another group of people if no one had migrated to Australia from the east African country.

“The people who were protesting, if there were no South Sudanese, they would be against the rest of the other Australians because they don’t have anything else to do,” Mr Chol said.

“Everyone has the right to ­protest but you have to do it in the right way.

“Australia is a multicultural ­society. If you go out there to protest, you can protest, but it’s not good to do it in a violent way or a racial way … because it divides the nation,” Mr Chol added.

Dr Abramovich said the alt-right often sought to “mainstream” views held by white supremacists or neo-Nazis.

“They’re trying to camouflage or mask their real agenda, which is divisive and trafficking in fear through demonising and targeting specific minority groups,” he said.

“It’s Muslims, and then it can be Sudanese, and then it can be other groups.

“It may not begin with the Jews, but it will end with the Jews. So we have to denounce and we have to call out this kind of bigoted agenda, no matter who they’re targeting.”

The graffiti at the playground followed a sticker bearing a swastika being placed on the front gate of the Emmy Monash aged-care home and at the entrance of a nearby apartment building.

“We’re obviously seeing the white supremacists and the neo-Nazis running a blitz or a campaign of intimidation,” Dr Abramovich said. “That’s what ­really concerns us.”

Australia and Israel Jewish Affairs Council chairman Mark Leibler said the messages at the rally were “appalling” and police should take a close look at some of the protesters.

“The behaviour of these people is absolutely appalling,” Mr Leibler said. “They’re inciting, in effect, to violence.

“This is something that needs to be looked into by the police. And I must say, seeing alongside them one Senator Anning, I find it totally appalling and a complete disgrace.”

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said: “Victoria Police is continuing to investigate the anti-social behaviour which occurred at yesterday’s rally in St Kilda.

“As part of this review, police will look into whether anyone ­engaged in any criminal acts.”

Mr Chol welcomed the statements from Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten criticising the protests, but said more should be done.

“They need to do more in the future because they need to be proactive in discouraging things like that from happening,” he said.

“It’s OK to protest, but don’t do it in the wrong (way).”

AIJAC’s Jeremy Jones said Senator Anning, following on from his maiden Senate speech where he referred to a “final solution”, had taken it to the “next level to go and grace a group of these lousy thugs — it’s not one of these accidental things”.

He also said there had been a rise in the number of anti-Semitic posters appearing in public, but not in terms of violence against members of the Jewish community.

“In terms of reports of encounters with anti-Semitic material, there’s definitely been an increase in each of the last couple of years,” he said.

Priest sorry for ‘offensive’ Holocaust remarks

By Rick Morton
Social Affairs Reporter
The Australian
January 5, 2019

Father Rod Bower has apologized: “I acknowledge that my attempt to explore this issue was clumsy and I am sorry for the offence caused.”

After speaking with Jewish leaders, Anglican priest Rod Bower has apologised for “offensive” ­remarks in which he suggested offshore processing of asylum-seekers was the first step on the way to the Holocaust.

The Gosford Anglican Church rector erected a sign at the end of last year with the message “Manus is how the Holocaust started”, which drew ire from moderate and conser­vative Jewish groups. After discussions with community leaders, including NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff, Father Bower said in a statement: “Several days ago, I attempted to ­explore something of the sociological phenomenon of ‘otherising’ and dehumanisation I have observed in the way Australia has dealt with asylum-seekers.

“In so doing, I mentioned the Holocaust and some sections of the Jewish community found this deeply offensive. I acknowledge my attempt to explore this issue was clumsy and I am sorry for the offence caused.”

Mr Alhadeff said he was pleased at the outcome.

Outspoken priest Rod Bower raises ire of Jewish groups

By Rick Morton
Social Affairs Reporter
The Australian
January 2, 2019

Activist priest and Senate hopeful Rod Bower has been rebuked by Jewish groups for the “offensive” and “irresponsible” comparison of the processing of asylum-seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to the Holocaust.

Anglican Priest Rob Bower

The Rector of the Gosford Anglican Church used his now ­famous parish sign to offer support to another priest, Catholic Father Bob Maguire, who said pictures of refugees on the islands “reminded” him of Nazi concentration camps.

Father Bower, who announced plans to run for the Senate last ­October, erected his own sign which read: “Manus is how the Holocaust started.”

He added online: “What we have done on Manus does not necessarily lead to the Holocaust but it is a necessary step on the path to that particular hell.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff told The Australian the equivalence between the two was ­“deeply hurtful”.

“Comparing the situation on Manus Island to the murder of six million Jews is historically inaccurate and undermines the enormity of the Holocaust,” he said.

“Irrespective of one’s position on the detention of asylum-seekers, such analogies are both ­grossly inappropriate and highly irresponsible, as well as being deeply hurtful to Holocaust survivors and the families of the victims.”

The Australian Jewish Association also condemned the sign’s wording, tweeting late on Monday: “Grossly offensive to memory of the Holocaust.”

“The Holocaust was a systematic attempt on an industrial scale to exterminate an entire people,” it said.

“Whatever your views on offshore detention, it is nothing of the sort and to try to link one with the other is outrageous.”

After he was criticised online, Father Maguire said: “I was referring to two Twitter photos … one barbed wire Auschwitz, one barbed wire Manus … one REMINDED me of the other … no more implied, no less.”

While Father Maguire later clarified his comments, Father Bower appeared to double down.

“The Australian (Jewish ­Association) is to Judaism what the Australian Christian Lobby is to Christianity,” he tweeted yesterday.

In response to another comment about the AJA, the popular social media priest then accused “some members of the Jewish community” of “supporting neo-Nazis”.

He said he came to the thoughts behind the sign after meeting Holocaust survivor Inge Woolf in New Zealand early last year.

“After having told her that I was deeply concerned about Australia’s treatment of refugees she pointed to the photos of the Holocaust and said ‘you are right to be concerned because this can happen so easily’,” he wrote. “Her chilling comment will remain with me for the rest of my life.”

Father Bower could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Faiths combine forces over Baha’i human rights in Iran

On December 20, 2018 a Baha’i prisoner was released from prison in Iran after 10 years.

Afif Naeimi, centre, with supporters in Tehran after his release.
Photo: Baha’i World News Service

Afif Naeimi and six colleagues once comprised an informal leadership group of the Baha’i community – Iran’s largest and most persecuted religious minority. They were arrested on May 14, 2008 and after several months of solitary confinement and interrogation, they were jailed for 10 years.

With Australia’s Baha’i community leading the way, Australian Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh leaders repeatedly came together to pray for the seven and call for their release, as did Australian MPs, journalists and artists.
The first prisoner was released in October 2017 and the last on December 20, 2018.

But the persecution of Baha’is in Iran continues with over 80 currently in prison. They are prevented from attending university or working in the public sector, while a fatwa by Iran’s Supreme Leader says Baha’is are unclean and advises Muslims to avoid dealing with them.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies stands with the Baha’i community in demanding that Iran respect the human rights of its Baha’i community and permit them to practise their faith in safety.

Descendants confront the past, seek recognition

David Tsor, descendant of Libyan and Iraqi Jews, addresses the annual commemoration of the Plight of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran.

“This is the hardest conversation I’ve ever had – but the harder a conversation is to have, the more important it is to have it,” said David Tsor, as he began addressing the 250 guests at the Sydney Jewish Museum for the annual commemoration the Plight of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Aged 21, David is the descendant of Iraqi and Libyan Jews who fled the Middle East in the 1940s to Israel and other countries as a result of persecution. The audience grimaced and gasped as David described the horrors that befell many members of his family and the Jewish community of the Libyan capital Tripoli during a three-day pogrom in November 1945 during which 120 Jews were murdered and hundreds more injured. Jewish businesses, homes, schools and synagogues were vandalised and destroyed. The violence suffered by Jewish individuals, including children and pregnant women, was harrowing.

Guests at the annual commemoration of the Plight of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran.

David told the audience that Libyan Jews, some of whom had families living in Libya dating back centuries, had been rounded up in 1942 – some sent to labour camps in Libya and Tunisia, others sent to concentration camps in Italy, eventually being transported to the German concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.

Shadow Minister Walt Secord MLC, Ethnic Communities Council of NSW CEO Mary Karras and Multicultural NSW Acting CEO Ross Hawkey were among the VIPs in attendance, as well as 25 faith and ethnic leaders.

Janine Joseph, incoming AUJS President at the University of Sydney who is of half Ashkenzaki half Sephardi heritage, implored the community not to “conflate being Jewish with being Ashkenazi, as if specific aspects such as Yiddish or Gefilte Fish are a binding force for all Jews”.

She said that the Sephardi/Mizrahi community faces the danger of losing its diverse set of cultures if we do not educate our children about the richness of their heritage and identity.

“I believe this history deserves to be taught in our schools alongside Holocaust education, but also be included in Holocaust education because Nazi propaganda infiltrated the Arab world and influenced Arab leaders. There were concentration camps in Libya and Tunisia, and some of those Jews were transported to the camps in Europe. And like the ‘Righteous among the Nations’, stories of Muslims hiding and protecting Jews from persecution are plentiful”.

At their AGM in September, AUJS unanimously passed a motion to increase the wider community’s awareness of its Sephardi and Mizrahi members. [Full resolution text].

“My hope is for an inclusive space where a forgotten narrative will not only be remembered, but celebrated alongside Ashkenazi culture, not out of a sense of obligation, but out of pride and a desire for exploration”.

After the speeches, candle-lighters came forward to each light a Hannukah menorah in memory of their relatives from Arab lands and Iran – six countries being represented: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Morocco and Yemen.

From left: Liran Hillel (Yemen), Prielle Betito (Morocco), Natalee Pozniak (Libya).
Helen Cadry (Iran), Miriam Romano (Egypt)

The commemoration was interspersed with uplifting Mizrahi and Sephardi musical numbers by Emanuel Synagogue’s Cantor George Mordecai and his band, that encouraged audience participation.

From left: Cantor George Mordecai, Mara and Llew Kiek.

Shannon Biederman, Curator Collections at the Sydney Jewish Museum, announced that funding had been secured for a temporary Mizrahi/Sephardi exhibition and her team was currently collecting stories and artifacts.

Shannon Biederman, Sydney Jewish Museum

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President Lesli Berger said “The destruction of  Jewish life in Arab lands is a tragic chapter in our history that must be told. We must tell of the generations and families ripped from their ancestral homes and acknowledge that the pain caused by those events still lingers in those families today. We as a community have a responsibility to recognise that there are many among us who still harbour that pain and we must dedicate ourselves to ensuring that we commemorate those events in the same way we recognise the other many tragedies to have befallen our people.”

From left: Multicultural NSW Acting CEO Ross Hawkey, Board of Deputies President Lesli Berger.


The fraught situation confronting Germany and German Jewry

November 29, 2018

Vic Alhadeff is CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. He travelled to Germany as a guest of the German Foreign Ministry.

THE cry was as jarring and intrusive as it was unexpected. Huddled against a bracing Frankfurt autumn morning, the delegation of Jewish leaders from centres as diverse as Novosibirsk, Siberia, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, was listening to an outdoor briefing about the turbulent history which lay behind a sign that simply said “Judenmarkt”.

Just metres away was an elongated grey wall, its surface punctuated by tiny metal boxes – simulated coffins? – each bearing biographical details of one of the 11,500 Jews of Frankfurt who were murdered in the Holocaust. And behind the wall a now-disused Jewish cemetery.

Suddenly, a cream-coloured Mercedes taxi raced towards us; as it passed, the driver lowered his window and yelled “Alles luege!” – which translates, unfortunately, to “All lies!”

The irony that the vicious invective occurred during the final presentation on the final day of a week-long government program titled “Jewish Life in Germany” was not lost on the international visitors, while visibly rattling our guide’s composure.

A commendable initiative of the German Foreign Ministry, the comprehensive schedule of briefings, memorial visits and participation in ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht immersed us in the fraught situation in which the German government and the nation’s 250,000 Jews find themselves.

Headlining the most disturbing aspect of the evolving landscape is the eruption onto the political scene of an extremist party with neo-Nazi elements, the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD). From a standing start, it burst into prominence in September 2017 and now occupies an alarming 92 seats in the Bundestag (German parliament), making it one of the country’s largest opposition parties, while boasting MPs in all 16 of the nation’s state parliaments.

Exploiting widespread anger at the 2015 influx of one million Syrian refugees, its principal platform is opposition to Muslim immigration. In this context it presents itself as a safe harbour for Jews, launching a Jewish group at a recent meeting in Wiesbaden. The good news is that only 19 Jews showed up, while 400 Jews staged a counter-demonstration and affirmed that they would have nothing to do with the AfD, consistent with the policy of the country’s peak Jewish organisation.

While the rise in antisemitic incidents is attributed in part to the left, to Islamists and to refugees, an estimated 94 per cent are perpetrated by far-right extremists – all of which has motivated Germany’s Foreign Ministry to establish a position dedicated to combating antisemitism and liaising with German Jewry. The appointee is Dr Felix Klein, who addressed us at last week’s Kristallnacht ceremony in Frankfurt and is building a department to devise a strategy to promote Jewish life in Germany. At the same time, 300 municipalities across the country are engaged in programs against hate.

While German Jews are spread across 103 communities throughout the country, creating significant logistical challenges, there are many positive events on the country’s Jewish calendar. They include: Jewrovision – the largest music festival for Jewish youth in Europe, annually bringing together 1000 Jewish teenagers for an entire weekend; Kippa Day, when the mayors of Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich and Cologne invite male citizens to turn up at City Hall wearing a kippa as a mark of solidarity with Jewish citizens; a project to educate Syrian refugees about the Holocaust and antisemitism; the import of Arab-speaking Israelis in an effort to build bridges to the refugees; and a conference last week by Jewish youth on the future of Germany’s Jewish community with the upbeat theme “Because I want to live here”.

Meanwhile, Berlin leads the way in publicly acknowledging the Holocaust. Apart from the iconic landmarks such as the massive memorial just 200 metres from the Brandenburg Gate and its major museums, 6000 Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks) – metal plates – are inlaid into pavements across the city at the sites from where Jews were deported, their personal details engraved.

And, chillingly, we came across a bus stop outside a large hotel featuring massive billboards with information about Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann – because the hotel is located on the site of Eichmann’s headquarters, from where he directed the killing operations.

So the situation is complex. German Jews – who today include possibly as many as 30,000 Israelis – are overwhelmingly positive, while expressing concern at the emergence of the AfD. At the same time, an increasing number of British Jews are applying for German citizenship in the event that Jeremy Corbyn becomes that country’s prime minister.

Yet there are Germans – a growing phenomenon among younger demographics – who are angry with the Jews because of the Holocaust, who in fact have not forgiven the Jews for the Holocaust. There are 1600 years of rich Jewish history in Germany, they point out; why this obsession with 12 of those years?

How succeeding generations tackle and answer that most vital of questions will hold a key to the future of that country’s Jewish community.

From arid to abundance: we can do it too

By Michelle Blum November 29 2018

Until several years ago, Israeli television regularly screened public advertisements warning citizens that “Israel is drying up” and urging them to conserve water.

Israel’s lack of water security, compounded by a long drought, was considered by strategic expert­s as a potential existential threat to the state — on a par with war and famine. But within a few years Israel turned it around.

The alarming TV ads have gone. Today, notwithstanding the fact it inhabits one of the driest regions on Earth and is in the fifth year of drought, Israel has the water to meet the needs of its population, farmers and industry.

How did this come about? And what are the lessons for Australia as we yet again struggle with drought?

Israel is a drier country than Australia, receiving average annual rainfall of about 435mm compared with our 534mm. More than half of Israel is desert.

Obviously, Israel is also much smaller than Australia, less than one-third the size of Tasmania, receivi­ng 0.2 per cent of Aust­ralia’s total rainfall volume.

Despite this, it supports a population of eight million, exports signific­ant agricultural produce and still has enough water left over for gardens, to wash cars and to fill swimming pools.

This has been achieved through three water “revolutions”, with a fourth about to start.

The first was in the 1960s, with the more efficient use of water in agriculture, and in particular the widespread adoption of drip irrig­ation. By placing water directly on to the root zone of crops, minimising evaporation, and keeping soil moisture content at optimum levels­, farmers discovered they could grow more using less water. Today, the black tubular piping and drippers made by Netafim and first developed on a kibbutz in Israel are seen around the world, including on thousands of farms across Australia.

The second revolution was prompted by the realisation that Israel could not afford to waste its water. Large-scale water recycling was the answer, gradually adopted from the 80s onwards. Today, Israel collects, treats and purifies more than 80 per cent of its waste water, recycling it for agricultural use four times more than the next-best OECD nation, Spain.

The third revolution came in the early 2000s, when Israel’s growing population and failing rains threatened to widen the gap between available water resources and needs. Its response was to build five desalination plants in a decade, with the first coming online in 2005: now 70 per cent of the country’s drinking water comes from desalination. Two new plants are under construction.

Israel’s population grows by about 1.5 million people each decade and, with the growing risks to rainfall patterns posed by climate change, it needs to stay ahead of the curve. It is now embarking on its fourth water revolution, involvin­g technology in all aspects of water use and management. These innovations include breeding more water-efficient crops, increasi­ng the re-use of waste water, and using big data and analytics to improve water network efficiency and detect leaks and burst underground pipes.

Several of the Israeli technol­ogy companies at the forefront of these innovations have found their way to Australia. Fluence Corporation is a leader in providing modular and deployable solutions for the treatment and re-use of waste water. Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies is pioneering commercial technology to harness water for crop-growing from background humidity, using condensation, and to optimise root zone soil temperatures for greenhouse crop cultivation.

And TaKaDu is helping water utility companies across Australia save thousands of megalitres of water and millions of dollars by using algorithms and artificial intellige­nce to identify and track leaks in real time.

Today’s is not the longest drought Australia has experienced and it certainly will not be the last. But although droughts will remain a way of life here, we can be better prepared for them. Key to this is using our existing water resource­s more wisely and building resilience into our water network and infrastructure.

Israel is a showcase for how innovatio­n, technology and a willingness to try new approaches have allowed a country to thrive and prosper notwithstanding a tough and dry climate. Australia can learn much from it.

Michelle Blum is chief executive of the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce.

The end of a ‘golden age’: The Jews of Iran

By Helene Cadry

My siblings Janet and Eddy and I were born in the Iranian capital Tehran. The paternal side of our family had lived in Iran for many generations and culturally assimilated into society, as had many Jews living in various other cities such as Shiraz, Mashad, Isfahan.

Helene Cadry (right) pictured with her mother Jacqueline, sister Janet and brother Eddy. Tehran 1950.

Iranian Jewry is one of the oldest Jewish communities, having  settled there about 2,700 years ago, and for the last 1,400 years living under Muslim rule.

On the maternal side, my grandfather was born in Mashad – a city renowned for its forced conversion of Jews to Islam in the early 1800s. He met and married my grandmother in Jerusalem and traveled extensively for business, eventually settling in Shiraz for several years. As the leader of the Jewish community there, my grandfather built a house with a synagogue where the congregation would gather to pray.

Women from Helene’s mother’s side of the family celebrating Purim.

Living in Tehran with my family during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi we enjoyed a privileged lifestyle, could integrate freely with other Iranians and be part of a vibrant, productive Jewish community. This was a period often referred to as “The Golden Age for Iranian Jewry”. We lived close to our large and loving extended family with whom we shared many simchas. My siblings and I attended a French school where lessons were conducted in French and Farsi.

As a young man my father traveled extensively, studying Industrial Chemistry at a French University and working for the famous Coty company before returning to Tehran to establish his own successful cosmetics manufacturing business. He predicted that the future of the Jewish community in Iran would not remain “so golden”. We left Tehran for Sydney in 1952, leaving behind the extended family, the majority of whom eventually made new homes in Los Angeles and New York in the 1960s. However, we were blessed to have an addition to our family with the birth of my younger brother and sister – the twins Bobby and Denise in 1958.

Jacques Cadry (Helene’s father) in the Edgecliff showroom of Cadry’s Carpets, which he founded in 1952, with one of his oriental rug repairers.

With the overthrow of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and subsequent executions of innocent, prominent Jews, my family was grateful for our father’s foresight.

At its peak the Jewish population of Iran was 100,000. It is now estimated to be somewhere between 8500-15,000 – the largest Jewish community in the Middle East (outside of Israel).

Please join me on Monday December 3 at the Sydney Jewish Museum for the annual communal commemoration of the Plight of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran. Details below.

Helene Cadry is on the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ organising committee for the annual commemoration of the Plight Jews from Arab Lands and Iran.