Haifa Day commemoration at Parramatta Synagogue

Jewish community calls for action against MP

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies calls on the leadership of the NSW Labor Party to formally censure Shaoquett Moselmane MLC for ongoing antisemitic conduct and comments.

This follows Mr Moselmane tweeting an encouragement to his followers to visit the website of notorious former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who is on the record as saying “Our clear goal must be the advancement of the white race and separation of the white and black races. This goal must include freeing of the American media and government from subservient Jewish interests.”

Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison called out the incident when Mr Moselmane recently denied the Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish community’s peak body access to the launch of the Labor Union Multicultural Action Committee, despite having received an invitation from General Secretary Kaila Murnain.

The incident prompted Opposition Leader Luke Foley to apologise for Mr Moselmane’s conduct and for Shadow Minister Walt Secord MLC to publicly condemn the display as “stupid, malicious and vindictive”.

In 2013 Mr Moselmane referred to Australian Jewish and Israeli groups as a “political lobby group that is cancerous, malicious and seeks to deny, misinform and scaremonger” during a speech in parliament. The Jewish media has also never received an invitation to attend Mr Moselmane’s Multicultural Media Awards events.

In addition to the above, Mr Moselmane wrote on Twitter in December 2017 that he was “honoured to speak at the rally in support of Jerusalem” – an event at which Hezbollah flags were openly waved by participants.

Further, Mr Moselmane recently hosted controversial University of Sydney academic Dr Tim Anderson at Parliament House; Dr Anderson has drawn criticism for defending badges carrying the slogans “Death to Israel” and “Curse the Jews”.

Given Mr Moselmane’s ongoing pattern of offensive conduct, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies calls on the leadership of the party to formally censure him – i.e. to make it clear that racist conduct of any form will not be tolerated by the party leadership and that he will be denied all leadership positions within the party should it recur.

Despite expressions of regret by party leaders, the abuse which he directs at the Jewish community continues, and we find it profoundly concerning that he is free to persist with such vilification.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Greek City Times
by Kosta Nikas

Greek City Times caught up with Vic Alhadeff, the CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies in Australia, to talk about his Greek heritage, his work on human rights issues and about an act of extraordinary courage on the island of Zakynthos that saved its entire Jewish community from the Nazi terror machine during WWII.

In May this year, a human chain was formed in the Jewish Cemetery in Athens to shield it in silent protest against the vandalization and desecration of graves. The human chain was comprised of members of the Jewish community of Athens, the vice mayor of the city, other Greek citizens and prominent community members.

*The Athens Jewish community and other Greek citizens protesting against the desecration of the Jewish Cemetery in Athens

Increasingly around the world, we are noticing a politically fragile landscape littered with extreme and disruptive voices that do little for social cohesion. Building bridges between communities and fighting racism in all its forms has been a lifelong endeavour for Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies in Australia.

An outspoken champion of human rights issues, Alhadeff notably led the Keep NSW Safe campaign with the support of Greek and other community leaders which lobbied the State Government to legislate against incitement to violence on the basis of race, religion, and gender.  During the campaign, the Federal Attorney General at the time George Brandis said that people “have the right to be bigots”.

“That was a problematic comment” reflects Alhadeff, noting that political leaders should set an inspirational tone that strengthens social cohesion not disrupt it.

The legislation was passed. A victory for the community at large.

The Greek Connection

Alhadeff’s passion to defend and fight for human rights no doubt was also informed by his own family history. His parents were born on the Greek island of Rhodes but were forced to flee after the Nazi occupation of Greece and settled in Zimbabwe where he was born.

But his grandparents never made it out. They were murdered by the Germans, along with more than 2,000 Greek Jews on the island that were sent to concentration camps.

“My family had been in Rhodes for 500 years! They were part of the Jewish diaspora that was expelled from Spain by the Moors and made Greece their home,” he proudly says.

Vic Alhadeff is proud of his Hellenic connection and has visited Greece several times, noting he ‘connects’ with the country and its people. He also made the pilgrimage back to his father’s island of Rhodes last year as part of a poignant reunion of 97 family members.

*Vic Alhadeff and  family members in Rhodes reuniting in Rhodes and reconnecting with their Hellenic homeland

Members of his family from all over the world, the USA, Europe, Australia, and Africa descended on this Mediterranean jewel in the summer of 2017, on the same date, July 21, where their ancestors and compatriots in 1944 were taken by the German troops to the Auschwitz extermination camp.

Alhadeff and his relatives joined the mayor of Rhodes, members of the Greek and Jewish communities, the Israeli Ambassador and other senior civil and religious officials in a special ceremony in remembrance of their Jewish compatriots who were ripped away from their beloved homes and island.

*The once thriving Jewish Quarter on the island of Rhodes

Greece once had a thriving Jewish community that had been around since antiquity.
Thessaloniki once had a 50,000 plus strong Jewish community and Rhodes perhaps close to 5,000 but World War II and the rise of anti-Semitism changed all that.

Today Greece’s Jewish community is numbered at about 6,000 members.

But not all was tragic. Alhadeff reminds us that on the other side of Greece, on the Ionian island of Zakynthos, took place an act of courage that saved the island’s entire Jewish population from extermination.

The Zakynthos Act

During the Nazi Occupation of Greece, 11 percent of its population had been killed by either bullet or famine, more than 2,000 villages destroyed along with 90% of its ports, roads, railways, and bridges.

At the time, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Greece Damaskinos called on Greeks to hide their Jewish compatriots and instructed priests to issue them false baptismal certificates to protect them from Nazi persecution.

On Zakynthos, a small miracle of its own was taking place.

On September 9, 1943, the German SS Commander on the island ordered Greek Orthodox Bishop Chrysostomos and the mayor, Loukas Karrer, to provide him a list with the names of all their Jewish compatriots or face death.

The next day, September 10, 1943, Bishop Chrysostomos and the mayor Loukas Karrer turned up to the office of the SS Commander and gave him a piece of paper with two names on it: their own.

This act of courage saved the lives of all 275 of their Jewish compatriots.

*The memorial in Zakynthos in honour of the Bishop and Mayor for saving their Jewish compatriots

“It’s what happens when good people take a stand against evil,” says Alhadeff who visited the island to meet with its people.

Israel never forgot their act of humanity and through its Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, honoured both men with the title of Righteous Amongst Nations.

Vic Alhadeff personally met with the daughter of mayor Loukas Karrer and discussed the history of the island and her father’s act of courage.

*Vic Alhadeff and Lena Karrer in her home in Zakynthos, daughter of heroic mayor Loukas Karrer

He asked her what she thought of her father’s heroic actions, but she brushed off any idea that he was a hero, since she saw it as “the right thing to do” and expected no less from him.

Greek Israeli Relations

Besides Rhodes and Zakynthos, Vic Alhadeff also visited Thessaloniki where he met with popular mayor Ioannis Boutaris, another fierce advocate of human rights who famously marched through the streets wearing the “yellow star” to protest the entry of Golden Dawn into Greek Parliament. He visited the Jewish Museum and connected with the members of the Jewish community.

Tragedy has shown us what humanity is capable of when working together, and Alhadeff is optimistic about the future of our ancestral homes and of Greek – Israeli relations. He referenced the leaps and bounds that both countries have made recently which includes pledging deeper military ties, joint energy exploration in the Mediterranean and tourism.

*Vic Alhadeff in Thessaloniki visiting the Jewish Museum

According to provisional data from Ben Gurion airport and Greek airports, air arrivals to Greece from Israel increased by 15 per cent to over half a million visitors this year.

Tourism in particular is an excellent “bridge building” exercise and if statistics are anything to go by, the future is indeed looking optimistic.

Earlier this year Israeli President Reuven Rivlin joined Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and lay the foundation stone for a new Holocaust Museum in the city of Thessaloniki which lost more than 90 per cent of its Jewish community during the Nazi Occupation.

*President Reuven Rivlin in Thessaloniki to lay the foundation stone for a new Holocaust museum

During the ceremony, both leaders planted two olive trees on the site of the future museum from where the city’s 54,000 Jews transported from to the death camps.

“The Holocaust is not only a Jewish issue, it is an international issue that touches every nation and people. Here too, in Greece, it is a national issue,” said at the time the Israeli President.

The Immigrant

Back in Australia where he migrated to in 1986 from South Africa, few years before the Apartheid regime unravelled, Alhadeff assumed many important roles, including chairperson of the NSW Community Relations Commission.

The role gave him an opportunity to contribute to race relations and enhance our multicultural society and avoid some of the tragedies of the Old World.

But the Old World, as he discovered, can be imported into the New World by the very ethnic communities that fled from it.

A number of religious leaders called on him to resign from the position because they felt he had compromised his role by asserting Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas.

“They boycotted a dinner that was organised in State Parliament and called for my resignation. It became very disillusioning that they were not prepared to accept that the conflict was overseas and that we needed to get on with it here as Australians in Australia.”

Even though he had the backing of then NSW Premier Mike Baird, Alhadeff resigned for the sake of the organisation’s future, adding that he was thankful that at least one prominent religious leader “spoke up in my defence and had the courage to support me because of the work I had done in that space.”

Hopefully in the case of Australia, when it finally cuts the umbilical cord with Britain and becomes a mature republic, perhaps then, all ethnic communities will identify more with the country and all feel Australian. Australian enough not to use ancestral conflicts as political leverage in the new country, but more as topics for civil debate in the pursuit of peace and a better understanding of each other.

But what is it about the nature of ‘immigrants’ that makes them stand out? Take our communities:  starved, hunted, occupied, oppressed and extremely small in numbers, yet have contributed successfully to every field of human endeavour in the new worlds and societies they entered.

The final word goes to Vic Alhadeff to that question:

“Many immigrant communities are profoundly aware that they are inherently transient. In other words, they arrive in the new country with little more than what they can carry, but with the knowledge that in order to integrate, they need to make a meaningful contribution to the society that has generously opened its doors to them. This certainly applies to the Greek and Jewish communities in Australia – notwithstanding the fact that Jews have been here since the First Fleet – and we can both reflect with gratification on the positive contributions we have made to this, the greatest country in the world.”

BIO OF VIC ALHADEFF

-Born in Zimbabwe.
-Studies at the University of Cape Town and at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.
-Was Chief Sub-Editor of The Cape Times in Cape Town.
-Wrote two books on South African history.
-Lived in Israel for two years, where he edited two magazines.
-Immigrated to Australia in 1986.
-Was appointed Editor of the Australian Jewish News. Was sent to Moscow three times to report on the persecution of Soviet Jews and reported from Israel during the Gulf war and on the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
-Became an outspoken champion on human rights issues.
Was appointed Chairman of Multicultural NSW and a judge of the NSW Human Rights Award.
-Was appointed Chief Executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which represents the NSW Jewish community to government, media and other communities.
-Led the Keep NSW Safe campaign which lobbied State Government to legislate against incitement to violence on the basis of race, religion and gender. The law was passed in June 2018 after a three-year campaign, of which the Hellenic community was part.

By Kosta Nikas 

$2.2 million for security funding

Liberal Candidate for Wentworth, Dave Sharma (centre) with (from left) Peter Wise, Lesli Berger, Peter Wertheim and CSG head of security David Rothman. Photo Noel Kessel

 

THE NSW Jewish community’s vital security infrastructure will get a much-needed upgrade with a $2.2 million grant from the federal government.

The funding, which has been committed regardless of the result of the October 20 Wentworth by-election, was announced by Liberal candidate Dave Sharma during a visit to the Community Security Group (CSG) earlier this week.

Around $1.685 million will fund backbone security infrastructure such as command and control and nerve centres at CSG, while more than $500,000 will go to individual institutions, including schools and synagogues, to upgrade their own facilities like CCTV cameras and other security infrastructure.

The funding, which is predominantly for sites in Wentworth, is in addition to money already provided through the government’s Safer Communities Fund.

“What this will allow us to do is better protect the community and its institutions and people. It’s in response of course to identified community needs,” Sharma said.

“From a higher level, what it represents is the government’s commitment to keeping Australians safe, keeping communities strong, keeping the country together.”

The AJN understand the community has been seeking more than $3 million for much-needed security upgrades.

“It’s not the entirety that the Council [for Jewish Community Security] is seeking but we will certainly be looking at the whole, the entire body of requests over time. But we wanted to get this announcement done quickly in recognition of the quite acute needs.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Lesli Berger warmly welcomed the announcement.
“The federal government’s grant will help ensure that the security risks faced by the Jewish community are reduced,” he said.

“We thank Dave Sharma for his advocacy in securing this grant and we thank the federal government for understanding the fundamental needs of our community, which will go a significant way to ensuring that Jews can live their lives in safety and continue to contribute ­productively to Australia.”

ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said, “This is a much-needed initiative to assist the Jewish community to meet its ever-increasing security costs, which the ECAJ has been advocating for some time.

“Ensuring the safety and security of all citizens is the first duty of any government,” he continued.

“Dave Sharma is to be congratulated for pursuing this matter so energetically. We thank him and the federal government for recognising the importance and urgency of this issue for our community.”

CJCS chairman Peter Wise said, “Over the years we’ve built the community’s security infrastructure and professionalism. The benefit we have in NSW is that we have a unified security infrastructure with oversight by CJCS and operations by CSG.

“This funding further enhances our unified capacity by enabling us to upgrade our infrastructure. Over the years so much more security considerations have come down to technology and we’ve become more dependent on it.

“Technology moves at a rapid pace and the cost therefore increases at a rapid pace, so this enables us to keep up with that and at the same time deliver to the Jewish community of NSW enhanced capabilities for their welfare and safety, and we’re very very grateful for it.”

 

Now is the time for stability and unity

Lesli Berger elected President of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
2018 Annual General Meeting
August 21, Sydney Jewish Museum Education Centre

ACCEPTANCE SPEECH

Deputies I have been Chair of the Public Affairs Committee for the last 3 years and Vice President the last two years, since that time under Jeremy Spinak’s extraordinary leadership we have persuaded the NSW Government to introduce effective criminal racial vilification laws, a law our community has wanted to reform for over 15 years.

Deputies, we have also significantly improved our position with the NSW Labor party. It is no longer the case that Bob Carr and Shaoquett Moselmanne can simply have their way with the NSW Labor conference and push their anti-Israel motions.

I stand before you because I have always been a passionate Jew and a Jew who is very passionate about his community. I don’t pretend to be religious, but I am ethical in my conduct and have a very strong moral centre.

I have strong political, media and business experience. I promise you to be a strong but fair President.

I promise you we will renew our focus on engagement with our Deputies and members of our community and to that end we will always have a microphone available at our Plenums and we will constitute a Working Party to focus on improving our engagement.

My passion for the Jewish Community and my love for the State of Israel came about as a direct result of my family and in particular my late grandfather Michael Berger who was a Holocaust survivor and an ardent Zionist. He loved Israel despite its flaws as every good democracy is flawed and I share that passion as I know you do.

One of the lessons I learned from Michael is that forgiveness is critical. He never hated the Germans for what they did to him and his family, a life lesson I have learned because I choose not to hate anyone, even when I have felt wronged.

Deputies, as a community we face enormous political and security challenges.

We face constant security threats that our community must be appropriately protected against.

According to Ambassador Dore Gold, world Jewry faces the ugly headwinds of the rise of anti-semitism. What is happening in Europe and the British Labor Party all too easily could happen here and we must remain vigilant.

Just last week, we had a Muslim member of Parliament deny entry to our CEO Vic Alhadeff to a multi-cultural event and so far that member has received no sanction from his party.

We also heard Senator Anning’s vile speech where he referred to the “final solution” in relation to Muslim immigration, reminding our community of the horrors of the holocaust, a fate we would not wish on anyone. To their great credit, both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition condemned these vile comments.

The challenge for us as a community is how can we best address the ongoing political and security challenges we face in the context of the rise of extremism whether it be from the far left or the far right.

 Our purpose is to stop ANTI-SEMITISM, strengthen our SECURITY and strengthen our ties with ISRAEL.

 The first question: What are the main political challenges we face?

  1.  The need to maintain bi-partisan support for the State of Israel. Too often criticism of Israel is used as a pretext to delegitimise the world’s only Jewish state.
  2. The constant need to monitor politicians, community leaders and educators to ensure they do not inappropriately reference the Holocaust or even worse make anti-Semitic statements;
  3. The need to manage our relationship with the NSW Greens and ensure that their extreme elements are marginalised.
  4. The need to ensure that the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Policy receives no public support and that we shame all those who support this policy;
  5. The need to ensure our community has adequate burial space;
  6. The need to ensure our community receives appropriate security funding particularly for the CSG (The community security group). The NSW Government has not yet committed the funds our community so desperately needs.

Everyone in our community must play their part.
The second question: What can you do to help?
 

  1. Donate to the JCA, every donation counts;
  2. Encourage every member of our community to become an active member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, unity and stability are key;
  3. Follow the JBD’s Facebook page, like our posts and share them with your friends;
  4. Tell people you are Jewish – to know a Jewish person is to like a Jewish person
  5. If you are politically minded, join your political party of choice;

The third question, what can I as President do to help strengthen our community? We will focus on 3 key areas:

 1. Campaigning:

 (i) We will continue to professionalise the operations of the Board and use the resources of our community efficiently and judiciously;

(ii) We will improve our use of data and become the professional campaign headquarters of our community which has a grass roots focus;

(iii) We will strengthen our social media capacity;

(iv) For those who wish to delegitimize Israel, we will normalise Israel;

(v) For those who hate our community, we will humanise our community

2. Coalition Building:

 (i) We will continue to build coalitions with other like-minded communities and groups;

3. Our community:

 (i) We will strengthen our engagement with members of our community, Deputies and our Constituent organisations; and critically

(ii) We will mentor and develop the next generation of leaders of our community.

Deputies, I know you share my sentiments in wishing Jeremy Spinak and his family good health and happiness and every success in his treatment.

All of this work has begun under the capable leadership of Jeremy Spinak and Deputies, with your help, I promise to continue Jeremy’s extraordinary legacy and I am honoured and privileged to serve our community to the best of my ability.

AGM 2018 – New Executive

Dear communal member,

The 73rd Annual General Meeting of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies took place on Tuesday, 21 August 2018.

At the AGM, the following Executive was elected:

Honorary Officers
President – Lesli Berger
Immediate Past President – Jeremy Spinak
Vice Presidents – Yaron Finkelstein, Isabelle Shapiro OAM
Hon. Secretary – Melissa McCurdie
Hon. Treasurer – Sam Zweig

Executive Members
Dane Stern
Michelle Filler
Natalie Rubinstein
Glen Falkenstein
Yosi Tal

War Memorial Representative
Dr George Foster

Committee Chairs
Shoah Remembrance – Daniel Hochberg
Education – Sandy Hollis
Public Affairs – David Ossip
Community Relations – Gael Kennedy
Social Justice – Liam O’Callaghan

Please note the changes and alter your records accordingly.
If we can be of assistance in any way please contact our CEO, Vic Alhadeff vic.alhadeff@nswjbd.com or telephone 9360 1600.

Yours sincerely

Melissa McCurdie
Honorary Secretary