MPs honour Jeremy Spinak

Jeremy Spinak, Immediate Past President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, died tragically last week from cancer aged 36. Dozens of dignitaries paid their respects by attending his funeral service and minyan, including: Federal MPs Julian Leeser, Dr Kerryn Phelps and Mike Kelly; NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian; Ministers Gabrielle Upton and Ray Williams; Labor leader Michael Daley and Labor parliamentarians Luke Foley, Walt Secord, Penny Sharpe and Sophie Cotsis; and Nationals MP Tanya Davies.

Tributes to Jeremy have poured into the Board of Deputies office, whilst on Tuesday Michael Daley led the Labor Caucus through one-minute’s silence, an honour usually only afforded to former parliamentarians.

Statement by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian read by Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins at the funeral on November 18: 
‘Jeremy was an outstanding community advocate and an amazing human being. He had a huge impact on everyone he met, including myself, and will be so sorely missed.  Jeremy was dedicated to forging strong links between our multicultural and religious communities and was a champion of an inclusive and harmonious State.  Whether mentoring young Jewish leaders, advocating for policy reforms or strengthening ties with the diplomatic community, Jeremy represented our State’s Jewry with pride and distinction.  Jeremy’s leadership was crucial to the NSW Government’s passage of landmark reforms to protect our State’s communities from the incitement of violence, replacing section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act.’

Extract from NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard
November 20
Mr RAY WILLIAMS (Castle Hill—Minister for Multiculturalism, and Minister for Disability Services) (17:19):
I offer condolences to Jeremy Spinak and the entire Jewish community. Today I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jeremy Spinak at the age of 36, a person who has committed so much to the Jewish community and multicultural communities more broadly across New South Wales. During Jeremy’s tenure as President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which he held up until three months ago, the organisation has grown from strength to strength.
A much loved and greatly respected leader of the Jewish community, Jeremy’s presence will be sorely missed. A tireless supporter of social cohesion and harmony across our communities, Jeremy focused on building a safer New South Wales for all our multicultural communities. He was a bridge builder between those communities. My thoughts and prayers, as well as those of members in the New South Wales Parliament, are with the Spinak family and the Jewish community during this time of sorrow.

Memorial service for Pittsburgh synagogue massacre

Over 700 people came together at The Great Synagogue to pay their respects to the victims and survivors of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton read condolence messages from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Governor-General David Hurley AC DSC FTSE.

The Great Synagogue Chief Minister Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton and Emanuel Synagogue’s Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins.

Rabbis from numerous congregations took part in the memorial service and the community was joined by representatives from many religious and cultural communities in addition to: Bruce Notley-Smith MP, representing Premier Gladys Berejiklian; Member for Wentworth Dr Kerryn Phelps AM; Walt Secord MLC representing Opposition Leader Luke Foley; Paul Green MLC; and Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies.

The memorial was organised by the Board of Deputies, The Great Synaoguge, Emanuel Synagogue and The ECAJ.

80th anniversary of Kristallnacht commemoration

We’re looking for the perfect intern

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is receiving applications for the Saul Symonds Summer Internship 2019 which runs for six weeks starting Monday January 14.

We’re looking for a university-aged person with a passion for Jewish issues, politics and Israel.

The work will be varied and may include a major project to be completed throughout the internship.

The Board of Deputies is the voice of the Jewish community and represents our interests to government, media and other ethnic and religious groups. The successful applicant will gain personal and professional skills from the community’s premier public affairs organisation.

Hours: Monday – Thursday 9am – 5pm. Offices closes at 3pm on Fridays.

Please send resume and cover letter (no more than one page) to:

William Nemesh
Jewish Community Relationship Manager
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

A stipend is paid.

Applications close Friday December 7.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies congratulates Phelps

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies congratulates Dr Kerryn Phelps on her election as the Member for Wentworth.

Her electoral victory is underscored by the fact that she is the first Jewish Member for Wentworth in the long history of that seat and the first female Jewish MP in the federal parliament, bringing the number of Jewish MPs currently serving in the federal parliament to seven.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies looks forward to working with Dr Phelps as the incoming Member for Wentworth.

Polar opposites of the Israeli-Palestinian spectrum

Australian Jewish News
Vic Alhadeff
25 October 2018

HERE is Dalal Mughrabi and there is Oded Revivi. At one end of the spectrum, admiration and veneration of terrorists and suicide bombers; at the other, islands of peace and inspirational leadership in fostering Jewish–Arab relations.
In between, confusion and chaos, political impasse and violence.

These polar opposites were but two aspects of the morass of information with which participants on the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Journalists Mission returned to Australia from Israel this week. Mughrabi led the most lethal terrorist attack in Israel’s history – the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, in which she and other Fatah terrorists hijacked a bus and murdered 37 people, 12 of them children.

Grotesquely, she is honoured across Palestinian society as a hero to be emulated, with public squares, girls’ schools and other public facilities named for her. “Every one of us wishes to be like… Dalal Mughrabi,” exhorts a 2017 Palestinian Authority fifth-grade schoolbook, her smiling face beaming beatifically from its pages and the Palestinian national colours flowing beneath. “Heroes have an important position in every nation … We are proud of them, sing their praises, learn the history of their lives, name our children after them and name streets, squares and prominent cultural sites after them. Every one of us wishes to be like them.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Revivi, the Mayor of Efrat, one of the
“consensus settlements” that will remain part of Israel in the event that a two-state solution eventuates. Articulate, confident and a champion of Jewish–Arab relations, he notes defiantly that Efrat was the first place where Jews and Arabs united against the security barrier.

“Fences create a sense of security, they don’t actually create security,” he told the Australian journalists; as a result, there is no barrier between Efrat and three neighbouring Palestinian villages. Two years ago, the area was rocked by two terrorist attacks. Revivi paid his condolences to both bereaved families, after which – reeling from the inconsolable grief he had encountered – he was scheduled to make one of his regular courtesy visits to a neighbouring Palestinian village. “There are usually 10 people there to welcome me,” he recounted. “This time there were 60.” They understood and they wanted to reach out.

Soon afterwards it was Succot, so Revivi reciprocated by inviting 10 representatives from that Palestinian village to his succah; 30 arrived. He also invited 20 residents of Efrat; 80 arrived. As did an Israel Defence Force general and 30 Israeli army and police commanders.

Some of the Palestinian guests posed with the general, the photograph was posted on Facebook and four of them were arrested by the Palestinian Authority, accused of conspiring with the enemy. They were incarcerated for four days, with Revivi advocating for their release and paying the $US15,000 bail.
At Succot 2017, a year later, Revivi again invited the Palestinian village leaders to his succah, although uncertain whether they would attend, given the arrests of the previous year; the response – tradition! They came.

“The challenge is against human nature,” he said – “which is to run away when an attack happens. But we shop together in our supermarket, Jews and Arabs; we mustn’t let the 99 per cent of positive days be dominated by the one per cent of bad days, which get reported. We have 1100 Arabs working alongside Jews in Efrat. We do something different here, it’s a bottom-up approach. We’re an island of peace. Let’s duplicate and multiply this and make it policy. It’s harder to build a bridge than a fence.”

The general told Revivi that the more that such gatherings occur, the less the IDF would need to spend on security. Unrealistic? Not necessarily. Indeed, the Journalists Mission encountered several encouraging programs, such as Roots – which sees settlers and Palestinians working together to change the discourse from competing ownership of the land to mutual recognition that both peoples belong to the land; and Save A Child’s Heart – an Israeli initiative which has given cardiac treatment to 4800 infants from 57 nations, 50 per cent of them from Gaza and the West Bank. On the other hand, the frustrating political impasse endures. Yet as strategic analyst Dr Eran Lerman observed, “conflict management is not
such a bad solution”.

Alhadeff is the CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of

Deputies, and accompanied the
Journalists Mission.

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.”


-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