We Are All Sydney (WAAS)

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ pilot ‘We Are All Sydney’ community leadership program has been running since March, bringing together emerging leaders from the Jewish community and other ethnic and faith communities, as well as NGO organisations. The pilot includes 20 women from communities including South Sea Islanders, Burmese, Afghani, Sierra Leonean, Syrian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Iraqi, Israeli, Iranian, African American, Indian, as well as Australian-born. It is modelled on the successful ‘We Are All Brooklyn/Queens/The Bronx/Manhattan’ programs that have been run for over 20 years by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

The aim of the program is to develop skills to enable women to fulfil leadership positions in community organisations and the wider community. The aim for the Jewish community is to mentor and network with leaders from communities who reside in diverse parts of Sydney, with a strong focus on Western Sydney. The program also offers internships in Jewish organisations which share the goals of the leaders’ organisations.

Yom Hashoah commemoration

‘Children and the Holocaust’ was the theme for the 2017 Yom HaShoah commemorations. Almost 1600 people attended the events organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies – over 1000 people at the Clancy Auditorium, UNSW; over 400 at Masada College; and about 140 at the Martyrs’ Memorial, Rookwood Cemetery. The keynote speaker at the evening ceremonies was Australian children’s author Morris Gleitzman, who, in conversation with Dr Avril Alba, shared insights from his acclaimed Holocaust-themed Once series. Singer Lior performed moving renditions of his song My Grandfather and Avinu Malkeinu and Judy Kaye delivered a powerful presentation on her grandparents, who saved 50 Hungarian Jews from the Nazis and were subsequently declared Righteous Among the Nations. Children’s choirs from Masada College, Emanuel School and Mount Sinai College also performed.

Table Talk: Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Refugees from South Sudan and Afghanistan spoke to 90 members of the north sore Jewish community last week at an interactive ‘Table Talk’ event focussing on refugees and people seeking asylum.

The Board of Deputies hosted this event in partnership with four synagogues: Kehillat Masada, Cremorne Synagogue, North Shore Temple Emanuel and North Shore Synagogue

As well as participating in table discussions, participants heard from refugee advocate and lawyer Steven Glass.

Judaism 101 at Waverley College

Education manager Suzanne Green represented the Board of Deputies in presenting an Introduction to Judaism to Year 10 students at Waverley College.  The presentation covered the basics of Judaism, including an understanding of kashrut, celebrating Shabbat, how Jews pray and key symbols that are important in Jewish life. The students asked a range of questions on these topics and on the Jewish community in their area.

Acclaimed author and Lior to feature at NSW Holocaust commemoration

Acclaimed Australian author Morris Gleitzman – writer of the Holocaust-themed series of novels Once, Then, Now, Soon and After – will be the keynote speaker at Sydney’s community major Yom HaShoah events.

Organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the commemorations will see Gleitzman in conversation with University of Sydney Holocaust Studies academic Dr Avril Alba. The theme for this year’s events is “Children and the Holocaust”.
There are five books in Gleitzman’s Once series, which have sold over 230,000 copies across Australia. His novels explore the power of friendship through two characters – a 10-year-old Jewish boy named Felix and a six-year-old Polish girl named Zelda.

When writing Once, Gleitzman knew that reading Felix’s story would be a journey of discovery for most young readers and so he decided that the story should be a journey of discovery for Felix too, as told in his own words. That way, readers would experience the Holocaust as experienced through Felix’s eyes and feelings, and connected to the hope of his friendship with Zelda. Gleitzman intended that this would make it a story about the worst of which mankind is capable, alongside the best. He hoped that this would remind readers that history is not in a distant place and would point young readers towards the real voices of the Holocaust.

Gleitzman has explained that researching and writing Once became a personal journey as it took him to Poland for the first time, to the streets of Kazimierz, the ancient Jewish area of Krakow, and to the Jewish cemetery where he found a memorial with his family name on it. His grandfather was a Jew from Krakow who left Poland as young man, decades before the Holocaust. He believes his extended family in Poland all perished in the Holocaust.

The commemoration will also feature a musical performance by celebrated Israeli-Australian singer-songwriter Lior Attar. Better known simply as Lior, he was born in Israel and grew up in Sydney but has lived in Melbourne for nearly a decade.

Lior in his role on Fiddler on the Roof

In 2005 he self-released and produced his debut album Autumn Flow, certified gold by ARIA. Autumn Flow also garnered three ARIA Award nominations in the 2005 ARIA Music Awards: Best Breakthrough Artist, Best Male Artist and Best Independent Release. It has gone on to become one of the most successful independent debut releases in Australian music history. Lior was close to his grandfather, who fled Poland and enlisted as a sniper in the Russian Army to avoid concentration camps and died in 1999. Lior felt a strong connection with his grandfather, knowing he was the last generation to have a direct relationship with a Holocaust survivor, and so he wrote the biographical and haunting My Grandfather for his fourth album, Scattered Reflections, in 2014. Lior recently made his musical theatre debut, playing the role of Motel, an ­impoverished young tailor in Fiddler on the Roof.

The Yom HaShoah ceremony includes a children’s choir and a Righteous Among the Nations segment to honour those who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Judy Kaye will relate her family’s heroic actions in this regard.
There will be two major evening ceremonies: Sunday 23 April at the Clancy

Auditorium, University of NSW, at 7.30pm; and Monday 24 April at Masada College, St Ives, at 7.30pm. Inquiries: 9360 1600.

This article first appeared in J-wire, April 2017

We Are All Sydney

With funding from the Federal Department of Social Services, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is piloting a six-session community leadership development course for women from a wide range of ethnic and religious groups across Sydney.

The project is called We Are All Sydney – WAAS, and is based on a successful program that has been running in the United States for decades, developed by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of New York.

During the first session, participants introduced themselves to each other and learnt about principles of communal organisation. The participants represented diverse communities from across Sydney including: Iranian-Persian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Chinese, South Sea Islander, Syrian, Lebanese, Israeli, Assyrian, West African, Iraqi and Anglo-Irish. The Sydney course was developed by Community Relations & Policy Manager, Lynda Ben Menashe who is assisted by WAAS Project Coordinator, Ruth Cohen.

Remembering the 850,000 Jews forced out of Arab countries

Approximately 200 people attended this second annual event at the Sydney Jewish museum which focused on the Farhud – the pogrom against the Jewish community in Baghdad, Iraq in June 1941. Survivors of the pogrom and their descendants attended the event along with other members of the Sydney Mizrahi community and friends from the Coptic, Assyrian and Aboriginal communities and representatives from the Uniting Church and Sydney Alliance.

The keynote address was delivered by academic Dr Celia Romm Livermore and Julie Lippmann gave a personal testimony of the Farhud.

A moving video of Elisha (Marvin) Cohen was played, detailing the tragedies and brutal treatment his family suffered living in Iraq under the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein.

During the event, Sydney Jewish Museum CEO Norman Seligman, announced they would provide space for an permanent exhibition for the Australian Middle Eastern Jewish community as part of the museum’s expansion program.