AN unnamed community of 300 Israeli and Jewish families, a newspaper which publishes a blog asserting that Israel was responsible for 9/11, a genial Catholic bishop who is due to lead a religious delegation to Israel and in-depth studies of the Holocaust being undertaken at high schools throughout the area.
These were among the take-outs from an intensive bridge-building tour of the Ballina-Byron Bay-Lismore area of northern New South Wales which NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff conducted last week.
The Board undertakes tours of regional NSW annually, traversing the state from Coonabarabran, Forbes and Dubbo to Albury-Wodonga, Broken Hill and Wagga Wagga.
Tackling 20 engagements in five days, Alhadeff met with the Catholic Bishop of Lismore, the Deputy Speaker of the Federal Parliament and the mayors and councillors of Lismore and Ballina, delivered presentations on the Holocaust at numerous schools, addressed three Rotary Clubs, was interviewed by media and donated 100 books on Judaism, Israel and the Holocaust to four public libraries.
He also had three meetings with Jewish and Israeli residents of the area, who included law professors, macadamia farmers, klezmer musicians (one of whom has performed at the Sydney Opera House) and hippies.
“These tours are always rewarding and productive and a vital aspect of the Board’s work in terms of establishing important connections between the Jewish community and key sectors of regional NSW,” Alhadeff said. “The reception was overwhelmingly positive, notwithstanding concerns which were voiced at harshly anti-Israel invective which appears in certain media all too frequently.”
In terms of size, the Israelis – over 1000 in the Byron Bay shire – rank second only to the German expatriate community. “They are informal, have no name, yet maintain a vibrant community life with Gold Coast Rabbi Mosheh Serebryanski and his wife Bluma their de facto spiritual leaders,” Alhadeff said, “regularly driving from Queensland to run classes and celebrate festivals.”
The group, which operates in private homes, is endeavouring to rent premises which would function as a community centre.
Board of Deputies education manager Suzanne Green presented on Judaism at schools in Skennars Head and Ballina.