The Forgotten Narrative – Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran

For the almost 5000  Jews of Arab and Iranian descent residing in Sydney, formal acknowledgement of their history was a long time coming. The little known, and rarely discussed exodus of up to 900,000 Jews from Arab lands and Iran was commemorated at a moving ceremony hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies in conjunction with the Sephardi Synagogue and the Sydney Jewish Museum

The event attracted over 370 people, and marked the first time that the Australian Jewish community had publically acknowledged and celebrated the history of the Mizrahi Jews, descending from Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and Kurdistan.

Dr Racheline Barda, historian of Egyptian Jewish descent, retold the history of the ‘forgotten refugees’ who now call Australia home. She told of the resilience of the refugees, and their commitment to reinventing themselves despite the pain, dispossession and dislocation that they inevitably experienced. Various other speakers told of their personal and familial links to their Arab homelands and the often arduous journeys that led them to be in Australia today.

Board of Deputies Community Relations Manager Lynda Ben-Menashe said in her closing remarks, “Like non-indigenous Australia generally, our Jewish community was built by waves of immigration. The stories of our immigrants from Arab lands and Iran have not been told or heard in the mainstream and we thank all of you here tonight, especially so many guests from the wider NSW community, who have come to listen to them.”

One Baghdadi Jewish woman, reflecting on the evening, acknowledged that the speakers brought distant memories flooding back, and also reminded her of how grateful she is to be in Australia.

A law passed in 2014 by Israeli MK Dr. Shimon Ohayon, designated November 30 the day to recognise the plight of Arab refugees from Arab lands and Iran.
The event will be held annually in NSW as well, with even larger attendance expected in years to come.

Photos: Giselle Haber Photography

Chanukah at Parliament House

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies attended the Pre-Chanukah celebration at Parliament House hosted by the Minister for Multiculturalism, Hon. John Ajaka MLC and Multiculturalism NSW. The event was attended by politicians, consul representatives, councillors, ethnic leaders and representatives from the Jewish Community.
Bruce Notley-Smith MP, chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel welcomed guests. The event was addressed by Minister Ajaka, Premier of NSW, The Hon. Mike Baird, State Opposition leader Luke Foley MP and President of the Board of Deputies, Jeremy Spinak. Rabbis representing diverse sections within the community were invited to light a candle of the menorah, followed by the festive song of Maoz Tzur.
The annual event, hosted by Multicultural NSW marks the upcoming Chanukah celebration still relevant in its tale of the Chanukah story, where good triumphed over evil.

Lunch with opinion-makers

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Luncheon Club continues to have opinion makers engage with members of the community around a boardroom table. Recent lunches include Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes MP and Head of the Institute for Zionist Strategies,Dr Yoaz Hendel, 

Mr Stokes spoke about his approach to planning, and the need to streamline processes that can currently take extensive time periods. The Minister defended the proposal to amalgamate councils, assuring audience members that the plan would have positive implications for the development of a more efficient Sydney in the future.

Dr Hendel emphasised the need for States to balance the rights and responsibilities belonging to their citizens with the need for more fastidious anti-terror efforts in today’s unstable climate. The Luncheon was a co-hosted by the Board of Deputies and the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel.


Kristallnacht 2015

Remembering and understanding the lessons

Over 350 guests filled the Education Resource Centre at the Sydney Jewish Museum for the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ annual Kristallnacht commemoration. The remarkable story of the enduring friendship between two men formed the keynote address by Cheryl Koenig OAM. Robyn Bloom described the experiences of her late father, Gerry Levy AM, during Kristallnacht, as did eyewitness Dr Joachim Schneeweiss AM, who said “radio waves were filled with screams citing hatred towards the Jews and it was not surprising that the events of Kristallnacht took place”. The program included memorial prayers, musical performances by Cantor Josh Weinberger and David Politzer with Robert Teicher on keyboard, with closing remarks by Board of Deputies president Jeremy Spinak.

“Today should be a day when we look around the world and see if there are any trends that may be warnings to us. Where there is Holocaust denial, we should demand better information and teacher training,” said Board of Deputies Shoah Remembrance Committee Chair Danny Hochberg in his welcome. “Where there are charges of Jewish conspiracies, we should condemn them strongly and swiftly. Where there is rhetoric that incites violence against vulnerable populations, we must answer with stronger calls for safety and respect for diversity.”

This event was made possible because of grants from Multicultural NSW, B’nai B’rith Trust, City of Sydney and the JCA Millie Philips Trust.

Photographs: Giselle Haber Photography

Reverend Nile at Luncheon Club

Luncheon Club

Reverend Fred Nile MLC recently addressed the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Luncheon Club.

Shabbat Dinners

Two Shabbat dinners were held recently. A Shabbat dinner was held at The Great Synagogue with NSW Young Labor for 100 participants. Guests were led on a tour of the synagogue by Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, after which they attended the Sabbath service and the dinner. NSW Young Labor president Todd Pinkerton thanked the community for hosting the event, which was addressed by Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff. The event followed a recent Young Liberals Shabbat.

Members of the Parramatta Jewish community gathered for a traditional Friday night dinner. The event was hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies as part of The Shabbat Project.



Nostra Aetate

The past, present and future of the Jewish-Christian relationship
About 400 representatives of a range of faith groups came together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate at The Great Synagogue.
The program included a series of panel discussions with the theme “The past, present and future of the Jewish-Christian relationship”. The Catholic Archbishop, The Most Reverend Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, and Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, Chief Rabbi of The Great Synagogue, delivered keynote addresses, while NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Jeremy Spinak urged all present to work for peace “in our time”.
The event was hosted by the Australian Catholic University, the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Photos: Giovanni Portelli, Catholic Communications, Archdiocese of Sydney

Statement on Syrian refugee crisis

nswjbd-logoThe NSW Jewish Board of Deputies wholeheartedly supports the Australian Government’s decision to accept 12,000 refugees from Syria and to commit funds to humanitarian support for the thousands of Syrians and Iraqis who have been forced to seek refuge, many of them persecuted by Islamic State.

As a nation, we have a responsibility to be a sanctuary for those in need and play our part in the spirit of humanity and kindness. Now is the time for compassion and to ensure those who are most in need can establish a life in our country.

Through the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, our national roof body, we commend the Australian Government for taking the current humanitarian crisis into consideration in terms of refugee admission and in joining with the international community to extend support.

Vic Alhadeff 
Chief Executive Officer

The plight of Middle Eastern minorities is often overlooked by the West

This topic was highlighted by NSW Jewish Board of Deputies guest Sam Tadros at a recent lunch. Hear him discuss this issue on ABC Radio

Samuel Tadros is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC. He is an expert in minority persecution and the rise of Islamist movements across the Middle East. He recently spoke at a Luncheon club, and our monthly plenum. He is pictured here with from left Vic Alhadeff, Tavga Jelal, Paul Green MLC and Samuel Tadros.

Commemorations and celebrations with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

70th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Shanghai Ghetto

Over 200 members of the Jewish and Chinese communities, Chinese diplomats, members of NSW Parliament, mayors and local councillors, attended the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Shanghai Jewish Ghetto. Highlights included the personal testimonies of Professor Dan Yuan Tang and Mrs Gertie Jellenik and the recognition of all attendees who lived in Shanghai or are descended from those saved there. The event was co-hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, The Chinese Australian Forum, the Australian Chinese Community Association and the Chinese Australian Services Society. Photos: Giselle Haber Photography.

Haifa Day

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Hindu Council of Australia held their second annual joint commemoration of Haifa Day. Over 100 members of Sydney’s Indian and Jewish community’s attended, including Jewish Australians of Indian background and residents of Haifa. The event has an historical focus and builds on the strong relationship between Jewish and Indian people both in India and locally.


The Mitzvah of Remembrance

Holocaust remembrance program
KTC students, and Dasia Black-Gutman (centre)

Now in its fifth year, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ Holocaust-awareness program “Mitzvah of Memory” has reached 500 day school students of bar/bat mitzvah age.. The brainchild of North Shore Temple Emanuel Rabbi Gary Robuck, the program aims to introduce the Holocaust in a sensitive and age-appropriate way. The format includes a DVD followed by a presentation by a child survivor. Dasia Black-Gutman (front, centre) is pictured with Kesser Torah College students.