German-Jewish Poster Exhibition

Survival and revival – Jews in Germany today

His Excellency The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of NSW

Dr Michael Abrahams-Sprod, Professor Konrad Kwiet, Dr Avril Alba, and guest

The German Consulate of Sydney joined with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and B’nai B’rith NSW to host the opening of a unique poster exhibition at the Shalom Institute highlighting the stories of Jewish people living in Germany today.

The exhibition comprises a series of posters – each one providing photographs, quotes and the biography of a diverse selection from Germany’s Jewish population. The poster subjects range from film-makers, writers, dancers and artists to rabbis, entrepreneurs and teachers.

Guest speakers: German Ambassador Dr Anna Elisabeth Prinz, B’nai B’rith NSW President Anna Marks OAM, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President Jeremy Spinak, German Consul General of Sydney Lothar Freischlader, NSW Governor General David John Hurley AC DSC and Dr Michael Abrahams-Sprod.

Photo Gallery (Giselle Haber photography)

Speech by NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President Jeremy Spinak

Opening of German-Jewish poster exhibition

Speech by NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President Jeremy Spinak 
Shalom Institute 15.06.2017

Your Excellency and distinguished guests.

It is a great pleasure to be here today representing the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies as we open an exhibit that looks to the future with hope and promise.

German Jewish history has always been fraught. Even before the 1930s. I remember one of the first essays I ever wrote at university was an attack on the so called German-Jewish Symbiosis that supposedly occurred during the years of the enlightenment.

I could not believe the naivety of those who thought such a symbiosis existed..couldn’t the German Jews see that their so called “dialogue” was always one sided….that they were never truly accepted… how tragic that they only awoke from this delusion after Hitler’s rise to power.

But the German-Jewish relationship has always been a complex one.

My polish grandmother not only refused to ever go to Germany, she wouldn’t even get on a plane that would fly over Germany.

But my German grandparents loved the country all their lives. They would return every year from the 1960s onwards for two months at a time. They still considered themselves German and my ailing grandfather, refusing to miss yearly trip, died in Baden Baden in the early 90s. I could never understand how they could have felt this way considering what happened to their family members who weren’t lucky enough to escape.

As the exhibition demonstrates, a new chapter is now being written in the complicated history of German-Jewish relations and it appears there is now so much to be hopeful about. 250,000 Jews freely living their lives in a welcoming and tolerant society that seeks to send a signal to the rest of the world that its history should serve as a warning about man’s capacity for wrong. Just yesterday Angela Merkel spoke at a Jewish synagogue in Argentina and noted that Germany’s past is a reminder of the need to fight against antisemitism and for freedom and democracy. She implored the international community to fight antisemitism where it is present.

This exhibition speaks of reconciliation, of lessons learned, of hope and it shows that it is possible to completely embrace a dark past while still striving for a bright future. The renaissance of Jewish culture in Germany is as moving as it is powerful. What better way to show that the Nazis failed than for berlin once again to become a hub of international Jewish life.

If I was to write that university essay again I would say that, unlike old times, today’s German-Jewish dialogue is no longer one sided, the Jews are not talking to themselves but to nation happy to receive their entreats. The exciting possibilities of the beginnings of a true partnership are there for all to see in this exhibit and we are very proud to be here today to join in its launch.

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.

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

Mixed messages


February 6, 2009

When the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz death camp on January 27, 1945, it made some chilling discoveries.

It discovered the ruins of blown-up gas chambers and crematoria, which Heinrich Himmler had ordered destroyed days earlier in order to conceal evidence of the grotesque crimes which the Nazis had committed there.

Continue reading Mixed messages