By Rabbi Dow Marmur
JERUSALEM–One of the arguments against electing Shimon Peres as President of the State of Israel was that he wouldn’t be above the fray, as is expected of a titular Head of State, but deep in it. However, after the embarrassment of his predecessor having to leave office before his time was up in ignominy because of the charges of rape and similar offences against him, a majority of the members of the Knesset, the body that elects a President, rightly decided that the country needed someone greatly respected in the international community who could be a worthy spokesman and dignified exponent of the Jewish state.
There is no individual who fits that description better than Shimon Peres. He has indeed been the best face Israel can have. But he has continued to play a part – or, as some would say, meddle – in foreign policy. This has been particularly necessary in the light of Yvet Lieberman being Foreign Minister.
But now Peres is reported to have things to say to and about the Prime Minister, too. In the light of the latter’s current bout of ominous and dangerous intransigence over Jerusalem (to paraphrase the Book of Genesis, “the voice is the voice of Bibi but the hands are the hands of Yvet”), the President has intervened.
He’s said to have made the wholesome distinction between the East Jerusalem of largely uninhabited publicly owned land, where new Jewish neighborhoods have been established since 1967 and where now more than 40% of Jewish Jerusalemites live, and Arab villages that now form part of the city and where the American millionaire Irving Moscowitz has bought land so that Jewish extremists can settle there. It’s to this unconscionable intrusion by fanatics that Peres seems to object. He knows, of course, that every Israeli government, irrespective of political color, has authorized building in the empty spaces but refrained from doing so in Arab neighborhoods.
The gang of which Netanyahu seems to have become the spokesman wants to build in Arab neighborhoods in order to preclude the possibility of that part of Jerusalem becoming the capital of the Palestinian state in a negotiated settlement. Peres, like most Israelis I know, realize that such a concession will be necessary if peace is to come. And like perhaps most Israelis, he seems to believe that it’s worth the sacrifice.
After all the politicians’ rhetoric it’s difficult for any of them to give up the idea of the “undivided and eternal capital of Israel,” but that’s one of the things they’ll have to do if they’re to return to the good books of the American administration. Peres may want to push them in that direction, even though formally his office is neither equipped nor entitled to do so. He may be breaking with protocol to help heal the country.
Though even I, critical of the right-wing government as I am, normally find the hard-hitting and sometimes outrageous columns by Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz difficult to take, he may have a point when he describes President Obama as Israel’s great friend, not the foe that he’s generally depicted in the media and in the street. For it’s only the kind of tough love that Obama is administering that can go beyond the rhetoric and move the politicians to act, even if they’ll have to limp to the finishing line.
Therefore, though we have good reason to raise our eyebrows at the President of Israel exceeding his mandate, we have every reason to be grateful to him, perhaps also to the President of the United States for creating the situation.
Rabbi Marmur is spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He divides his time between Canada and Israel
Harmony Day – A Celebration
SYDNEY, 26 March – A Holocaust survivor’s memoir about life in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, and
then in Australia, Lolli’s Apple, was launched as part of Harmony Day celebrations at the Art Gallery of NSW on Sunday.
Tomas Fleischmann said the book took him eight months to write after his family pestered him to put pen to paper.
“Because I was the first in my family to come to Australia in 1948, when I was only 10 years old,
my family kept telling me to write my story, so when I retired I thought I would do it just to shut them up,” he said laughing.
“I’m 71-years-old and I have 12 grandchildren so I guess if they all have children then one day
someone will want to read the story of how the family came to be in Australia.”
Fleischmann was born in Czechoslovakia and lived in a 50-room castle before he was taken to
Auschwitz with his father during the Holocaust.
At the Nazi death camp his father died, but he was moved to Theresienstadt.
National Council of Imams representative Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff and executive director commission for ecumenical and interfaith relations at the Archdiocese of Sydney Sister Giovanni Farquer spoke at the book launch.
Also to coincide with Harmony Day, B’nai B’rith announced the winner of its fifth Harmony Day Poster Competition on Tuesday.
The competition attracted more than 3000 entries from primary and high school students across NSW
and the theme this year was “Harmony we can make it happen”.
“The calibre of entries received this year was exceptionally high,” organiser and B’nai B’rith
stalwart Ernie Friedlander said. “We are delighted with the response and the obvious
commitment by Australian youth to embrace and promote harmony in their communities.”
An exhibition of the winning posters will be on display at the NSW State Parliament until 29
March 2010, followed by an exhibition at the Bowen Library in April.
Holocaust Academic – Where to now?
MELBOURNE, 22 March - While the act of survival is often examined in relation to the Holocaust,
the question of life immediately after liberation is a less discussed topic. But this was the
subject of the first panel session at Monash University’s Holocaust aftermath conference this
week. Chaired by author and son of survivors Arnold Zable, the keynote address was delivered
by Yad Vashem’s Dr Zeev Mankowitz on the topic: “Vohin – Whither Shall We Go?”
Dr Mankowitz looked at patterns of survivor migration and the pull of Zionism, with Israel regarded as “the answer to this notion of homelessness”. He also addressed the fact that many Western Europeans
returned to their homes after the Holocaust, truly believing they had the “chance to
reconstruct their lives and make a future in their former homes.” It was a very different
feeling to that experienced by their Eastern European counterparts. “How can I go back to the
land where every stone tells me of the blood of my brother and sister. How can you erect a
chuppah on our graves?” The author and academic added that whatever justifications survivors used
to settle in certain places, one thing was clear: “Survivors of the Holocaust, wherever they went
in the world, were always a constructive presence and never a burden, despite what they carried
Three speakers covering different aspects of the Holocaust followed Dr Mankowitz.Author and child survivor Diane Armstrong spoke about immigration and her personal journey with her parents to Australia. Armstrong said that a redeeming feature of many survivors was the fact that they embraced their new lives and countries, becoming a part of the community and were never
“held back by the desire to return home.”
“Instead of yearning for a past that had vanished, they turned to the future and their
future was here,” she explained.
Dr Paul Bartrop, an honorary fellow at Deakin University and head of history at Bialik College, spoke of
Australia’s immigration policies, while survivor Tuvia Lipson concluded the session with a
personal account of his journey from the Nazi camps to the Israeli army, fighting in the 1948
war, and eventually on to Australia. Mr Lipson joked that his reason for not going back to
Poland was simple. “When I went back after the war, I came across some men who yelled at me in
Polish, ‘You bloody Jew, you go to Palestine,’ so I listened to him and I went!”
Surfing champion apologises to Jewish community
Sydney 24 March – Two-time world champion surfer Mick Fanning has apologised to the Jewish
community for calling someone a ‘f***ing Jew’ after drinking too much at a private function. Fanning called NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) chief executive Vic Alhadeff this week to personally apologise to the community after the comments were published in off-beat surfing magazine, Stab. The eight-page article about Fanning featured the headline “Tales of a F***ing Jew” printed inside a Magen
David. Fanning, an ambassador for World Vision, was quoted in Stab after he met one of their
journalists at a Rip Curl victory party after his second world surfing championship victory. “He
called me and apologised for what he readily acknowledged was inappropriate language,”
Fanning’s mother Elizabeth Osborne said this week her son has been extremely distressed about the situation. “After he won the world title Rip Cup had a party at a house onthe beach and that started about 3pm,” said Osborne, who also manages her son. “Six hours later they had obviously been celebrating when the journalist was introduced to Mick, but Mick had always said he didn’t like how Stab magazine wrote off surfing.” She said it was during the conversation with that journalist that the
offending words were uttered. “He called him a f***ing Jew and he knows it was inappropriate,
but he was quite intoxicated and he is really upset and devastated that it happened.” She said
her son only realised he was speaking to a reporter the next day when he saw photos of the
party showing the man holding a recording device. Alhadeff said Fanning knew his words,
spoken during what he thought was a private conversation, were wrong and “he has apologised
without reservation”. “But the magazine deliberately exploited and inflamed the situation
by repeating Mr Fanning’s slur as a heading on eight pages,” the JBD CEO said. “The message
from this unfortunate saga is that such offensive language is never acceptable, and this has to be
made loud and clear.”
In a statement issued last week, Fanning accepted responsibility for his words. “I consider the article to be offensive and arguably designed to cause hurt and distress,” Fanning said, adding he had considered legal action against the magazine. He said that before this exchange, he had not spoken with Stab reporters because he considered the magazine’s articles to be “racist and anti-Semitic.”
“I strongly object to views, statements and comments of that nature,” he said. “I acknowledge that my
decision to use words that were inappropriate albeit in an attempt to be ironic, knowing they
were of the type favoured by the magazine was misjudged and wrong. “I don’t have or condone,
any form of racist or, more particularly, anti-Semitic view,” the surfer said. Fanning’s
quotes are not the first time the Jewish community has complained about Stab magazine. Last month, it published part of Sacha Baron Cohen’s satirical song ‘Throw Jews Down The Well” on its website.
Jewish Community submission on Race Hate Laws
MELBOURNE, 26 March - There is a need to revisit laws we already have, the Jewish community
believes. In a submission to the Victorian Government’s Hate Crimes Review, the Jewish
community has called for improved investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.
The community ants the police to set up a specific Hate Crimes Unit to respond to hate crimes and to train all plice so they understand when racial vilification has occurred. The submission, prepared by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, said the Jewish community recorded 101 cases of identity-motivated attack last year, most commonly in the formal of verbal abuse but also including missiles aimed at people walking to synagogues, graffiti, racial vilification and less commonly physical violence.
JCCV president John Searle said in some cases it was clear racial vilification had occurred but police were not prepared to act. “When we raise the possibility of action under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act what we hear from police is, ‘Let’s not go there’. Often it seems the ordinary copper on the beat does not even realise a crime has occurred.”
The Jewish Community submission also called for a third-party reporting system, so that victims could go to an organisation other than police to deal with racial abuse; the introduction of specific policing initiatives in vulnerable areas, improved police education and better data management.
Searle said minority communities who had been pleased when the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act was passed in 2001 were deeply disappointed that there had not been a single prosecution under the Act. But he said the Jewish community was pleased the Victorian Government had amended sentencing laws last year to ensure judges increased penalties when an attack was motivated by hate.
The submission recommends some additional legal changes, bringing racial vilification under the Crimes Act and introducing a civil remedy, so that individuals who suffer physical or psychological harm have some recourse. But Searle emphasised the key issues were not legal. “New legislation is not the answer. Appropriate legislation is already available; it is the resolve to use it and possibly the awareness of its existence that is the problem.”
Gersh Lazarow named new rabbi at Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue
MELBOURNE, 24 March – Following an “exhaustiveyear-long process,” Bentleigh Progressive
Synagogue (BPS) in suburban Melbourne has announced the appointment of Rabbi Gersh Lazarow
as its new rabbi. Currently a teacher at The King David School, he will take on the BPS role
in a part-time capacity, replacing Rabbi Aviva Kipen who resigned from the post in August 2008
after eight years.
“Having a person like Rabbi Lazarow leading us will make a real difference to our community,” BPS president Frank Moore said.
“He is a very vibrant person.” Moore said Rabbi Lazarow would continue the congregation’s strong
focus on pastoral care, and while his specific responsibilities had not yet been confirmed,
communal guidance would one of his central roles. “Rabbi Lazarow’s appointment means moving
on to our next step for our growth,” the president said. “We have grand plans for our little sanctuary. It is a vibrant and warm community, with a strong sense of family and a warm inclusive environment. Rabbi Lazarow understands that and is looking forward to being a part.”
King David principal Michele Bernshaw referred to the appointment as a “strategic
partnership” between the school and BPS. “The school has strong ties with Temple Beth Israel,
the Leo Baeck Centre and Kedem and seeks to enhance our relationship with BPS,” she said in a
statement. “The King David School, like each of the members of the Victorian Union for
Progressive Judaism [VUPJ], is keenly aware of the growing needs of young Jewish families in the
greater Bentleigh area and we look forward to sharing more news in the future about initiatives
and programs we will be launching together.”
Rabbi Lazarow took on the King David post in May last year after eight years studying
and working in the United States, where he was ordained as a rabbi. He completed two masters
degrees, one in Hebrew letters and the other in Jewish education, at the Hebrew Union College
Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles the same school at which he received his
s’micha. BPS has 158 family memberships and attracts 300 to 400 people on Jewish holidays.
The congregation has been led by VUPJ rabbis and lay leaders from the shul since Rabbi Kipen’s departure.
Sydney Kings back in major league
SYDNEY -The Sydney Kings have been officially readmitted into the National Basketball League
for the 2010-11 season after two years on the sidelines. The announcement on Wednesday (March
24) comes seven months after the death of former high-profile Kings owner Mike Wrublewski. Former
Kings player – and Australia’s most successful Jewish basketball player – Brad Rosen is part of
the consortium that hopes to guide the Kings to success.
“It’s been a long process we are just so happy that this has all worked out,” Rosen said. “We have had many meetings trying to get this over the line with a lot of people and it’s amazing to be able to say the Kings are back! “I grew up as a kid and all I wanted to do was play for the Sydney Kings and the club has had a lot of links to the Jewish community. “I want to be able to go to games and tell my kids, ‘that’s the team I played for’.” Rosen said it was sad that Wrublewski was not alive to see the return of the
Kings, which he was integral in starting in late 1980s. “I had a very special relationships with
him because he was one of my best mates’ father and he was also my boss. He will always be in our
thoughts. He is the true King of the Kings and there is no doubt that he will never be
Wrublewski’s son Adam attended the press conference on Wednesday when the announcement of the Kings return was made. Former executive chairman of Myer and senior executive of Woolworths Bill Wavish, former West Razor Backs chairman Bill Hudson and Sydney businessman Max Schroder are three of the key financial backers of the club. Former coach Bob Turner will be the CEO.
Honoring Righteous gentiles
MELBOURNE, 26 March – One of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s most sombre duties is its
annual event at Monash University remembering the Holocaust and its victims, thus searing its
terrible yet sacred memory into the consciousness of the Jewish and larger communities. This
year’s commemoration will be particularly special in that it will feature a representative of the
Australian Government presenting a Righteous Amongst the Nations Award to Leonarda Paszkudska
and her son August (both deceased). The Reward will be received on their behalf by August’s son
George and daughter Leonarda, both of whom now live in Bunbury, Western Australia.
In brief, the reasons for the Award are as follows: When August had realised that his schoolmate, a young Jewish woman named Renata Stam, was to be deported to the camps he convinced Nazi officials
that she was required for housekeeping duties. Mrs Paszkudska and August then hid Renata in their home in Lebov, Poland from 1942 to 1944.
Renata lived in the Paszkudska’s home, registered as their housekeeper under a
different name. Leonarda treated her as a family member without receiving anything in exchange.
August used to inform Renata’s father, who had stayed in the ghetto, about her situation until
Stam was sent to the concentration camps. This story had a fairy-tale ending when August and Renata married following the liberation of Poland in late 1944. In 2004 the Righteous Amongst the Nations committee decided to posthumously award Leonarda and August. Following August’s death, Renata had migrated to Western Australia in 1989 and died here in 2006.
As always, the JCCV’s Yom Hashoa commemoration will be a very meaningful and
Australia not expelling Israeli diplomats yet
CANBERRA, 26 March - The Rudd Government will not consider following Britain in expelling any
Israeli diplomats until the Australian Federal Police (AFP) concludes its report into the
alleged forgery of Australian passports. Speaking to ABC radio on Wednesday afternoon, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said there were no immediate plans to evict Israeli embassy staff, or take any other action.
“It is very important to take this step-by-step,” Smith said. The minister suggested the AFP report
would not be completed for at least a fortnight considering the involvement of forged Australian
passports in the Dubai assassination of Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was discovered two
weeks after the revelation British documentation had been used in the same incident.
“We have an investigation underfoot and we’ll wait for the results of that investigation.” A spokesperson from the Israeli Embassy in Canberra said they too were awaiting the results of the AFP
investigation before commenting any further. Early Wednesday morning, Australian time, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced that a member of the Israeli Embassy in Britain reported to be a London-based Mossad representative had been expelled. In addition, Miliband issued Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman with a letter “seeking a formal assurance from him that in the future the Stateof Israel would never be party to the misuse of British passports in such a way”. Britain also updated its travel advice for visitors to Israel to “make clear the potential risk, and to set out
the steps they can take to minimise that risk”, Miliband said.
In a speech to the British House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary said his country’s investigation into the passport fraud pointed to Israel’s culpability. “[The Serious Organised Crime Agency] were drawn to the conclusion that the passports used were copied from genuine British passports when handed over for inspection to individuals linked to Israel, either in Israel or in other countries. They
found no link to any other country,” Miliband said. “Given that this was a very sophisticated
operation in which high quality forgeries were made, the Government judges it is highly likely
that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service.”
The passports of four Australians living in Israel were revealed by Dubai police to have links to al-Mabhouh January assassination. Passports from other countries, including the UK, Ireland, France and Germany,were also implicated. Foreign Minister Smith reiterated that the passport holders were not involved in any way except as “innocent victims”
Wishing all readers and staff of San Diego Jewish World a happy, healthy josher and peaceful Pesach
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World