Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News
Compiled by Garry Fabian
Ex PM’s love for Israel still steadfast
MELBOURNE, 2 September – Formet Prime Minister
John Howard was among firm friends on Sunday night at Lincoln of Toorak, delivering the keynote address at a tribute dinner for Isi and Naomi Leibler.
Acknowledged by Isi as “the statesman who displayed the greatest support for Israel of the time”, the former Liberal prime minister gave some insights.
“It is true that in my time as prime minister I stuck up for Israel because I thought it was right to do so, because I thought the homeland established for the Jewish people is their right.
“It still amazes me how undeniably reluctant so many countries are to recognise the fundamental right of Israel to exist.”
The former PM was introduced by master of ceremonies Sam Lipski at a recent
community function as a public figure with “a Yiddishe kop [Jewish head on his shoulders]“, which he described as a talent for thinking laterally and never giving up.
Australia’s second-longest serving prime minister recalled spending time with the Leiblers at a 1988 concert in Melbourne honouring Soviet Refuseniks, who Isi helped take to Israel.
And in a nod to recent political developments, Howard lamented he could no longer call himself “immediate past prime minister”.
Then he turned to the guests of honour. Naomi was feted for her world presidency of Emunah, particularly its Neve Michael children’s village in Pardes Chana, and Isi won plaudits for decades of service to Australian and world Jewry and paid tribute to the couple as “two remarkable members of the world Jewish community”.
Earlier, Isi recalled his trip with the then Australian prime minister to Ramallah in 2000, when the Oslo Agreement still had currency.
Isi received an unwelcome embrace from Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, whom he had railed against throughout his years as the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s terrorist chieftain.
Afterwards, Isi had privately expressed scepticism to Howard about those peace overtures, and was struck by the Australian leader’s “principled approach and friendship”.
“I will never forget John Howard’s response,” said Isi, quoting the former Australian leader.
“‘If Arafat reneges on his commitment,’ he said, ‘the people of Israel and the Australian Jewish community should rest assured that I will not let them down’.”
Seven decades in the blue
MELBOURNE, 3 September – A book celebrating the history of Habonim Dror in Australia will be written to capture 70 years of memories from the Zionist youth movement. The initiative was announced at recent celebrations held to mark the movement’s seven decades.
Judy Becher, a former Habo leader, explained that the idea for the book was born at the celebrations when the microphone was passed around for people to share their stories.
“It was so clear that there were generations of Habo stories and memorabilia that are languishing around in the community,” she said. “A decision was made to write a book celebrating the history of Habonim in Australia, and capturing these wonderful memories that were bursting out of the audience.”
Hundreds of people involved with the movement over its 70 years packed Caulfield Town Hall recently, among them Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem, local Members of Parliament and Jewish leaders.
Master of ceremonies John Lawrence called on the audience to raise their hands if they had married someone from within the movement, with Becher saying that about half the people in the room responded.
Co-founder Shmuel Rosenkranz mentioned this achievement when he spoke about the movement, which he established together with Isaac Roseby and Gedalia Perl.
“He said he had always thought that it was important to have a place where kids could go to connect with their Jewish ideals and with Israel, and that was the the aim of the founders. But at that evening, when he heard stories of the marriages and multiple generations in families brought into existence by Habo, and was congratulated on the community he, in effect, established, he remarked that the development of
a community was something he had never thought of before,” Becher said, adding that he was “overwhelmingly touched” by the notion.
The 91-year-old community stalwart recounted stories about the movement and its origins. Many in the audience were also from this first Habo generation, enjoying the night with their grandchildren.
AJAX Reaches for the ultimate prize
MELBOURNE, 3 September – AJAX football Club has advanced to the second round of finals, courtesy of a resounding 11-goal win over Old Camberwell in the first semifinal 15.17 (107) to 6.5 (41) at Trevor Barker Oval on Sunday.
The Jackas put on a flawless display to brush aside the fourth-placed finisher, the likes of Warren Steinberg, Danny Weislitzer and Geoff Measey putting on a superlative display. The midfield returned to its attacking best with Ari Lewski winding back the clock, while Jake Lew and Jason Seidl provided plenty of options up
forward, kicking six majors between them. Ajax led the battle from the first siren, and will now face Beaumaris, which finished the regular season in second on the ladder, in a do-or-die preliminary final on Sunday.
Lew opened the scoring, thanks to a terrific assist from Jason Ritterman, and Eugene Routman quickly added another with a perfect left-foot snap. The Jackas controlled all the possession early and used the ball cleanly. Nick Marks converted from well outside 50, and Ajax might have streaked ahead further if not for some missed opportunities in front of goal. At the break, Ajax led by 15 points.
The Jackas lifted their work rate in the second term, kicking six unanswered goals in an excellent performance. Ben Hershan opened the floodgates with a great individual display, chasing, tackling and finishing truly. Lew slotted two for the quarter, and Ben Kalmus, Daniel Freed and Routman also added to the scoreboard, extending the lead to 59 points at the main break.
The midfield continued its dominance in the second half, winning most of the clearances and hitting up the forwards. Seidl took a couple of great contested marks, goaling twice from the boundary line, as Lew put through his fourth for
the day. Old Camberwell kicked two late majors, as the game began to heat up, with numerous scuffles breaking out around the ground.
The Jackas kept providing entertainment for the parochial crowd in the last quarter, Routman finishing off a great team play, and Freed roving a goal at full speed. Old Camberwell slotted late consolation goals, but tit was too little too late.
The Under-19s bowed out of their finals campaign, losing by seven goals to St Kevin’s, 6.7 (43) to 13.11 (89).
Stuart Fayman and Josh Berlinski attacked the footy hard all day, and Joel Gocs and Jesse Strauch put in solid performances in defence.
After putting through the opening two goals of the game through Matt Nissen and Michael Seltzer, St Kevins’ midfield started to get on top, kicking the next four. Josh Berlinski and Adam Caplan reduced the deficit in the second term, but at half time the margin was back out to four goals.
Richie Simons provided the only spark for the final term with a top mark and goal, as the side sank to a 46-point, season-ending loss.
Australia condemns West bank attacks
CANBERRA, 3 September – Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith used tough words to criticise this week’s Kiryat Arba terrorist attack.
“Can I condemn in the strong possible terms the brutal killings of four Israelis by terrorists in Hebron on 31 August,” he told journalists.
The Hamas military wing, the Kassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the gunfire attack on Route 60, which killed four people from the town of Beit Hagai.
Smith, who spoke in the context of Australia’s long-standing bipartisan approach to the Middle East peace process during the current local political limbo, said the attack was aimed at disrupting the path to peace.
“Australia welcomes very much the resumption of the peace process with direct talks between Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu and President [Mahmoud] Abbas, but we condemn absolutely the senseless slaying of four Israelis, including a pregnant woman.”
New plots at oldest cemetery
MELBOURNE, 6 September – It was a plot sell-out at the Melbourne General Cemetery last week, after 12 new grave sites were released to the Jewish community.
The $26,000 price tag did not deter keen purchasers, eager to follow family traditions and buy their place at the historic Carlton burial place.
“Victorian Jewry has a lot of history associated with the Carlton cemetery, it was heartwarming to see the response from our community, and we at the Melbourne Chevra Kadisha (MCK) were privileged to be able to facilitate the purchases,” MCK director Ephraim Finch stated.
MCK general manager Fred Grossman attributed the sell-out to the personal connection many purchasers had with the cemetery, having family members buried there or having lived in the Carlton area.
“People understood it was a scarce commodity, a once-in-their-lifetime opportunity,” Grossman said.
According to the MCK, enquiries are still being made with the Jewish burial society regarding the availability of plots at Carlton and other traditional cemeteries including Fawkner, Brighton and St Kilda.
The MCK received more calls than the 12 available plots and Grossman and Finch met with interested purchasers and took the opportunity to interview each to record their family histories in the MCK files.
“This is a unique service that we carry out for the Victorian Jewish community for all funerals we are associated with,” Grossman said, adding that Finch has been recording the community’s history for more than 25 years, including photographing numbered tattoos on Holocaust survivors upon their death.
The 12 plots were made available to the Jewish community after Carlton cemetery administrators made a small amount of extra space available in the Jewish sections. The Jewish burial sites were offered in a separate ballot to the general
community by arrangement between the MCK and Melbourne General Cemetery.
Wishing all readers of San Diego Jewish World a L’Shana Tovah, and well over the last. May the year ahead bring peace in Israel and Jewish communities around the globe. All the best from “Down Under”
San Diego Jewish World Australia Bureau Chief