Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:
Preceding provided by the Anti-Defamation League
Compiled by Garry Fabian
The Zentai saga rolls on
PERTH 13 April – The Federal Court in Western Australia will next month begin hearing an appeal from Perth man Charles Zentai against his
extradition to Hungary to face war crimes charges.
The court has postponed the start of a judicial review into the case to April 27; it was supposed to begin last month. A review favourable to
Zentai is widely seen as his final opportunity to avoid extradition.
Earlier this month, lawyers representing Zentai and Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor met inFederal Court over the defendant’s right to see a full version of the documents used by O’Connor in reaching his decision to green-light the extradition.
Zentai is accused of playing a role in the murder of Peter Balazs, a young Budapest Jew who was beaten to death in November 1944.
Zentai, who was arrested in 2005 on a Hungarian warrant, denies the charges.
Remembering Six Million
MELBOURNE, 12 April – Commemorations for Yom Hashoah, Holocaust remembrance day, were held around Australia on Sunday, April 11 and Monday, April 12.
In Melbourne, survivors from the “Buchenwald boys” lit memorial candles at a memorial at
Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Hall.
Sydney’s Jewish community hosted a number of functions, including a name reading ceremony at
the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst. More than 300 people, including consul generals from
Germany, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Britain, Croatia and Romania, joined school
children, many of them from non-Jewish schools, at Sunday’s moving commemoration.
Moriah College hosted a Yom Hashoah event, with a keynote speech from Israel Embassy deputy Eli Yerushalmi, while Masada College had scheduled its own commemoration for Monday night.
Yom Hashoah memorials were also held in Perth, where Associate Professor Mark Baker was keynotespeaker, and in Canberra, where diplomats,politicians and representatives of various faiths
came together to remember the Holocaust.
Goodby to politics but not Jewish Community
SYDNEY, 12 April – After years of involvement, Malcolm Turnbull said his resignation as
Wentworth MP will not see him cut ties with the Jewish community.
Speaking the day after announcing he would not contest the next election, the former Liberal
leader called the local Jewish community “the heart and soul” of his electorate.
“I don’t intend to stop my association with the Jewish community just because I am out of
Parliament. I’ve loved my involvement at so many communal events and just having so many friends in the Jewish community.”
Using the new social medium Twitter, Turnbull announced on Tuesday he would not recontest the
inner-eastern Sydney seat come the next election.
The decision was made, he said, following his loss of the Liberal Party leadership to Tony
Abbott by one vote in December last year. The catalyst for that vote was the emissions trading
Bill, which Turnbull continues to strongly support, but which much of the Coalition opposes.
But he never had trouble keeping the Jewish community on his side even those who weren’t
Liberal voters held Turnbull in high esteem because of his commitment to the community.
It was Chanukah parties that Turnbull highlighted as some of the best memories during his time in
office. “I really enjoyed Chanukah celebrations, whether it was the event at Double Bay that Yanky
Berger does, or the Russian ceremony,” he said, adding he once gave a memorised speech in
Russian, which “amused some of the older attendees”.
One organisation that Turnbull has had a strong involvement with for the past three years is
Sydney’s Montefiore Home, where he is the ambassador.
This week, Montefiore vice-president Gary Inberg said he hoped Turnbull’s role as the home’s
“ambassador, supporter and friend” would continue. “Our residents are always delighted to
see Malcolm and we have enjoyed hosting him at the home on numerous occasions. It is a pleasure
and an honour to be associated with him,” Inberg said.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot also paid tribute to the politician.
“We regret, but understand, Mr Turnbull’s decision. He was a most effective advocate for a
variety of matters of concern for the Jewish community,” Goot said.
In terms of a successor, the Liberal Party has opened nominations for a new candidate to contest
the increasingly marginal seat.
A number of Jewish names have been suggested including party bigwigs Richard Shields and
Julian Leeser, as well as former Turnbull staffer Anthony Orkin and current local councillor
Anthony Boskovitz. The vote is expected to be held within a month.
Turnbull weighed in on the speculation of his successor, but in a non-partisan way.
“People often assume, in a somewhat patronising way, that the Jewish community will always vote
for a Jewish candidate. I think there are a lot of people in the Jewish community who would make
great candidates for Parliament, but ultimately it is the quality of the candidate that matters,” he said
Push for closer diplomatic ties
CANBERRA, 13 April – Ronen Plot, director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Public Diplomacy and
Diaspora Affairs, was in Australia this week in what is seen as part of a larger effort to
cultivate a better relationship between the local community and the Jewish State.
The director-general, who also spent time liaising with Jewish community leaders in Hong
Kong and New Zealand as part of his regional sweep, said that his trip had a dual purpose: as
a fact-finding mission to learn more about Diaspora communities and develop a working
relationship with their leadership, while also looking for opportunities for new collaborative
projects in education and other spheres.
Speaking in Hebrew, Plot said that his visit was considered essential in order to carry out the mission of his department.
“You can’t have a situation where you have an office of Diaspora affairs and run it exclusively
from Israel,” Plot said. “It’s extremely important to meet and get to know people in the
Diaspora communities themselves.”
Dr Ron Weiser, past president of the Zionist Federation of Australia and current committee
member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, was one of the many communal officials
who met with Plot during his Pesach visit.
Dr Weiser said that Plot’s visit represents the beginning of a long-term process to change the
relationship between Jerusalem and the Diaspora. He recalled the words of former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a speech to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. “[Olmert] said, for the past
60 years, Israel has been the project of the Jewish people. For the next 60 years, the Jewish
people will need to be the joint project of Israel and Jewish communities around the world.”
The current visit is the latest step in that process, Dr Weiser said.Plot dismissed speculation that his trip had any connection to recent allegations that Israel had forged Australian passports.
His visit, he said, was planned well in advance of the scandal and had very clear objectives far
removed from such controversies.
Plot added that, at any rate, there has been no proven link between Israel and the forgeries.
In related news, Plot could not confirm the accuracy of a report in The Jerusalem Post last
Thursday that PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief Ari Harow may accept the position of
deputy director-general of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.
Passport report in, but no action to date
CANBERRA, 15 April – Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has said he will not rush his response to
an Australian Federal Police (AFP) report into the alleged misuse of four Australian passports
in the assassination of Hamas terror chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh .
The AFP investigation, which saw three officers travel to Israel, was completed recently, with
Smith receiving the findings last Friday. The Foreign Minister said he had looked at the
report, but was not ready to make any decisions.
“I haven’t yet had the opportunity of very carefully considering that, but it’s clear from a
preliminary assessment of that report that I need to get further advice and see further work and
have further discussion with other agencies,” he told Channel Nine.
He said he would be discussing the report with Australia’s two premier security agencies the
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service before making any decisions.
“When that work has been done, and I’ve had the chance to fully consider, not just the AFP
report, but also that further work and advice from other agencies, then I’ll make the detail of
the government’s deliberations about this matter public.”
Responding to whether the Australian investigation was taking too long, Smith said he
wanted to be sure of the facts.
“I need further work done by our intelligence agencies and I’m going to get this right rather
than rush it in any way. It’s a very important issue. It has very significant ramifications for
use of passports and our relationships with a number of countries, and I’m not proposing to be
rushed. I want the exhaustive work to be done carefully and properly.”
The investigation was launched in late February after forged passports in the names of
Australian-born Israelis were discovered by Dubai police. Fingers were pointed at Israel’s Mossad
secret service, with Smith calling Israel’s Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem to Parliament
for an explanation and asking for his cooperation.
Last month, Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat after completing its own investigation into
forged passports in the names of British-born Israelis
Rabbis reach out to youth
MELBOURNE, 15 April – Local Orthodox rabbis are this week launching a range of programs in a bid
to relate better to younger Jews and to become more professional.
Tonight (Thursday), the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) will unveil a number of projects
at a gala reception in the presence of Victorian Government ministers, community dignitaries and young people.
Speaking in the lead-up to the event, RCV president Rabbi Yaakov Glasman said the rabbis
are hoping to offer their expertise to the community in different ways.
“The RCV hopes to work in collaboration with other communal organisations and believes the
Victorian rabbinate has a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer the Jewish, and indeed, wider community,” the North Eastern Jewish Centre rabbi said.
One way it hopes to do this is through the “Mashpia” or mentoring program, which will link rabbis with young Jews.
“The purpose of this initiative is to encourage young Jewish adults, particularly in their latter
formative teenage years, to feel comfortable thinking and speaking about matters relating to
spirituality and religion, which some may feel naturally inhibited to do because of societal norms and expectations,” he said.
Those older than school age will also be catered for, with Rabbi Glasman hinting at a program that
will help young adults entering the workforce find a place in their busy lives for religion.
Some of the community’s most prominent businessmen are being engaged to assist.
The other area the RCV is pushing into is professional development. “We want to be
professional, we don’t want rabbis to deal with crises en route,” the president said.
These initiatives are currently being sponsored by the Victorian Multicultural Commission, but
Rabbi Glasman said the community will also be called upon to assist.
“We want communal donors to recognise that investing in the rabbinate is worthwhile.”
Limmud Oz back for another year
MELBOURNE, 15 April – Planning for Limmud Oz, the festival of Jewish learning and culture, is
currently underway, with the conference returning to Melbourne for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June.
Held annually this year over three days Limmud Oz gives participants an opportunity to
engage with and learn topics of Jewish interest.
“It will take you another step further in your Jewish journey,” Limmud Oz committee member
Sylvia Urbach said. “It will have some appeal to all people regarding any aspect of Jewish life
and Jewish thought ever considered.”
A host of international presenters are already on board, including executive director of the Israel
Religious Action Centre and Women of the Wall participant Anat Hoffman, Israeli professor of
political studies Efraim Inbar and Dr Aaron Rosen, a research fellow in Jewish history and culture at Oxford University.
Diverse local speakers will also feature on a broad range of topics including Adam Goodvach’s
analysis of Australia’s closest neighbour Indonesia, Victor Majzner talking about art and a
discussion with Lionel Sharpe, one of the community’s foremost genealogists.
“There is a wide array of Jewish topics and speakers from religious to secular in every way,
shape or form,” Urbach said. “What’s important is that it is non-denominational and inclusive, with
subjects and speakers relevant to all Jews.”
Artistic memlories of a bleak place
Detail from the Jewish Museum of Australia’s newest exhibition.
Detail from the Jewish Museum of Australia’s
newest exhibition. Photo: Peter Haskin
MELBOURNE’– Jewish Museum of Australia launched its latest exhibition, titled Theresienstadt:
Drawn From the Inside, last week in the presence of MPs including Victorian Arts Minister Peter Batchelor.
More than 20 years ago, Holocaust survivor Regina Schwarz donated a battered suitcase containing 142 watercolours and drawings created in the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt by her husband Paul and fellow artist Leo Lowit.
The rare collection of artworks was exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Australia in 1990, but has
remained in the museum archives since then.
A year ago curator Mera Brooks started sorting through the collection to select 90 works for the museum’s latest exhibition.
Paul and Regina Schwarz and Leo and Jindriska Lowit arrived in Theresienstadt in December 1941,
among 6000 Jews who arrived at the camp by rail transport from Prague that month. Paul, Leo and Jindriska were killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. Regina survived Auschwitz and settled in
Melbourne after World War II where she died in 1987.
The Theresienstadt: Drawn From the Inside exhibition is at the Jewish Museum of Australia
from April 11 until March 13, 2011.
Nonagenarian still an active athlete
MELBOURNE, 19 April–90 years young and still as active as ever – Simon Shinberg, you are an inspiration! When ‘Friend of Maccabi’, Simon Shinberg called the office this week to RSVP to the upcoming Friends of Maccabi Luncheon, he told me that he was very much looking forward to hearing motivational Special Guest Speaker, Brian Rabinowitz, as Brian was Simon’s Spinning
instructor! I had to find out more…..
Simon Shinberg not only takes 45 minute Spinning classes 4 days a week, he also does a couple of
hours of gym 4 times a week too!
Simon has been involved in sport for as long as he can remember. He was a member of the first
AJAX Athletics Club, focussing on sprints, high jump and shotput. He represented Victoria at both
the 1937/38 Carnival in Melbourne and the 1938/39 Carnival in Sydney, where he won the High
Jump. He also played soccer for Hakoah when he was 18 years old.
During the many years of running his successful clothing manufacturing business, Simon went for a
run at 6am every morning, keeping him energised for the remainder of the day.
And Simon has no plans to slow down now, saying that keeping active and his wonderful friends
both from Maccabi & other walks of life is what keeps him going each day. Simon Shinberg, you are an inspiration!
Agitating for change at Yeshivah
MELBOURNE, 19 April - Yeshivah Centre members in Melbourne have called for more democracy in the 52-year-old organisation after accusations the facility’s dayan, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Telsner, censored their newsletter.
The Pesach edition of the publication included three articles discussing the value of removing
or retaining the controversial “Yechi” sign on the wall of the main shul. But by the end of
Pesach, the two pieces calling for a vote on its presence had been deleted from electronic and paper copies. When asked for confirmation, Rabbi Telsner said he knew “nothing about it”.
However, in a letter to Rabbi Telsner, congregant David Werdiger claims that during a discussion
they had had, the dayan admitted that he had instructed their removal.
Werdiger said he objected to the censorship and would, after 40 years, stop praying at the main
Yeshivah shul. “It is sad and ironic that this has happened in our community, many of whose
founders lived under an oppressive regime in Soviet Russia where there was a standard method
for dealing with dissent,” Werdiger said.
The sign, according to an article by YeshivahGedolah head Rabbi Binyomin Cohen, implies that
the late Lubavitcher Rebbe is the messiah and that he never really passed away.
Despite the sign being up for some years, its presence came to the fore in January when Rabbi
Telsner excised a small group of people – the “Moshiach Men” – from the community.
A number of Yeshivah members called for the sign to be removed, claiming it was divisive and
promoted disharmony. Despite securing more than 100 signatures, Rabbi Telsner and the va’ad
ruchni, or committee, ignored the request.
Articles in the recent newsletter continued the debate about the Yechi sign. In the piece that
was retained, Rabbi Cohen argued in favour of leaving the sign because that is what the late
Yeshivah director, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, wanted.
“There should be enough room for all of us, and no-one should feel that his emunah [faith] is
going to be somehow compromised by davvening [praying] together with another Jew who sees
things very differently,” Rabbi Cohen wrote.
Another congregant and one of the organisers of the petition, Yudi New, argued in the original
newsletter that the shul was alienating members of the Jewish community, against its own
philosophy. He called the sign a “slogan” and said there was no room for slogans in a place of
worship, adding its benefits had not been made clear.
On a more general note, New implored the centre’s leadership to welcome mature debate among
members. “Whatever course the leadership and community charters, we must concede that Yeshivah has become a shell of its former self.”
Another member, Pinchas Henenberg, also had his say before the newsletter was censored. “The
issue is not going to go away by itself – responding ‘no comment’ to the public and
instructing mispallelim [congregants] to ‘listen to your leaders and put aside your own thoughts
and concerns’ simply exacerbates the issue,” he wrote, before calling for a public members vote.
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World