Compiled by Garry Fabian
Jewish congregation prepares to sue New Zealand government over shechita
AUCKLAND, New Zealand, 23 July 2010 (Press Release)–The Working Group on shechita of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation has tried to engage further with theMinister of Agriculture.
The Minister is firm in his resolve to preserve his position, which does not give the Jewishcommunity a secure continuing supply of kosher meat, and only offered an unacceptable short term option. Accordingly agreement could not be reached. This is disappointing and has meant turning to progress the work on a legal action.
A leading law firm has been engaged and has prepared draft proceedings. These are currently being reviewed by a QC and a final decision will
be made following receipt of his advice.
Resources are being put in place to fund this course of action. We will continue to keep you informed of progress.
Garth Cohen, Michael Stiassny, Geoff Levy respectively, President AHC, Chair AHCTB, Chair NZJC
B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand has taken a lead donating A$ 5000 to the New Zealand Jewish Community to assist in financing the legal challenge, which is estimated to costs in excess of NZ$350,000
Israel a marker in Australian elections
SYDNEY, 28 July - Malcolm Turnbull reaffirmed his “unequivocal support” for Israel at a New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies plenum on Tuesday night.
Turnbull, the incumbent, presented his credentials for the upcoming federal election, alongside his fellow candidates in Wentworth, the ALP’s Steven Lewis and the Greens’ Matthew Robertson.
The men did not debate each other, rather each was given an opportunity to address the gathering, which also included a question and answer session.
Turnbull said there may be occasions when “we may not agree with the tactics” of the IDF, but stressed there was a big distinction between the
strategic issues Israel faces and tactics used by the IDF.
“It is not realistic for us sitting here in Sydney in the safety of Australia to try and second guess and critique how the IDF handles a particular mission,” he said.
“Where Israel needs our support is in the fundamental strategic question, and that is in ensuring that Israel’s security is protected.”
Turnbull slammed the Rudd-Gillard Government’s record on Israel, singling out Australia’s abstention at a United Nations vote on war crimes in Gaza.
Turning his attention to local issues, Turnbull criticised Labor for its failure to introduce an emissions trading scheme, its bungled insulation program and “the billions wasted” in the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program.
In response, Lewis outlined the many benefits that the BER brought to Sydney’s Jewish schools, while defending the Labor Party’s record on Israel.
“The Australian Labor Party has been and remains a friend and strong ally of Israel,” he said, pointing out Australia diplomat “Doc” Evatt’s role in the establishment of Israel and the Government’s resolution last year in
congratulating Israel on its 60th anniversary.
Lewis also pointed out Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s efforts, as education minister, in getting Holocaust studies included in the draft national school curriculum.
He warned the meeting that a vote for Turnbull was really a vote for Abbott. “I have a genuine fear that this country, led by Tony Abbott, will take a path down a conservative road that will not be in the interest of all of us,” he said. “I ask that you vote for me and ensure that Julia Gillard can return and continue the good work that she has started.”
Greens candidate Matthew Robertson expressed his gratitude at being given the opportunity toaddress the forum before outlining the need for
“urgent action” on climate change.
Conspicuously, Robertson did not mention Israel. When asked during question time about the Greens’ policy in light of their frequent criticism of
Israel, Robertson said the Greens supported “the right of the Israeli people to live within safe and secure UN-mandated borders”.
“The Greens take support from the core principle of peace and nonviolence, and we wish to see a safe and secure resolution to the conflict in the Middle East,” he said
Jewish Veterans at mainstream venue
MELBOURNE, 29 July - Victoria’s Jewish ex-servicemen and women will find their diaries filling quickly, as the organisation representing
them tries for a new lease on life.
To set the ball rolling, the Victorian Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (VAJEX) is planning its first ever military “pilgrimage” service at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance on August 1.
“It’s to commemorate the Jewish dead who fell in war. The thinking is that VAJEX, in its 81 years, has never, as far as we know, had a service at
the Shrine. We’ve taken a step forward with this, and it has been in the planning for a year,” VAJEX president Ben Hirsh told The AJN.
Addressing the initiatives that will hopefully inject new vigour into the association, Hirsh said: “To keep going, we’ve changed the rules to
admit non-service members, and we’re hoping many more who had relatives in the forces will join. It’s to keep alive a Jewish organisation that’s being going since 1929.”
The service will feature a shofar-blowing ceremony by Rabbi Phillip Heilbrunn, and will include VAJEX patron Major General Jeffrey
Rosenfeld and chaplain Rabbi Dovid Gutnick. The gathering will take place beneath a VAJEX flag, which will fly from dawn to sundown, and the organisation’s banner.
Other events planned in the coming months include a commemoration at the graveside of Sergeant Issy Smith of the Imperial Army’s Manchester Regiment in Fawkner Cemetery on September 12, and a gathering at Brighton Cemetery on October 8 to honour the memory of Australia’s greatest
military figure, Sir John Monash, 79 years after his death.
The organisation will also be taking part in the annual Monash commemoration at State Parliament on August 6.
Church vs State
CANBERRA, 30 July – As the roof body of Australian churches urges its members to consider A boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements,
tensions have flared between Christian and Jewish leaders. Are interfaith relations heading to a new low?
Australia’s roof Christian body is urging Australian churches to boycott goods produced by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The motion, which also calls for a end to the blockade of Gaza, was passed by the National Council of
Churches in Australia (NCAA) in Canberra last week. Affirming the solidarity of the NCAA with Palestinian Christians, the resolution states that the NCAA will advocate and act for the end of the occupation of the Palestinian people.
It also “calls on the member-churches of the NCAA and the wider Australian community to consider a boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements
in the occupied Palestinian territories”.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) president Robert Goot said in a letter to the NCAA that the motion came “as a complete and most unpleasant surprise.”
“We feel that we have been badly let down by people we have long thought as our friends”, Goot said. ECAJ vice-president and president of the ACT Jewish Community, Dr Anita Shroot had addressed the forum on behalf of the ECAJ. “I felt welcomed when I was there and then I was shocked and reeling when I got a note from Robert about what happened”, she said. “Frankly I have
quite a few real friends who were there, but there is obviously an element that swung the motion”.
NCAA general secretary Reverend Tara Curlewis said this motion does not mean the NCAA supports theboycott. “We were asked to consider this by the
heads of the churches of the Middle East, so we are asking our churches to consider the proposal by looking at the positives and negatives of it”, Rev Curlewis said.
The Australian Christians Supporting Israel is one organisation that was not happy with the motion.
Opposition Leader criticises Government policy on Israel
MELBOURNE, 30 July - Speaking at an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Melbourne lastt week Opposition Leader Tony
Abbott took the opportunity to criticise the Rudd-Gillard Government’s record towards Israel.
“I have to say that it’s a little disappointing, given the deep affinity between the Australian people and the Israeli people that the current Australian Government has somewhat weakened our longstanding bipartisanship on Israel,” Abbott said before the crowd of more than 1000 businesspeople and Liberal Party faithful.
“I want to reiterate here today, the Coalition’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and I want to assure you that a Coalition government
would never support a one-sided United Nations resolution against Israel to curry favour with an anti-Israel majority in the General Assembly,” he said.
He continued: “And we would never overreact to any international incident, because we appreciate that Israel is under existential threat in a way
that almost no other country in the world is.”
He told guests, including dozens of the nation’s finest journalists, who were following Abbott’s campaign trail, that Australia needs to appreciate that “a diminished Israel diminishes the West”.
The Opposition Leader also used the opportunity to pay tribute to the achievements of the local Jewish community. He commented that Australia is
the only country in the world, apart from Israel, where Jewish people have occupied the highest offices, including as the governor-general.
Among guests at the Crown Casino lunch were Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, Shadow Minister for Finance Andrew Robb, Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu and former treasurer Peter Costello.
Costello, who travelled with Julia Gillard to Israel last year for the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, delivered the vote of thanks, endorsing his former cabinet colleague’s tilt at the top job.
“Tony Abbott is a man of commitment and a man of drive,” Costello said. “I know he was party of a very successful government, I don’t know that about Julia Gillard.”
Major boost for school security
CANBERRA, 2 August – The $20 million fund for school security has been topped up with another $15 million, much of it likely to be given to Jewish schools.
Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor announced the program extension at Melbourne’s Beth Rivkah Ladies College on Tuesday.
Joining him for the announcement were ALP incumbent in Melbourne Ports Michael Danby, and fellow Jewish Labor MP Mark Dreyfus, who is re-contesting the seat of Isaacs.
The announcement received bipartisan support, ensuring it would be a done deal whoever becomes prime minister.
“The Government must intervene where necessary to assist schools that have more danger or more risk associated with them,” O’Connor told a school
assembly of senior Beth Rivkah girls. “It ensures that those schools are able to dedicate more resources to the primary purpose of education.”
A Liberal party spokesperson confirmed that a formal announcement regarding its own promise will be made by the Coalition in coming weeks.
Like the previous rounds of funding distributed over the past two years, the program will continue to support those schools at risk of racist or religiously motivated attacks.
“This will allow our schools to use education funding for education purposes,” co-chair of the Australian Council for Jewish Schools Nechama Bendet told the minister. For Jewish schools, she emphasised, spending money on protecting students was “not as a matter of a choice, but of necessity”.
Danby personally thanked the minister for his assistance and praised his party for its commitment to education.
“Brendan, I really appreciate the seriousness with which you and your advisers address this issue,” he remarked.
“If you were looking objectively at the amount of resources either in building classrooms, beautifying playgrounds, funding for some of these schools that didn’t get their correct allocation, like Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah, or
programs like the security funding, you’d have to say this was a golden period of government support for all schools in Australia, including Jewish schools.”
Dreyfus commented that a week earlier had been the anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina, which killed 85 people in 1994.
“I wish that had never happened, but having been to Buenos Aires since then, I can say that I don’t want to see in Australia the kind of security arrangements that every single communal facility – every school, every synagogue, everymeeting place – of that very large Jewish community has, I never want to see that in Australia.
“One way in which we can deal with that is the kind of additional expenditure met by the Government for security arrangements in our schools.”
Habonim celebrates seven decades
MELBOURNE–Habonim Dror will commemorate 70 years in Australia next month with celebrations planned for Melbourne and Sydney.
Melbourne’s reunion event at the Glen Eira Town Hall on August 7 will feature a show and light supper, while Sydney will be treated to dinner
and dancing on August 28 at a yet-to-be-decided venue.
Melbourne organiser Robyn Davis said the event is for people who have attended Habonim anywhere in the world.
“It will be an opportunity for all past members of Habonim to get together, talk, dance, celebrate and talk about their time at Habonim,” she said. “It’s a very special event to signify the role that Habonim [has] played within the
Jewish community – it also has demonstrated that it has been a community in itself.”
Head of Sydney’s Parents and Friends of Habonim Peter Royal said the initial venue chosen for the gala reunion is now too small.
“We have been bowled over by the level of response from people,” he said.
He said around 300 people are expected to attend, adding that absolutely anyone who has been involved with Habonim worldwide, including in
South Africa and South America are welcome to join the celebration.
“The idea is to try and have anyone who had any association with the movement participate in the Habonim 70th, to have a fun time and to get
together, and get to know other people who were in the past movement or in the present movement,” he said.
Royal said it is important for all Jewish children to belong to a youth movement, whether or not it is Habonim.
“The whole idea is synagogues give you a reason for why you’re Jewish, schools teach you the history of the Jewish people and the youth
movements teach you how to have fun and be proud to be Jewish.”
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World
Since 1854: A Noted Historian Views American Jewry’s Last Century
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 17, 1954, pages 6, 7
By Dr Salo W. Baron, president, American Jewish Historical Society
When one looks back on the past 100 years, one finds that that period started as a period of divisiveness in the American Jewish community. We were an internally divided community—a community divided by groups—and as time went on the divisions increased rather than diminished.
That was not always so. Most of the 300 years that we have been in this country we had been a united community. Up to the Revolution and into the 19th century every city which had a Jewish community had one congregation only. Even New York, the oldest of the3m which now celebrates its 300th anniversary, did not have a second congregation until 1825. In other words, for nearly 175 years—or 171 years, anyway – there was only one congregation and any Jew belonging to a congregation at all belonged to the Spanish-Portuguese group and there were no divisions.,
It is a matter of record that when the Spanish-Portuguese congregation in New York built its first structure, its first synagogue—back in 1730—the majority of the members were already Ashkenazim, German and Polish Jews, even though the ritual was Sephardic.
This went on until, in the 19th century, there began a division between Spanish-Portuguese and German communities. It was then we began having more and more communal groups. This was the period of division; between Sephardic and Ashkenazic; between the German Jews, coming in the first part of the 19th century and the East European Jews; divisions between the Russian Jews and Polish Jews; Rumanian Jews and Hungarian Jews – and what not.
These divisions, at the beginning of this century, assumed an almost catastrophic character. It is unbelievable when we hear it today, but it was true, that for a Russian Jew to marry a Galician Jewess—or vice versa—amounted almost to intermarriage.
What is even more tragic is that you needed, at that time, an FEPC among Jews, because one group of Jews discriminated, on principle, in employment – certainly in communal employment, but even in private employ8ment—against Jews of another country of origin. What made it even more tragic is the fact that these divisions were so artificial and devoid of historic background.
It is true the Sephardim and Ashkenazim have been divided for a thousand years. There are distinct Sephardic rituals and Ashkenazic rituals and the differences, right or wrong, are explainable on grounds of principle. But the divisions between German Jews, Polish Jews and Russian Jews are artificial divisions only a few generations old.
To be sure, there were vital differences between orthodoxy and reform and conservatism. There were differences between religious Jews and non-religious or even unthinking religious Jews. Those differences were not artificial. Those were based upon ideology, upon conviction, upon belief or disbelief.
The divisiveness of the late 19th century—or orthodoxy, militant orthodoxy, soon militant reform and before very long, militant Zionism and militant anti-Zionism—all are based on ideology. That divisiveness was fully justified—but it was here that this community became a house divided against itself. Early in the century it looked as if people couldn’t get together around one table.
It is against this background that we can understand the great services rendered by the Jewish Community Center movement which started exactly a century ago. There were antecedents to it a few years earlier. Those German Jews who were coming here in the 1830’s and 1840’s came from a country and area in Europe which still deserved at that time – unfortunately not much longer thereafter – the name of a nation of poets and thinkers. When they arrived in this country they found that the civilization was not as high as it was in the country which they left. But they realized that was only a temporary shortcoming and that this country was making great strides forward. They were looking forward to the next generation or two in which America would far outstrip the old lands of Europe in its cultural achievements and its civilization.
It was that group of German Jewish immigrants who organized back in 1850—even before ’54—the first “Young Men’s Hebrew Literary Association.” It was founded in Philadelphia in 1850. The first Young Men’s Christian Association was established late in 1851—a whole year later! The name is not borrowed from the Christian group, but, if you want to say so, the Christians borrowed it from the Jews – although the connection is not fully established.,
But it was a literary association – to read books. Social contacts were outlawed. You couldn’t dance in the quarters of such a society, for example, and certainly you couldn’t gamble. In 1854, however, came the first regular YMHA and its principle was – let’s get together on an informal basis regardless of ideology, regardless of economic or social background, regardless of whether they were Orthodox, Reform, German, Galician or anything else. It was thought “Jews should get together.” They should cultivate their social contacts, cultivate an informal type of education and bridge the chasms which existed between one group and another.
It is difficult for us to imagine how vital a function such a Jewish Center performed in that sharply divided community. No other placed served as such a neutral meeting ground for Jews of all groups.
This informal type of Jewish meeting ground, this informal type of adult and adolescent education was a distinct American contribution. It is one of those forms of American Jewish pioneering which covers many areas in American life.
Here was a disorganized community, a militantly divided community which needed a neutral meeting place. They explored the new possibilities and found the answer in the Jewish Community Center movement. That Center movement grew into such tremendous proportions that it now has not only 350 groups in this country but is spreading into the Old World. Even Jerusalem is now building a Jewish Center! I was in Johannesburg a few years ago and they were deeply involved in planning for a Jewish Center. In other words, a purely American pattern has been taken over and adjusted to local needs in different communities because it is an advanced form of Jewish co-existence—of Jewish communal cooperation – which meets the needs of emancipators everywhere. Has the Jewish Community Center already fulfilled all its historic functions or can it look forward to a second century of great contribution? There is no question in my mind that the American Jewish community has grown more and more cohesive in the last generation.
With the stoppage of immigration in 1924—with a trickle thereafter – the vast majority of American Jews now living in this country have been born and bred here. For the first time in a century and a quarter, this is an American-born generation, a generation which has gone through two world wars—together with its non-Jewish fellow citizens. It is a generation which went through American schools, American theatre, movies, sports. That generation has forgotten much of those old divisive lines of the Old World.
They are not so much interested in ancestry. They are not so much interested even in the old type of ideologies. There is, of course, a difference between Orthodox and Reform today, too, but even the Orthodox is more and more an American type of Orthodoxy. Reform has its particular American coloring and its German origin is n longer in its bones. In this American community the divisive forces have been losing ground, whereas the uniting forces have been gaining from year to year.
An additional element of cohesion has been the fact of Jewry being under attack in the last twenty years or more. Unfortunately, it is true that anti-Semitism has often helped cement Jewish unity. Under pressure from the outside Jews often united – and they had been divided without that pressure. Certainly, Hitler united this American Jewish community more than any individual factor could have.
Whatever the reason, here is a much more united cohesive community, however, which is still searching for its rationale –for its peculiar characteristics. We are in greatest need, practically as well as ideologically of developing a real feeling for the American Jewish heritage.
Until now we have been accustomed to being nurtured I our thinking by ideologies developed elsewhere. The orthodoxy that came to this country was either the East European type or the Frankfurt type. Reform was a direct continuation of Geiger and Holdheim, with minor variations – or for a long time Zionism was, of course, the Zionism of Pinsker, Hess, Nordau, Smolenskin, Ahad Haam and Herzl, with some minor modifications. Even our Jewish Socialism was an importation from the outside.
We have been much too long nurtured in our lifeblood by a perennial stream from the Old World but with relatively few creative additions of our own. In this united community the need of cultivating an American Jewish heritage has become increasingly imperative, particularly with the stoppage of immigration, the destruction of the great centers of Jewish learning and thinking in the Old World and the rise of the State of Israel. Because it is a state and a nation, Israel has, by its very nature, a different approach to life, a different approach to culture, and a different approach to language. Hebrew is a daily language there.
In order to preserve their identity in a fruitful, creative way, American Jews must develop something new. Because of that, it is doubly imperative for them to try to reconstruct their own great heritage. The failure of our ancestors to preserve records, the failure of scholars for generations to keep that heritage alive is, therefore, not merely a matter to be deplored by some specialists or scholars. It is a vital concern to the community at large.
The JWB was and is on the right track when it developed such peculiar institutions as Jewish Book Month, Jewish Music Month, Jewish History Week-=-with emphasis on American Jewish history – when it is cultivating that heritage creatively, beneficently for a future community which, I for one, believe may yet achieve creative compound of American and Jewish culture – of an American Jewish culture which may rival and perhaps even outshine some day the great creative cultures of Hellenistic Alexandria or the golden age of Spain.
“Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history. To find stories on specific individuals or organizations, type their names in our search box.
By Franklin Gaylis
SAN DIEGO — Several thousand years of Jewish history has been extremely well documented. What about our personal family’s history over the past few hundred years?
This is the question I asked myself when our children were born in the USA after my wife Jean, and I emigrated in 1982 from South Africa. Suddenly the importance of knowing our family’s history became a priority in my life. A visit to the Kotel in Jerusalem made me think more about our family’s history in the diaspora, over the past 2000 years. That is when the following questions evolved:
Where did the family live prior to their emigration to South Africa? How did they get to South Africa? Who came first and why? What would I tell our children about their family’s past?
I knew so little, however, I quickly learned that most of my family, even the seniors whom I questioned, knew little more than I did.
All that was known were a few names of the shtetls in Lithuania and Latvia where our family had once lived. My grandmother’s sister, Aunti Cilla, attempted in vain when I was a young medical student to tell me the family’s history in Lithuania. The memories of how she had saved her sisters from the eventual annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry suddenly resurfaced in my mind. This amazing woman who lived to 102 years of age saved many members of our family and in doing so paved the path to South Africa. She also selflessly returned to the family’s shtetl Kruk, in Lithuania to save her sisters, including my grandmother. How I wished that someone had listened to her stories and acknowledged her courageous actions during her lifetime. Was it possible there were any family members remaining, I asked? Fortunately, we hadn’t lost any family in the Holocaust, or so we thought.
My quest for information prompted extensive research on the Jews of Lithuania and together with family we planned a trip to the old country. Jean and I together with four cousins (Lorraine, Richard, Uncle Dave and Jill) visited the family shtetls in Lithuania and Latvia hoping to find any relic from our family’s past: a home of one of our great grandparents, a tombstone or anything that could possibly connect us to our past. Lithuanian and Latvian Jews had migrated to these areas 700 years prior and we knew absolutely nothing about our family’s history in these countries, other than the names of a few shtetls.
During our week visiting the shtetls with the help of local and national guides, we were fortunate to find surviving family in Ludza (Latvia), which had been my great grandfather’s home. It was currently inhabited by Mrs Lotzov ( my grandfather was Frank Lotzof). A family tree from the Riga archives detailed seven generations starting in the early 1800s. I learned that I had been named Franklin after my grandfather Frank Lotzof, however, it was clear from the family tree that his name originally was Afroim and this Yiddish name must have been changed to Frank in South Africa ( My Hebrew name is Ephraim). In Ludza we found a desecrated shul, a shtiebl, with an Aron Kodesh, a Bimah, hundreds of rotting machzorim, a shofar, and breast plate from a Torah as well as many other religious artifacts.
In the Ludza forest we saw the memorial to the 833 Jews who were murdered by the Nazis and local accomplices in August 1941. A prominent memorial to six Lotzof cousins, murdered and buried in the Jewish Cemetery answered this question: about whether we had lost family in the Shoah.
In Kruk we learned that one of the five sisters, Sossa, had never left for South Africa and had been killed with her five daughters. I was greatly saddened to learn of these members of our family who have never had the Kaddish prayer recited for them. They had never been remembered. We were fortunate that Aunty Cilla and my grandfather Frank Lotzof returned to bring out many of the family prior to the Second World War. I felt some comfort that we were finally piecing together some of the family’s recent history.
Our parents, the next generation were born in South Africa. They lived good lives, were successful professionals (doctors, lawyers, businessmen….) in contrast with their parents who had acquired little formal education. My grandmother Mina who spoke only German, was chaperoned to South Hampton in England at the age of 16 or 17 years. Then she was sent to South Africa by boat never to see or speak to her parents again. What prompted them to send a young daughter on her own to a distant land never to see her again? I could only imagine how difficult life must have been for Jews in the Baltics. They obviously envisaged a better life for her in South Africa.
Several years later during a trip back to South Africa with my parents, I was again impressed how little knowledge we had of our family’s past: Anti-Semitism was rife in Heilbron where my mother Rhoda Gaylis (nee Lotzof) was born. Afrikaners who were supporters of the Nazis in the war, created similar fascist groups like the Ossewa Brandwag and Greyshirts. They had every intent in doing the same as the Nazis to the Jews of South Africa when Hitler prevailed in Europe. The fact that none of the family were aware of details of our past was perplexing to me. When interviewing my mother who was a gifted pianist and musician, she recalled an Afrikaner family who were fond of her as she played songs for the Christians in their church. At the age of six they told her, “Rhoda, when Hitler comes we will hide you in that little chest” When she replied with “ What about my mammie and pappie?” they said “Only you Rhoda.”
How fortunate we are as a family that Frank and Cilla and their parents had the foresight to do what they did. Similarly, my parents encouraged my wife and I to emigrate to the USA in our early 20s to provide a safer future for our children. What will be the future of our children? Will there be a fourth continent that we move to in just over 100 years? At present we are fortunate to have almost 70 family members living here in San Diego. We meet regularly once a year for Shabbat at the La Jolla Cove. The valiant efforts of some family members to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our family indicates an ongoing core commitment to Judaic values and principles. The same values and principles continue to maintain the family bonds here in San Diego.
This experience researching our family’s past has given me a greater appreciation for:
- the secular and religious freedoms we have in the USA
- the importance of family
- the need as Jews to be ever vigilant
- the central role Israel plays in our lives.
I believe the freedom and prosperity that we Jews have enjoyed over the past 60 years is directly related to the establishment of the state of Israel.
Gaylis is a physician based in San Diego. He will tell about his travels and genealogical research in a presentation called “From Shtetl to Shtetl” at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 19, in the Astor Judaica Library at the Lawrence Family JCC.
Compiled by Garry Fabian
Booksellers agree to pull books
MELBOURNE, 19 May - Three of Australia’s biggest book retailers this week agreed to pull a number of virulently anti-Semitic titles from their websites, following an investigation by a community watchdog.
Among the poisonous works that could be purchased on the Borders and Angus & Robertson websites were The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which alleges that Jews are plotting to take over the world, and The International Jew by Henry Ford,
which states: “Whichever way you turn to trace the harmful streams of influence that flow through society, you come upon a group of Jews.”
Visitors to the stores’ websites could also purchase Martin Luther’s The Jews and their Lies, in which the medieval theologian describes Jews as “base, whoring people, full of the devil’s feces, which they wallow in like swine.”
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, meanwhile, was also available online from Dymocks.
The investigation into the sale of hate literature on the net as part of the community alert to this type of display, and campaign against, cyber-racism.
After alerting the retailers to the pernicious nature of the books they were selling via their websites, on Tuesday all three agreed to withdraw them.
Dymocks buying manager Sophie Groom said: “We have taken the decision to remove the title from our website and this will be completed within the next two business days.”
Briony Lewis, general counsel for Redgroup Retail – the parent company of Borders and Angus & Robertson – also confirmed that the publications were being pulled.
The swift action taken by the retailers was welcomed by community leaders.
Expressing his disappointment that “such vehemently anti-Semitic and racist literature can be so easily obtained”, John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), said: “Nevertheless, I’m pleased the bookstores concerned have immediately agreed and acknowledged that it’s inappropriate for such
books to be available. It is precisely the dissemination of this kind of material that leads to ongoing problems of vilification and racism within our community, which the JCCV, together with other organisations, is working to eradicate.”
The sentiment was echoed by Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies.
“Given the disturbing ease with which the internet is abused and pernicious and racist material disseminated, it places an onus on all disseminators of information to exercise care and diligence over what they put out there,” he said.
“We therefore applaud these bookstores for their responsible approach when the issue was raised with them..”
Cannes coup for small film maker
MELBOURNE, 19 May - Ariel Kleiman’s status as one of Australia’s fastest-rising film talents was confirmed with the recent announcement that his short film, Deeper Than Yesterday, will be screened at Critic’s Week as part of the Cannes Film Festival.
Critic’s Week has showcased films by up-and-coming filmmakers for nearly 50 years, and has given artists such as Bernardo Bertolucci, Jacques Audiard and Ken Loach their start.
Kleiman, 25, leaves for the French Riviera on Sunday, on the second stop of his festival-hopping itinerary.
In February, he was in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival, where another short he wrote and directed, Young Love, won an honourable mention. He was also the director of photography on Muscles – a film by long-time friend Edward Housden – which has been nominated for the short film Palme d’Or.
“We make these films in a little bubble and we work pretty hard on them for quite a while,”Kleiman said. “So it’s definitely a nice feelingeven just to have it screened so other people can see it. It has been a crazy couple of months.”
And Kleiman will get his wish.
Cannes is comfortably the world’s most prestigious film festival and has long been considered a hotbed for talent-spotting and a launcher of careers.
Deeper Than Yesterday is one of seven shorts that will be screened as part of Critic’s Week, along with seven feature-length films. At nearly 20 minutes, Kleiman’s film is an awkward length and was too long to be considered in the short-film competition at Cannes.
“I was quite surprised [the film was selected for Critic's Week] because I thought Deeper might have been too long. I didn’t know how it would be accepted at film festivals, because it’s quite a commitment to watch for a short. I had low expectations.”
Set on a submarine, Deeper Than Yesterday is a Russian-language film that explores the effects of prolonged isolation on a group of sailors. As the men become increasingly savage towards one another, they discover the body of a woman floating in the water.
The film was the Victorian College of the Arts student’s third-year project and was shot in eight days with a Russian-speaking cast, comprised of security guards and members of a local Russian drama school.
“I wrote it in English and then we workshopped it with the actors. I understand Russian, but I
don’t speak it. The actors really made the script their own in Russian, which was great.”
On a tight production schedule that allowed little room for error, Kleiman and his crew spent eight days bunkered down in a decommissioned submarine docked near Hastings, on Victoria’s Western Port Bay. But it wasn’t the first choice for the film’s location.
“Originally when I thought of it, it was going to be about a group of fisherman that find a woman in the ocean, but we couldn’t find a fishing trawler that would let us shoot on there. But it was probably a blessing because the sub was amazing.”
Kleiman and his housemates – girlfriend Sarah Cyngler, the film’s production designer, and Benjamin Gilovitz, a producer – built corporate websites to pay for the making of the film.
Kleiman said sharehouse living inspired Deeper Than Yesterday. “I guess the concept of living with people and
being with the same people day in and day out, I think that might be where it came from.”
The exposure of Kleiman’s films has earned him a contract with Warp Films (which produced the 2006 indie hit This is England) to pen a feature, which he is currently writing with Cyngler.
Change of guard at Victorian Zionist Council
MELBOURNE, 19 May – It’s the end of an era at the Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV), with president Dr Danny Lamm announcing last week he will retire from the post at the next Annual Assembly.
The longest-serving president of the organisation, he has held the role for eight years, two longer than any of his predecessors.
“I have had a tremendous amount of job satisfaction doing the job on behalf of the community and Israel,” Dr Lamm said. “I look back on this period with only satisfaction.”
When asked why he is stepping down, he said simply “it’s time”.
Dr Lamm credited his board for “a really productive period”, that has included advances in advocacy, public speakers, improving the utilisation of Beth Weitzmann Community Centre
and the purchase of 304 Hawthorn Road, adjacent to the centre.
“I have had tremendous support from my board all the way through,” he said. “We have had a really good level of cooperation.”
Remaining chairman of Beth Weizmann Community Centre, Dr Lamm said his retirement from ZCV
would not be the end of his community work, revealing that he is in discussions with another organisation.
ZCV executive director Ginette Searle said that the organisation would announce a replacement
later this year to coincide with the Annual Assembly.
The ZCV is the main representative body for more than 59 Zionist organisations. It enables the expression of Zionism in Victoria.
Court weighs weighty edifice issue
MELBOURNE, 21 May – The Sassoon Yehuda Sephardi Synagogue found itself fighting a Supreme Court injunction over a large sign on the synagogue’s facade last Friday.
Victoria’s Supreme Court dismissed the injunction asking for the signage, which identifies the St Kilda East centre as the “Lyndi and Rodney Adler Sephardi Centre”, to be removed before Saturday, when a ceremony was to be held in honour of one of the congregation’s founders, Jacques Balloul.
The prominent sign is a modification of an earlier, less conspicuous, version.
Costs of $5000 were awarded against the applicant, solicitor Dan Horesh, a nephew of Albert Sassoon Yehuda, the shul’s founder, who is the executor of his late uncle’s estate.
The estate last year launched legal action, claiming the founder was entitled to naming rights to the centre in perpetuity, based on donations he, and later his estate, have made.
A loan for an undisclosed amount was forgiven by the estate due to the centre’s financial
difficulties, and the centre is currently carrying another loan from the estate.
After the injunction was refused, Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, who heard the case, recommended the matter be resolved via a civil trial.
Rodney Adler, who is not a party to the case, told The AJN this week that when the shul approached him around 18 months ago, it was “in great financial trouble”. Pressed to help by Sephardi friends, the Adlers donated $150,000 in exchange for naming rights.
“I live in Sydney . I’m Ashkenazi . We don’t go to the shul, we’re not Melbourne people,” said Adler, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to criminal charges relating to his dealings over insurer HIH, and served 30 months in prison.
He bristled at comments made in court by Horesh’s lawyer David Sharp that the Adlers made the donation by way of “re-establishing themselves in society, particularly Jewish society”.
“It’s got to be a lot more than one little synagogue whose name is going to change my global perception,” he said.
Sephardi Centre president Paul Berman said the Adler name pertained to the centre as a whole, and that the synagogue would continue to be known as Sassoon Yehuda.
“We wish to honour all the benefactors who contribute greatly to the operation and the survival of our community,” he said.
Jewish contender for parliamentary seat
SYDNEY, 21 May – When nominations closed for ALP preselection in the Sydney seat of Wentworth last
Friday, lawyer Steven Lewis discovered he was the only contender with his hat in the ring.
The business executive turned lawyer will be formally declared as Labor’s candidate next month, pitching him against Liberal incumbent Malcolm Turnbull, as Australians switch into election mode.
Lewis remained the sole candidate for preselection, after NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) colleague Robin Margo withdrew from the race.
“I’m excited and honoured . We’ve always said it’s going to be a very tough campaign. While you’ve got to be realistic about it, the nature of the electorate is changing.
“There are a number of factors that voters will take into account. Are they looking to the future to have a local member represent their local interests, or to the past?”
Lewis said at this year’s election he would offer voters a grassroots alternative.
“Malcolm Turnbull has been preoccupied for a number of years now with much wider issues, [including] the leadership of his party. My goal is to be a good local member.”
Asked if, given Turnbull’s record with the Jewish community, this challenge will become a battle for the hearts and minds of eastern Sydney’s Jews, Lewis emphasised that the community “is oneof a number of groups that make up the electorate”.
“I’m not a Jewish candidate. I just happen to be a candidate who is Jewish. That’s a very important distinction,” the longtime JBD member said. “I’ve had a long association with the [Jewish] community and I hope that association
continues . It would be very nice if the [Wentworth Jewish] community have a representative in Federal Parliament, but that is not the only reason people vote. But I certainly would be a vocal and supportive representative of
the Jewish community’s needs and concerns.”
The Slater & Gordon lawyer said he also wanted to fight for improved mental health care, noting that his electorate includes The Gap, “which is unfortunately a place where a lot of people go to take their lives”. He is also keenly interested in improving the conditions for homeless people and helping with measures on the environment.
Lewis, 53, cut his political teeth protesting against the visiting Springbok rugby team from apartheid-era South Africa in 1971.
He joined the ALP in 1979 and is currently the Premier’s appointee on the NSW Election Funding Authority. Lewis was involved in the campaign to free Soviet Jews and visited the Soviet Union in 1988 as the personal assistant to communal icon Isi Leibler in negotiating the release of refuseniks. He was also involved in the contempt-of-court case against Fredrick Toben that saw alleged Holocaust denier jailed for three months last year.
Gutnick slams super tax
MELBOURNE, 24 May – Mining magnate Joseph Gutnick has fired a broadside at the Federal Government’s
proposed mining profits tax, claiming it will have a “negative impact” on Australia. He is pessimistic about Australia’s booming mining sector’s chances of staying at full throttle once the proposed impost is introduced.
Gutnick owns US-listed Legend International, a phosphate mining company exploring Queensland’s
Georgina Basin, which through North Australian Diamonds has a controlling stake in Merlin.
The productive diamond mine in the Northern Territory is one of only three in Australia and produces a high proportion of gem-quality stones.
He also has interests in various countries, including gold exploration in Canada.
“When you talk to fund managers and investors, they look at Australia now as a sovereign risk. But it is not only affecting the mining industry – it’s a disaster for the mining industry – but it’s affecting Australia.”
He has heard from foreign investors who are now wary of Australian bonds and there is insecurity
about what Canberra will do next. “Australia is [geographically] far enough without this supertax.”
Gutnick said he is still hopeful the tax “will be substantially changed or given up”. But with
opposition from state premiers and treasurers, he ponders whether it will ever be implemented.
Turning to the political ramifications of the tax, Gutnick said the Government was starting to feel the heat. The tax was “not something people ever expected to happen”.
The former Melbourne Football Club president famously followed the advice of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who urged him 22 years ago to search for gold and diamonds in the outback.
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World