The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News
Australia Day Honours for community members
CANBERRA, 26 January – Jewish Australians from various walks of life, including law, business, psychology and local government, were among those recognised this week for their service to the country. In all, 446 people were awarded Australia Day honours on January 26, among them psychologist Dr Vicki Gordon, who received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for services to the Victorian community through a range of organisations.
The former Jewish Community Council of Victoria executive member and Jewish Care advisory group member specialises in the communal impact of Asperger’s syndrome and Holocaust trauma. Also in the health field, John Silk, president of Parkinson’s NSW and secretary of Parkinson’s Australia, was awarded an OAM for his commitment to helping people with the debilitating disease.
Shula Endrey-Walder, co-founder of Gift of Life Australia, can also now place OAM after her name. Endrey-Walder is well-known in the community for raising awareness of Tay-Sachs disease and for recruiting potential stem cell and bone marrow donors. Fashion industry executive Naomi Milgrom was honoured as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for her service to business and as a leader and mentor in her field, and for her arts, health and philanthropic roles. The executive chair, CEO and managing director of the Sussan Group chaired the Melbourne Fashion Festival from 2001 to 2008 and is a trustee of the Jewish Museum of Victoria and the National Gallery of Victoria.
Sydney businessman and philanthropist Steven Lowy became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). The Westfield Group managing director’s corporate fundraising initiatives and personal and family donations have benefited groups including the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, the Lowy Cancer Research Centre, the United Israel Appeal and the Jewish Communal Appeal. Former Port Phillip mayor and Municipal Association of Victoria president Dick Gross was also awarded an AM for his services to local government. Other OAM recipients include Sydney music educator and Jewish scouting administrator Shirley Politzer, Melbourne automotive industry leader Joseph Shneider and Alfred Stein, the honorary life chair of Australian Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Additional AO recipients include retired NSW Supreme Court Justice David Levine and Australian Broadcasting Corporation board member Steven Skala. Paying tribute to this year’s Australia Day honourees, Governor-General Quentin Bryce said: “I want to give my strong support to the awards made through the Australian Honours system. “They elevate the concept of giving to others. They heighten our respect for one another, and they encourage Australians to think about the responsibilities of citizenship in our democracy.”
Erlich through to doubles quarter finals
MELBOURNE, 25 January – Former Australian Open doubles champion Yoni Erlich and playing partner Arnaud Celement are through to the quarterfinals of the 2010 championship after ousting Swede Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-3, 0-6, 7-5 on January 24. Erlich appears to have found top form at the right time, after struggling to have an impact since returning from an eight-month injury layoff in April last year. The pair now faces Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic in the quarterfinals on January 26. Erlich and former doubles partner Andy Ram are the only Israelis left in the draw after Dudi Sela and Shahar Peer bowed out the men’s and women’s doubles competitions respectively. Ram and partner Elena Vesina are through to the third round of the mixed doubles, the eighth seeds accounting for German pair Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Christopher Kas, 3-6, 7-5, 10-8. Ram and Vesina look likely to come up against the number one seeds Cara Black and Leander Payes on January 26. Peer who made it through to the third round of the singles competition – and playing partner Galina Voskoboeva succumbed to third seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in straight sets 7-6, 6-4. Sela and partner Igor Kunitsyn lost their second round men’s doubles match to Lukas Kubot and Oliver Marach 6-3, 6-2
Local hero award for “food rescuer”
SDYDNEY, 29 January – Ronni Kahn will now be known across the country as Australia’s local hero. Awarded the prestigious honour of Australia’s Local Hero by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd this week, the Sydney resident was recognised for her efforts to end hunger as founding director of OzHarvest, which collects surplus produce from cafes and caterers to help feed those who would otherwise go hungry.
From a dream in 2004, OzHarvest now has more than 600 donors and delivers more than 110,000 meals each month to 163 charities in Sydney, Canberra and Wollongong. On the way to achieving her dream, she helped amend legislation, which permitted food from licensed caterers to be redistributed to those in need. The 57-year-old from Bronte said she felt “incredibly honoured and proud” to receive the award.
“It will make a huge difference to OzHarvest and to the purposes that I believe in,” Kahn said. “I know it will be a wonderful vehicle to make new changes and an even bigger impact.”
The South African-born former event organiser established the charity after seeing how much food was being wasted by the hospitality industry.
“I get pretty emotional [reflecting on its beginnings]. OzHarvest was an idea and I knew that I wouldn’t stop until we got it up and running,” she said. “Even though I had a very clear vision for what I wanted it to be, when you look and see that that vision is [now] a reality, it is very overwhelming.”
With Kahn’s guidance, the charity has had a profound impact on the environment, saving thousands of tonnes of food from landfill, while helping the hungry access quality, nutritious food and she was dubbed the “food rescuer”.
“It’s pretty exciting, I feel very proud. The reason I started OzHarvest was because I knew that I had been put on this earth for something more and I’m just a very lucky person to have found the avenue and vehicle to do that.”
Kahn said that since arriving in Australia from Israel in 1988, she has felt compelled to contribute to the country. “I came here with very little 22 years ago; with nothing . And yes, we’ve worked hard and yes, I’ve put an enormous effort into it. But the opportunities that have arisen for me came from this country, so there is absolutely no doubt that I’m committed to giving back to Australia.”
In Canberra on the eve of Australia Day, Prime Minister Rudd presented Kahn as well as those named Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Senior Australian of the Year with a handmade glass award.
Rudd said: “For the past 50 years, the Australian of the Year Awards program has honoured those among us who inspire us, and do us proud as a nation. “This year I am again awed by the achievements and contributions of the award recipients, who demonstrate that greatness comes in many forms and all Australians have the potential for greatness within us.”
More than 2500 nominations were received from the public for the 2010 awards.
Adelaide shule gets new rabbi
ADELAIDE, 29 January – Adelaide Hebrew Congregation has a new spiritual leader, Rabbi Netanel Friedler. The rabbi was due to arrive in November from Israel, but ran into routine Department of Immigration delays in processing his paperwork. The 31-year-old’s arrival last week signals the dawn of a new era for the South Australian shul, following a bitter legal row with Rabbi Yossi Engel, who served the congregation for eight years from 1998 and is now facing fraud charges.
AHC has had the temporary services of Melbourne’s Rabbi Avraham Gutnick in recent times, but a new permanent rabbi will prove a shot in the arm for the congregation, according to its president, Eric Edelman. Rabbi Friedler, his wife Shiri and their two young sons were greeted at a welcome kiddush. He will be formally installed later this year. “He’ll be able to gel our community together and bolster the numbers attending the shul. He will also be active in counselling,” Edelman said.
As well as supervising Adelaide kashrut, Rabbi Friedler will also become the spiritual leader at Massada College, where he will work in a consulting role and will likely teach as well. His appointment has been endorsed by the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, the Orthodox rabbinical roof body, which will offer him assistance.
Rabbi Friedler, who comes from Petach Tikvah, studied for the rabbinate at the Straus-Amiel Institute in Jerusalem and completed his studies at Bar-Ilan University.
School is in for another year
MELBOURNE–AFTER a long summer holiday, Jewish students began going back to school on Friday 29 January. In Melbourne, only Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah Colleges resumed classes on Friday, while in Sydney, all the Jewish schools saw a flood of kids, dressed in crisp, new uniforms run through the gates. The rest of Melbourne’s Jewish school students will find their new desks on Monday.
Students will find new buildings, including libraries, school halls and canteens, on their first day, as Jewish schools take advantage of a flood of government funding for capital works.
Only one Jewish school, Sydney’s Emanuel School, begins 2010 with a new principal Anne Hastings. Meanwhile, two schools Massada College and The King David School are introducing Mandarin to the curriculum this year.
Auschwitz survivor recalls horrors of the Holocaust
MELBOURNE, 28 January –Six candles were lit at Elwood synagogue last night in Melbourne’s south for the six million victims of the Holocaust, on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
The lighting of one of the candles was shared last night by Lev Aronshtam, who as a captain in the Red Army was one of the camp’s liberators on January 27, 1945 , and by Eva Slonim, a Slovak survivor then aged 13. Mr Aronshtam said yesterday it was only when he spoke to survivors in Yiddish that they began to believe the Nazis would never come back.
“It was then and there that I felt my Jewish identity most acutely,” he said. He later fled anti-Semitism first in Russia then in Poland, arriving in Australia 45 years ago. Mrs Slonim, nee Weiss, recalled yesterday German soldiers storming into their house opposite the president’s palace in Bratislava, and knocking in her grandfather’s teeth. Soon they went into hiding in Bratislava, Mrs Slonim and her younger sister Marta living, as Catholics, in a flat of their own.
Eventually, the leader of an SS-style Czech militia named Gombarik seized the girls, and kept hitting and humiliating Mrs Slonim to force her to admit to being Jewish. They were taken to a detention centre, where an 18-year-old named Simon was overhead whispering “Don’t tell them!” He was shot the next day. After the war, Mrs Slonim was the chief witness in the prosecution of Gombarik.
“The judge seemed especially interested when I spoke of Simon,” she said. He was the judge’s son. Gombarik was hanged.
The sisters were sent to Auschwitz by train, where Josef Mengele, who thought they were twins, took them to his experimental centre. “He was good looking, always immaculately dressed, with brown — not blue — eyes. Sometimes nice, sometimes brutal,” Mrs Slonim said. When the Soviets seized the camp 65 years ago, they lined up their prisoners and told the survivors — there were only 7000 — to do what they wished with their former guards.
“Suddenly, the Germans were begging for mercy. But no one did anything to them,” she said. The children had survived “only by talking at night about how our parents would come and fetch us when liberation arrived, and take us home and feed us”.
The reality started to sink in that this would not happen. But the Weiss family — with six girls after their brother drowned just after the war — and their parents did reunite, and migrated to Melbourne, where their father insisted the whole family said every morning, “God bless Australia”.
Mrs Slonim, who has had five children and 27 grandchildren, spent time yesterday in the memorial room that she has sponsored at the Jewish Holocaust centre at Elsternwick in Melbourne’s southeast, in the name of Shmuel — a nine-year-old boy victim of Mengele’s experiments. He just rocked back and forth all day, and Mrs Slonim never heard him speak. But when his number was called, he asked her to say the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, for him. She did not know what day it was, but agreed, saying she would do so every time she looked at the number tattooed on her arm. Now, she said, others who enter the memorial room join her in thinking of him, and of the rest.
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World