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The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Jewish community has get together with law enforcement officials

MELBOURNE– 2 July – Victoria’s top cops rubbed  shoulders with rabbis and other communal  dignitaries at a reception last week highlighting  the close working relationship between the community and the state police.

Among the boys in blue at St Kilda Town Hall were  Commander Ashley Dickinson and Chief Commissioner Simon Overland, while enforcers of Jewish law  included Rabbis Yaakov Glasman, Meir Shlomo Kluwgant and James Kennard.

Addressing the gathering, Jewish constable Anthony Tannenbaum spoke of the rigorous
application process for joining the force. “I  remember the sergeant doing my interview asked me  why there weren’t more Jewish police applicants.  I replied with as honest an answer as I could . Jewish mothers.”

Recalling his graduation ceremony in 2008, he  added: “I know my family felt tremendous  pride.  They could now tell everyone they had a  son who practised criminal law.”

Thursday night’s event, hosted by the police and  supported by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, was also attended by representatives of  other faith groups as well as  the Mayor of Glen Eira and the Deputy Mayor.

Proposed Eruv raises angst among locals

SYDNEY, 1 July – Jewish community plans to overcome an ancient and restrictive religious
commandment by creating a virtual wall around an entire North Shore suburb is upsetting local residents.

But its push for greater freedom has caused angst among some St Ives residents, who say it will
block their views and create a “Jewish ghetto”.

Under Jewish law it is forbidden to push or carry objects beyond the private home on the Sabbath
and during holy festivals such as the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah.

That means parents are often unable to take babies and young children to synagogues or parks
because they cannot push them there in prams. Likewise, the elderly and disabled cannot be pushed in wheelchairs.

But the creation of a part-symbolic, part-physical zone known as an eruv allows Jews
to carry out such activities within its boundaries.

“Really the ultimate aim is to basically help families, liberating people from their homes,
such as young mums with kids in their prams,” said David Guth, 32, of St Ives.

The married father of three children, including a five-month-old baby, is a member of Northern
Eruv, a group seeking Ku-ring-gai Council’s approval to create an eruv around St Ives.

An eruv already exists in the Waverley area, including along the promenade at Bondi Beach, but
is so inconspicuous few people know it is there.

Most of the 20-kilometre boundary of the St Ives eruv would be demarcated using wires, cables and
power poles owned by Optus, Foxtel and EnergyAustralia. But about 20 per cent would be
formed by erecting 26 aluminium poles six metres high in 14 locations across St Ives. The poles would then be linked by a wire.

The development application drew 21 public submissions. Four, including one from the NSW
Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell, were supportive.

Most objectors were concerned about the impact the poles would have on views but some went
further, claiming an eruv would benefit one religious group at the expense of others.

The chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff, dismissed the concerns,
saying the plan would have little effect on the environment because it was “in the form of existing poles and wire”.

Foreign Minister’s statement  draws community ire

CANBERRA, 1 July – Tensions flared between the community and the Government this week over a
statement released marking the fourth anniversary of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.

The clash came in the wake of comments by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, which the Executive
Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) slated as “tepid” and “especially troubling”.

Friday’s statement from Smith noted that “Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid into Israel
by the armed wing of Hamas and has been held in captivity in the Gaza strip by Hamas since that
time.” It went on to say “Australia joins other members of the international community in calling for his immediate release.”

The statement then focused on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and humanitarian assistance for Gaza.

While he thanked the minister for calling for Shalit’s release, in a letter sent to Smith on Monday, ECAJ president Robert Goot claimed: “The remainder of the announcement was disconcertingly lacking in substance and tepid in its tone. To say, as you did, that Gilad Shalit ‘has been held in captivity in the Gaza strip by Hamas’ is to gloss over the most heinous aspect of his captivity – the fact that he has been held incommunicado for four long years.”

Goot went on to observe, “At the time of your statement . the Foreign Minister of Italy, is reported as stating ‘that the condition of Gilad’s captivity breached all international rules and showed the terrorist nature of Hamas’.

Meanwhile, Rome’s City Council made Gilad Shalit an honorary citizen of the Eternal City.”

He also drew a comparison with a statement from Human Rights Watch, which claimed “Regardless of
Hamas’ grievances against Israel, there are no grounds to cut Shalit off completely from his family”.

Describing Shalit’s captivity as “a burning humanitarian issue which must be considered in
its own right and divorced from the issues in contention between Israel and Hamas”, Goot said.
“It is regrettable that your announcement omitted to make this distinction. It is an omission that
is especially troubling to Australian Jewry, in light of the general tenor and positive outcome
of our recent discussions at the Lodge.”

He was referring to a meeting last month between then-prime minister Kevin Rudd and community
leaders intended to heal any rift following the Government’s harsh line against Israel following
the passport crisis and flotilla affair.

Goot concluded: “We cannot help feeling let down by the inexplicable failure of your announcement
to make the clear statement of principle, and send the strong message of support which the occasion required.”

When asked about the ECAJ letter, a spokesperson for the Foreign Minister told The AJN, “Australia
was one of only a handful of countries to make a formal statement urging Shalit’s release,
reflecting the strength and sincerity of Australia’s views. Sadly, many others have remained silent in the face of his deplorable detention.”

New Minister’s appointment welcomed by community

MELBOURNE, 1 July –  Jewish school representatives plan to rekindle their relationship with newly
appointed Education Minister Simon Crean.

Crean, who Jewish leaders have nicknamed Shimon because of his strong friendship with the
community, was appointed Minister for Education, Employment, Workplace Relations and Social
Inclusion on Monday by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

His former portfolio of trade was given to current Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.

Nechama Bendet, co-chair of the Australian Council of Jewish Schools, expressed satisfaction
with the former Labor leader’s appointment to the important position.

“We warmly congratulate Minister Crean on his appointment as Education Minister and are confident he will continue to support the education of every child in every school and the
sector’s capacity to provide Australian families with meaningful choice and diversity in their child’s schooling,” she said.

Bendet explained that when Crean was shadow minister for education in the mid-1990s, Jewish
educators had an “extremely good relationship” with him.

He showed “an understanding of the Jewish community, and Israel, for which the community has been most appreciative”.

The co-chair, who is also business manager at Melbourne’s Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Colleges, said
the council would request a meeting with the new minister shortly “to offer any assistance to him”.

The Australian Council of Jewish Schools represents the interests of the country’s Jewish educational institutions to Government. It, and other Jewish representative organisations, had a close working relationship with Gillard, the previous minister, in looking after the specific needs of Jewish schools, including resolving funding anomalies and incorporating Holocaust education into a new national curriculum.

Meanwhile Smith, who has been occupied in recent months with matters pertaining to Israel –
evicting an Israeli diplomat over allegations the country had forged Australian passports, acting
to try and prevent Israel’s enemy, Iran, from developing nuclear weapons, and responding to the
deaths of nine people on a flotilla that challenged Israel’s blockade off Gaza – will have an even fuller plate. Smith told reporters he was confident he would manage the extra workload.

“The two ministers in the past have been served by one department [of foreign affairs and
trade],” he told the ABC. “Now one minister will be served by one department.”


PM says slurs don’t’ stand up

CANBERRA, 2 July – New Prime Minister Julia Gillard hit back at accusations she has a conflict of interest over her support for Israel, saying her commitment to the country goes back many years.

She also confirmed she was hopeful a planned visit to Israel by new Education Minister Simon
Crean would go ahead in coming weeks, and emphasised her soft spot for the local Jewish
community based on a shared passion for education.

Speaking on Wednesday – in her first interview with a newspaper since becoming Prime Minister –
Gillard denied her partner Tim Mathieson’s employment with property group Ubertas – directed
by Australia-Israel Cultural Exchange founder Albert Dadon – influenced her parliamentary activity.

“My interest in Israel and my support for Israel is longstanding, much longer standing than my
partner’s employment with Ubertas,” she said. “The things that I’ve done, for example when I
was acting prime minister dealing with the Gaza crisis and issuing a response on behalf of the
Australian Government, that was well before any suggestion that Tim would go and work with the Ubertas Group.”

She continued: “Seriously, I don’t think it stands up”.

Dadon confirmed that Mathieson’s role at the company is simply to sell apartments.

The PM, who was sworn in by the Governor-General last Friday, said she understands intense
interest in her and her family’s lives goes with the position.

“I understand and accept that, it is the way things are going to be,” she said.

Commenting on her predecessor’s recent decisions to expel an Israeli diplomat after intelligence
suggested Israel had forged Australian passports and to call for an Israeli inquiry into the Gaza
flotilla crisis and for additional humanitarian items to be allowed through the Gaza blockade,
Gillard said she backed Kevin Rudd’s stance.

“I have served as a member of the national security committee in my capacity as deputy prime
minister and the decisions that you’ve seen of the Government were taken by the national
security committee,” she said. “On the question of the passports issue, as a nation, we’ve made
our point there about the use of Australian passports and we are looking to move on.”

Adelaide Shop keeper  rejects exhibition poster

ADELAIDE, 2 July – A Holocaust survivor staging an Adelaide exhibition on the Shoah was appalled
when told a flyer for the event could not be posted outside a local store because a regular
customer “does not believe in the Holocaust”.

Adelaide sculptor Andrew Steiner , 77, who survived the war in Budapest, losing 13 members
of his family, said he was shocked when a staff member informed him that a A3 sized poster,
affixed to a pillar outside the shop, had to come down.

When contacted Digital Concepts in Norwood (an Adelaide suburban shopping mall), the shop
assistant who had spoke to Steiner said “The flyer had ‘Holocaust’ written on it, and we have
customer that comes here regularly, who doesn’t believe in the Holocaust, so if we have stuff
like that, then we have to get into arguments with people, and we cannot be bothered”.

The store manager later issued an additional explanation and confirmed that notorious Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben was regular customer. However he insisted the content of the flyer was not the reason it was removed. He added that posting notices in the common areas in the shop violated his lease A spokesperson for the centre confirmed it was its policy.

Steiner said he had posted about 40 flyers in libraries, civic centres and shopping areas around Adelaide, and had not any objection elsewhere. Anti-Defamation Commission executive director, Deborah Stone expressed her dismay at the shop assistant’s reaction. “The Holocaust is not a matter of  belief, it is fact of history.Exhibitions like this one are an important part of educating people to understand what happened and protecting human rights in the future. Fredrick Toben’s offensive behaviour in denying
the Holocaust has been condemned by Australian courts.  No retailer should be pandering to that”.

The exhibition – Remembering the Holocaust: Art and the Holocaust – was devised financed and
curated by Steiner, who had been preparing it for 18 months. It is running at the Adelaide
Immigration Museum until the end of August.

Call to prayer goes high tech

MELBOURNE< 5 July – Tefillah and technology merged last week, after a businessman introduced an
innovative way to gather a minyan for afternoon prayers in Melbourne’s CBD.

David Werdiger, who hosts a mincha minyan in his city office, implemented an SMS system whereby a
message is sent to a distribution list in the morning.

“Every morning we broadcast a message asking who can make it. Once we get a minyan (10 men over
the age of bar mitzvah), we broadcast another message confirming. If we don’t get a minyan in
time, we advise people so they can make other arrangements,” Werdiger said.

Werdiger approached a partnering company responsible for developing customised SMS
applications and the business was “happy to assist” in turning his idea into reality.

“The original idea was that the system would automatically broadcast a confirmation once 10
yeses had come in. We aren’t there yet, but it requires minimal effort from the coordinator,” he said.
The minyan, called Jews in the CBD or JBD, is currently held in a Collins Street office near the Rialto Towers.

“When we were running the minyan in previous venues, people would be standing there calling or
texting friends to see if they could come.

“So I thought it would be much easier if we could automate it,” he said, adding that after just one
week of using the new method, people are already giving their suggestions for further ideas.

“People seem to respond to SMS much faster than to emails. Using it for the first week has
brought forth some other ideas and enhancements, like a secondary list of people who would respond
to a call to be a “tzenter” [Yiddish for 10th one], and other ways to automate the system,” Werdiger said.

“People have been very supportive in suggesting others to add to the distribution list, and ways
we can make the minyan more attractive.”

With more than 10 attendees each day last week, Werdiger is now considering extending the minyan further.


Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World.

  1. Avi
    July 6, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Closure of CMA Centre (CBD)

    Many of you may already be aware that my organisation, CMA will be relocating to South Yarra in the next few days. As such, we won’t be in a position to host the city-based minyan for Mincha, a privilege we have enjoyed for the past nine years.

    The purpose of this note is simply to acknowledge our relocation and its impact, to offer a sincere thank you for the tremendous support which the minyan has enjoyed from a wide range of individuals who are employed in the city, and to suggest that anyone interested in arrangements for the coming year (which usually starts after the end of daylight saving) should be in contact with either Binyomin Serebryanski (who hopes to continue his long standing shiurim in the city) or Chaim Herzog who I believe has premises that may be suitable to accommodate the minyan each day.

    Finally, anybody wishing to participate in a lunchtime minyan in South Yarra should please be in contact with me on 0417 613 620.

    Best wishes,

    Eliezer Kornhauser

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