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The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australia and New Zealand Jewish News

 

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Visiting Group Greeted warmly

ADELAIDE,  7 July – A group of more than 20 Bnei  Akiva Melbourne members and leaders travelled to  Adelaide last month to show their support for the  small community and help spread some extra Shabbat cheer.

About 20 year 9 boys were accompanied by seven  leaders and a shaliach to the South Australian  capital, where they shared meals on both Friday
night and Saturday, and hosted activities for the locals.

“In Melbourne, we recognise how lucky we are to have a thriving and vibrant community, yet at the  same time we see that others in Australia do not
have the Jewish luxuries that we may take for  granted,” Bnei Akiva spokesperson Daniel Weil  explained  “These visits are important as it is
not often that groups visit the smaller communities.”

Arriving on Friday morning, the group travelled straight from the airport to local Jewish school  Massada where they ran a number of activities,  including Shabbat programs and fun sessions.

A bowling match with local families was also   arranged after Shabbat, followed by a barbecue dinner.

“The feedback we received was very positive,” Weil said.

The inter-community visit was a joint initiative between the Bnei Akiva shaliach and a local Adelaide rabbi, who became close friends while living in Israel.

The trip is part of the Zionist youth movement’s plan to show its support for small Jewish  communities around the country, and according to
Weil,  it was just as meaningful for the Bnei  Akiva group as it was for the Adelaide participants.

“It allows them to show us that, despite their  small size, they are just as passionate about  leading Jewish lives as we are. Even though it is
immensely harder for them to do so, it serves to  show us how lucky we are with everything that we  have in our community,” he said.

*
Rabbi goes full circle

MELBOURNE, 6  July – Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant addressed a group of Victorian Muslims at a City Circle event last weekend.

The former president of the Rabbinical Council of  Victoria and current rabbi at Jewish Care  discussed some of the challenges facing the  Jewish community. After the presentation, which  also included some background information on the  Victorian Jewish community, the group had the
opportunity to question Rabbi Kluwgant.

“It was an enlightening experience and I am glad  to have been offered the opportunity to talk to  the group so openly as it gave me the chance to
live the message I have been promoting in  relation to multifaith dialogue and engagement,” he said.

Among the topics asked about were interfaith dialogue and commonalities between different religious leaders.

City Circle aims to highlight an Australian Muslim identity while developing friendship and  cooperation between Muslim and non-Muslim communities

*
70th Anniversary for the Dunera Boys

MELBOURNE, 8 July – In ranks depleted by the  passing of seven decades, they will return to the  small NSW town of Hay in September to reminisce
about a perilous wartime voyage from Britain to the far side of the world.
The “Dunera boys” is the moniker bestowed on 2542 men, 2036 of whom were Jewish refugees from Nazi  Germany and Austria, living in Britain and classed as enemy aliens.

Seventy years ago this month, they were placed  aboard the Dunera, bound for Australia. The ship had a maximum capacity of 1600, and conditions were described as “inhumane”.

  These men and boys were refugees from Nazi  Germany who had reached what they believed was  the sanctuary of England just before the outbreak
of war in 1939. When the war broke out in September 1939, they were interned and later  shipped as “enemy aliens” to Australia. But even
more degrading, they were locked up with German  prisoners of war, and other Nazi personnel.

On arrival in Sydney, the bewildered newcomers  were taken to internment camps in the rural towns  of Hay, NSW, Loveday, SA, and Tatura, Victoria.
Subsequently reclassified as “friendly aliens”,  hundreds were recruited into the Australian Defence Force. After the war, around 800 remained in the country.

Peter Felder, son of Dunera boy Henry Felder, is organising this year’s reunion, the first major  gathering since a 50th-anniversary event in 1990.
“So far, we’ve had 12 Dunera boys indicating they will attend,” he said

Former internee Mike Sondheim will be one of the party. “The people of Hay always display their
hospitality and friendship to us as long-lost sons having returned home.”
  From September 3-5, the intenees will return to  the sites of former camp seven and eight for a commemoration.

They plan to re-enact their arrival at the local  railway station  and follow the route they  marched along from the station to the camps.  Unlike in 1940, the Hay Shire Council mayor will formally welcome the visitors.

Among the activities planned, they will visit the  grave of Menasche Bodner, the only Dunera boy  buried in the Jewish section of the Hay General
Cemetery, and will see the Hay Dunera Museum.

*
Court ruling on question of religious freedom

MELBOURNE, 6 July – A father has won the right to  stop his children from taking part in Jewish  coming-of-age ceremonies, after a court agreed
with the man that they should be able to make their own religious choices.

The mother wanted her children to participate in  their bar and bat mitzvahs – ceremonies that mark  the beginning of boys and girls taking responsibility for their Jewish faith.

But the father, a Catholic who irregularly  attends church, wanted them to choose their own  religion in a ”voluntary and informed” way when they were old enough.

The dispute played out in the Federal Magistrates  Court in Melbourne where the separated parents,  known as Mr and Mrs Macri, asked the court to  determine the religious future of their children:  a 10-year-old and eight year-old twins.

Mr Macri, 44, did not oppose his children  observing Jewish holidays and events. The  children had undergone some classes in Hebrew,  but the lessons had lapsed at their request. In  accordance with traditional Jewish practice, the  son had undergone circumcision.

Mrs Macri had enrolled the children in a  religious youth group for two hours each Sunday.  But Mr Macri was concerned this had ”an element of political content” and wished for them not to attend.

He also asked for an injunction, stopping Mrs  Macri from committing their children to the Jewish faith through the bar and bat mizvah  ceremonies until they were older. Jewish girls  usually undergo bat mitzvah aged 12, while boys  have their bar mitzvah at aged 13.

Federal magistrate Terry McGuire allowed the mother to take the children to the youth group  but ordered her not to let her children participate in the ceremonies until they made the choice or their father agreed to it.

”Australia is a multicultural and secular  society,” Mr McGuire said. ”These children are fortunate in that they have the opportunity to  directly experience the culture and traditions of the religions practised by each of their parents.”

Mr Macri had not pitted one religion against the  other but had wanted his children to participate  in the culture and traditions of both religions
without committing to either at this stage, he said.

In contrast, Mrs Macri wanted to commit the children to Judaism immediately.

He said there was no evidence that deferring the decision would later stop the children choosing to enter the Jewish religion.

*
TV Channel accused of racism

SYDNEY, 9 July – TV Channel Nine and its program – A Current Affair (ACA)- allowed anti-Semitic  comments to be published on its website,
violating racial vilification laws according to NSW Jewish Board of Deputies   CEO Vic Alhadeff.

ACA reported one evening last week on plans for  an eruv in the Sydney suburb of St.Ives. After  the show, it posted a video of the story on its
website, which attracted hundreds of comments. The discussion, which was about whether or not  the local council should approve an application
to erect 27 poles to constitute the eruv in the  suburb, soon descended into an attack on Israel  and the Jewish community.  “The bosh (Germans)
didn’t finish the job” said one post. Another  went further ” Quick hide your babies, the Jews  are going to drain their blood to bake bread!”.

Alhadeff contacted Channel Nine to alert them of  the possible breach of the law and the network  immediately removed the comments. “The quick
response was appreciated,  but the incident draws  attention yet again to the need  for all media to  implement effective filtering systems of what is
posted on their sites” Alhadeff said. “Some of  the remarks clearly violate the race vilification  laws, and it is unacceptable for media to carry
such slurs until such time as the offensiveness is drawn to their attention”.

B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission executive  director Deborah Stone said it is not the  community’s job to monitor news sites. She added
that is was particularly concerning that the  report prompted virulent anti-Semitism. John  O’Dea, who represents the local electorate of Davidson, said there needs to be a rational debate over the feasibility of an eruv in the
area. 

“Prejudice or discrimination based on  racial or religious grounds should play no role in the debate” he said. The federal member for the area, Paul Fletcher,  whose electorate would contain part of the eruv,  called anti-Semitic comments disturbing. “There  is no place in this decision-making process for anti-Semitic comments”, Fletcher said.

*

Jewish ANZAC’s to be honoured

CANBERRA, 9 July – A Jewish memorial service will  be held a the graveside of Berrol Mendelsohn, a  World-War I soldier whose remains will be interred in France on July 19. The fallen officer is so far the Jew among 94 Australian soldiers who have been identified using DNA technology, after a mass grave
containing 250 bodies of Anzacs was discovered two years ago at Fromelles in France.

*

New Zealand readies for legal action over shechitah
WELLINGTON,  NZ 9 July –  The New Zealand Jewish  community is making preparations for a legal  challenge to the Government’s outlawing of
shechitah, kashrut experts in Australia expressed fears that the ban may impact closer to home.

The New Zealand community were hoping that a  meeting with Prime  Minister John Key late last  month might lead to reversal of the policy. But
though he told the gathering that he ‘wants to Jewish community to be strong and vibrant in New Zealand”, he has so far failed to respond to their concerns.

“In the absence of any firm response from the  Government, the community is preparing its legal  case to restore the legal practice of shechitah
as an integral part of its right to manifest the  Jewish religion and belief in New Zealand, as  provided for in the New Zealand Bill of Rights  Act 1990”, Community spokesperson David Zwarts said.

The kashrut crisis began when NZ Agriculture Minister David Carter imposed a requirement that  animals be electrically stunned before slaughter, meaning that it is no longer possible to provide halachically acceptable meat.

*

Mikvah watershed in Canberra

CANBERRA, 9 July – After years of community  deliberations, Canberra’s Jewish women will  finally have the use of a local mikvah. Chabad of
ACT, which has been active in the nation’s  capital for a year, will own and run the  facility. It will be ready for use early next year. Rabbi Dan Avital, who has been working to establish Chabad of ACT, said building the
facility had been a stated goal since he and his wide Naomi arrived.
“We are incredibly excited at having started  building the first mikvah in Canberra”, he said.

The mikvah will have two immersion pools – to allow the continuity of operation – and three  bathrooms, and will be attended by Rebbetzin
Avital. Although attached to the Avital’s  residence, it will have a separate access to ensure privacy.

*
Holocaust Museum ugrade

MELBOURNE,  12 July – Henryk Kranz’s father taught him to draw by candlelight in a hiding place he  had helped a farmer dig into the hillside during  the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II.

His father, Zygmunt, would make aeroplanes, houses and other toys from wood, metal and  matchboxes to amuse him in the dark, cramped
space where they hid until liberated by the Red Army in August 1944.

“He was quite gifted with his hands,” the retired  neurologist, 72, says of his father, who years  later sculpted a series of bronze busts that  reminded him of some of the people he once knew  in his Polish home town of Boryslav, now in western Ukraine.

Almost a decade after Zygmunt Kranz’s death,  seven of these busts have pride of place in a  redeveloped new museum that opens officially this
month at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick.

Henryk Kranz does not believe his father set out  to recreate faces of specific people but “archetypal individuals from his memory of that period”.

Also on display are two artworks from an unpublished children’s book by Henryk’s daughter, Andrea, celebrating the heroism of farmer Jozef
Baran and his wife Eleonora, who risked their  lives to save her father and his parents.

Like her father, Andrea Kranz is a medical practitioner. She works in palliative care with cancer patients.

She has been reading the story about the heroic  Barans to her 4½-year-old daughter, Iliya. Her  grandfather would often retell it. “It was woven
throughout my childhood,” she says.

The new multimedia museum updates the Selwyn Street facility built 25 years ago. Audio-visual displays, photographs, artwork and memorabilia
present the stories of its increasingly frail survivor guides to students and other visitors.

“This is a big concern many survivors express, this fear that in the future no one will be left to talk about their murdered families,” curator Jayne Josem says, noting that technology will ensure their stories continue to be heard.

Zygmunt Kranz was a mining engineer in the petroleum industry at the start of the war. He  was sent to a labour camp near Boryslaw, as it is
known in Poland, and put to work digging out old pipelines.

The farmer had befriended him after offering his team shelter for a day on which the Germans were rounding up Jews. He took a liking to Zygmunt and
offered to hide his family. The two men dug about  a metre high and wide and 1.3 metres long behind the rear wall of the farm shed. They installed a
pipe so they could breathe and, later, planks to keep back the crumbling earth.

Zygmunt Kranz, who took his family across the  Czech border to Germany and Norway, worked as an \engineer at CSIRO and Unilever after settling here in 1950.

He wrote in a letter in 1993 nominating the Barans as Righteous Among the Nations at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem that Jozef Baran was “broadly straight and just”.

He brought his wife Frances and three-year-old Henryk to the “bunker” in October 1941, visited  them when he could and escaped the camp to join them in January 1943.

The Barans would leave buckets with food in the  shed. The Kranz family would emerge for a few hours at night.

Henryk, ill at one stage, was cared for in the  farmhouse and remembers gazing fearfully up the hill at a boy walking a bicycle. The boy stopped and stared before continuing.

Through a crack in the door he saw sunlit fields with bright yellow flowers. And once he heard sounds of people searching the shed. “They were trying to find some hidden trapdoor; we were very quiet trying not to make a sound at all.”

He was six when they were finally able to come out of hiding. “I was just speaking in whispers,” he says.

*
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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