The Jews Down Under: Roundup of Australian Jewish News

 

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Shalit campaign goes postal

Garry Fabian

SYDNEY & MELBOURNE. 12 July – The deluge of petitions urging the United Nations to step up
its efforts to secure the release of Gilad Shalit
continued to flow in over the last week.

Less than a fortnight after launching
the campaign, almost 2500 letters have been
received, many with multiple signatures.

Sydney’s Moriah College and Melbourne’s Mount Scopus Memorial College each returned hundreds of  letters signed by their secondary students, while
Sydney’s Emmanuel College and Academy BJE also sent in bundles.

Sandy Koonin, the head of Hebrew at Moriah’s high school, said students in the middle and high schools completed a lesson about Israel Defence
Forces soldier Shalit’s situation to ensure they fully understood the campaign before signing the letter. More than 350 responded.

“Kids were very happy to sign and very interested to learn more about it and do something to help him get free,” Koonin said. “Most of the kids had
heard about him and they knew he was in captivity but they didn’t really know what had actually happened. We all hope the letters help.”

More than 250 secondary students at Mount Scopus College also answered the call. “I am pleased that our students, thousands of  miles away, feel a strong bond between themselves  and Israel and are prepared to act on this,”
Mount Scopus director of Jewish studies and Hebrew Avi Cohen said. “Our consistent message to  students throughout the Gilad Shalit campaign is
that we, as Jews, have a shared responsibility for our brethren wherever they might be in the world.

“Most importantly, we try to impress on students the fact that even though they live in Melbourne,  and even though they are only school students,
they can still make a difference.”

Older members of the community have also rallied behind the campaign. Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre and Biz 120, a seniors club for Sydney’s Russian Jewish community returned piles of letters, while 67 residents at Sydney’s Montefiore Home collectively signed one copy of the letter

The initiative, marking the fourth anniversary of the young Israeli soldier’s kidnapping by Hamas,  has also gone international, after two Jewish
newspapers overseas picked up on the story and decided to urge their readers to do likewise. Individual responses from the US and UK have also
been received at The AJN’s Melbourne office.

Every day since the launch, hundreds of letters have poured into the office from across Australia. Later this month, the letters will be personally delivered to the United Nations headquarters in New York.

*
Holocaust Video outrage

MELBOURNE, 14 July – A video of a Melbourne woman’s family singing and dancing along to the  Gloria Gaynor hit I Will Survive while on a trip
to a Nazi death camp has angered Jews across the globe.

Jane Korman, an artist who lives in Ashwood and is Jewish, posted the video of her 89-year-old  father Adolk – who survived the Holocaust – and
her three children dancing to the hit inside the Auschwitz death camp in Poland where as many as 1.1 million people were killed during World War II.
Although first displayed at a Monash University gallery in Caulfield last December and published on the online video site YouTube in January, the
Dancing Auschwitz video has gone viral over the past few days, racking up more than 200,000 hits.

The video shows the Korman family dancing in front of the Auschwitz sign ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – Work Sets You Free – a Polish synagogue, the
German concentration camp at Dachau, the Czech concentration camp at Theresienstadt and a memorial in Lodz, Poland, to victims of the Nazi ghetto.

At one point, her father is seen wearing a t-shirt with the words “I will survive” written across its front.

Jewish Holocaust Centre education director Zvi Civins said the video was inappropriate.

“I feel the best expression of survival and the fact that Jews have survived is to educate people about what happened,” he said.

“Auschwitz is the site of over a million deaths and if dance is the best way to express the vitality of the Jewish people despite the holocaust perhaps a better location could have been chosen,” he said. “As an educator I think
Auschwitz needs to be seen through different lenses than that video clip has the potential of portraying.”

Kamil Cwiok, 86, was just a child when he and his family were rounded up by the Nazis.

Most of his family died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

“I don’t see how this video is a mark of respect for the millions who didn’t survive, nor for those who did,” he told the UK’s Daily Mail. “It
seems to trivialise the horrors that were committed there.”

Dozens of Jews have posted their outrage on YouTube alongside messages of support.

Ms Korman could not be reached today but told The Australian Jewish News last December she was aware the project would be highly offensive to
some people, survivors in particular, but that was not her intention.

“It might be disrespectful, but [my father] is saying we’re dancing, we should be dancing, were celebrating our survival and the generations after me, – the generation he’s created. We are affirming our existence,” the paper reported.

“I have explained to them [Holocaust survivors] that there’s no intention of being disrespectful, it’s about a new response, a fresh interpretation
of the history, the memory and the lesson so that these lessons keep on being remembered and not forgotten  not become a numbing memory, but a very powerful memory.”

*
Holocaust survivors honour heroine

MELBOURNE, 14 July – Ditha Slowey today lives a peaceful life in central Victoria, but in World War II she was a hero. In 1945, when she was 19,
she helped 23 British RAF prisoners of war escape a death march through her home town of Lossen, eastern Germany. She fed them and treated their
wounds as they hid in a Catholic manse.

But that is not why she was honoured in a ceremony at the German consulate in South Yarra yesterday.

Mrs Slowey and her family risked their lives to support Jewish families who had lost their homes and jobs under Hitler.

A descendant of one of those families flew from the US to present Mrs Slowey with a proclamation of thanks, for her ”righteousness, compassion
and fortitude”, with the endorsement of the Leo Baeck Institute of New York that preserves German Jewish culture.

As Jewish farmers in Lossen (now Losiow, Poland), Bruno – a World War I hero for Germany – and Erna Zucker were stripped of their farm and subsisted under curfew with half-rations.

Mrs Slowey’s Aunt Martha and Uncle Fritz, who were butchers, defied orders to not serve Jews and smuggled meat to the Zuckers.

Mrs Slowey made regular secret night trips to deliver food, cash and letters to a ”two-room hovel” in the town of Oberglogau that housed
another Jewish family, the Hartmanns, who had owned a department store.

The Zuckers’ grandson, Oved Zucker, described Mrs Slowey, nee Bruncel, as a heroic woman. He said his grandparents had been ”debased, and
degraded”. They were outcasts, ”and in Nazi Germany, compassion was a capital crime”.

One Easter night in 1942, they were deported to Auschwitz and murdered. But Mr Zucker felt ”selfless, courageous and amazing acts of loving
kindness . would have surely brought some light and hope into their hearts”.

The Zuckers’ three sons had fled Germany before the war and there are now 10 great-grandchildren.

Oved Zucker, 71, a physicist from Virginia, says a cousin typing ”Lossen” and ”Zucker” into Google 18 months ago led him to Mrs Slowey’s 2006
biography, Into Enemy Arms, written by her British nephew, Michael Hingston (Ditha had married one of the British POWs she saved, the
late Gordon Slowey, and they moved to Australia in 1963).

”It was an incredible story,” Mr Zucker said, ”and so we decided as a family, ‘We have to do something.’ If you put yourself in the position of all the Germans who were out there who didn’t do anything, and then there is somebody who does something, has the courage to do it, for us as a
family, not to acknowledge, honour, respect, say thank you for it, is unthinkable.”

Mrs Slowey said she was overwhelmed and had not expected accolades. She had acted out of ”human compassion” and could not stand by ”seeing
people so badly treated, with such indignity. I find hard to take, the gratitude that the Jewish community has extended to me, for the little we
were able to do. That is what moves me the most of all.”

*
Australian Aliyah expected to surpass record numbers in 2010

MELBOURNE, 14 July – The Zionist Council of Victoria will farewell a record number of Olim at its Executive meeting later this week.

Over 30 Australian Olim ranging in ages from babies to baby boomers will be presented with Mezzuzot for their new homes in Israel by the
ZCV, with about 100 family and friends of the Olim watching on.

“With Australian Aliyah numbers ever increasing the Aliyah Mezzuzah presentations are a tradition the ZCV is delighted to embrace” says ZCV President Dr Danny Lamm.

The Aliyah office has never been so busy. Australia Federal Aliyah Shaliach Oren Sella is particularly thrilled about the record of Australian Olim expected to be broken this year.

“Since 1979 the magic number of 200 Australian Olim has never been surpassed” Oren says. “However in 2010 this record is about to be
reset; by the end of August over 180 Australians will have made Israel their home” he proudly reports.

Oren is duly proud of another fact: In the first 6 months of 2010 Australia showed the largest growth of Aliyah in the world, more than 50
percent, as compared to the same period in 2009.

Interestingly, the Australian Olim are not from one particular demographic group. “Australian Olim are families, singles, religious, traditional, secular and of all ages” explains the Aliyah Shaliach. “And of course Israel can’t wait to greet them all!”

The Zionist Council of Victoria leads and encourages Jewish and Zionist activity and expression within Victoria, to represent the Jewish community, to promote and communicate Israel’s interests within the broader Victorian
community and to promote Victoria’s relationship with Israel.

*
Soccer fan still critical

MELBOURNE 16 July – The mother of critically ill Melbourne teenager Reagan Milstein has thanked the community for its support during a difficult time.

Reagan remains in a Singapore hospital with his  parents by his bedside, after suffering major complications following a diving accident in Malaysia.

His mother Tamara said “Our immediate aim is to bring our beautiful boy safely back to Melbourne and that alone has its many challenges.

“We are hopeful that the doctors in Singapore will be able to stabilise Reagan in the next few days so that he can be transferred back to a Melbourne hospital and in the meantime, we continue to hold his hand and sit beside him as he tries to find his way back to us.

She said the family have been overwhelmed with good wishes and prayers. “Our entire family has been overwhelmed by the love and support of
friends, the community and the outpouring of kindness from across the world and this continues to be a constant source of comfort to us during this unbearably sad journey.

Reagan’s father Kevin Milstein said via Facebook that Reagan’s condition was more complicated than the bends, a common diving accident, and he had
suffered brain damage due to the blood supply being cut off to his brain.

“We cannot know what the future holds for Reagan but we can be certain that the beautiful boy that left for the World Cup in June is not the same
one that will be returning home,” he posted.

Meanwhile, students and staff at Melbourne’s Bialik College are continuing to pray for the year 8 student’s recovery.

The Milstein family has been associated with the school for 20 years and the accident has profoundly impacted on the school, where Kevin works as an integration aide and Reagan’s brother Corey is a year 11 student.

Principal Joseph Gerassi said Reagan and the Milstein family were in the thoughts of all at the school.”We continue to pray for Reagan and to hope for
news of some improvement,” he said.

Since news of the accident reached the school, counsellors have been made available to provide support to both students and staff.

Regular lunchtime prayer sessions have been held by campus Rabbi Steven Link, and both staff and students have written personal notes to Reagan,
which are being sent to the Milstein family in Singapore.

A Facebook group called “Reagan’s Recovery” had attracted over 1300 members as of Wednesday morning.

Reagan’s favourite soccer team, the Melbourne Victory, also sent its support. In addition Reagan’s Maccabi soccer club, the U15B Thunder,
dedicated their game on Sunday to their friend and teammate.

*
People of the Book

MELBOURNE, 19 July – Outreach is the theme of Makor Jewish Community Library’s annual appeal, which was launched this week. According to
director Leonie Fleiszig, the facility is the only connection many Jews have with the community.

“Most people who come to Makor don’t live in Caulfield. In fact, 90 per cent who come in on a Sunday are Israelis living in areas like Warburton ( a country town some 80 kms from Melbourne) and Footscray. ( western suburb not known to have a Jewish population) We will also
send books out to them,” she said.

“Many people, non-Jews too, will come in, read and use the library. You don’t have to pay if you’re not a member.”

The library has a large range of Hebrew books and films, runs regular “Hebrew Hour” programs and screens Israeli films monthly.

The elderly are also voracious users of the library – some participating in the Write Your Own Story program and others benefiting from
Makor’s wide range of audio books, and the pick-up and delivery service. Fleiszig said the library is always looking at extending its work with the
elderly, and is currently in discussion with Jewish Care to run the Write Your Own Story program with the residents at Gary Smorgon House.
Extending the audio book and Yiddish sections are also priorities.

In addition to holding the catalogues of the Jewish Historical and Genealogical societies, Makor also collaborates with major libraries in Victoria and beyond, which coordinate their databases with Makor’s. Fleizsig said many
council and public libraries also refer people to Makor when looking for specific Jewish items.

*
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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  1. July 19, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Congratulations on your outstanding Jewish outreach effort. Keep up the great work!

    Charles S. Weinblatt
    Author, Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story
    http:jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

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