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The Jews Down Under~News of the Jews of Australia and New Zealand

Garry Fabian

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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