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The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News


Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Major refurbishment for Jewish Hospital

SYDNEY, 25 August – After two years of  renovations, a refreshed Wolper Jewish Hospital was opened by Governor of NSW Marie Bashir earlier this month.

The hospital now includes a state-of-the-art  physiotherapy centre, an enlarged hydrotherapy  pool and conversion of all rooms to private with full ensuite facilities.

The rehabilitation unit has been enlarged as well  to accommodate more patient beds.

Federal Member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull,  Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Health  Minister Jillian Skinner and local mayors also attended the opening.
The Israel – Australia MDA Connection

MELBOURNE, 25 August – Magen David Adom (MDA) Victoria will launch its annual appeal next week  with the help of the organisation’s Israeli blood  bank director, Professor Eilat Shinar.

Prof Shinar arrived in Australia this week to address gatherings on the Gold Coast and in  Sydney, before launching the Victorian appeal next Saturday night.

Director of the MDA blood  bank since 2007, Prof Shinar specialised in  haematology at Hadassah Medical Centre before  spending a number of years at Harvard.

“I am a passionate person. Studying and  practising medicine gave me the possibility to  work with people and hopefully to be able to  treat them and help them overcome severe  illnesses and pain,” she said ahead of her trip  to Australia. “Although I loved my work at  Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem, working as  the director of MDA blood services opened an even  more challenging and interesting field.”

While in the country, Prof Shinar will also  address school groups and meet with her
counterparts at the Australian Red Cross.

“Of course, I am hoping to learn from our peers  in Australia. Israel has, unfortunately,  accumulated much experience on the subject of  preparedness and response to man-made disasters.  We can and will share our experience in the
management of a national blood supply under these conditions,” she said.

It won’t be the professor’s first visit Down Under.

“I actually visited Australia 10 years ago when  participating in a meeting of the Australian  Society of Haematology in Perth and gave a  lecture to the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Canberra,” she explained.

“I was overwhelmed by the excellent and lovely people I met everywhere [and] the very interesting nature. I hope to get more of both during my present visit to your lovely continent.”

MDA Victoria is appealing for funds to equip all  mobile intensive care units in Israel with defibrillators. This will help increase the  survival rate of heart attack patients from 55 per cent to 70 per cent.

What’s in a name?

MELBOURNE, 25 August – Barristers presented evidence in the Supreme Court of Victoria this week during a civil trial over the naming rights  of Melbourne’s Sassoon Yehuda Sephardi synagogue.

The trial was called to settle a dispute between  the Sephardi Association and the estate of the late Albert Sassoon Yehuda, one of the shul’s founders.

Legal action was launched last year by the  estate, which claimed Yehuda was entitled to  naming rights to the centre in perpetuity, based  on donations from the founder and later his estate.

The centre was recently renamed the “Lyndi and Rodney Adler Sephardi Centre”, after the Adlers were approached for a donation.

A sum of $150,000 was donated by the Sydney-based  couple in exchange for naming rights to the  centre, with the synagogue itself continuing to be known as Sassoon Yehuda.

The action was brought by solicitor Dan Horesh,  Yehuda’s nephew, and the estate’s executor, who  in May this year failed in his bid for an  injunction against a sign displaying the new name.

A loan for an undisclosed amount was forgiven by  the estate due to the centre’s financial difficulties, and the centre is currently carrying another loan from the estate.

Early this week, in the opening phase of the trial before Justice Peter Almond, Yehuda estate’s barrister, David Sharp, and barristers for the Sephardi Association, Henry Aizen and Daniel Aghion, presented documents.

The lawsuit by the estate named the Sephardi Association, its former president Donald Lelah and its former vice-president Danny Jaffe, as respondants.

Hakoah-Maccabi top honours

SYDNEY, 24 August – Hakoah-Maccabi won its NSW  Division One Youth League minor premiership  when  the under-15 team smashed Mt Druitt 6-0 last week.

Hakoah-Maccabi club chairman Jon Marcuson said he  never dreamed of  winning a minor premiership  three years ago when the team joined the  elite state-wide competition.

“It was unimaginable that we could take an ESFA  [Eastern Suburbs  Football Association] team and  train them up significantly so they  could win a minor premiership in a state rep comp,” Marcuson said.

Marcuson, Peter Grunfeld and Mick Vasin were the driving forces when  the idea of a youth league was first touted for the club.

It was designed to give Jewish footballers the opportunity to play in  a high quality competition.

“This is such a big achievement that everything else pales into  insignificance because these are Jewish shleppers against the best of  the state and we are smashing them every week.

“This minor premiership has been driven by the players. They are the  ones that want training before school and they are the ones who have made the difference.”

The team dedicated the minor premiership to the  memory of its former  coach, Ian Gray.

The entire team was close to the coach, who died earlier this year,  and six of the boys ­ Robbie Ezekial, Justin Malek, Brad Karpin, Gilad  Schwartz, Jared Engelman and Gareth Milner ­ were ushers at his funeral.

“We all lost a great friend and mentor in Iggy but to the boys he was  a true hero.

“For them to overcome Iggy’s passing, bounce back and actually go on  and win the minor premiership is an amazing achievement and a credit  to Iggy and every one of the boys.”

The team sealed the minor premiership and extended its lead to five  points over
second-placed Stanmore with a 3-1 victory against Hills  Brumbies on Saturday afternoon.

Hakoah’s under-15 team has now earned a rest and a second chance. The  side will play the winner of this weekend’s qualifying final, between  Stanmore and Fraser Park, next week.

While it was all smiles for the under-15 team, the under-18 team was  knocked out of the finals race by fifth-placed Mt Druitt.

The team finished in sixth position on the ladder, two points outside  the top-five, after they lost to Mt Druitt, 2-1, last Thursday.

In the last game of the season on Saturday, the Maccabi-Hakoah side  defeated Hills 2-0, but because Mt Druitt won its final game of the  season 3-0 against Fraser Park, the team missed out on the finals.

Coach Steve Lawrence said it was a tough end to the season.

“As far as the team goes, it’s the best season that I’ve had with  Hakoah, but it was very frustrating to go so close and then not make  the finals,” Lawrence said.

“As a coach, though, I didn’t achieve what I wanted to, which was  making the semis, so I’m pretty disappointed.”

In other results the under-13 team lost to Hills 4-0, the under-14  team lost 3-1 and the under-16 team won 3-1.

Kosher sex on the small screen

MELBOURNE, 26 August – The Jewish approach to sex and marriage featured on the small screen last weekend on the ABC’s Compass program.

As well as investigating Judaism’s take on the subject, the documentary, Sex, Faith and Marriage, explores the sexual nuances of Hinduism  and Islam, debunking some misconceptions in the process.

“In a sensitive way, we get to see and learn about the sexual rules of each of these three religions, busting some myths on the way,” director, producer and writer Tracey Spring said of the program.

“Myths such as Jewish people only having sex  through a hole in the sheet,  or the belief that  Muslim women are repressed, or the opinion that  all Hindus are sex maniacs because of the Kama Sutra. In actual fact, they are very conservative.”

The Jewish perspective, including the laws of niddah (Jewish laws of separation) and family purity, is presented by mikvah manager Timmy Rubin and her husband Kalman, who met Spring when she visited the mikvah while filming another
documentary about Jewish celebrations for the ABC.

“I really connected with Timmy and I knew that if  I ever did more on the subject, I would include her in it,” Spring explained. “I wondered what the rules are in different religions. Many things are taboo and there is a lot that people just don’t like to talk about, so I pitched the idea to my series producer.”

It was a labour of love for Spring, who was born Jewish, but not brought up following any religion.

“Many of the stories I have done have involved a process of self-education about Judaism.

“I am rediscovering all that,” Spring said of her heritage.

Community anger over Age coverage

MELBOURNE, 26 August – Relations between The Age  (a major daily newspaper) and the Jewish  community leadership have further soured, amid claims of persistent bias in the newspaper’s reporting on Israel.

To make matters worse, Jewish Community Council  of Victoria (JCCV) president John Searle said the newspaper’s editor Paul Ramadge appeared unwilling to conduct the most basic communication with the Jewish communal leadership.

A joint statement from Searle and Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV) president Dr Danny Lamm on August 20, revealed that Searle had not heard back from Ramadge after a telephone message he left with his office on June 4 about the newspaper’s coverage of the Gaza flotilla crisis.

The JCCV and ZCV confirmed on Monday that the phone call, a June 8 letter from the ZCV’s public relations chair Sam Tatarka, and a June 10 letter from Searle had all been ignored by The Age.

Searle had written to Ramadge about his failure to respond to the phone message, advising the editor: “Your attitude bespeaks scant respect for the Jewish community.”

But following an AJN request to The Age this week for a comment, Ramadge responded to the JCCV and ZCV on Tuesday, apologising for the delay.

In last week’s statement, the JCCV and ZCV said The Age coverage of Israel ranged from journalist Michael Backman’s 2009 “smear job” on Israeli backpackers in Nepal, to biased reporting of the flotilla incident, to “the more subtle and insidious”.

As an example, the organisations pointed out the sub-editing of a story from UK paper The Daily Telegraph, in which The Age version changed “Jewish settlements” to “illegal Jewish settlements” and “West Bank” to “occupied West Bank”.

“I think the fact that they take a report from somewhere else and they republish it but add certain words or phrases that further colour the message is an indication of ill intent,” Dr Lamm said.

Searle and Dr Lamm accused the Melbourne broadsheet of “steering its readership to a more anti-Israel position” which has resulted in “legitimising anti-Semitism”.

“We make this statement with regret. However we have spoken to Mr Ramadge on a number of occasions, both privately and in public forums. While he is adept at making the right noises about The Age’s impartiality, his follow-through leaves a great deal to be desired. We believe that The Age’s record speaks for itself. Quite simply The Age is not a friend of our community.”

In a belated response to the JCCV and ZCV, The Age editor Paul Ramadge this week defended his newspaper’s Middle East coverage.

A Kibbutz in Melbourne?

MELBOURNE, 27 August – The gum trees and burnished paddocks will add a touch of home, the summers might be hotter than Eilat, and the winters might
just feel the slightest bit like Carmiel.

Beyond that, a small group of Israeli families living in Melbourne might have to use their imaginations, and a measure of nostalgia, to conjure up their “kibbutz” experience on a shared property they are planning for Melbourne’s fringe.

Organiser Avi Cohen is determined to push ahead with the lifestyle project, which he hopes will create a better quality of living for his wife and three children, alongside what he hopes will be 40 other families.

The group of Israeli families, which plans to set up a collective living project on the outskirts of Melbourne, convened its first meeting last week, but still has some planning to do before it invests in a parcel of hectares not too far from the big smoke.

They are a mix of professions  – engineers, doctors, teachers, computer programmers – all looking for a way to beat the suburban blues and dodge Melbourne’s astronomical real-estate prices.

Eilat-born Cohen, 49, who grew up in Tel Aviv and Arad, has worked in the building industry since arriving in Australia in 1987, so he has some insights into the types of housing the project might need.

Having lived on a moshav, Cohen wants a similar experience for his kids, who attend a Jewish school.

“They’re too much into electronic gadgets. I want them to have more of a social existence after school and I want them to grow up surrounded by greenery.”

He said other Israeli families interested in the idea are also looking to emulate an Israeli lifestyle, which is more spontaneous, social and group-focused. In fact, some Israelis have indicated to him they would like to move here from Israel if they could live in such a development.

Cohen is emphatic that the shared living experiment is not a socialist utopia in the
classic sense of the kibbutz movement.

“Nobody who is interested in this wants to be told how to eat and dress,” he said. “It’s not how kibbutz life is lived in Israel anymore and it’s not what we’re looking for here.”

In fact, the community will need to be within commuting distance of Melbourne, as the intending residents plan to keep working in their professions.

“We want to build our community in an area not that far from the Jewish community – they don’t necessarily have to be Israelis, they can be Jewish Australians,” said Cohen, who has placed a notice in a local Israeli community newspaper.

The group is currently researching subdivision laws to see how feasible their ideas are and plans to farm on their land.

“We want to farm organically, not as a commercial activity, but enough to sustain the residents,” said Cohen.

There have been previous attempts to build a “kibbutz”-style project near Melbourne, and some 600 similar enterprises are operating in the United States.

Teaching the Teachers

MELBOURNE, 27 August – There is a worldwide shortage of Jewish studies teachers and leaders, according to senior lecturer at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Rabbi Dr Howard Deitcher.

In Australia for the Zionist Federation of Australia’s (ZFA) seventh biennial Jewish
educators’ conference last weekend, Rabbi Dr Deitcher said that teacher training and
professional development should be a top priority and more resources should be invested in the area.

“Many communities around the world, like the US, South Africa and Latin America, are investing significant amounts of resources and money on training and ongoing development of teachers. I’m pushing very hard for this country to follow
suit,” he said. “The responsibility lies with both the schools and the wider community. Each [Australian] school really has to compete for the same outstanding teachers and not many young people are going into the area.”

And with more than 300 Jewish educators descending on Melbourne last weekend to examine current issues relevant to Jewish education and engage in professional development, it was a timely call.

ZFA executive director Robbie Franco was pleased with conference proceedings.

“The feedback we have received has been  overwhelmingly positive,” Franco said. “You could feel the excitement in the air and a number of people came over saying that it was better than anything before.”

Held at Bialik College, the two-day event involved seven international and more than 20 local guest speakers.

In addition to Rabbi Dr Deitcher, other  international visitors included StandWithUs
Diaspora education director Michelle Rojas-Tal, Israel studies expert Scott Copeland, acclaimed Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai and developmental psychologist Dr Naama Zoran. Topics ranged from Hebrew and Yiddish studies to Jewish values and texts, Israel advocacy and informal education.

Franco credited the conference organisers, and cited the calibre of the speakers and breadth of the program as the major successes.

Educators from school teachers to university lecturers and youth movement leaders were called upon for input into the program, and were invited to partake in the two-day event. “It was a holistic effort,” Franco said.

Three Jewish Amigos in Canberra

CANBERRA, 27 August – For the first time in two decades, three Jewish MPs will sit in Canberra’s Parliament House.

Among the trio will be Josh Frydenberg, who made history at the weekend when he became Australia’s first Jewish Liberal MP in the capital. He will sit opposite Labor MPs Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus, who held their seats in the closest
election campaign since World War II.

Hundreds of wellwishers gathered at famous pizza restaurant Colombo’s, in the Melbourne suburb of Balwyn, to celebrate Frydenberg’s achievement in the seat of Kooyong.

“I say to everybody in the room, I am humbled by this challenge. I think Tony Abbott has led the Coalition brilliantly and while I will be a proud member of his team, I will be an even prouder member of Kooyong and as your representative,” the Mount Scopus Memorial College graduate said on the night.

Cheers rang out around the restaurant on Saturday evening each time a Liberal won a seat, with the general tone in the room optimistic at the possibility the Coalition could claim overall victory.

“Tonight is a historic night, not just because we won Kooyong, but because we could win nationally,” an emotional Frydenberg announced.

The win has been a long-time coming for the former adviser to then prime minister John Howard and then foreign minister Alexander Downer.

In 2007, the ambitious Frydenberg issued a preselection challenge to the blue ribbon seat’s incumbent, Petro Georgiou, but was defeated.When Georgiou announced he would retire at the 2010 election, Frydenberg worked tirelessly to persuade local Liberal members he should be preselected in the seat and was rewarded after a
vote in the middle of last year.

With a background in international relations, Frydenberg is predicted to take a strong interest in foreign affairs when he arrives in Canberra.

In his acceptance speech on Saturday night, Frydenberg, 39, thanked his fiance Amie Saunders, family, friends and campaign staff for their support and encouragement.

As in many seats around the country, there was a significant swing to The Greens, but Frydenberg won the seat easily. Kooyong, with Sydney’s Wentworth, are the only two Australian seats to have begun at Federation and never gone to the Labor Party.


Electorate to lose Jewish voters

MELBOURNE,  27 August – Having just been through the rigmarole of one election, it is unlikely voters are looking to the next one. But the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is proposing a move likely to affect many Jewish voters, with the bulk of Melbourne’s Jewish community set to find themselves outside Michael Danby’s electorate.

If the AEC gets its way, voters living in Caulfield North and Caulfield East will move into the Liberal-held seat of Higgins, while South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor will end up in Melbourne Ports.

At the same time, residents of Caulfield South and Glen Huntly would shift into another safe Liberal seat, Goldstein, and Bentleigh, McKinnon and Ormond would be pushed into the safe Labor seat of Hotham.

Danby said the move would likely strengthen Labor’s grip on Melbourne Ports, but would split the Jewish community, going against the AEC’s criteria of not separating a “community of interest”.

“I love representing the Jewish community and I love representing the area,” he said, adding that he would be lodging a formal objection, as would the ALP.

The expert in electoral matters, having sat on the parliamentary committee dealing with the issue, also criticised the AEC over the announcement’s timing. “I’ve very surprised they exercised the discretion to announce all these potential seat changes during the election.”

Kelly O’Dwyer, the Liberal MP for Higgins who is poised to welcome thousands of Jewish voters to her seat, said she would not be lodging an objection. “Obviously, I am thrilled to potentially have more Jewish voters. I will represent all the people of Higgins no matter what the boundaries,” she said.

Every seven years, the AEC is required to look at electoral boundaries to ensure the correct number of voters are in each.

While the changes did not apply to last weekend’s election, an AEC statement said the
redistribution would not be deferred because of the federal election as the status quo could not be maintained.

Local Media to spread good PR for Israel

SYDNEY, 30 August – An Australian plan to spread good news about Israel via social media will be presented at an upcoming international Jewish conference.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) president Robert Goot will set out the strategy blueprint to heads of Jewish communities from around the globe when the World Jewish Congress (WJC) governing board holds a two-day summit in Jerusalem from August 31.

The strategy will target younger people who get their news from blogs and popular websites, including Twitter and Facebook.

“It’s no use trying to communicate with people in forms that aren’t foremost in their minds,” Goot said.

Goot, the action plan’s principal author, said it was critical to break through to a generation that has been duped by repeated assertions that Israel is “an apartheid state”.

“It is not, but most young people, even those well disposed, would not know why it is not. They would not be familiar with what apartheid was in South Africa and how that is totally alien to Israel and even the territories.

“Young people know little of Israel’s birth and of its triumphs, such as 1967 [the Six-Day War] and Entebbe [hostage crisis], but have been fed a fairly constant diet of Israel as a pariah nation, an apartheid state, a serial human rights abuser, and the like.

“Unfortunately, young Jews are all too familiar with the accusations, but insufficiently familiar with the rebuttals.”

Describing “delegitimisation” as “a strategic threat to Israel”, he said the action plan would target boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns and aim for closer ties with churches, cultural groups, academia and the media.

Goot was asked to prepare the plan on behalf of the ECAJ, after a WJC strategic review looked into the challenges facing Israel, including “the assault on Israel’s legitimacy”.

The roof body’s leader will present the plan before some 150 Jewish community leaders.

“We’re focusing on building and strengthening alliances and coalitions we have internationally,” Goot said.

Further WJC meetings will discuss how to implement the strategy, which will also involve the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Affairs Office.

Senior Israeli leaders will attend the conference.

Goot added that Australia’s central role in devising the strategy was “a great tribute” to the local Jewish community.

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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