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The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

B’nei Mtzvah movies

MELBOURNE, 8 September – Modern Orthodox youth
movement Bnei Akiva members have followed up on
an initiative started at their recent winter camp.

Aimed at the senior students, the camp program
saw the group learn about eight different charities before separating into groups to each film and edit an ad for the chosen charity.

“The children’s dedication was extraordinary, with most of them editing through lunch, choosing to eat by the computers, and into their free time to ensure the movies would be perfect,” shaliach Oded Stern said.

“After the screening session later that day, the groups voted for which advertisement they thought was the best. And here’s the catch: $1000 that was kindly donated by an anonymous donor actually went to the charity that won.”

Known as Movie Money Makers, the program culminated last week when Bnei held a
presentation evening for winning team Zichron Menachem ­ a charity that supports Israeli children and families.

“The event was well attended and Baruch Levy from Zichron Menachem in Israel honoured our chanichim [members] with certificates recognising their efforts,” Stern said.

“We are proud that this tochnit [program] gave our chanichim the chance to learn the balance between keeping for themselves and giving to others. We learnt that you care most about a cause when you put effort into it ­ a lesson that will hopefully stay with chanichim and madrichim for life.”

*

Australian Labor Party firm on Israel
CANBERRA,  8 September – The Australian Labor Party has insisted its official agreement with The Greens is unlikely to have an impact on its support for Israel.

 

Signed last Wednesday afternoon, the document cements a deal for The Greens to vote with the ALP on financial bills and to oppose no confidence motions against Labor.

It also commits Julia Gillard to a weekly policy meeting with The Greens and allows Greens MP Adam Bandt and the party’s senators to propose new policies, with Labor committing to respond within 10 working days.

While both parties believe in a two-state solution to resolve tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians, The Greens’ policy favours a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the settlements, the dismantling of the security barrier, United Nations sanctions and more aid for the Palestinian people.

In addition, Greens foreign affairs spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlum, in the last parliament, called for a nuclear-free Middle East, including tough action against Iran, and added it was “shameful” Australia had abstained from a United Nations resolution that called on Israel to renounce its alleged nuclear program.

These policies clearly stand in opposition to many of Labor’s historical stances.

A spokesperson for Labor’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, however, said the party’s policies would not be changed.

“The Government’s policies are the policies that it took to the election,” the spokesperson said. “Australia’s longstanding support for Israel and
for a two-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East will not change.”

She added: “Australia will also continue to stand at the forefront of international community efforts to have Iran meet its international obligations in relation to its nuclear program, one of the most serious security challenges facing the international community.”

Foreign policy adviser to Greens’ leader Bob Brown,  Anna Reynolds, said that apart from a commitment to debate Australia’s presence in Afghanistan, she was not aware of any other international issues canvassed in meetings between Labor and The Greens.

Asked whether foreign policy reform is a high priority for The Greens, she said The Greens had no specific plans.

“The Greens will take all its policies into the next parliament to promote them and look for opportunities to have them implemented. This is no different from our normal method of operation in the parliament.”

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, Foreign Minister Smith welcomed Japan’s announcement last week it would increase sanctions against Iran.  “Japan’s announcement of new sanctions  demonstrates its continued strong commitment to
nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation and reinforces United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 on June 29.”

*
The Sermon of the Year

MELBOURNE, 10 September – For many of us, Rosh Hashanah represents a time of renewal, when we can reflect on the year that was and re-energise for the year ahead.

For rabbis, it is also a time when their synagogues are full, giving them the best
opportunity to inspire, uplift and challenge as many of their congregants as possible with the words of their sermons.

Rabbi Shmuel Cohen from Cremorne Synagogue said speaking to many more people presented a challenge. “You can look in the eyes of every person [when
there’s] 60 or 70, while with 400 you have to be much more inspiring,” he said.

His topic this year will be the role and priority of humankind in creation. “On Rosh Hashanah, humankind was created . so if humankind is worthy, he is slightly less than God [according to] the psalms, the Book of David,” he said.

“But if he is not keeping to his duties ­ that is to upkeep the land and to make life better ­ in this case he was the last to be created [so] he is the least of importance.”

Rabbi Dovid Gutnick from East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation said that preparation time and sermon length are inversely linked.

“The less you prepare, the longer you keep speaking. So for Rosh Hashanah I’m actually going to be fairly short because I’m preparing a few days in advance,” he said. “In a sense there is more pressure, but it probably ends up being a better sermon because you actually sit down to think things through.”

He plans to take a fresh and positive look at the concept of rebellion.

“Jews throughout history have often had a rebellious streak ­ the first Jew, Abraham, was a massive rebel; he rebelled against his parents, and he rebelled against society,” he said. “I have a few ‘rebellious’ people in my congregation, I want them to understand that, in a sense, to be Jewish is to rebel against a lot of the norms of society, which can be negative or constricting.”

Meanwhile, Rabbi Gersh Lazarow of Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue will be talking about the place of God in our lives and the modern world.

“What I’m trying to do is really explore the idea of what God is,” he said. “So much of what we believe and what we do as modern Jews recognises that there are forces greater than ourselves acting on us. One of our challenges in life is to connect, and then reconnect to those forces or that singular force, although we might identify
in a multitude of different ways.”

*
Student class in real politics

CANBERRA, 13 September – Against the backdrop of election uncertainty, 35 politically minded Jewish students set off for a three-day political training seminar to Canberra last week.

Hosted annually by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS), this year’s seminar gave participants the chance to dissect the campaign with political strategists, Members of Parliament, and representatives from government departments.

Labor MPs Michael Danby and Mike Kelly addressed the group ­ which included students from Australia and New Zealand ­ discussing their respective experiences during the campaign and their reflections on the election’s implications
for the future of Australian politics.

“Being able to hear from two politicians who our community hold in such high regard was an honour. They understand Australian politics like the back of their hands, but particularly also our relationship with Israel, and the broader campaigns Australia’s involved in to stabilise the Mid-East, and the world as a whole,” AUJS chairperson Liam Getreu said.

Students also heard from Tim Harcourt, the chief economist of AusTrade who recently returned from a trip to Israel, as well as retired major
general Jim Molan, the former chief of operations in Iraq, who provided insight into the role Australian troops played in Iraq. The group also ran into a number of big names, including Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, former prime minister Kevin Rudd and independent Bob Katter.

Uniquely, this year was the first with a large hasbarah (public relations) training element, and community leaders from the NSW Board of Deputies, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry were all on
hand to address the group on Israel advocacy.

“We were also lucky enough that Einat Weiss from the Israeli embassy and Michelle Rojas-Tal from StandWithUs were able to run a number of enlightening sessions to help us understand the way in which they advocate, and how we can be
better activists for Israel,” Getreu said, adding that students participated in a session to learn how best to “disarm” anti-Israel messages on campus.

“Students were also given opportunities to plan some very exciting campaigns to be run for Jewish and non-Jewish students into the future,” Getreu explained. “The 35 students there are really some of the best young Jewish minds and their understanding, activism and experience is amazing.”

In addition to the political program, AUJS recently announced it had formed a partnership with Jewish Aid Australia to send a group of 15 students to Nepal on a five-week education and volunteering program in December.

“This represents much of the direction of young Australian Jews ­ social justice projects around the world.

“It could be in Israel, but increasingly young Jews are seeing war-torn regions, Third-World countries and disaster-struck areas, such as Nepal and Haiti and Pakistan, and wanting to go there and actively make change for the better. It really is a wonderful opportunity to activate that desire,” Getreu said.

*
Israel Author brings good news story to Australia

SYDNEY, 13 September – “Israel is not just a conflict – it’s a country making a tremendous impact in the world.”

That’s the message behind the best selling non-fiction Start-Up Nation: The Story of
Israel’s Economic Miracle
, co-author Saul Singer said last week during a trip to Australia.

The Israeli writer said the book, which has reached number five on both The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller lists, was never intended to “make the case for Israel” or directly intended to promote the country, but rather was simply meant to tell Israel’s high-tech story, which until that point had been neglected by writers.

Singer said, “Israel is home to more foreign correspondents than probably any other country of its size”, but they were missing an important part of Israel’s story – about its impact on the world through technology.

“This story is not just important for Israel and not just an academic interest – it’s important for anyone who cares about innovation, solving world problems, health, energy or about the environment,” the long-time columnist for The Jerusalem Post said.

The book, Singer said – which has been cited publicly by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who has also used the book’s title to describe the country itself – has just received a new foreword written by Israel’s President Shimon Peres. It has also just been translated into a many languages.

Singer, who gave in interview following a speaking engagement with WIZO in Sydney last week, said his first visit to Australia had also included a meeting with Liberal MP and entrepreneur Malcom Turnbull. The author added that he is in discussions with
his collaborator Dan Senor for a follow-up book, but said that it would not be a direct sequel.

*
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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