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The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

September 26, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Appealing for appeal respect

MELBOURNE, 23 September – Communal organisations
have called into question the effectiveness of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s (JCCV) campaign calendar.

Despite paying a large annual sum for the exclusive right to fundraise during certain weeks of the year, groups say this schedule is not being enforced.

Magen David Adom (MDA) has accused a number of  community not-for-profits of failing to respect  its exclusive appeal period, which falls for a  week at the end of August and another at the start of October.

A JCCV affiliate, the Australian arm of the  Israeli ambulance service ­ like other organisations ­ pays to guarantee a sole  fundraising window. However, it claims some  bodies have not respected its two-week block.

“It’s upsetting when organisations trying to do  the right thing lose out,” MDA Victoria president Glynis Lipson said.

Lipson said her main concern was that MDA  volunteers doing phone appeals were being met with rebuke.

“It’s upsetting when our young volunteers make  the phone calls and are told, ‘can’t you get your  act together, you’re the third call or letter  I’ve had today and no, I won’t donate’,” she said.

The two organisations at question were Mount Scopus Memorial College and Jewish Care.

Mount Scopus Foundation executive director Marilyn Simon ran the school’s appeal a few weeks ago. It was the first time the school opted not  to reserve an exclusive appeal period.

“In principle, we were very careful not to choose a week that fell within somebody’s paid period,”  she explained, admitting that some follow-up  calls were made in the weeks after the major day.

“It was with a heavy heart that Scopus chose not  to be part of the allocated appeal period this
year, but we considered it was offering us no protection.”

Simon said that in the week leading up to Rosh  Hashanah, despite being an MDA period, she
herself had received letters from as many as four other organisations appealing for funds.

Jewish Care chief executive Bill Appleby  confirmed a mail-out had taken place, but said it
was “a minor mail-out to a select segment of our  donor database only and does not relate in any way to our major annual appeal”.

JCCV executive director Geoffrey Zygier said that  while a “comprehensive punitive system” is in  place to prevent situations such as this,  non-JCCV organisations are not bound by the rules.

“The system generally works very well and we make  every effort to address any glitches that arise.  From our perspective, problems are largely  caused by some organisations that abuse the system, and by others that choose not to be part of it,” he said.

SYDNEY–This column by Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple is a follow-up to last week’s story about St.Kilda Hebrew Congregation abandoning the tradition of Top Hats for its officers.

Q. Why do some synagogue presidents – such as in the Great Synagogue – still wear top hats
(“tzylinders”) during Shabbat and festival services?

A. A historic people such as ours always tends to cling to old habits – and old hats. The 18th
century tricorn was retained by English synagogue officiants well into the 19th century. It was
replaced in Ashkenazi congregations by what a contemporary observer called “a species of cap”. This was one of the effects of the arrival in London of Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler, who regularised the canonical garb of ministers and readers in order to enhance the dignity of the service. The Sefardim, some time later, replaced the tricorn by the top hat.

The late Raphael de Sola, a Sefardi champion of correct dress and headgear, explained the
adoption of the top hat by synagogue officials thus:

“It is said that on a Shabbat afternoon one very hot summer’s day, during the latter part of the
last (i.e. 19th) century, the Chazan, who was robing prior to reading Mincha at Bevis Marks,
thought that the wig was too uncomfortable to wear in such hot weather: and being in a temper as a result of the weather, threw the wig out of the window into Heneage Lane. This reverend gentleman, however, found that his three-cornered hat, made to fit over a wig, was far too large, so he was obliged to officiate in his ordinary silk hat; and this was the origin of our clergy’s wearing the hat that they do today.”

Haham Moses Gaster did not wear a top hat but a high velvet cap. Haham Solomon Gaon wore a top hat, to which he had become accustomed as a chazan.

English congregants, both Ashkenazi and Sefardi, wore the 19th century top hat in Shule as they did in the street. The tzylinder was widespread in continental Europe, too, until the Holocaust destroyed synagogues, congregations and historic traditions.

As hat styles changed, the synagogal top hat was seen less and less, and in England was maintained only by the honorary officers and, in some places, the shammas.

But on great occasions like Kol Nidre night and Yom Kippur there were still some congregants who, even in recent decades, wore top hats. The London Sefardi synagogues, however, continue to see asprinkling of toppers, and the synagogue maintains a special room surrounded by shelves ofhat boxes which contain the top hats of congregants living and (in some cases) long dead.

Those who mock the pomp and ceremony of the old Anglo-Jewry, including its top hat penchant, are not entirely wrong. The outward show was sometimes empty and the head that so proudly wore the top hat did not always worry about tefillin, Torah study, Shabbat or kashrut. But Judaism believes in not appearing before God in slovenly or disrespectful fashion, and dressing up for synagogue does symbolise dignity and awe in the present of the Almighty.

Nor should anyone scoff at top hats as goyish and assimilatory. Supposedly Jewish styles like the shtreimel and kapote (and the sheitel) are also imitations and survivals of the usages of the
non-Jewish gentry in the eastern Europe of a past age.

In Australia the colonial cringe has gone, and so, in most places, has the formal wear. Only twoout of about a hundred Australian synagogues maintain the old style: one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. How long they will maintain the top hats no one can be certain. It may be that one day in the height of the hot Australian summer an exasperated synagogue president will throw his top hat out of the window and sit in Shule in his yarmulke. (But I cannot be certain; a top hat is an expensive investment!)

Press Council clears newspaper of bias

SYDNEY, 23 September – The Australian Press Council has dismissed a complaint against
broadcaster and columnist Mike Carlton in which he was accused of using anti-Semitic language.

In a column in The Sydney Morning Herald on June 12, Carlton responded to angry emails refuting his analysis of the flotilla incident by saying, “It is a ferocious beast, the Jewish lobby. Write just one sentence even mildly critical of Israel and it lunges from its lair, fangs bared.”

Later in the column, he wrote, “The Israel lobby, worldwide, is orchestrated in Jerusalem by a
department in the Prime Minister’s Office”.

A week later Carlton continued, “With bottomless irony, the Jewish lobby spent much of last week assuring anybody who would listen that there is no such thing as the Jewish lobby.”

But the Australian Press Council ruled that the column “did not breach its principle that
material should avoid placing gratuitous emphasis on a particular ethnicity, religion or nationality.”

Sydney resident Judy Maynard, who filed the complaint, said it was the language Carlton used, not a “gratuitous emphasis” on religion, that was the basis for her claim.

“My complaint was based on the use of “racist imagery . and the resorting to anti-Semitic
stereotypes of Jewish behaviour,” she said. “It does concern me . that the Press Council has
demonstrated its limitations as an adjudicator in matters alleging racism, by its inability to
identify classic anti-Semitic stereotyping.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said there was “the letter of the law and the
spirit of the law” and the Press Council’s decision was “extremely disappointing”.

Press Council executive secretary Jack Herman defended the decision, saying while Carlton’s
commentary “certainly was colourful”, it did not go beyond the “legitimate bounds of comment”.

Herman said the council had discussed at length Carlton’s assertion that the pro-Israel lobby wasorchestrated from one place. “There are and have been far worse examples of attempts to portray some sort of Jewish conspiracy than Carlton has,” he said.

“[Carlton’s piece] talks about a particular department within the Israeli Government that
does issue guidance for people as to how to respond to particular issues that confront Jews in the Diaspora.

“The council made a distinction between conspiracy and coordination.”

Informative or discriminatory?

MELBOURNE, 24 September A local publican has assured Jewish diners that a footnote at the bottom of his menu was in no way intended to be anti-Semitic.

The message, “we do not use any halal or kosher products as we do not believe in cruelty to
animals”, was printed on the bottom of the menu at The Irish Times Pub in Little Collins Street, and caught the attention of a Jewish patron.

“I was initially shocked and then deeply offended that they would link kosher produce with animal cruelty,” diner Paul Kirschner said.

“I was angered at their moral judgement suggesting Jewish people somehow sanction cruelty
to animals in the name of religion.”

“I felt that it reinforced the ignorance that exists in Australia about Jewish culture and Jewish people as a whole.”

But pub general manager Derek Mulvihill, whose mother is Jewish, insisted this was in no way the intention. He explained that the line was included by a previous chef and manager who were concerned about animal welfare, adding that the move was in response to Jordanian Princess Alia bint al-Hussein appealing for an end to ritual slaughter of conscious animals in Australia.

“The chef, who was a member of the RSPCA and had a real concern about the welfare of animals, asked if he could put this message on the menu,” Mulvihill explained. “There was certainly no offence intended to either faith.”

With both the chef and manager having since left the business, Mulvihill said he has now changed the menu and expects the new version, without the message, to be in-store in the coming weeks.

The move was welcomed by legal experts who flagged a possible breach of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.

Fabian is Australia bureau chief of San Diego Jewish World

  1. Ann Aaviku
    April 2, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Dear Mr. Fabian;

    I am writing to you regarding your story “A Look Back Over My Shoulder”.
    Your story, and that of many people’s escape from war-torn Europe is quite remarkable.

    In particular, I would like to ask you about your voyage on the Marine Phoenix to Australia.
    May I ask what the date of your voyage was?

    My great-uncle Kirill Nou was on the Marine Phoenix on a voyage from San Francisco to Australia, and I am wondering if you may have been on the ship at the same time. He left San Francisco Sept 2nd 1947. He disappeared (overboard) Sept 9th, 1947, during the voyage. If you were indeed on the same trip, I wonder if you have any recollection of this event, and how it was handled. I am trying to find some record of a tribunal or hearing into the incident that may have taken place in New Zealand or in Australia after the ship’s arrival.

    Thank you for any insight you may be able to bring.
    Keep up the good causes!
    Ann Aaviku

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