Archive for the ‘Sweden’ Category

Combatting Israelophobia will be topic of WJC Governing Board meeting

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK  (Press Release)– Heads of Jewish communities from around the world will gather in Jerusalem for a meeting of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Governing Board on 31 August and 1 September 2010.  The gathering will focus on ways to fight the growing threats against Israel. It will be addressed by senior statesmen from Israel and abroad.

Writer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Elie Wiesel will be presented with the first WJC “Guardian of Jerusalem” award in recognition of his lifetime accomplishments on behalf of the Jewish people. Members of the Israeli Haiti emergency rescue operation will receive a special award for their heroic humanitarian efforts in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, and opposition leader and Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni will participate.  Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer and Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau also confirmed their participation.

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar will give a keynote address to delegates about the recently launched Friends of Israel Initiative (

Ahead of the Governing Board, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said:

“Everywhere, we are witnessing concerted efforts to attack the legitimacy of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Boycott, sanctions and divestment campaigns are becoming prevalent; Israeli academics, authors, artists and sportspeople are being banned from participating in events; the media often presents a one-sided view of developments, and Israel is almost always being singled out for blame. We will be developing proactive initiatives to address these issues, and we will underline the need for Diaspora Jewry’s continued unwavering solidarity with Israel in a global environment that is increasingly hostile to those positions.”

The WJC meeting will be attended by around 150 leaders representing all major Jewish communities in the world and will adopt the future priorities and action plans of the organization. It will also discuss the difficult situation faced by certain Jewish communities, e.g. in Sweden and Venezuela.

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Commentary: Inappropriate for U.S. State Department to send Muslim cleric to Arab countries

August 11, 2010 1 comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The State Department has confirmed that Feisal Abdul Rauf – who wants to be the imam of a mosque at Ground Zero – is taking a State Department funded trip to the Middle East to foster “greater understanding” about Islam and Muslim communities in the United States.

“He is a distinguished Muslim cleric,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “I think we are in the process of arranging for him to travel as part of this program, and it is to foster a greater understanding about the region around the world among Muslim-majority communities.” Rauf is reportedly going to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar.
What a load of hooey.
We know a lot of rabbis, some ministers and a few priests. We would be appalled to have the government of the United States, which by law favors no religion, sending a rabbi to Israel – or the former Soviet Union or France or Argentina, where there are communities of Jews – to talk about how Jews live in the United States. Having a priest travel to the Vatican, Honduras, Ireland or the Philippines to describe the lives of American Catholics would be outrageous. Likewise, ministers to Sweden.
What business is it of the American government to send a Muslim to Muslim-majority countries to talk about Islam? How offensive is it to think that the American government is using American tax dollars to fly a non-government person around the world to promote the activities and lifestyle of a particular religion? Better to send a non-Muslim American government official to talk about American religious freedom, cultural diversity and the virtues of the secular, democratic state. 
To the speculation that Rauf will engage in fund raising for the proposed mosque at Ground Zero, Mr. Crowley said, “That would not be something he could do as part of our program,” he said. 
We’re so relieved. And we’re so sure he will do only as the American government desires.
But Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 family member told The New York Post, “‘We know he has a fund-raising association with Saudi Arabia,’ … noting that the Saudis have contributed money to underwrite programs by the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a not-for-profit that Abdul Rauf runs with his wife and that is one of the sponsors of the Ground Zero mosque. ‘He’s going to the well, and how can they say they do or don’t know what he’s doing?'”
To be entirely clear, JINSA believes Ground Zero is a battlefield cemetery – the site of a battle for the liberal democratic state. We oppose the building of a Muslim sectarian monument there because regardless of what its supporters say, it will be widely understood in the Muslim world as a battlefield monument in the name of Islam. 
Does the State Department really think Rauf (who said in English that the United States bears responsibility for 9-11) will tell the Saudis, Bahrainis and Qataris that he is building a monument to cultural understanding, interfaith relations and peace in New York because America is a good, safe and decent place for Muslims as long as they understand the secular, democratic nature of the United States? And that he doesn’t want their money because Americans will fund the mosque?
And how will the State Department know?

Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

New Zealand stays restrictions on kosher slaughtering

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (WJC)–Jews in New Zealand have won a temporary exemption from a new legal requirement  that animals must first be stunned before being slaughtered. Representatives of the Jewish community last week filed legal proceedings against Agriculture Minister David Carter and on Monday said said a Wellington court had ordered a temporary exemption until the case is decided next year.

Carter had announced in May that he was requiring pre-slaughter stunning for all commercial killing of livestock. About 300 lambs and 2000 chickens were commercially slaughtered according to ‘shechita’ last year. The minister later apologized to the Jewish community for any offense caused when he told veterinarians: “We may have upset a relatively small religious minority, and I do appreciate their strong feelings for this issue, but frankly I don’t think any animal should suffer in the slaughter process.”

More than half New Zealand’s sheep are killed by halal slaughtermen for the Islamic market, by cutting the throats of electrically stunned animals. However, shechita slaughter requires the trachea, oesophagus, carotid arteries and jugular veins to be cut using a sharp blade to allow the blood to drain out. The animal cannot be stunned or unconscious.

The New Zealand National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee first recommended a dispensation for the kosher slaughter in 2001, but most recently said it would prefer there were no exemptions from the requirement that all animals slaughtered commercially were first stunned. It said there was evidence calves which simply had their throats cut experienced pain, and it had the “strongly held” view that the cattle, sheep, goats and possibly poultry would experience similar pain.

Wellington Jewish Council Chairman David Zwartz predicted the case would be argued on the grounds that the Bill of Rights allowed for freedom of religious practice, and the requirement for stunning was an infringement of the right of Jews to observe their religion.

Other countries to ban shechita include Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, and the European Parliament earlier this year voted in favor of a new regulation which could lead to kosher meat being labeled as “meat from slaughter without stunning”.

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Pro-Palestinians in Sweden plan another Gaza flotilla

August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

STOCKHOLM (WJC)– Pro-Palestinian activists of the Ship to Gaza group who took part in the flotilla at the end of May have announced they would make a new attempt to reach the Gaza Strip before the end of 2010. “We are going to send a flotilla if the siege is not lifted,” spokesman Dror Feiler told the news agency ‘Agence France Presse’ in Stockholm.

A six-ship fleet first attempted to break the sea blockade of Gaza on 31 May but it was halted by the Israeli Navy. In the skirmish on one of the six ships, nine Turkish activists were killed. “We will go before the end of this year and we are quite sure that this flotilla will be more boats, bigger boats, it will be several passenger boats,” said Feiler, who took part in the flotilla’s first trip.

“And as determined before, we will not accept Israeli control, we will not accept Israeli inspections and we will go to Gaza,” the Israeli-born Swedish artist and activist said. “We hope that Israel and the international community will realize it is not possible to stop this and that it is not acceptable to continue with the siege [of Gaza],” he added.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition said in a statement it planned to enlarge the coalition “to include the various groups around the world that want to join us, as well as intensify our efforts to mobilize a new flotilla.”

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Firecrackers shatter synagogue windows in Malmo

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

MALMO, Sweden (WJC)–A firecracker has exploded on the steps of the synagogue in the Swedish city of Malmö, a day after a bomb threat was taped to the building. The explosion happened in the early hours of Friday. A bomb threat written on paper had reportedly been taped to the synagogue on the previous evening. It was the second threat directed at the synagogue in two weeks, according to the Swedish newspaper ‘The Local’. Security at the synagogue was increased last week, it reported.

No one was injured by the powerful blast, but three window panes were shattered. “It’s incredibly sad that this should happen again,” Jewish community President Fred Kahn said, adding: “We thought we were finished with this sort of thing.”

Bjorn Lagerbäck, coordinator of a dialog forum in Malmö which works against hate crimes, said the vandalism was extremely serious: “We condemn this completely. Such an event is not just directed against the synagogue, but also at other targets that could be described as ethnic or religious.”

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

EU readies more sanctions against Iran

July 22, 2010 Leave a comment

BRUSSELS (WJC)–The foreign ministers of the 27 European Union member states are set to approve further sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment program, targeting the country’s energy, financial and transport sectors. The measures, to be adopted at a meeting next week, are to include a ban on investing in Iran’s oil and gas industries, including the transfer of equipment and technology. The member states of the EU will be required to monitor the activities of Iranian financial institutions on their territory, and no insurance or reinsurance can in future to be provided to an Iranian entity.

The sanctions go beyond those adopted by the United Nations Security Council in June. The United States also imposed its own sanctions package on 1 July, which is supposed to restrict Iran’s access to refined petroleum and to disrupt financial transactions.

The EU is Iran’s largest trading partner, with Italy Germany and Austria being the most active states. Diplomats in Brussels believe that sanctions could be very disruptive for Iran’s economy. Although Iran is among the world’s top exporters of oil, it does not have sufficient refining capacity to meet domestic demand; it is thought to import around 40 percent of its domestic gas consumption.

Meanwhile, public opinion in France, Germany and Sweden is overwhelmingly in favor of tougher Iran sanctions, a survey has found. Over two thirds of respondents in the three countries said new measures against the regime in Tehran were needed, according to a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in Israel.

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Swedish dockworkers begin week-long boycott of Israeli cargo over flotilla raid

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Dockworkers at ports across Sweden have begun a week-long boycott of Israeli ships and will refuse to handle any Israeli cargo. Their union voted for a boycott in response to Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla three weeks ago. Swedish ports handle nearly all the country’s incoming goods.

“Even if goods arrive in trucks, dockworkers often have some role in handling them when they arrive in port,” said Per Helgesson, the union’s chief negotiator. However, officials expect the boycott to have a minimal impact on Swedish-Israeli trade, which accounts for 0.2% of the Scandinavian country’s total imports and exports. Last year, Swedish exports to Israel were valued at SKR 2.5 billion (US$ 320 million) and imports amounted to some SKR 850 million, according to the Swedish Trade Council.

Union chairman Björn A. Borg told the French news agency AFP that his union had called for an international investigation into the raid, in which nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed. He added that the dockworkers believed Israel’s easing of its Gaza blockade, announced on Sunday, was insufficient.


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Turkey, Israel’s best friend in Middle East? That reminds me of the story…

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

By Alex Liff

Alex Liff

SAN DIEGO–Watching the aftermath of the so called Gaza flotilla unfold can’t help but remind one of the following old joke that goes something like this.   A gentleman comes out of a building and sees a crowd gathered below, gesturing angrily toward a roof where one can observe a young man dragging an old lady toward the edge of the roof, in an attempt to throw her down.  The crowd, visibly upset, yells insults at the young man, telling him to let the old woman alone.  Suddenly another person emerges from the building and announces that the old lady is the young man’s mother in law at which point the crowd exclaims, “ah the witch, the nerve of her to resist”.  Substitute Israel for the old woman and the world for the crowd and the whole absurdity of the affair comes clearly into focus. 

In fact the whole affair can be characterized by the following analogy.  The door bell rings, you open it and in barges one of the neighbors, the one you used to play poker with but lately he has been acting kind of weird.  He punches you in the face, gives you a bloody nose and then declares that he won’t play poker with you anymore, until of course you apologize for not leaving the door open and then getting some blood on his shirt with your darn, squirting nose.  The neighborhood is up in arms at your brutality and your neighbors from Norway and Sweden in fact drop you from the neighborhood poker night all together.  Which brings us to Israel’s so called old friend, Turkey.  “Israel cannot find any better friend in the region than Turkey. And Israel is about to lose that friend,”  declared Turkey ‘s ambassador to U.S, Namik Tan.  He then went on to kindly outline the steps that Israel could take to keep its “good” friend, Turkey, from severing those dear ties.  And so with a straight face, can we have some drum roll please. 

 First, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have to publically apologize to Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan specifically and to the Turkish nation in general for the dastardly assault at sea that killed the nine peace loving Turks who were last seen in a video called “bash an Israeli soldier’s head in with a peace loving metal pipe”.  The esteemed ambassador unfortunately did not specify if PM Netanyahu would have to be standing on one, or two knees while giving that apology leaving those wicked Israelis to guess about the proper protocol that would satisfy the aggrieved, peace loving Turks. 

Second, Israel would have to consent to, practically beg the U.N to organize a so called international investigation into the Flotilla affair.  Here again the details remained a bit murky as the honorable ambassador did not specify if it would be Iran or Saudi Arabia or perhaps some other equally deserving and unbiased world actor chairing such an impartial commission.  Perhaps it would be Hamas itself,  given all of its significant human rights credentials and even handedness (as in they are equally adapt at throwing people off of buildings with left as well as right hand) that would get the honorary chairmanship of such a commission. 

Third, the distinguished ambassador Mr. Tan outlined a demand for Israel to essentially lift the blockade of Gaza.  As in the first two demands, the details remained a bit incomplete,  and thus it was unclear if the Iranian missiles would need to be delivered directly to Hamas via Haifa or Ashdod ports.  It was also a bit unclear if the Israelis needed to reserve aisle or window seats for the Iranian revolutionary guard instructors who would of course be needed to teach the peace loving Hamasniks how to use such sophisticated equipment.  Of course there has been quite a bit of press lately about the bestial Israeli blockade and how it was denying the long suffering, peace loving, oppressed people of Gaza, such basic human necessities as coriander, ginger and yes, the French croissants.  It’s clear that no spontaneous suicide bombing celebration is complete without a bit of ginger and coriander.  In fact it is said that the attendees to the famous suicide bombing museum in Gaza, you know the one the graphically depicts the Pizza place bombing in Tel Aviv that peacefully killed and maimed dozens of Israelis, listed French croissants as one of the key missing items off of the cafeteria menu.  Ah, such travesty indeed. 

So what is one to make of Mr.Tan’s statement?  Well, today, saying that Israel can not find a better friend than Turkey in the region is kind of like saying that in a prison full of criminals, the one who merely killed a few people is morally superior to the rest who are mass murderers.  It is true that Turkey was a friend, in the pre-Erdogan days.  It was a relationship based on mutual benefit and befitting of a Nato member with aspirations to join the European union.  The Turks benefitted by getting Israeli military technology and economic know how while also enjoying massive Israeli tourism and the hard currency that it brought.  That all changed in the last 5 years or so, as Mr. Erdogan steered a steady course away from western orientation and toward Islamism of Iran.  Turkey has cuddled up to Iran and has done everything possible to shield Iran from international sanctions.  It has been quite clear for all but most naïve observers for quite some time that Turkey is a friend no more, not for Israelis and not for the Americans.  And just like in real life when one’s friend decides to leave you, the best reaction is to bid them a fond farewell, and ask that the door not hit them on the way out.  Groveling and begging is very unbecoming in life and politics alike. 

What does it all mean for Israel, U.S and Nato?  It’s time to face the facts, Turks are friends no longer and appropriate conclusions need to be drawn.  U.S would be well served to do the right thing and finally declare that Turkish genocide against the Armenians did take place.  Military contacts should be cut appropriately and economic cooperation curtailed.  And as for Israel?   How should Bibi respond to Mr. Tan’s tantalizing request?  Well, in 1980 at the height of the cold war, at the Olympic games, one American reporter would run into his Russian counterpart who would use his fingers to proudly show how many medals the Russians won that day.  Naturally the American was a bit frustrated.  That all changed the day the U.S Hockey team won the gold medal.  The next morning the American bumped into the Russian, and proudly held up just one finger, and you can probably guess which one it was.  The humble suggestion to Bibi is to use that one finger to respond to Mr. Tan’s proposition.  I hope it means the same in Turkish, if not, perhaps the U.N commission can help to translate. 

Liff is a freelance journalist based in San Diego

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Jewish news of Australia and New Zealand

June 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Shechita outlawed in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand , May 28 — he days of a Jewish mother making the traditional chicken soup for the family Friday  night Shabbat dinner have come to an end for New Zealanders.

The country has issued a new Animal Welfare Commercial Slaughter Code which stipulates that commercially killed animals must be stunned before slaughter.making halachic slaughter impossible. The new regulations take immediate effect.

Whereas Kosher beef will be able to be imported into New Zealand, the country clearly stipulates that the importation of chickens is banned.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence of Sydney’s the Great Synagogue was formerly spiritual head of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation.

He told J-Wire: “There is a strong body of veterinary and animal welfare research which continues to confirm shechita as a humane method of slaughter of the highest standard. Further, the NZ government and its animal welfare advisors have failed to answer substantial challenges by scientists of international repute to the research and the premises on which its recent determination has been made.  Significantly, tests have not been done on animals under shechita conditions.”

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Council (NAWAC) report on which the minister made his decision recognised “that the rights of the New Zealand Jewish community to practise its religious beliefs accorded by the Bill of Rights Act must be balanced against animal welfare considerations.”

It stated that there were alternatives short of an outright ban on shechita available to the government.  Nonetheless, the minister has chosen the most extreme option.

“There is no balance.  A deliberate decision has made to override the Jewish community’s acknowledged rights.  This is a case of misplaced values, bad science and bad legislation.”

John Hellstrom, the Chairman of the National Animal Welfare Advisory committee said: “The Code sets out general principles and recommendations for best practice, ensuring animals do not suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain and distress when they are killed.”

He told J-Wire that in New Zealand Halal meat for the Muslim community is not affected as the animal is stunned before being slaughtered.

There is no direct appeal against the decision which is effective with 24 hours of publication but there could be an opportunity for a judicial review to consider if the banning of Shecita is contrary to New Zealand’s Bill of Rights.

The chicken soup the Jewish community grew up with will be no least in a Kosher format.

Hellstrom said: “Whereas there is no problem with importing beef there are a couple of diseases which concern New Zealand with respect to chickens. The only chicken meat which is imported has been processed but unprocessed chicken cannot be brought into the country.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry told J-Wire that “the MAF understands that commercial Shechita of poultry has not taken place in New Zealand for some years due to a lack of interest.”

“Not true” says Sydney-based Rabbi Moshe Gutnick who is the acting President of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia.

In his role as Rabbinic Administrator of the Kashrut Authority of Australia and New Zealand, Rabbi Gutnick has made many trips to the New Zealand city of Invercargill where the kosher ritual killing has taken place for years. He told J-Wire: “We send shochtim from Sydney on a regular basis and I can assure you that chickens were slaughtered as well as meat-producing animals. This decision by the New Zealand Government, one which has a Jewish Prime Minister, is outrageous. We will be doing everything possible to get this decision reversed. One of the last countries I would have expected to bring in this blatantly discriminatory action would have been New Zealand.”

David Zwartz chairs the Wellington Jewish Council. He told J-Wire: “I am sure there will  objections made that this action is an
infringement of the right of Jews to observe their religion.”

For New Zealand’s Jewish mothers and grandmothers who have added love to the Shabbas chicken soup with its giblets there will be only a simple and far less involved procedure.  Hellstrom added: “Kosher chicken soup cubes are obviously processed so there will be no problem importing them.”

Shechita is banned in Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Ethics or religion in schools

SYDNEY, 3 June  A debate over religious education has flared, as 10 public schools piloted an ethics course as an alternative to religious instruction this term.

Although many children remain enrolled in special religious education (SRE), some students opt out of these classes, wasting time at school because of no secular alternative.

While this program is still in a trial phase, Jewish SRE provider Academy BJE expressed concern.

Meanwhile, representatives of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) and Jewish schools met NSW Education Minister Verity Firth on Monday to discuss how students were recruited to the course. Firth was reportedly supportive of the community’s concerns.

“Our position is that Jewish children should not be targeted to leave their SRE classes and invited to opt for the ethics classes instead,”
JBD chief executive Vic Alhadeff said.

“The default position should be that Jewish children automatically attend SRE classes, and that the only way they can choose the ethics course is through their parents expressly requesting in writing that they do so.

Alhadeff said the JBD supports the initiative, but their “concern is to protect and preserve Jewish continuity”.

At the moment, it is only proposed to offer ethics lessons to students in years 5 and 6 who are not already receiving religious instruction.

Close to 50 per cent of Jewish children in NSW are taught by Academy BJE, according to principal Rachele Schonberger, but she is worried that with an ethics program, Jewish students might miss out on learning about their heritage.

“We want to give them access to the beauty of Judaism,” she said, adding that ethics classes have nothing to do with Jewish morals, history or spiritualism, which “distinguishes a Jewish child from one that is not”.

Lesley Holden, a parent at Crown Street Public School in Surry Hills and the pilot coordinator of the school’s community group, told The AJN she believes that students who are not involved in SRE classes are essentially discriminated against because they are not engaged in any meaningful activity at that time.

Holden said that, as a parent, she was “quite upset that there was no meaningful alternative for her son while scripture classes were on”.

In a media statement, Firth said ethics classes are intended to encourage students “to think and talk about things like fairness, honesty, care, rights and responsibilities”, rather than introduce a competing theology.

Melbourne Communal Appeal abandoned

MELBOURNE, 3 June – Plans  to introduce a Victorian Jewish communal appeal have been scrapped after research revealed the Melbourne community raises more money than Sydney.

New South Wales’ Jews have raised funds to support communal endeavours via the Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA) since the 1960s and for decades, discussions have raged whether its southern neighbour should follow suit.

A subcommittee of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) was set up in 2008 to explore the prospect of a communal appeal in Melbourne. In March this year, the subcommittee was given a push by some of the Jewish community’s most generous donors, led by David Smorgon.

Smorgon, together with other donors, funded the appointment of a top consultant to speak to 14 community organisations and confidentially go through their finances.

The results were announced to the JCCV and donors last week.

“Our funding is pretty much on par with NSW funding, therefore there doesn’t seem to be a great need to go to a communal appeal,” JCCV president John Searle said. “A communal appeal would not raise more money. In fact, it might raise less money.”

The example Searle gave was that if 10 organisations call the same household during the course of the year, they may raise $100 each, but if a Victorian communal appeal were to call, it is unlikely to receive a $1000 donation from the same family in one lump sum.

He admitted “there is a fair bit of surprise coming out of this report. It is shattering all the myths.”

Smorgon added he was pleased to “once and for all get the facts” and that the idea of a Victorian communal appeal can now be “put to bed”.

“The findings are reassuring because they show the strength of the community,” he said.

David Balkin, the president of the NSW JCA, indicated the report was not as clear-cut as it appears.

“They say they raise slightly more than we do, but Melbourne has a much richer community than us,” Balkin said. “They have far more billionaires than we do and they are a bigger community. We shouldn’t be the benchmark because if Melbourne had a JCA like we do, they would raise more than they do today.”

Despite answering one question, the report raised a number of other issues.

Smorgon said it revealed that the fundraising burden was not being spread around. “We’ve still got too many people who don’t give.”

Searle listed other concerns, including that the next generation of philanthropic families will not support the Jewish community like their parents and grandparents have done; the substantial fundraising struggle faced by smaller community organisations and schools; the future of bequests; and how to go about central communal planning without having control of the purse strings.

Balkin certainly agreed with Searle’s final point.

“I’ve seen the report and I can understand what they are saying, but they are missing out on the planning,” he said. “Donors give us money as an intermediary because they think we know what the needs of the community are better than they do.

Balkin also took a swipe at the JCCV, indicating Sydney’s equivalent, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, benefits from increased funding.

“Clearly the most obvious example of the consequence is our JBD, where we have a well-respected and well regarded advocate for our
community at the state level and Victoria has always struggled with that.”

Celebrating eight decades

MELBOURNE, 3 June – With Temple Beth Israel (TBI) celebrating its 80th birthday this week, the emphasis is on youth, as the synagogue looks ahead to its next eight decades.

Australia’s oldest Progressive congregation works closely with the Leo Baeck Centre, Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue and Kedem, the three other congregations of the Victorian Union for Progressive Judaism (VUPJ), and is a major voice on the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ), which serves Australia and the region.

But in an era of membership turnover across Melbourne’s synagogues, and a proliferation of smaller minyans, long-established shuls of all stripes are struggling to hold the interest of congregants and to draw in new worshippers.

Finding tomorrow’s leaders can be a challenge that begins in the cradle, and TBI’s leadership team are doing all they can to meet it.

Rabbi Fred Morgan, TBI’s senior rabbi, harked back to the recent Shavuot morning service, and a ceremony celebrating the beginning of the life cycle. “We invited all babies born over the previous year onto the bimah for a special blessing with parents and grandparents, under a tallit, which was a really beautiful event,” he said.

In the words of TBI’s executive manager Art Feinman, the shul’s Matan program, for children who do not attend a Jewish day school, is a place “to plant the seeds”.

Feinman also spoke about “leadership born out of music” through Junior Chazzanim, a group of teens who provide musical Shabbat accompaniment once a month.

Dana Bar-Zuri, shaliach of the VUPJ and Netzer in Victoria, said sending 21 Melbourne youngsters to Israel for a 10-month leadership program – among a total of 33 nationally – is a record.

Jerusalem-born Bar-Zuri arrived last year to take up her role. In coordination with Beck Fiala, Netzer’s Melbourne head, she runs educational programs, including twice-yearly seminars on Jewish and Zionist issues, and monthly forums on “hot topics” in Israel.

“I try to bring them a lot about the Progressive community in Israel and to see what type of issues they are dealing with, and compare it to the issues the Progressive community in Australia, especially in Melbourne, are dealing with,” Bar-Zuri said. Bar-Zuri said TBI teens relate strongly to projects promoting tikkun olam (repairing the world), and to topics such as the conversion bill
controversy and Women of the Wall.

“As Australian Jews, they feel very comfortable being Progressive, but they really want to know what it’s like to be a Progressive Jew in Israel – it’s very different.”

Max Gross, who has been appointed VUPJ youth activities coordinator, focuses on congregants and prospective congregants aged in their 20s, organising a mix of activities including Shabbat dinners, Zohar discussions and social outings. He also arranges youth groups to attend services.

With his Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) background – he was president of AUJS at La Trobe University – his aim is to attract and hold an age group that congregations find difficult to keep interested. Gross has identified “a very positive trend in
more young people coming to synagogue services”.

Feinman sees work with teens and 20-somethings a foundation for “a growing interest and real involvement in TBI in the 30s and 40s age group”.

On a more formal level, TBI president Brian Samuel believes in succession planning. He pointed to young professionals such as Dr Fairlie Wayne, David Marks and Ian Moore on the TBI board, as “people we can come back to in later years and ask to take a senior role”.

The addition of Rabbis Gersh Zylberman and Rayna Gevurtz to the team some years ago attracted young newcomers, and with the couple’s departure for the US, Samuel said a search committee will seek a new, young associate rabbi.

According to Rabbi Morgan, the cumulative focus on teens, young adults and people in their 30s and 40s is a sound basis for future development.

“We have exceptional leadership at present on the board, and teams working in social justice, pastoral care and hospital visiting,” he said.

He also noted that the TBI Friendship Club, a social group for those on the other side of middle age, is now 10 years old and welcoming
more than 100 people each session. “That’s the future too.”

Jewish students brace for negative reactions

MELBOURNE, 3 June – An escalation in tension around Australian university campuses is expected in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid.

Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) vice-chairman Glen Falkenstein warned students need to be aware and report any incidents.

“If a student is harassed or intimidated on campus, then we encourage them to contact their campus AUJS president or their equity and diversity unit.”

Falkenstein said there has already been increased activity on campus. Meanwhile, in order to best confront verbal attacks or hostile conversations over the flotilla crisis, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has emailed background information and interview
transcripts to community members.

The information provides legal background, indicating that “Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with Hamas” and as such
“maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognised measure under international law”.

Israel exercised its right to enforce its blockade after passengers on the boats provided “clear intention to violate the blockade by means
of written and oral statements”.

They have also circulated transcripts of official Knesset press responses from Israeli Government spokespeople.

Marching on Melbourne’s streets

MELBOURNE, 3 June – Australian cities became marching grounds for anti-Israel rallies this week in response to the Israeli navy’s raid on a flotilla attempting to break the Gaza blockade.

In Melbourne, about 300 protesters waved placards and brandished Turkish flags in a peak-hour demonstration on Tuesday night.

Protesters were continually warned off tram tracks by police, with some waving posters bearing slogans such as “Boycott Israel” in front of tram windows.

The demonstration, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), was flanked by a heavy police presence, and eventually ended at the State Library.

Rather than officially attending the protests, members of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) spent the evening calling
talk-back radio stations and writing to newspapers to counter the negative media in the wake of the crisis.

National chairperson Liam Getreu said the organisation decided they would “rather influence public opinion in the media than put up posters that will just be torn down”.

“We wanted to be smarter and rather arm people with facts,” he said

Warned by police not to attend the protest, Betar members in Sydney opted to hold a vigil outside the Turkish consulate in Woollahra. They held signs with slogans such as “Enough support for terrorism” and “Floating guerrillas not a peace flotilla”.

“It was a spontaneous protest in support of Israel and against the lies being spread about Israel’s intentions,” Betar’s Ari Briggs said.

Cross-border kosher contention

SYDNEY, 7 June New South Wales Kashrut Authority (KA) administrator Rabbi Moshe Gutnick has moved to diffuse tension between Melbourne and Sydney rabbis.

But he was adamant he does not regret distributing a letter, signed by 10 rabbis and the organisation’s director, in response to
rumours that Sydney’s Adass Israel community would not accept the kosher status of meat prepared in the Harbour City and plans to establish a breakaway authority.

Tensions flared after, for the second time in recent months, an ultra-Orthodox Sydney family employed a Melbourne caterer under the supervision of the Melbourne-based Adass Israel Rabbi Avrohom Zvi Beck.

An Adass representative told The AJN that the family did so because catering was cheaper than Sydney kosher catering.

He added that Sydney Adass Rabbi Shalom Silberberg had agreed to oversee the food once it arrived in Sydney, although it was to be prepared in Melbourne using Melbourne kosher meat.

This sparked a cross-border war of words, with the KA responding to unconfirmed claims that the Adass family had gone with a Melbourne caterer because it did not accept the kosher status of Sydney meat.

In addition, there was talk that Rabbi Silberberg was establishing another kosher authority.

However, the Adass rabbi refused to confirm whether that was the case, saying only that his work is in “its infant stages at the moment”.

“I really don’t want to comment,” he said. “I don’t know what is going on and I don’t want to embarrass anyone.”

Melbourne Adass Israel member Benjamin Koppel said he too was unaware if Sydney was establishing its own kosher authority.

“We only know what is in the public domain,” he said, adding that while the communities carry the same name in both states, they are autonomous.

However, this did not stop the KA examining in explicit detail the different shechitah (ritual slaughter) practices used in Sydney and in Melbourne in its letter. They quoted a review prepared by an American rabbi into a Melbourne’s kosher meat practices.

“The OU [Orthodox Union] shechts at a maximum of 750 birds an hour per shochet, some require as low as 600 birds an hour. In Melbourne, the rabbi found the amount being shechted was 1000 per hour!”

It said the rabbi also found chickens in Melbourne are being soaked in water at the wrong temperature.

But Koppel, who saw the rabbi’s report, said “he was very satisfied with all he saw”.

“He suggested a small number of enhancements and cost-saving measures.”

While Eric Silver from Melbourne’s Solomons Kosher Butchers – the only producer of kosher chickens in Victoria – would not comment
publicly -, other rabbis said the KA letter misquoted the report.

Rabbi Meir Shlomo Klugwant, the head of the Organisation of Rabbis in Australasia kashrut subcommittee, said he found the situation “most disturbing and extremely disappointing”.

But Rabbi Gutnick said the KA’s letter had been taken completely out of context. “There should be absolutely no tension between Melbourne and Sydney,” he said. “The letter was crystal clear that we hold the Melbourne rabbinate in the
utmost respect. On behalf of the rabbinate of the KA, we eat the Melbourne shechitah when in Melbourne.

“The sole purpose of the letter was to point out that those who are trying to suggest that the Sydney chickens are inferior are simply incorrect.”

He called those who have misinterpreted the KA’s letter “mischievous and misrepresenting our position”.

“Perhaps those whose agenda it is to try and say that our shechitah is not good are trying to deflect from the essential issue by fomenting discord between Melbourne and Sydney.”

Fabian is Australia bureau chief of San Diego Jewish World

Bishop Williamson will not attend his trial over Holocaust denial in Germany

April 15, 2010 1 comment

(WJC)–Contrary to an earlier announcement, the bishop of the ultra-conservative Catholic Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), Richard Williamson, will not be present at his trial in Regensburg, Germany, on Friday. Williamson is charged with incitement to hatred for denying that Jews were murdered in gas chambers by the Nazis during World War II. His attorney Matthias Lossmann said: “He will not be there. I will explain to the trial why he is not coming.”

Bishop Williamson

Williamson, one of four bishops of the SSPX which broke away from the Catholic Church in 1988, said in a interview with Swedish television recorded in Germany in 2008 that “200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them by gas chambers.” He added: “It was all lies, lies, lies,” and “not one Jew” was killed in gas chambers. The interview caused a storm after it emerged that the Vatican had lifted the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops.

Williamson was fined € 12,000 (US$ 17,000) but a further trial was ordered after he refused to pay. Denying that the Holocaust took place, or questioning key elements of, is illegal in Germany.

Meanwhile, the German section of the SSPX distanced itself from Williamson’s statements on the Holocaust. The head of the SSPX internationally, Bernard Fellay, has reportedly banned Williamson from making public statements that do not exclusively deal with religious matters. The German newspaper ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’ quotes from a letter by Fellay to Williamson in which he writes that he should not attend the trial in Regensburg to allow his “lawyers to reconstruct the situation in your favor.”


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.