Archive for the ‘Garry Fabian’ Category

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

September 26, 2010 1 comment

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. Read more…

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

By Garry Fabian

Art Unites Youth and Seniors

MELBOURNE, 16 September – When Marianne Roth, a resident at Emmy Monash Aged Care, a Jewish retirement home,  heard about a unique artistic collaboration between the home and nearby Shelford Girls’ Grammar, she couldn’t contain her excitement.

The 90-year-old was a former teacher at the Caulfield school and decided she would pay it a visit ahead of the planned art class.

A few days before the year 8 class was scheduled to visit the aged-care facility, Mrs Roth
ventured over to the school, where she was warmly greeted by principal Polly Flanagan, teacher Rebecca Saunders and the year 8 girls.  Read more…

Nachas for Garry Fabian, our Australia bureau chief

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Our Australia bureau chief Garry Fabian's grandchildren, Ruth and Seamus Carr bookend their father, Senator Kim Carr and Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard at recent reception

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

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

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

August 30, 2010 Leave a comment

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

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Christians, Jews meet on boycott

SYDNEY,   20 August – Australian Jewish and Christian leaders have met in Sydney to heal the wounds caused by a call last month for Australians to boycott Israeli goods made in occupied Palestinian territories.

The National Council of Churches in Australia  called for Australians to consider the boycott at the request of Middle Eastern churches, but the Jewish community was outraged.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ)  president Robert Goot wrote to the council that the resolution was a “most unpleasant surprise… we feel that we have been badly let down by people we have long thought of as our friends”.

Last week senior members from both councils – including heads of the Australian Catholic and Anglican Churches, Archbishops Phillip Wilson of Adelaide and Phillip Aspinal of Brisbane – met to restore good relations. Yesterday both council released a joint statement saying there had been
a “serious exchange of views” which helped Christian leaders better understand Jewish concerns and Jewish leaders better understand why
the resolution had been adopted.

But the resolution- which called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to all acts of terrorism, and suggested churches
consider a boycott of Israeli goods from the occupied territories – remain in place.

Representatives of both groups will meet again to work on a “more comprehensive” statement for the Christian council to consider at its next meeting in November.


The race for the Jewish vote

MELBOURNE, 20 August – As the election race enters itS last days, all political parties try to offer something for everybody. The Opposition Liberal Party’s go-to man this election campaign took time out of his busy schedule on Monday to drop by Adass Israel School.

Goldstein MP Andrew Robb, the shadow minister for finance and the party’s campaign spokesperson, visited the school to officially confirm the Coalition would also commit $15 million to securing Jewish schools.

He was joined by the local Liberal candidate Kevin Ekendahl, the Liberal incumbent in Higgins  Kelly O’Dwyer and Kooyong Liberal hopeful Josh Frydenberg.

Earlier in the campaign, the ALP announced it would add $15 million to the Secure Schools Program, which it introduced in 2007 to protect
vulnerable schools from serious security threats.

Jewish Group calls for partial boycott

MELBOURNE, 19 August – The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) has defended its new policy to support partial boycotts of Israel,
posting on its website that it has become “the first community-affiliated Jewish organisation” to call for divestment from Israel.

But its support of limited boycotts and its emphasis on communal affiliation to underscore its position have triggered a strong reaction from the Jewish community.

An August 13, the AJDS website stated while not supporting full boycotts, it “envisages boycotting specific Israeli academics openly supportive of the occupation” and other sanctions, but would consider each case on its merits.

AJDS executive member Tom Wolkenberg said the shift follows a 12-month review, which culminated in a special meeting of the organisation on August 8 where the new policy was adopted.

Asked if embracing a partial boycott was the first step, he said: “I don’t think it can at all be seen as the thin edge of the wedge.

“It’s looking purely at the occupation and how a very limited BDS [Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions] policy could in some way be a lever to change the situation with the occupation.”

Wolkenberg also defended the AJDS decision to invite Australian-Palestinian activist Samah Sabawi to the special meeting, saying, “It was
more to try and be provocative and let all issues, everything, be on the table”.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) president John Searle said the AJDS “has placed itself clearly outside the prevailing views of
Victoria’s Jewish community” and called on the group to reverse its stance.

“The fact that the AJDS has sought to legitimate its views by describing itself as a community-affiliated Jewish organisation, claiming credibility by associating itself with the JCCV, is reproachable.

“While the AJDS is an affiliate of the JCCV, this is a tribute to the latter’s inclusive nature rather than an acceptance of the AJDS’ views.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry also voiced its concern, with executive director Peter Wertheim slamming the AJDS position as “naïve” and comparing it to “the global assault on Israel’s legitimacy”.
Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester described the BDS campaign as “nothing more than a deliberate and concerted campaign to delegitimise” Israel.

“This decision by the AJDS is completely at odds with the position of every responsible organisation in our community and deserves the most severe condemnation.”

Extremists move against Dreyfus

MELBOURNE, 20 August – Voters in the Melbourne seat of Isaacs are being urged not to vote for ALP candidate Mark Dreyfus ( who is Jewish) due to his support for Israel.

An advertisement, endorsed by the Australian Muslim Palestine Committee, appeared last week in The Dandenong Leader, saying “When voting put Dreyfus last. No more support for Israel.”

Meanwhile, Australian Muslim Palestine Committee president Asem Judeh wrote this month in Muslim newspaper The Crescent Times, “It is well known that the Israeli state has sponsored murderous and terrorist acts, and that it has systematically deprived Palestinians of their land and basic rights.

“One reason the Israeli lobby is so organised and aggressive is because it has to ensure that Israel is above criticism.”

Judeh then continued, “The Zionist influence is growing. There are two Zionist Jews [sic] Labor MPs, Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus. After this election, another Australian Jew will become Liberal MP.

“Those MPs are the organised lobby representatives. Their job is to silence any MPs who dare to criticise Israel in the Parliament. They use parliamentary committees to defend Zionism and attack those who dare to criticise Israel.”

Dreyfus, who is Jewish and represents a very multicultural community that includes many Muslim families, condemned the campaign.

“These ads taken out against me are misleading and an affront to how parliamentary democracy is practised in this country,” the QC said. “I am confident that the local community recognises this hate campaign for what it is, and will reject a campaign that prejudges me for my
religious faith, not on my record of working for my local community.

“No Australian, politician or otherwise, should be prejudged or vilified for their religious belief.”

Dreyfus added that he has worked hard with the Muslim community and appreciated the support he had received in return.

“The response from local Muslim community leaders has been heartfelt and touching,” he said.

“A group of local Muslim community leaders came to my office last week to condemn this campaign and assure me that this campaign does not reflect the views of the local Muslim community.”

Muslim politician Adem Somyurek, a member in Victoria’s Upper House, also threw his support behind Dreyfus, drawing parallels between the
campaign and anti-Muslim comments made by disendorsed Liberal candidate for Chifley, David Barker.

“This advertisement . does two things: first, it seeks to question the candidate’s loyalty to Australia; and second, it publicly identifies the
candidate as a member of a minority faith and in doing so has as its objective electoral backlash by bigots, in this case anti-Semites in the community,” he said.

O’Connor pledges more funds to protect Jewish schools

SYDNEY. 19 August – Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor re-affirmed that Labor would put another $15 million into the Secure Schools Program when he visited The Emanuel School last Thursday.

O’Connor, who was joined by Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and Arts and Kingsford Smith MP Peter Garrett, had earlier
made the same pledge in Melbourne.

Also at the announcement was Wentworth Labor candidate Steven Lewis.

This week, the Coalition, led by shadow education minister Christopher Pyne and shadow attorney-general Senator George Brandis, also
pledged its support for the additional $15 million commitment.

The program, which provides schools with fences, closed circuit TV and other infrastructure, is designed to protect students and teachers from
terrorist threats. It was first introduced by the Rudd Government in 2007.


The Age’s ‘anti-Israel bias’ condemned by Jewish leaders

MELBOURNE, 20 August==Jewish Community Council of Victoria President John Searle and Zionist Council of Victoria President Dr Danny Lamm have again strongly criticised Melbourne broadsheet The Age for its ongoing anti-Israel bias over a number of years.

The leaders of Victoria’s peak Jewish bodies jointly observed that during the tenure of Andrew Jaspan and particularly that of his successor
Paul Ramadge, The Age had increasingly engaged in a war of words against Israel.  Apart from steering its readership to a more anti-Israel
position, Searle and Lamm consider that The Age’s strident line had also had the hopefully unintended by-product of legitimising antisemitism in this country.

“There is no particular reporting or opinion piece that has prompted our criticism at this time.  Frankly, our community has simply just had
enough of The Age’s lack of balance”, Searle noted. “Despite our best efforts to present Israel’s case, there have been too many instances
of anti-Israel statements to count, ranging from the blatant such as Michael Backman’s ugly smear job in 2009 to the more subtle and insidious”, Searle continued. “An example of the latter includes a recent article reprinted from The UK’s The Daily Telegraph which stated “Netanyahu will come under fierce pressure from Obama to extend a
10-month freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank”. The Age’s version made the following insertions “illegal Jewish settlements in the
occupied West Bank” (The Age, 070710). Such changes make a world of difference.”

“We make this statement with regret”, Lamm continued.  “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.”

Australia faces hung Parliament

CANBERRA, August 23 – The Australian Federal elections produced an outcome, or more accurately non-outcome, with both The Australian Labor Party, the current government, or the Liberal/National Party Opposition gaining an outright majority of seats. While some seats are
still in the balance, due to postal and absentee votes still to be counted, the balance of power is still in the hands of four independents and one seat won by The Greens.

What will be the impact on the Jewish Community?.

While on the domestic scene it will not change very much, one of the worrying developments is that in the Senate (The Upper House) The Greens will have the balanced of power. The Greens, while until now have not been in a position to influence Government decisions,
This is now changed with them holding the balance of power and having a strong impact on Government policy, irrespective if when the dust settles, Labour or the Conservatives will form Government.

The issue on the mind of the Jewish community is that The Greens have taken an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian stand for a number of years in
the past, and now that they in a real position to influence Government policy, how will this play out in the future?  It presents a scenario that
has serious implications, both Labor and Conservatives having been very supportive of Israel over a long period.

Jewish Battlegrounds decided at Election

CANBERRA, August 23 – While the next government is yet to be decided, a number of Jewish MPs were successful on polling day.

Despite a strong swing to The Greens in Melbourne  Ports, home to around 20,000 Jewish voters, Labor’s Michael Danby held on for the fifth time.

In Wentworth, with a similar number of Jewish voters, Liberal Malcolm Turnbull was given a resounding endorsement to continue as the local member.

In the leafy inner-eastern Melbourne seat of Kooyong, Josh Frydenberg made history by becoming the first Jewish Liberal MP in Canberra.
Declaring his win before an audience of hundreds of friends and party faithful, Frydenberg said he was proud to have been elected as only the
seventh ever member of the 110 year-old seat.

“We have won Kooyong and we can win  government tonight,” he said, after thanking his family and campaign team for their support.

Labor incumbent Mark Dreyfus increased his support in the Melbourne southern bayside seat of Isaacs.

“Regardless of the final decision tonight, the people of Melbourne Ports can be assured we will stand up for them in Canberra,” Danby said.

“We have our own opinions here, we stand for a more cosmopolitan and pluralist Australia,” he said, referring to the strong national swing that saw Labor lose many seats.

“I don’t care what bogans and rednecks think elsewhere we stand up for it here and our opinions count as much as their’s.”

His Liberal opponent Kevin Ekendahl saw his party’s primary vote reduced in the seat.

Ekendahl had one message for Danby: “stop being complacent”

“Get out into the electorate. Start working hard,” Ekendahl said.

In the Sydney seat with the most Jewish voters, Wentworth, Liberal Malcolm Turnbull increased his majority by a whopping 11.5 per cent.

His opponent Jewish lawyer Steven Lewis said despite the defeat he had enjoyed the campaign.

“It was a great campaign. We fell short today but we had great enjoyment in what we did, we threw everything into it,” he said.

“Everyone said it was going to be a big ask, but we did the best we could given the facilities that we had.”

Lewis declined to say whether he would consider running again in the future.

“We’ll take it one day at a time,” he said. “It’s a bit too early to speculate on that right now, we’re still waiting for the [rest of the] results to come in here today.”

But he was full of thanks with those who had assisted with his campaign.

“I’ve been working with a great group of people, volunteers who have come in to help us, day in and day out. I’m surrounded by some fantastic people in the party and we’re just grateful that we did the best job we could.”


Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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

August 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

By Garry Fabian

New Zealand Jewish Community goes to court

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, 10 August– The following announcement was released by the  New Zealand Jewish Community:

As we informed the community last week, we filed  legal proceedings against the Minister of
Agriculture, seeking a restoration of the right  to practise shechitain New Zealand.  We are  pleased to report that an interim agreement has
now been reached with the Minister, which will  enable the continued practice of shechita in the  period up to trial (which is likely to take place during 2011).

Court orders were made by consent in the  Wellington High Court this morning, giving legal effect to that agreement. Every effort is being
made to get chicken and local lamb”back on the table”as soon as possible.

The community would like to acknowledge the  tremendous contribution the legal team at Russell McVeagh have made in putting together our
case to achieve this positive outcome in such a short period.

The memorandum was signed by Jewish community leaders Garth Cohen, Michael Stiassny and Geoff Levy.

Church resolution reveals failure of interfaith

MELBOURNE, 13 August -The National Council of  Churches of Australia’s resolution encouraging a  boycott of Israel is absolutely indefensible, and  makes a mockery of both mutual tolerance and  “interfaith” dialogue. It is abundantly clear in  the case of Israel, as in countless instances in Jewish history, an exception has been made of Jews.

If the churches were fair  about their  human rights concerns they would have boycotted  Sudan, Saudi Arabia and so many other Islamic
countries for their real human rights abuses and  treatment and discrimination of non-Muslim minorities.

No mainstream church group has ever openly sided  with Jews, publicly criticising Iran’s President  Amadinajad over his promotion of Holocaust denial and anti Semitic rhetoric or criticising Arab/Muslim anti-Semitism. There are so many other examples of the church’s hypocrisy in singling out the Jewish state as their ‘pet’ cause. Even some Christians who have seen the NCAA statement find it incomprehensible that it
does not mention Palestinian/Hamas discrimination of Christians in Gaza.

Jewish interfaith advocates should start  insisting on some reciprocity and public support for the Jewish narrative in the Israel/
Palestinian, Arab Muslim conflict otherwise they are wasting their time


Contemporary Antisemitism: What We Can Do

Contemporary antisemitism turns Israel into a collective Jew among the nations, demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state. Irwin Cotler
defines its expression in the genocidal antisemitism of Ahmadinejad’s Iran; the political antisemitism  that denies Jews the right to national selfdetermination; the racialised antisemitism that defines Zionism as racism; the legalized antisemitism that makes a mockery of the UN Human  Rights procedures, and the “new protocols of the elders of Zion”, which blames Israel for  everything from 9/11 to swine flu.

But, Cotler argues, we can act. We have  opportunities through Holocaust memory and education, through pressuring for the implementation of the  legal procedures of the Genocide Convention,
through reforming the UN, through government  initiatives and through working to reframe the narrative that blames Israel and Jews for all
Middle East conflict and ignores human rights abuses in other parts of the world..

The Hon. Professor Irwin Cotler MP is an eminent  human rights lawyer and Canadian statesman. A former Canadian Attorney-General and sitting  member of the Canadian Parliament, he has been outspoken on issues of human rights in the  former Soviet Union, South Africa and Rwanda.

The ADC was honoured to host him recently as our ADC Gandel Orator. This special report is an edited transcript of his Oration.

Australian Foreign Minister charts positive Israel course

CANBERRA,  13 August – The diplomatic relationship  between Australia and Israel has resumed on its normal course, less than three months after Stephen Smith expelled an Israeli diplomat from Canberra.

And despite a frosty few months, the two  countries – which both share a desire to see Iran’s nuclear weapons program halted immediately
– never ceased to share intelligence on the rogue state.

In a wide-ranging interview during a campaign  stop in Melbourne, Smith spoke about the resumption of that relationship. He made no
pledges about the foreign policy direction a  future Gillard government would take, but spoke in depth about some of the decisions made over the past almost three years.

“I am now very confident that things are now back to business as usual,” he said of the diplomatic ties between Australia and Israel.

“Often when you have a difficult issue that you’ve got to manage, your capacity to manage that and then to move reasonably quickly off it,
reflects the strength of the relationship.

“Yes it was a difficult time and I obviously  thought very carefully about all of the issues and came to the decision that, as I said
publicly, we could not turn a blind eye to what had occurred.

“I’m very confident now that in terms of agency-to-agency relationship,
government-to-government, nation-to-nation, it is business as usual.”

He added that at no time during the diplomatic impasse, did the two countries stop cooperating to quash the rogue Iranian regime.

“One area [of the Australia-Israel relationship] we did not want to see disturbed was the ongoing cooperation and exchange of information on Iran,” he said.

Asked whether he thought the forthcoming direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians means that the time for peace is right, Smith showed some trademark diplomacy.

“I think your attitude has got to be that it is always right,” he said. “You always have to try and take the opportunity and often when things
appear to be at their worst is often a time when you can move forward.”

“We’re very supportive of President [Barack] Obama’s efforts, we’re very supportive of  Ambassador [George] Mitchell’s efforts and we
make the point to all of the players in the Middle East that it is absolutely essential that we get long-term enduring peace.

“The issues are complex, complicated and there are strong views respectively on both sides, but we can’t give up because solving these Middle East issues is very important to peace and security, peace and stability throughout the entire world,” he said.

Jewish Music Festival hits Sydney

SYDNEY, 16 August – SHIR Madness, Sydney’s first  large-scale Jewish music festival, brought Bondi Beach to life with more than 40 performers from Australia and around the world, eclectic food stalls, kids activities and an art exhibition centred around Bondi Pavilion on Sunday, August 15.

The festival is the brainchild of Gary Holzman, who has dreamed of staging a music festival for many years.

“I’ve always felt there would be somebody better  equipped to put it on than myself, but as it never eventuated, I finally decided to do
something about it,” says Holzman, who is the festival director.

The festival will feature four stages, with musical styles covering klezmer, choral, Latino, Chassidic, Israeli, jazz, cabaret, folk, blues, pop, rock, funk, reggae and rap.

Among the local performers are Deborah Conway, Monsieur Camem­bert, The Mark Ginsburg Band,  Alana Bruce, Joanna Weinberg, the Emanuel choirs and the Sydney Jewish Choral Society.

Leading the line-up of international performers are Israeli singer Ido Lederman, Alex Jacobowitz from New York and the Jew Brothers Band from New Zealand.

Lederman began his music career as lead singer of Israeli rock band Amstaf, and was bass player for the reggae group Hatikvah 6. He will also perform in Melbourne on August 21.

Holzman says: “It’s just going to be an amazing atmosphere and an absolute smorgasbord – what I would call a ‘mixed salad’ of musical delight.

“People should come to appreciate the amazing variety of musical talent within the Jewish community, both from Sydney and from other places as well.

“With the incredible variety of music on offer, a food court full of tempting delights, market stalls, kids entertainment and an exhibition of
Jewish art, this is going to be a fantastic festival for the whole family to come and enjoy.”

Holzman hopes the festival will be an annual event.

“We certainly want to make sure that it’s not going to be a one-off, but will become a highlight of the Sydney cultural calendar.”

One of the international performers from upstate New York is  Jacobowitz, a master of the marimba who has plied his trade across the world, most notably in Germany. An Orthodox Jew, he focuses
on the traditional klezmer music of his ancestors.

“My music is spiritual, natural, totally  unexpected and riveting,” he says. “It brings European music, African sound and Jewish geist together.”

Jacobowitz says his Jewish identity is an integral part of his music.

“Judaism is my spirit, and my spirit energises and breathes life into my music. Whether I’m playing Bach, flamenco or klezmer, my music is 100 per cent kosher.”

Jacobowitz is thrilled to be in Australia and taking part in Shir Madness.

“To be part of the first Jewish music festival in Sydney makes me proud and humble at the same time, and I hope that the music finds a special echo there.”

For AJN Ghetto Blasterz competition winner Shannon Gaitz, Shir Madness is the highlight of her fledgling music career so far.

“I’m extremely excited, especially to be able to get my name and my songs out there,” says Gaitz, 17, from Bondi, who describes her music as country pop.

“It’s very honest – it’s all based on personal experience and very emotional.”
Gaitz is grabbing the opportunity to perform at Shir Madness with both hands.

“It’s just a huge opportunity of being able to get performance experience, especially with my original songs, and I’m going to be playing with
Philip Foxman, he’s my mentor and that’s also a really big honour.”

Gaitz will also spend a day recording tracks at  the Green Sound Music studios in Sydney’s Castle Cove as part of her prize.Sydney band The Naked Parade has been causing quite a stir with its  infectious brand of alternative pop-rock.

Singer Talya Rabinovitz explains with a laugh: “We’ve been told that we are the love child of Jeff Buckley and No Doubt if they went travelling
though Eastern Europe and South America.”

“We definitely have a Middle Eastern vibe to our music, with the violin, melodies and the drumbeats.”

Rabinovitz is excited to be performing at Shir Madness.

“It just looks like an amazing music festival,” she says. “This will be a different age group for us as well –

I know that a lot of my family like my aunts and uncles are coming and they don’t usually come to our gigs. I’m excited to see their reaction and put on a show.”

Local singer Natan Kuchar has spent the past four years plying his trade in the United States.

Kuchar has performed solo at Carnegie Hall, but the humble performer speaks more enthusiastically about his recent album release at a small Surry Hills venue in Sydney.

“It made me feel like people really dig what I have and were really interested in me,” he says. “It was a really great confidence booster and it
helped propel me to apply for Shir Madness.”

Kuchar describes his music as “a really raw sound, merging pop music and soul music.”

“I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from people like Stevie Wonder and Regina Spektor for their  melodies and for their storytelling within their music,” he says.

“I really love to subtly add melodies from synagogue services or from High Holy Days or just lyrics that are found in certain religious texts
that help to support some other kind of contemporary story that I’m trying to tell in my songs.”

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World