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The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Compiled by Garry Fabian

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NSW opposition calls for racial vilification law review

SYDNEY— NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell has called for a review of laws in all states to combat racial vilification on social networking and blog websites.

“We must ensure that the laws are up to date,” he told Jewish leaders gathered at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s annual meeting last week.

“Unless we’re conscious of the threat and adapt those laws to meet the varied ways in which  vilification can be pursued in this age, we will fail those who rely on us.”

O’Farrell’s comments came immediately after a report, released at the same conference,  indicated anti-Jewish propaganda in fringe publications and from extremist organisations remains an “ongoing concern”.

Earlier this year, O’Farrell called on Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard to take a stance against anti-Israel messages posted on the taxpayer-funded blog Khaldoun, which is run by  academic staff at Sydney’s Macquarie University.

So far, however, no action has been taken, and the site continues to operate without any review.

O’Farrell said it was an ongoing dispute and content on such sites was “just as evil today as it was in 1938 in those dark days in Europe.”

O’Farrell appeared at the conference as a last-minute replacement for former federal Liberal head Malcolm Turnbull, who was forced to
remain in Canberra longer than expected.

The embattled leader was ultimately ousted by  Tony Abbott in a party room ballot.

O’Farrell reassured the audience that Australian Jewry and its interests wouldn’t suffer under a new leader.

“The Jewish community doesn’t lose because [the  leaders of the] Liberal Party are strong friends of Israel and supporters of the Jewish community,” he said.

In that same spirit, he reaffirmed his own support for the State of Israel.

“Until we see those who oppose the legitimacy of  the State of Israel and understand the only solution is a two-state solution, there is frankly no great optimism that can be held as to what’s happening in the Middle East,” he added.

New Roof Body for Australian shulesMELBOURNE- A national system of dinei  Torah (Jewish courts) and liaising over kashrut  issues are two areas that the newly launched
Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Australia (COSA) is hoping to explore.

The roof body for shuls across the country was established in Sydney earlier this month, timed to coincide with the Executive Council of
Australian Jewry’s (ECAJ) annual conference.

A national body for Australia’s Orthodox shuls has been in ferment for a number of years, according to COSA’s founder and inaugural president, Romy Leibler.

Ros Fischl, former president of The Great Synagogue, was elected vice-president, Mark Cohen from South Australia was chosen as treasurer,
with Adam Levine from Perth as honorary secretary.

Leibler said COSA will partner with the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) to improve services to the Orthodox community, and
will seek representation on the ECAJ.

He said in Victoria and NSW, there is no shortage of community organisations providing services.

“Through a national body, there is scope to engender cooperation and leverage from each other’s experiences to create more efficiency and
transparency in the manner in which services are provided.

“In addition, a state such as Western Australia is maturing in size and there is scope to see it develop and refine its own institutions with the assistance of a national body.

“There are also the challenges to assist the smaller communities of South Australia, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.”

Leibler said availability of dinei Torah as an alternative to mainstream courts in commercial disputes should not be limited to Victoria, as it
is now, but should be accessible nationally.

On kashrut, “one can argue that having one kashrut authority might be more beneficial. I don’t know the answer to that, but the most
important thing is that one has to work with the incumbent organisations and individuals,” Leibler said.

COSA will also help Orthodox shuls draw greater funding for security, Leibler said.

Following COSA’s inaugural meeting, a cocktail reception was held at Central Synagogue, attended by a large number of rabbis, presidents and leaders of communal organisations.

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Title fight honours in kick boxing

MELBOURNe-  After only seven fights as a kick boxer, Alan Gocs won his first Victorian championship in an International Kick Boxing Federation bout late last month.

Gocs, 22, of Glenhuntly, took up competitive kick boxing a year ago after colleagues at the Martial Mix gym in Glenhuntly encouraged him to take up the sport.

Gocs is the inaugural winner in the 62-kilogram division for Full Muay Thai kick boxing, which allows competitors to use their feet, knees and elbows.

The title bout was held in Hoppers Crossing, west of Melbourne, on November 27 before a crowd of about 1500 people and Gocs was introduced by the MC as the Hebrew Hammer.

“I had fought my opponent earlier this year, but lost to a split decision, so I was confident going into this fight that I could go one better,” said Gocs.

“This match went for four rounds before I was declared the winner. Each round goes for two minutes, but when someone is kicking you in the leg it seems a lot longer.”

Gocs has now won five of his seven fights, but until the title bout he fought most of his events in a higher weight division.

He has to defend his title within a year, but whatever the outcome he will always keep the championship belt.

Gocs is studying for his Bachelor of Education at Victoria University and is an assistant instructor in street defence at the Martial Mix gym.

Among the kids attending his classes are students from the King David School.

At secondary school Gocs was a champion springboard diver, but it was while teaching body combat classes that he tried out kick boxing.

“I fell in love with the sport and as I progressed my trainer at the gym said I was good enough to start fighting,” he said.

“The sport is very popular in Thailand and is growing in popularity in Australia.”

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Peacemaker role for Rabbi Rosen

MELBOURNE – Visiting  interfaith guru Rabbi David Rosen has revealed that people often question why he would rather spend time making
peace between non-Jews than fostering peace among Jews.

The rabbi, who is visiting Australia with the support of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, is speaking at a number of community events, including at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, which began in Melbourne last week.

With the Orthodox battling the Progressive, the secular battling the religious, and the Left battling the Right, Rabbi Rosen would have his
work cut out for him bringing peace among Jewish people.

“People have to determine where their role is most appropriate and I think there are plenty of people who can contribute very well to bridging
the gulfs among Jews, but few have the experience I have in terms of reaching out to other communities and the knowledge of other
communities and being able to authentically represent one’s faith to other communities,” Rabbi Rosen said.

The head of the American Jewish Committee’s Department for Inter-religious Affairs said the key to interfaith relations is the motivation of the participants.

“Paradoxically, if you go into a relationship for the purpose of exploiting it, that relationship will not last very long, but if you go into a relationship on the basis of genuine mutual respect, you will actually find you will be able
to get much more long-term advantage.”

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Four new faces on Jewish roof Body

MELBOURNE-  Four new Victorian councillors have been elected to the board of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).

Elections took place at the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s (JCCV) annual general meeting late last month.

The new councillors are University of Melbourne academic Dr Dvir Abramovich, Mount Scopus Memorial College principal Rabbi James Kennard, Monash University academic Dr Philip Mendes and lawyer Alon Cassuto.

They join existing Victorian councillors Anton Block, Ron Finkel, Dr Danny Lamm, Ian Samuel, John Searle and Sharene Hambur.

At the meeting, JCCV president Searle said he regretted the gender imbalance among the councillors, with Hambur the only female out of 10 representatives.

But he added that a number of Victorian women are involved in the ECAJ in various other capacities, including education and social welfare.

These women include former ECAJ president Nina Bassat, National Council of Jewish Women of Australia federal president Rysia Rozen and B’nai
B’rith president Adrienne Perch.

Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Justice Brian Tee also addressed the AGM.

Tee said he expected the amendments to the Sentencing Act to pass the Upper House. This would mean judges would have to consider whether
there was any prejudiced motive by the offender when sentencing.

“[This amendment] makes it crystal clear that hate crimes have no place in Victoria,” the Upper House member for the Eastern Metropolitan region said.

He also spoke about changes planned for the Equal Opportunity Act, which will alter the way religious organisations can discriminate against prospective employees.

“The Government has a clear view, and that is eroding religious freedom does not make us more tolerant,” he said.

According to the proposed changes, religious organisations, including schools and community groups, will be allowed to deny employment on the basis of sex, sexuality and parental status, but will not be allowed to continue discriminating on the grounds of race, age or political beliefs.
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Rock stars join Jewish House celebrations

SYDNEY  – Sydney’s Jewish House celebrated its silver anniversary with a star-studded line-up of celebrities.

With the theme, “The Stars Align”, the event on December 1 featured a duo performance by Jimmy Barnes and his son David Campbell, along with
other entertainment from Hollywood Chassid Yisrael “Izzi” Lifschutz, Irish comedian Paul Martell, “Piano man” Scott Finnie and The Quintet.

Other highlights included medical practitioner and public commentator Kerryn Phelps as master of ceremonies, and an address by NSW politician Eric Roozendaal.

Roger and Anthony Clifford were also honoured for their dedication to charity for the past 25 years.

Founded in 1984, Jewish House provides immediate crisis intervention and prevention to those suffering depression, alcoholism, domestic
conflict, unemployment, business difficulties,
homelessness and other critical problems.

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ADC Lodges complaint over TV joke

MELBOURNE  – THE B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) this week lodged a complaint with Channel Nine over a joke made during a Today show report about the wedding of Dr Geoffrey Edelsten and Brynne Gordon.

Describing the decorations, reporter Richard  Wilkins said the florists of Melbourne had an early Christmas and sent a congratulations note,
adding “of course the Jewish word for congratulations, ker-ching”.

ADC executive director Deborah Stone said the “joke was a racist and offensive slander on Jewish people, drawing on an age-old stereotype
of Jewish people as rich and money-loving”.

“Casual racist remarks fuel anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. When prejudice sneaks into popular discourse under the cover of humour in a
lighthearted entertainment report, it legitimises an unfair and dangerous view of Jewish people to mass audiences.”

But Today show producer Tom Malone said the joke was in no way intended to be offensive to the Jewish community.

“It was a specific reference to the florists of Melbourne who would have made a fortune off the wedding because there were so many flowers. In no
way was this a reference to any stereotype of Jewish people being obsessed with money. It was the exact opposite ­ that no expense had been
spared. At all times Richard and Karl and Lisa were respectful of the Jewish faith,” he said.

Stone referred to the producer’s comments as “disingenuous”.

“There is a very simple test for whether a joke is racist. You substitute a different race or religion and see if the joke still stands. Is Mr
Malone seriously asking us to believe that if it had been an Anglican wedding with lavish flowers Mr Wilkins would have said, ‘the Anglican word for congratulations, ‘ker-ching’?” she said.

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Local park to light up for Channukah

MELBOURNE – Thd Festival of Lights got underway on Friday December 11 and Melbourne’s Jewish community has gone Chanukah-crazy, with events being held across the city for everyone from the oldest to the youngest.

The annual Chanukah in the Park celebrations took place as usual on Sunday evening (December 13) coinciding with the lighting of the third candle.

Held at Caulfield Park, the festivities included the famous Chanukah fireworks, in addition to pony rides, an animal farm, entertainment and food.

Also on Sunday night, Child Survivors of the Holocaust hosted a dinner and auction with special guest Rabbi Gornisht ( a well known Jewish comedian and satirist)  at Kadimah Reception Centre, and Soul Fusion held a celebration for singles.

Earlier on Sunday, Emmy Monash Aged Care hosted its largest annual event -­ a Chanukah party for residents and their families with lunch,
entertainment, candle-lighting, singing and dancing.

Monday evening (December 14) was a busy night, with Premier John Brumby hosting Chanukah at Parliament House, Campus Chabad celebrating Chanukah on Wheels at Dandenong Skate Park, and
the Jewish Russian Community Centre, FREE, going ice-skating for the festival.

Also on Monday, Chabad of Glen Eira created a white Chanukah with five tonnes of real snow being dumped on the congregation’s grounds for a carnival and barbecue.

To complete its so-called “Chanukah Wonderland”, Glen Eira had an ice sculptor carving  a two-metre-tall chanukiah which, when completed,was  lit.

Down the road at Spiritgrow, Chanukah was celebrated through ancient Australian traditions, including didgeridoo-playing, indigenous dancing
and art, and latkes. Hamayan will host kids’ activities, doughnut-decorating, music and food.

Central Shule Community Centre marked the festival with a breakfast on Tuesday morning (December 15),that honoured outgoing
Member for Caulfield Helen Shardey.

Later that evening, Elwood Talmud Torah Congregation celeberated with hot latkes, doughnut-making and eating, a dreidel games table
and a special chanukiah-lighting ceremony, where the five candles were lit by families representing the past, present and future of the shul.

The North Eastern Jewish Centre, East Melbourne shul and Open House  also all hosted  celebrations on Tuesday.

Wednesday  night will see Caulfield Hebrew Congregation’s giant kids’ party, complete with a flamethrower, hot dogs and doughnuts, as well as
a “soulful” candle-lighting ceremony.

Thursday night (December 17) will see the candlelight cast a glow on Federation Square for Chanukah in the City, with a jumping castle, the
Access Inc Drum Ensemble and community performances including the St Kilda Shul Choir, Klezmeritis and special guest Renee Geyer.

Hagshama will also mark the festival on Thursday night with a Bolly­wood-themed party in St Kilda. Kew Hebrew Congre­gation will celebrate the
eighth night with a Greco-Syrian-themed Shabbat dinner.

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Religions can be unifying force in mid-east

MELBOURNE – Prominent dovish Israeli Rabbi Michael Melchior says that religion, which is often seen as a source of tension between Israelis and Palestinians, has the potential to be a unifying tool for coexistence.

Rabbi Melchior, head of the dovish Israeli religious Zionist faction Meimad, has been in Australia for the Parliament of the World’s
Religions. He said that the international faith gathering in Melbourne was an opportunity to see, up close, how interfaith dialogue can cultivate
understandings between Jews and Muslims.

The Meimad leader asserted that most Israelis are willing to make peace, even if it means “giving up what is ours and what we seriously believe is
ours”, implying territorial compromise.

However, he said, Israelis have lost confidence that a real peace is attainable.

This, he said, is another example where religion comes directly into play.

“One of the reasons that people in Israel don’t think that peace is a plan [is] because we say if we make peace with the Palestinian Authority .
[but subsequently] if Islam won’t make peace with us, then what’s the point? We won’t have real peace,” Rabbi Melchoir said.

The rabbi continued that if peace is reached “in a way which is [religiously] acceptable” to Islam, then Muslim leaders would “be willing to live with a Jewish state in this area. And I think that the trust and the process among Israelis would be much greater.”

Rabbi Melchior said that he knows of “strong elements” in Muslim society that are prepared to explore this and that even among the more radical
Muslim voices, such as those affiliated with Hamas, there are “strong forces” that “understand they need to come to terms with Israel”.

This is “not because they have become Zionists” he explained, but because they acknowledge that Israel isn’t going anywhere and must be dealt
with on a practical level “for the good of their people”.

“I myself have spoken in a lot of the Arab world, as a staunch Zionist [and] as part of the Israel political rabbinical establishment, and have seen
that it is very possible to get quite far if we use a new approach to this issue,” Rabbi Melchior said.

As for the future of Meimad, while the party failed to reach the electoral threshold for representation in the current Knesset, Rabbi
Melchior noted that it fared better than expected, and he expressed confidence that it would remain an important voice on the Israeli political scene.

“I am sure that before the next elections we will be back on the map,” he said.