Compiled by Garry Fabian
Booksellers agree to pull books
MELBOURNE, 19 May – Three of Australia’s biggest book retailers this week agreed to pull a number of virulently anti-Semitic titles from their websites, following an investigation by a community watchdog.
Among the poisonous works that could be purchased on the Borders and Angus & Robertson websites were The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which alleges that Jews are plotting to take over the world, and The International Jew by Henry Ford,
which states: “Whichever way you turn to trace the harmful streams of influence that flow through society, you come upon a group of Jews.”
Visitors to the stores’ websites could also purchase Martin Luther’s The Jews and their Lies, in which the medieval theologian describes Jews as “base, whoring people, full of the devil’s feces, which they wallow in like swine.”
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, meanwhile, was also available online from Dymocks.
The investigation into the sale of hate literature on the net as part of the community alert to this type of display, and campaign against, cyber-racism.
After alerting the retailers to the pernicious nature of the books they were selling via their websites, on Tuesday all three agreed to withdraw them.
Dymocks buying manager Sophie Groom said: “We have taken the decision to remove the title from our website and this will be completed within the next two business days.”
Briony Lewis, general counsel for Redgroup Retail – the parent company of Borders and Angus & Robertson – also confirmed that the publications were being pulled.
The swift action taken by the retailers was welcomed by community leaders.
Expressing his disappointment that “such vehemently anti-Semitic and racist literature can be so easily obtained”, John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), said: “Nevertheless, I’m pleased the bookstores concerned have immediately agreed and acknowledged that it’s inappropriate for such
books to be available. It is precisely the dissemination of this kind of material that leads to ongoing problems of vilification and racism within our community, which the JCCV, together with other organisations, is working to eradicate.”
The sentiment was echoed by Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies.
“Given the disturbing ease with which the internet is abused and pernicious and racist material disseminated, it places an onus on all disseminators of information to exercise care and diligence over what they put out there,” he said.
“We therefore applaud these bookstores for their responsible approach when the issue was raised with them..”
Cannes coup for small film maker
MELBOURNE, 19 May – Ariel Kleiman’s status as one of Australia’s fastest-rising film talents was confirmed with the recent announcement that his short film, Deeper Than Yesterday, will be screened at Critic’s Week as part of the Cannes Film Festival.
Critic’s Week has showcased films by up-and-coming filmmakers for nearly 50 years, and has given artists such as Bernardo Bertolucci, Jacques Audiard and Ken Loach their start.
Kleiman, 25, leaves for the French Riviera on Sunday, on the second stop of his festival-hopping itinerary.
In February, he was in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival, where another short he wrote and directed, Young Love, won an honourable mention. He was also the director of photography on Muscles – a film by long-time friend Edward Housden – which has been nominated for the short film Palme d’Or.
“We make these films in a little bubble and we work pretty hard on them for quite a while,”Kleiman said. “So it’s definitely a nice feelingeven just to have it screened so other people can see it. It has been a crazy couple of months.”
And Kleiman will get his wish.
Cannes is comfortably the world’s most prestigious film festival and has long been considered a hotbed for talent-spotting and a launcher of careers.
Deeper Than Yesterday is one of seven shorts that will be screened as part of Critic’s Week, along with seven feature-length films. At nearly 20 minutes, Kleiman’s film is an awkward length and was too long to be considered in the short-film competition at Cannes.
“I was quite surprised [the film was selected for Critic’s Week] because I thought Deeper might have been too long. I didn’t know how it would be accepted at film festivals, because it’s quite a commitment to watch for a short. I had low expectations.”
Set on a submarine, Deeper Than Yesterday is a Russian-language film that explores the effects of prolonged isolation on a group of sailors. As the men become increasingly savage towards one another, they discover the body of a woman floating in the water.
The film was the Victorian College of the Arts student’s third-year project and was shot in eight days with a Russian-speaking cast, comprised of security guards and members of a local Russian drama school.
“I wrote it in English and then we workshopped it with the actors. I understand Russian, but I
don’t speak it. The actors really made the script their own in Russian, which was great.”
On a tight production schedule that allowed little room for error, Kleiman and his crew spent eight days bunkered down in a decommissioned submarine docked near Hastings, on Victoria’s Western Port Bay. But it wasn’t the first choice for the film’s location.
“Originally when I thought of it, it was going to be about a group of fisherman that find a woman in the ocean, but we couldn’t find a fishing trawler that would let us shoot on there. But it was probably a blessing because the sub was amazing.”
Kleiman and his housemates – girlfriend Sarah Cyngler, the film’s production designer, and Benjamin Gilovitz, a producer – built corporate websites to pay for the making of the film.
Kleiman said sharehouse living inspired Deeper Than Yesterday. “I guess the concept of living with people and
being with the same people day in and day out, I think that might be where it came from.”
The exposure of Kleiman’s films has earned him a contract with Warp Films (which produced the 2006 indie hit This is England) to pen a feature, which he is currently writing with Cyngler.
Change of guard at Victorian Zionist Council
MELBOURNE, 19 May – It’s the end of an era at the Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV), with president Dr Danny Lamm announcing last week he will retire from the post at the next Annual Assembly.
The longest-serving president of the organisation, he has held the role for eight years, two longer than any of his predecessors.
“I have had a tremendous amount of job satisfaction doing the job on behalf of the community and Israel,” Dr Lamm said. “I look back on this period with only satisfaction.”
When asked why he is stepping down, he said simply “it’s time”.
Dr Lamm credited his board for “a really productive period”, that has included advances in advocacy, public speakers, improving the utilisation of Beth Weitzmann Community Centre
and the purchase of 304 Hawthorn Road, adjacent to the centre.
“I have had tremendous support from my board all the way through,” he said. “We have had a really good level of cooperation.”
Remaining chairman of Beth Weizmann Community Centre, Dr Lamm said his retirement from ZCV
would not be the end of his community work, revealing that he is in discussions with another organisation.
ZCV executive director Ginette Searle said that the organisation would announce a replacement
later this year to coincide with the Annual Assembly.
The ZCV is the main representative body for more than 59 Zionist organisations. It enables the expression of Zionism in Victoria.
Court weighs weighty edifice issue
MELBOURNE, 21 May – The Sassoon Yehuda Sephardi Synagogue found itself fighting a Supreme Court injunction over a large sign on the synagogue’s facade last Friday.
Victoria’s Supreme Court dismissed the injunction asking for the signage, which identifies the St Kilda East centre as the “Lyndi and Rodney Adler Sephardi Centre”, to be removed before Saturday, when a ceremony was to be held in honour of one of the congregation’s founders, Jacques Balloul.
The prominent sign is a modification of an earlier, less conspicuous, version.
Costs of $5000 were awarded against the applicant, solicitor Dan Horesh, a nephew of Albert Sassoon Yehuda, the shul’s founder, who is the executor of his late uncle’s estate.
The estate last year launched legal action, claiming the founder was entitled to naming rights to the centre in perpetuity, based on donations he, and later his estate, have made.
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.
After the injunction was refused, Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, who heard the case, recommended the matter be resolved via a civil trial.
Rodney Adler, who is not a party to the case, told The AJN this week that when the shul approached him around 18 months ago, it was “in great financial trouble”. Pressed to help by Sephardi friends, the Adlers donated $150,000 in exchange for naming rights.
“I live in Sydney . I’m Ashkenazi . We don’t go to the shul, we’re not Melbourne people,” said Adler, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to criminal charges relating to his dealings over insurer HIH, and served 30 months in prison.
He bristled at comments made in court by Horesh’s lawyer David Sharp that the Adlers made the donation by way of “re-establishing themselves in society, particularly Jewish society”.
“It’s got to be a lot more than one little synagogue whose name is going to change my global perception,” he said.
Sephardi Centre president Paul Berman said the Adler name pertained to the centre as a whole, and that the synagogue would continue to be known as Sassoon Yehuda.
“We wish to honour all the benefactors who contribute greatly to the operation and the survival of our community,” he said.
Jewish contender for parliamentary seat
SYDNEY, 21 May – When nominations closed for ALP preselection in the Sydney seat of Wentworth last
Friday, lawyer Steven Lewis discovered he was the only contender with his hat in the ring.
The business executive turned lawyer will be formally declared as Labor’s candidate next month, pitching him against Liberal incumbent Malcolm Turnbull, as Australians switch into election mode.
Lewis remained the sole candidate for preselection, after NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) colleague Robin Margo withdrew from the race.
“I’m excited and honoured . We’ve always said it’s going to be a very tough campaign. While you’ve got to be realistic about it, the nature of the electorate is changing.
“There are a number of factors that voters will take into account. Are they looking to the future to have a local member represent their local interests, or to the past?”
Lewis said at this year’s election he would offer voters a grassroots alternative.
“Malcolm Turnbull has been preoccupied for a number of years now with much wider issues, [including] the leadership of his party. My goal is to be a good local member.”
Asked if, given Turnbull’s record with the Jewish community, this challenge will become a battle for the hearts and minds of eastern Sydney’s Jews, Lewis emphasised that the community “is oneof a number of groups that make up the electorate”.
“I’m not a Jewish candidate. I just happen to be a candidate who is Jewish. That’s a very important distinction,” the longtime JBD member said. “I’ve had a long association with the [Jewish] community and I hope that association
continues . It would be very nice if the [Wentworth Jewish] community have a representative in Federal Parliament, but that is not the only reason people vote. But I certainly would be a vocal and supportive representative of
the Jewish community’s needs and concerns.”
The Slater & Gordon lawyer said he also wanted to fight for improved mental health care, noting that his electorate includes The Gap, “which is unfortunately a place where a lot of people go to take their lives”. He is also keenly interested in improving the conditions for homeless people and helping with measures on the environment.
Lewis, 53, cut his political teeth protesting against the visiting Springbok rugby team from apartheid-era South Africa in 1971.
He joined the ALP in 1979 and is currently the Premier’s appointee on the NSW Election Funding Authority. Lewis was involved in the campaign to free Soviet Jews and visited the Soviet Union in 1988 as the personal assistant to communal icon Isi Leibler in negotiating the release of refuseniks. He was also involved in the contempt-of-court case against Fredrick Toben that saw alleged Holocaust denier jailed for three months last year.
Gutnick slams super tax
MELBOURNE, 24 May – Mining magnate Joseph Gutnick has fired a broadside at the Federal Government’s
proposed mining profits tax, claiming it will have a “negative impact” on Australia. He is pessimistic about Australia’s booming mining sector’s chances of staying at full throttle once the proposed impost is introduced.
Gutnick owns US-listed Legend International, a phosphate mining company exploring Queensland’s
Georgina Basin, which through North Australian Diamonds has a controlling stake in Merlin.
The productive diamond mine in the Northern Territory is one of only three in Australia and produces a high proportion of gem-quality stones.
He also has interests in various countries, including gold exploration in Canada.
“When you talk to fund managers and investors, they look at Australia now as a sovereign risk. But it is not only affecting the mining industry – it’s a disaster for the mining industry – but it’s affecting Australia.”
He has heard from foreign investors who are now wary of Australian bonds and there is insecurity
about what Canberra will do next. “Australia is [geographically] far enough without this supertax.”
Gutnick said he is still hopeful the tax “will be substantially changed or given up”. But with
opposition from state premiers and treasurers, he ponders whether it will ever be implemented.
Turning to the political ramifications of the tax, Gutnick said the Government was starting to feel the heat. The tax was “not something people ever expected to happen”.
The former Melbourne Football Club president famously followed the advice of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who urged him 22 years ago to search for gold and diamonds in the outback.
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World