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The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

December 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Compiled by Garry Fabian  

Long time debt repaid

SYDNEY  – Steven Colman was 18 years  old and fleeing from the Hungarian Nazis in Budapest when he knocked on the door of Zsuzsanna Reszeli and her 17-year-old daughter Karolina in November 1944.

Despite already hiding another young Jewish  couple in their flat, the Reszelis took in  Colman and his mother Ilonka for three months at great risk to their own lives.

This month, more than six decades on, Karolina and her late mother were recognised for their
heroism and declared Righteous Among the Nations -­ the highest honour bestowed by Yad Vashem.

It concludes a lifetime journey for 83-year-old Colman, who now resides in Sydney, in paying
tribute to the people he credits with his survival.

“When I heard the news I couldn’t stop crying that finally, in a small way, I could repay our saviours,” he said

“I’m crying now. It is a tremendous feeling despite the 65 years that have passed; I am overcome with emotion.”

Mrs Reszeli was a cleaner at the time and cared  for Karolina, who was called Csopi (tiny) for her
dwarfism. With their help, Mr Colman and his  mother survived the war, as did his father, who
was sheltered by a Budapest brothel owner.

“Nobody who has not lived through those dark days  will ever really understand what those two
righteous people did,” the Holocaust survivor said.

“To attempt to repay these two women after 65  years for their deeds is a privilege for which I
am truly thankful,” he said, adding that he was grateful for the assistance of Baruch Tenenbaum,
founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, for helping to bestow the honour on the Reszelis.

After the war,  Colman and his family relocated to England. In 1956, he moved with his wife to
New Zealand before settling permanently in Australia
*   
Faith Parliament snub to Jews leaves “sour taste”.

MELBOURNE – Jewish community leaders have expressed disappointment at being excluded
from delivering a formal Jewish blessing in the  closing ceremony of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Final prayers at the closing plenary of the seven-day faith conference in Melbourne last week
were delivered by representatives of the Sikh, Buddhist, Christian and Islamic faiths, but Jewish leaders were neglected.

There were also presentations by Hare Krishna and Brahma Kumaris leaders.

Josie Lacey, honorary life member of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and
interfaith chair for the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, said she found it “inexplicable and
incomprehensible” that the Jewish community was not included.

“It was so disappointing that we were left out in  the closing plenary, seeing our input at the
Parliament was so significant,” said Lacey, who presented two sessions and chaired one at the event.

“I was just gobsmacked that we were not included in the program. I thought it was a typo. Sitting
in the audience, it was almost humiliating to be so excluded.”

The Great Synagogue’s Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence said: “The Jewish blessing was conspicuous in its
absence from the program, despite the presence of Jewish clergy at the plenary and despite
substantial Jewish involvement in the Parliament over the week, as both participants and presenters.

“It would be a shame if the goodwill and worthwhile interaction of the Parliament became
diminished by this incident, but it does leave a very sour taste.”

Former ECAJ president Nina Bassat, who was on the Melbourne PWR board working in conjunction with the conference’s main organising body in Chicago, said the Australian committee had very little input in the opening and closing ceremonies.

“I was upset that the Jewish community was  excluded. The three Abrahamic faiths should have
been represented and only two of them were,” she  said, speaking from New Zealand.

“I was extremely disappointed as a Jew and also  as a member of the PWR board to think we were so remiss.”

At the end of the plenary, after the final traditional blessing was announced, there was a
world-music performance, during which two lines of Hebrew were sung by a female vocalist.
However, the vocalist’s name and religion were not announced, nor was it mentioned in the program.

When contacted by The AJN, a representative of PWR said the blessing sung by the vocalist — who
she identified as Israeli singer Miriam Ohevetel — together with the interfaith ensemble constituted the Jewish blessing.

However, Rabbi Lawrence said: “A suggestion that this constituted the Jewish blessing is dismissed
as insulting. The other blessings were stand-alone and introduced. If anything, it turns
an insensitive oversight into marginalisation.”

*
Jewish schools shine in Year 12 results

MELBOURNE – Students at Melbourne’s Jewish schools have again finished in the top one
per cent of the state, according to VCE results released this week.

At least two pupils at each Jewish school received marks over 99, with one or more students
at all schools attaining perfect study scores.

While two Bialik College students and one Leibler Yavneh College student gained the highest scores among pupils at Jewish schools (99.9),  Mount Scopus Memorial College led the charge, with 17 per cent of the 128 graduating students receiving marks above 99.

A further 51 per cent of Mount Scopus students  scored above 95, and 68 per cent above 90. Three
pupils shared the top mark of 99.85, and 25  perfect study scores were recorded by 22 students
in nine subjects, including 11 in English.

Principal Rabbi James Kennard said: “We always have high expectations, but these record-breaking
results exceeded all our hopes.

“It is always pleasing to see among the highest achievers students who have benefited extensively
from, and contributed to, Scopus’ Jewish life and extracurricular opportunities.”

At Bialik College, 11 students scored in the top percentile of the state, with a further 37
receiving marks above 95, and almost 64 per cent attaining scores above 90.

Principal Joseph Gerassi said that “Bialik is characterised by the strong relationship between
its students and their teachers, and it is this partnership to which we attribute the wonderful VCE results”.

“We are also proud of the skills our students have developed across a broad range of endeavours
throughout their schooling at Bialik.”

At Leibler Yavneh College, where 41 pupils graduated, and Beth Rivkah Ladies College, where
45 students completed VCE, more than half of both classes scored above 90, with 10 per cent at both schools ranked in the top one per cent.

Yavneh principal Roy Steinman said: “We’re tremendously excited with these results.

“Even more impressive than the spectacular results of those who scored in the top one per
cent of the state, or those who achieved perfect scores, is the fact that more than half our
students found themselves in the top 10 per cent of the state.

Beth Rivkah principal Samuel Gurewicz expressed his delight for the students and their parents.

“Naturally, I am delighted. Happy for the students and their parents, happy for the school.
The students worked hard and have achieved great results,” he said.

“However, what makes me really happy is the way this group of girls turned out. They are a source
of pride to their parents, to Beth Rivkah and to the whole Jewish community.”

“What makes me really happy is the way this group  of girls turned out. They are a source of pride
to their parents, to Beth Rivkah and to the whole Jewish community.”

The King David School also recorded top results, with six per cent of its 52 VCE graduates scoring
above 99 and 46 per cent, or 24 students, receiving marks above 90.

Principal Michele Bernshaw said: “Excellence in academic results, in creative and critical
thinking and most importantly in character development, is the focus of King David.”

With its best results ever, Yeshivah College had nine out of 15 students score over 90, with two
in the class, or 13 per cent, receiving marks over 99.

Head of campus Bradley Phillips said: “The performance of our candidates is very pleasing
and a credit to the work and efforts of all students.

“The results are reflective of the ability and commitment of our students and their success will
assist them in their future lives.”

Top students from each school were:

Bialik College
Ian Metz, 99.9
Benjamin Pojer, 99.9

Subjects: Ian – English, accounting, specialist math, math methods, religion and society, tertiary accounting.

Benjamin – English, Hebrew, math methods, specialist math, further math, chemistry, biology.

Ian Metz and Benjamin Pojer have more in common than just sharing the top mark at Bialik College. While both were very focused on their VCE during the year, they also spent time at their
respective youth movements and will spend next year in Israel– ­ Ian with Habonim Dror and Benjamin with Hashomer Hatzair.

Upon their return, Ian is weighing up either studying a law/commerce double degree at Monash
University, or pursuing his love of music at the Victorian College of the Arts.

Either way, he said he was “stoked” with his results, not because he topped the year, but
rather because it means the possibility of university scholarships.

When Benjamin’s SMS came through, he rechecked the results on the computer, thinking there may have been a mistake.

“I was ecstatic, elated, no words can describe what it felt like to turn over and see the SMS
with those numbers,” said Benjamin, who hopes to study medicine following a “well-earned break”.

Leibler Yavneh

Tal Ellinson, 99.9
Subjects: English, math methods, psychology,  specialist math, drama, chemistry.

Tal Ellinson stayed up all night with his friends in anticipation of their VCE results, returning
home to check the internet just before his score was released.

He said he was “ecstatic” upon seeing all the nines on the computer screen, but he didn’t know
he had topped the year until hours later, when he received a phone call from the school.

Tal will spend next year on yeshivah in Israel  with youth movement Bnei Akivah, after which he
plans to return to study an arts/science double degree at Monash University ­ a course he
selected based on his interests, not his potential marks.

He said that year 12 was “one of the best years” of his school life, and while he focused on his
studies, he said his life was “reasonably balanced”.

Mount Scopus Memorial College

Karen Freilich, 99.85
Joshua Ludski, 99.85
Michael Turin, 99.85

Subjects: Karen – English, Hebrew, chemistry, math methods, specialist math, religion and society.

Joshua – English, Hebrew, religion and society, accounting, chemistry, math methods.

Michael – English, Hebrew, religion and society, history revolutions, further math, math methods.

Top students Karen Freilich, Joshua Ludski and Michael Thurin each found their VCE year a
positive experience. While their studies were the priority, all three said they went out every
weekend and ensured they took part in extracurricular activities.

For Karen, youth movement Hineni and spending time with her friends were priorities. While she
plans to spend next year in Israel with Hineni, she hopes to study medicine upon her return.

In addition to receiving the same marks, “close mates” Joshua and Michael both plan to go
straight to university to study law/commerce double degrees. Sport played an important role
this year for the two students, with both playing football.

While Michael received his results with his mum online, Joshua was on a plane when the SMS came through moments before take-off. He had the flight to Sydney to enjoy the glory on his own,
before calling his family after landing.

When reflecting on the year, Michael said consistency is key and Joshua emphasised the
importance of having a life and interests outside of school.

Beth Rivkah

Bina Perelman, 99.85

Subjects: English as a second language, Hebrew, chemistry, biology, specialist math, math methods.

HAVING moved to Australia from Israel at the end of year 7, Bina Perelman was not expecting to top her year at Beth Rivkah Ladies College.

While she was hoping to do well enough to achieve her dream of studying medicine, she did not
anticipate receiving a mark over 99 and said she will now have to reassess her preferences accordingly.

“I was speechless for about five minutes, then I started crying as my parents cried and then I was jumping up and down.”

For Bina, year 12 was a difficult year, but having the support of her teachers, family and
friends made it easier to “stay motivated”, and this is precisely her advice to others.

“Think about the end but don’t forget the present,” she said. “Surround yourself with
people who are willing to help and support you.”

King David School

Ryan Dean, 99.7

Subjects: English, biology, chemistry, math 0methods, further math, psychology.

A leg injury that stopped him from playing football was about all that dampened Ryan Dean’s final year at school.

While year 12 can be a stressful time for many, Ryan referred to his as “fun”, saying that while
he studied, he also enjoyed playing sports, socialising with friends and the school formal.

With the ambition of studying medicine, Ryan was hoping to do well, but “definitely did not” expect to top his class.

He was shocked but pleased to receive his mark, hoping to begin his studies at Monash University,
or even interstate, next year. As for his advice for next year’s graduating class?

“Be honest with yourself and rather than being afraid of your weaknesses, tackle them,” he said.

Yeshivah College

Yakir Landau, 99.6

Subjects: English, Hebrew, specialist math, math methods, chemistry, physics.

Despite opting to receive his marks via SMS, Yakir Landau only received part of his results.
In eagerness, he jumped onto the computer, and what he saw was “very unexpected”.

Landau said that aside from some heated table tennis matches in the VCE common room and his
piano playing, he stayed very focused on his studies.

Regardless of the almost perfect score, he will not study medicine as he had hoped, instead
applying for engineering. Yakir will spend next year in Israel at a yeshivah in Jerusalem, after
which he hopes to return for university.

Asked what advice he would give to others, he said “keep focused. It’s hard at the time but it ends.”

*
Metropolitan private schools dominated the list of top-performing schools, according to data from
the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority published in The Age on Thursday 17 December

Jewish school Mount Scopus Memorial College has edged Victoria’s selective-entry girls’ high
school from the top VCE spot, with 44 per cent of study scores at 40 or over.

MacRobertson Girls’ High School has led the state for the past seven years, but this year dropped
to third behind Mount Scopus and selective-entry government boys’ school Melbourne High.

All three schools got a median study score of 38, but Melbourne High and MacRobertson High got
fewer study scores at 40 or over – 40 and 39 per cent respectively.

Jewish schools performed strongly this year, with Beth Rivkah Ladies College and Bialik College
joining Mount Scopus in the top-10 schools in the state.

*

Elements unkind to Chanukah Celebrations

MELBOURNE–While many Melbournians were pleased to see a torrential downpour on the afternoon and evening of 17 December, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria was forced to cancel its annual ‘Chanukah in the City’ celebration for the first time in its ten-year history.

According to JCCV president John Searle, there were many disappointed faces when Federation
Square management refused to allow the event to take place due to the potential danger from using
electrical equipment in the wet conditions.

“‘Chanukah in the City’ has become an institution in Melbourne during the past decade”, Searle
said.  “The crowds have grown every year and this year we had two special acts, the iconic Renee
Geyer and Troy Sussman who has appeared in many major commercial musical theatre productions, including Phantom of the Opera, Hair and Les Miserables.”

“Many people were prepared to endure the terrible weather for performers of this calibre on the
tenth anniversary of ‘Chanukah in the City'”, Searle continued, “but obviously public safety
had to take precedence.  Unfortunately those who turned up a little later for the lighting of the
Menorah were unhappy to find an empty Federation Square, but we did our best to inform the
community by ensuring that there was notification of the cancellation on the screen.  Now let’s
hope that despite climate change we’ll have perfect weather permitting a bigger and better event in 2010.”

*
Real Estate advertisment criticised

BRISBANE  – A Queensland estate agent  has come under scrutiny for her
advertisement  that aims to capitalise on the phrase “Schindler’s list” to showcase her listings.

For the past five years, agent Glennis Schindler, of Vic Murphy Real Estate in Maroochydore, has
used the play on her last name to publicise her properties in local real-estate magazines.

But the words also have other connotations. Schindler’s List is the name of the award-winning film by Steven Spielberg.

Her tactic appeared to backfire when Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director
Peter Wertheim was alerted to the notice.

“I do not know Ms Schindler, but I doubt that she intended her advertisement to be offensive in any
way,” Wertheim was quoted as saying in The Brisbane Times.

“Nevertheless, it will be seen as offensive by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and their
families because it trivialises their suffering.”

David Paratz, vice-president of the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies, told The AJN that the
board hadn’t received any complaints about the advertisement.

“If we had, we probably would have given her a call and had a chat to her about it,” he said.

“My suspicion is that she probably thought it was just a jingle. In this case, I wouldn’t know
without talking to the lady whether she was really aware of the implications at all. I don’t
know if she has even seen the movie.”

When contacted, Schindler declined to comment. Asked whether she planned to cease using it, she
said: “That hasn’t been decided at this stage.”

*
Intermarriage and shecitah on the agenda

MELBOURNE – Shechitah, fertility and intermarriage were among the key topics under the
spotlight at the annual Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) conference.

The conference was held at St Kilda Hebrew Congregation in Melbourne earlier this month and
attracted participants from across the country and featured a number of presentations, as well
as a discussion regarding the body’s new constitution.

Designed to increase the professionalism and effectiveness of ORA, it was resolved that at the
next conference seven newly-elected board members will be empowered to take all the necessary steps to set up a new company to be called the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia Limited.

Among various papers presented, Rabbi Zalman Kastel spoke on “Improving the Rabbinic Image
(Without Shaving!)”, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick addressed the issue of prenuptial agreements with
regards to getts, and Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence asked whether members of the rabbinate should be bound by an ethical code.

Rabbi Tzvi Telsner, meanwhile, analysed what rabbis can divulge to the authorities within the
framework of halachah regarding matters such as domestic violence, and Rabbi Yoram Ulman of the NSW Beth Din led a discussion on fertility issues, such as IVF, and their impact on Jewish status (yuchsen).

Participants were also apprised of recent high-level negotiations to secure the future of shechitah in Australia.

In a bid to combat intermarriage, ORA president Rabbi Dovid Freilich called on his colleagues to
get involved in a project whereby eligible men and women of marriageable age, from various
synagogues around Australia and New Zealand, would be put on a central database from which marriage partners might be found.

Rabbi Freilich stressed that rabbis can’t just talk about intermarriage, but must take practical steps to prevent it.

The conference concluded with presentations to the most senior members of the organisation —
Rabbi Dr Shalom Coleman and Rabbi Tuvya Silberman.

Each received a menorah bearing the inscription: “Presented from ORA in recognition of the
outstanding contribution to Australian Jewry in spreading the light of Torah.”
*

AJAX’s premiership-winning water polo side.

MELBOURNE – AJAX took out the 2009 Victorian State League 4 water polo premiership,
with a 13-3 win over Melbourne University at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.

The win caps off a stellar 2009 for the Jackas, which finished the regular season on top of the ladder.

AJAX made its intentions clear from the outset, applying constant pressure that forced Melbourne Uni to turn over the ball.

Melbourne Uni was never in the match, as telling pressure from AJAX resulted in a lopsided contest.

Abie Spies was one of AJAX’s best throughout the finals series and was named State League 4’s Most
Valuable Player for season 2009.

*
Fabian, Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World, recently celebrated his golden wedding anniversary with his wife Evelyn — an occasion that drew a letter of congratulations from Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.  We can’t top that here in the States, but we certainly want to join in wishing the Fabians the heartiest of mazal tovs!

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