Jewish Ozzies' Inter.Net
The electronic voice of the Australian Jewish Community

Letters from Jewish Australia - Community

1. Jewish Christian Relationships in Australia - The Uniting Church Resolution July 1994

2. Praying for the future of Australia - Aboriginal Reconciliation

3. Parliamentary Committee condemns Holocaust Denial

4. Catholic Jewish Relations - update

5. Historic Australian Press Release

6. Australian Demonstration of Solidarity Against Racism

7. Australian Journal of Human Rights Vol.1.No1

Jewish Christian Relationships in Australia - The Uniting Church Resolution July 1994

The Uniting Church of Australia is a Protestant organisation, the third largest religious group in Australia and represents approximately 8% of the population.

Three years ago the Australian Jewish community and the Uniting Church in Australia were in conflict following the publication of a document which showed significant misunderstanding of Israel and Jewry.

Since then the community has worked hard to resolve the conflict and sees the following motion, put by the Working Group On Relations With Other Faiths and passed unanimously by the Uniting Church Assembly on 12th July, 1994, as a major step forward in Jewish-Christian relationships.

"That the Assembly:

In the light of;

* the commitment of the Uniting Church in Australia to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to "constant reform under his Word";
* the sharing of Jews and Christians in the distinctive testimony of the Hebrew Scriptures to the One God, Creator and Redeemer;
* the presence of anti-semitism in church history and the need for the church to reinterpret its own history;
* the immense suffering caused to Jewish people over the centuries by anti-semitism, expressed this century in the horror of the Holocaust;
* the presence of anti-semitism in the world today, including Australia;
* the contacts and conversations which take place between Christian and Jewish people including the ongoing national dialogue between the Uniting Church and the Jewish Community in Australia,

request the Standing Committee to:

(a) initiate a process throughout the church of developing understanding, relationship and common action between Jewish and Christian people towards a better world, including attention to matters such as;
* understanding the foundation of anti-Judaism which is present in the New Testament;
* the development of anti-semitism since the foundation of the church;
* understanding Jewish history and the contemporary Jewish faith;
* issues of justice in Australia and internationally in which Christians and Jews both have legitimate interests;

(b) bring to the 1997 Assembly a proposed policy statement on relations between Jewish and Christian people.

The Seventh Assembly The Uniting Church in Australia

Praying for the future of Australia - May 1994
On the 27th May, 1994, the Week of Prayer for Aboriginal Reconciliation will be launched with the support of all major Australian political parties, industry, community leaders and the whole spectrum of the Australian Rabbinate.

The Jewish community with its commitment to building an Australia based on tolerance and communal harmony has a special concern that the reconciliation process has a positive outcome.

As Jews in Australia we now refuse to deny our identity, or to permit the events of our history to be suppressed merely because it might embarrass those who have sought to destroy us.

We all carry a personal responsibility to face up to the reality of the shameful aspects of Australia's past, to be informed about them and to resolve to work differently with Aboriginal people and communities in the future, using this knowledge. We must live with our history, not deny it.

In the absence of a clear light shed upon the past, prejudice is free to make its own interpretations.

On 27th May, 1967 a referendum was held in which the Australian people overwhelmingly voted to remove clauses from the Constitution of Australia which were discriminatory to the Aboriginal people.

The Week of Prayer will continue until 3rd June, the anniversary of the 1992, High Court of Australia's judgement in the 'Mabo" case.

The High Court decision on that day affirmed prior ownership of Australia by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and recognised Native Title within the common law of Australia. The judgement recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights of ownership existed before European settlement, and may still exist where the connection with the land has been maintained and title has not been extinguished.

A few days ago Cape York Land Council Executive Director, Noel Pearson, an Aboriginal lawyer who played a significant role in the events leading up to the Native Title Act, gave his first address to a Jewish audience at a meeting hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies' Social Justice Committee. He not only outlined the challenges that lie ahead for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the areas of health, business and culture but acknowledged the importance of the Jewish community's continuing support in its fight against racism.

In 1993 Ron Castan A.M., Q.C., a member of the Australian Jewish community who had been actively involved in the "Mabo" case, gave an oration to the B'nai B'rith titled "Australian Catharsis: Coping With Native Title".

This outstanding paper dramatically illustrates why all of us should be concerned about the plight of a people almost extinguished by unmitigated racism. It explains the past inertia of decent people to cross the racial and cultural gap between themselves and indigenous Australians and points to the need for everyone of good conscience to actively help overcome the alienation this has caused.

It also highlights the relationship between the Jewish and Aboriginal experience, making it an important document for all people concerned with justice and responsibility.

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation has widely distributed an explanatory kit about the Week of Prayer which includes Ron Castan's oration and a selection of readings from other Jewish sources.

We strongly recommend that all networkers make the time to read Ron Castan's excellent article which is available via electronic mail from JOIN.

To receive your copy simply mail to with the subject CASTAN.

For more information on the Week of Prayer and Reconciliation and/or a copy of the kit please contact The AboriginalReconciliation Unit on 008- 807-071.

Parliamentary Committee Condemns Holocaust Denial
On Tuesday, December 6, 1994 the second report of the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the House of Representatives and Senate was tabled. It included a recommendation that the government condemn Holocaust denial and also "take a more active international advocacy role" in supporting victims of human rights abuses, "particularly those resulting from racism, racial vilification, antisemitism, xenophobia and intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief".

The Committee's brief was to assess what Australia is and should be doing in the interests of furthering Human Rights in Australia i.e. how its diplomatic representatives should deal with "religious, racial and other discrimination" in bilateral and multilateral discussions with other States.

Submissions were taken and hearings held over the past two years. These submissions included those from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and Australia/Israel Publications (AIP).

As well as racism in Australia, the Human Rights situation in Israel and throughout the Middle East was the subject of many submissions and there was also a series of serious anti-Israel allegations, particularly from the Australian PLO representative.

Subsequently the Executive Vice-President of the ECAJ and Director of AIP's Sydney Office, Jeremy Jones, was summoned to give testimony before the Committee on behalf of the Australian Jewish community.

At this hearing a substantial amount of time was devoted to the activities of Holocaust deniers and antisemitic organisations, particularly those with international links. Jeremy spoke on why human rights matter, why antisemitism should be specifically identified rather than lumped with other forms of unacceptable behaviour and that why, if anti-racism laws are introduced into this country, they must not allow Holocaust denial to slip through the legal net due to its masquerading as science or academic debate.

As a result, the Committee's report, titled "A Review of Australia's Efforts to Protect and Promote Human Rights" gave the first parliamentary recognition to Holocaust Denial as a matter of serious concern in a human rights context.

"The Committee supports the ECAJ's call and urges the Australian Government to continue its condemnation of 'Holocaust denial', which the European Parliament has identified as a feature of contemporary European racism." P209
and it included a call for the Australian Government to take up specific Human Rights cases in Iraq, Syria and Iran.

In response to a mountain of anti-Israel testimony Jeremy had focussed on the benefits of the peace process to Human Rights and the need for Human Rights to be protected and strengthened throughout the Middle East.

Rather than censure Israel, the Committee noted that there had been progress in the past two years, and in the Review stated that "a lasting peace in the Middle East" will "improve the Human Rights of all residents in that region" and commended Australian support for the peace process.

Catholic/Jewish Australian Update - January 1995

On the 18th January 1995 Pope John Paul II visited Australia for asecond time.

Jeremy Jones, Executive Vice-President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) was invited together with the leaders of twelve Christian denominations and the Muslim community to meet the Pontiff at the first public inter-faith gathering in Australia. They met at an open air ceremony in Sydney's Domain before an estimated crowd of 30,000 people.

After his formal welcome the Pope addressed the crowd on the themes of communal harmony and multi-culturalism and warned of the evils of "ethnic rivalries and racist attitudes". The speeches and presentations concentrated on common concerns regarding morality and the need for human beings to act with compassion, and avoided the use of sectarian or exclusively Christian language.

When it was Jeremy's time to shake hands the Pope took notice of his comparative youth, saying "You are still a young man. Young people represent hope and have important responsibilities. Young Jewish people represent a special hope for our future." Then, to Jeremy's surprise, he recalled their previous meeting on 26th November 1986 at Sydney's St.Mary's Cathedral. At that time Jeremy was part of a Jewish community delegation which exchanged letters and discussed antisemitism and Israel-Vatican relations.

The information then provided by our community was subsequently used as a basis for the Guidelines for Catholic-Jewish Relations issued in November 1992 by the Australian Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. This remarkable document, designed as a teaching tool, acknowledges the need to make "a fresh start in relations between Catholics and Jews in our country.".

Just prior to the Vatican Council of 1965 which recognised such need we were living in Adelaide, South Australia. At this time our devout next-door neighbour believed that she could not be friendly with Jews. It was in this same town, some hundred years earlier in 1867, that passionate reformer, Mother Mary MacKillop, whose beatification was the major event of the Pope's recent visit, clashed with the traditionalists of the Catholic bureaucracy. However, when this pioneer of social welfare and education services in Australia was excommunicated and her Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart were rendered homeless by the orders of Bishop Shiel, she was befriended and helped by a leader of the Jewish community.

While the meeting with the Pontiff was formal and largely symbolic, the subsequent VIP reception provided an excellent opportunity for Jeremy to discuss matters of mutual concern to the ECAJ and heads of religious groups present. Friendly and constructive discussions took place between most of the participants, many of whom know each other well and have positive personal relations.

In thanking the Pope for his kind words Jeremy had wished, on behalf of Australian Jewry that he be "blessed with health and strength." To which came the reply, "Please give to your people from me a message of Shalom. Shalom Aleichem.".

Peace depends on healthy relationships among peoples. Communications can break down the barriers of ignorance and misinformation. To this end you can, if you wish, get a copy of The Guidelines for Catholic- Jewish Relations from the office of Biship Bede V. Heather. P.O.Box 6644 PARRAMATTA B.C., Australia 2150 - Phone 02 683 6277.


The Guidelines state;.

"In 1965 the Second Vatican Council passed its Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions which included a very important statement on the Jewish people. This statement reminded the Church of its roots in Judaism and called for the complete rejection of certain erroneous ideas about the Jews which, for centuries, had been only too common amongst Catholics and other Christians. Specifically, "Jews should not be presented as repudiated or cursed by God, as if such views followed from the Holy Scriptures" nor can the Passion of Jesus "be blamed upon all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews of today" (NAn4) Pge 5.

Documents issued by the Vatican are now available on the internet. It is anticipated that it will not be long before Australian Catholic and Jewish community statements will be electronically archived. Any appropriate Jewish material should be emailed to J.O.I.N.

Historic Australian Press Release - 5th August 1995

History was made on July 26th, 1995 with the issue of the first-ever joint press release by representatives of the main Jewish, Islamic and Christian organisations in Australia on a foreign affairs matter.

This "joint call for strong action in Bosnia" recalled the significant role of Australia in the formulation of the United Nations and "the terrible price paid by humanity for European appeasement of the Nazis and Fascists in the 1930's.".

Today more than 1500 people of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic communities in Adelaide, South Australia, crossed religious boundaries to join together in a demonstration to urge more effective United Nations action.

In Brisbane another demonstration pressed for the lifting of the arms embargo.

Australians are not particularly religious but this show of solidarity by religious groups must help promote tolerance in Australia. The parties to the press release were; World Conference for Religion and Peace, Australia; The Anglican Church of Australia, General Synod; Uniting Church In Australia National Assembly; Executive Council of Australian Jewry; Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

Australian Demonstration of Solidarity Against Racism - Sunday, 16th July, 1995

Today, on Sunday 16th July, 1995, the Fast of Tammuz, members of the small (roughly 2,000) Jewish community of Adelaide, South Australia have been asked to join the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation in fasting from dawn to dusk as they assemble in solidarity with members of the wider community, including its civic and church leaders, to mourn the desecration of 62 graves (including those of still-born infants and a former Mayor) in the Jewish section of West Terrace Cemetery on Friday 7th July, 1995.

The desecration of Jewish graves is a physical reminder that the base evil which drove Nazi antisemitism still confronts us. Even in 1995 Australian society is marred by racist propagandists, thugs and vandals.

Australian political leaders have condemned the attack, the cause of which has brought racial vilification legislation back into the limelight. Promises have been made for speedy repairs to which the Federal Government will contribute $15,000 from the International Year of Tolerance Fund confirming that "tolerance and respect for difference were fundamental goals in Australian society", West Australian, (July 12) while a statewide fund has been set up by Westpac (Bank) to help raise the $60,000 needed to complete the task.

Money, however, is not enough. Australian police have not found those responsible for past synagogue fires or the spray-painting of red swastikas on the Holocaust memorial and nearby graves in the Gold Coast in Queensland and on the grave of aboriginal activist, Eddie Mabo, nor have there been any arrests for the recent antisemitic incidents in Adelaide. These include the verbal and physical abuse of holocaust survivors and obscene telephone calls on answering machines at the Beit Shalom and Adelaide synagogues. Michael Brander, chairman of the right-wing organisation National Action, phoned and said that they would attack the Jewish community if Jewish students demonstrated at National Action rallies.

More must be done to apprehend those responsible for such assaults. As Federal Minister for Immigration, Nick Bolkus, said, "the attack reminds us that racism is still alive, and that we must reinforce our commitment to overcoming it", The Australian, (July 10).

We know that dealing with antisemitism whether overt or covert is difficult. Publicity can play into the hands of the perpetrators. As Australian author Gloria Yates said in reference to a recent prize- winning Australian book, "If you keep quiet you're damned and if you speak out you send up the sales . . . ", Canberra Times, (July 1). But racism, in all its forms, must be confronted through education, by legislation and effective police action.

We hope that, with the strong support of the wider community, the perpetrators of such crimes will be brought to justice and their views universally rejected as un-Australian.

Australian Journal of Human Rights Vol.1.No1

Reports indicating a rise in acts of racial hatred have recently been published both on JOIN (Australia) and CAJinet (Canada). In our countries and elsewhere legislation is seen as one means to discourage such acts and to promote the peace and well-being of all.

Legislation will not and cannot solve all problems of racism. There is nonetheless a great deal of value for Jews (who have been defined legally as a race not religion) in the proposed Racial Hatred Bill 1994 (Commonwealth).

The debate around this legislation is an important component of the first Australian Journal of Human Rights. The Journal is also recognised by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal & Constitutional Affairs as the most comprehensive analysis of the law.

This Journal is currently available within Australia for $40 including postage ($50 for overseas purchasers). Even at this price it represents very good value for money. Eminently readable, it shows how human rights issues affect us all and the challenges they present.

It includes The Symposium, "Striking It Right: Racial Vilification in Australia" and articles such as "The Importance of Judicial Review of Administrative Action as a Safeguard of Individual Rights" by the Hon. Justice Sir Anthony Mason, former Chief Justice of the High Court and "No One Can Own Land" - a feminist/aboriginal response to "Mabo" - by lawyer, Larissa Behrendt, the first Aboriginal Australian to win a scholarship to Harvard. The only exception to this otherwise all- Australian and original production, is Canadian, Kathleen Mahoney's outstanding paper "Hate Vilification Legislation and Freedom of Expression: Where is the Balance?". The articles, symposium, coverage of recent Australian legal developments and book reviews make this Journal a handbook of the first order.

JOIN is very proud to be able to make it easier for everyone whether from an academic, legal or simply humanitarian perspective, to further their knowledge and be empowered to address the issues presented through a very special, money-saving offer for our members.

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