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The electronic voice of the Australian Jewish Community

Letters from Jewish Australia - Organisations

1. B'nai B'rith District 21 - A UNiting force in the Jewish Communities of Australia and New Zealand

2. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry marks its 50th Birthday

3. The Jewish Medical Ethics Society Symposium 19th - 24th May, 1995.

B'nai B'rith District 21 - A Uniting force in the Jewish Communities of Australia and New Zealand
A message from Dr Paul Gardner, Senior District Vice-President -

March 1995

Shalom to all JOINers!

B'nai B'rith is excited about the opportunities created by JOIN to communicate with members of the network. Many people have told us, "Yes, you do great work, but few people know about it." It's true: we have tended to be quiet achievers. The information superhighway provides a marvellous way of getting our message out to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of members of the Jewish community. So, here goes.

We are a world-wide Jewish service organization, established more than 150 years ago, in New York. First we expanded across America, then late last century to Europe and Palestine (as it then was). (Sigmund Freud gave his first public lectures on his ideas about psychoanalysis to meetings of the B'nai B'rith Lodge in Vienna, and Yehuda HaLevi, the founder of modern Hebrew, was the secretary of the first B'nai B'rith lodge in Jerusalem.)

Today, with international headquarters in Washington D.C., we have more than 100,000 members in more than fifty countries on six continents. Tens of thousands of young people are connected with BB through our youth groups and through the Hillel Foundation.

B'nai B'rith District 21 encompasses 25 grass-roots groups in Australia and New Zealand. Most of these are in Melbourne and Sydney, with others in Adelaide, Auckland and Wellington. Attempts are currently under way to re-establish units in Perth and on the Gold Coast.

B'nai B'rith's central aim is to reach out to all members of the Jewish community, across all age groups, and to unite them in the task of serving the best interests of the Jewish and the wider community and giving support to the state of Israel.

Our basic purpose is to help assure the creative continuity of the Jewish people by strengthening our members' identification with the moral and ethical values of their tradition, culture and heritage.

We seek to achieve this through grass-roots groups which encourage active involvement, rather than merely nominal membership or financial contributions. We are committed to the value of harmonious relations amongst members and tolerance for divergent religious and political views.

Social functions are important for helping to build cohesive groups, but we recognise that there is more to Jewish life than simply social activity. All over the district, BB members are active, in many different ways, helping others: collecting and distributing furniture for new immigrants, running a mentoring program to help Russian migrants prepare a curriculum vitae for a job interview, teaching English to migrants, taking senior citizens on an outing, raising funds for charitable projects...

Our Anti-Defamation Commission makes an important contribution to the continuing struggle against anti-semitism and all forms of bigotry, discrimination and intolerance. The Commission monitors anti-Jewish episodes, and works with journalists and community leaders to expose and oppose people and organisations which seek to undermine human rights. Our quarterly magazine, "Background", produced by BB's Unit Jerusalem in Sydney with the support of the Commission, is sent to all members, and is also available to non- members interested in anti-defamation work.

Our Youth Commission and our Hillel Commission endeavour to promote Jewish continuity among teenagers and university students. The Youth Commission recently held a successful national AZA convention in Melbourne that brought together teenagers from several Australian states. In Sydney, Hillel has for several years been successfully amalgamated with Shalom College at the University of New South Wales and runs programs to keep Jewish university students involved in Jewish life.

B'nai B'rith believes in fostering good relationships with other ethnic and religious communities. In Melbourne and Sydney, B'nai B'rith groups have held meetings with groups from the Vietnamese, Greek, Armenian and Indian communities. A group of Turkish Muslims recently attended a Shabbat service and kiddush at Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne, and a return visit was made to a Turkish community centre.

B'nai B'rith is a staunch supporter of Israel in its struggle to achieve a secure peace with its neighbours. Our Israel Commission supports various community service projects in Israel: advanced training for medical practitioners, social rehabilitation programs, a guide-dog training program, an after-school care program for disadvantaged children.

We care about young people. We care about the elderly: B'nai B'rith is the largest provider of housing for the Jewish aged in the Diaspora. We care about the under-privileged. We care about building a more human and humane world for everyone. When refugees from South East Asia, the "boat people" sought a haven from the conditions in their own countries, B'nai B'rith, in cooperation with the Red Cross Society, was active in their resettlement and adjustment to a new way of life in Australia. The B'nai B'rith Foundation was established in 1981 to broaden the scope of our community service work. It annually makes available thousands of dollars to support Jewish education throughout the district, and contributes to community aid programs in the wider community. When the Rwandan disaster erupted in 1994, the Foundation raised thousands of dollars within weeks as its contribution to the Australian effort.

We span the age range, from teenagers in AZA to the senior citizens in some of our longer-established groups. Groups have been established with members in their thirties and forties, and many of the activities of B'nai B'rith -- Cup Eve Balls, hikes in the bush, even a camping tour of Central Australia organised by Melbourne's Unit Mitzvah -- are clearly intended for younger people.

Our membership is open to all Jews of good character who subscribe to our objectives. If you are Jewish, if have a tolerant outlook towards people of various religious and political persuasions, if you believe that Israel is important but at the same time believe that we need to work for the continuity of the Jewish community in the Diaspora, if you are prepared to contribute some time and money towards supporting our objectives, then there is a place for you in B'nai B'rith. Please feel free to make enquiries.

For further information, please contact:

*In Victoria*
Leah Black, Executive Officer, B'nai B'rith,
Tel (03) 527 8249. Fax: (03) 527 8259.

*In NSW*
Cheryl Green, Executive Secretary, B'nai B'rith,
Tel (02) 361 6035. Fax: (02) 331 3131.

*Anti-Defamation Commission*
Sue Nagley, Executive Officer;
Annette Gladwin, Research Officer
Tel (03) 527 1228. Fax (03) 525 9127.

*Via email*
Dr Paul Gardner,
Senior District Vice-President

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry marks its 50th Birthday
August 5, 1994

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the elected representative organisation of the Australian Jewish community, marks an important anniversary this weekend.

50 years ago, on August 5 and 6, 1944, a national conference of Jewish leaders met in Melbourne to form a body which could effectively allow the Australian Jewish community to put its views to the Government, the media, other communities and the public, with a single, representative voice.

As Jewish communities in the six Australian states were forming umbrella organisations which could act on matters which were of a local nature, the ECAJ was formed as a roof body of umbrella organisations which would act on federal and international matters.

The ECAJ was established with the dual aims: "To represent and speak officially on behalf of Australian Jewry" and "To take such action as it considers necessary on behalf of Australian Jewry in matters that concern Australian Jewry or Jewry in other parts of the world". Ever since its inception, the ECAJ has pursued these aims with vigour and commitment.

As the Nazi genocide was claiming millions of Jewish lives in Europe, the ECAJ's first major agenda item was the issue of Australia's immigration programme, with the ECAJ fighting to ensure that post-war refugees would not be excluded from Australia due to their faith or ethnic background.

Another early campaign was against Nazi war criminals and collaborators reported to have settled in Australia during the mass immigration from Europe.

From its first days, the Council actively fought against antisemitism and racism, while building coalitions with Church leaders and others who sought to build an Australia true to the ideals of tolerance and making sure all Australians received "a fair go".

Other matters addressed in the first few years of the ECAJ were Australian support for the establishment of modern Israel, opposition to the anti-Jewish "Arab boycott" (which pre-dated the State of Israel) and discrimination against Jewish people in the Soviet Union and the Arab Middle East.

Lieutenant (later Sir) Zelman Cowen, was elected as the first Honorary Secretary of the ECAJ, with Alec Masel of Melbourne the first President. Others who have held the most senior position in the Australian Jewish community have included former NSW Minister and federal Labor MP Sidney Einfeld, (for 8 years between 1952-1966), leading Melbourne jurist Maurice Ashkanasy (for 10 years between 1948- 1968), Sydney medical specialist Dr Joachim Schneeweiss (1976-78, 80- 82) and current President, Isi Leibler of Melbourne, now in his fourth term and ninth year since 1978.

The ECAJ's recent and on-going activities have included co-convening a major national seminar on Racism and Antisemitism in Australia, involvement in formal dialogue with major Australian churches, working to foster broad support in Australia for the Middle East peace process, campaigning for effective measures to promote communal understanding and counter racism, fostering the growth and development of programmes to increase Jewish learning and knowledge and, at a time of international terrorism directed against Jews, liaising with government authorities to avert the possibility of further violent attacks occurring in this country against Jewish Australians and their institutions.

The ECAJ has also adopted a high profile on social justice issues, including justice for indigenous Australians and a non-discriminatory, humanitarian refugee policy. The ECAJ has a positive working relationship with organisations representing other communities on a range of mutual concerns, with a recent example being a letter co- signed by the Presidents of the National Council of Churches in Australia, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and the ECAJ calling on ABC Radio to upgrade religious programming.

Isi Leibler, President of the ECAJ, said today "the ECAJ's first 50 years have been marked by a commitment to social equality, justice and democratic ideals. We have always viewed achievements on behalf of Australian Jewry as achievements on behalf of Australia, and we have been proud of the contribution our Council and community continue to make to this country".

"Our community is drawn from migrants from many lands, includes a diverse range of political opinions and religious practices and is geographically dispersed. Australian Jewry's continued support and commitment to their national representative organisation has been a tribute to those men and women from around Australia who have been elected to serve this most senior and vital Jewish organisation", Mr Leibler added.

Further information:
Jeremy Jones,
Executive Vice-President

For a copy of the Report on the Without Prejudice Conference Racism and Antisemitism in Contemporary Australia - by Melinda Jones, Senior Lecturer, Law School, University of NSW, mail to with subject WITHOUT PREJUDICE

The Jewish Medical Ethics Society Symposium 19th - 24th May, 1995.
Internationally renowned keynote Speaker - PROFESSOR DR FRED ROSNER MD, FACP

Jewish doctors and the community in Australia and New Zealand are very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Dr Fred Rosner who will be visiting this part of the world to lecture on Jewish Medical Ethics.

Dr Rosner will be lecturing in Auckland, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.

Dr Fred Rosner M.D.,F.A.C.P. is Assistant Dean and Professor of Medicine Albert Einstein College of Medicine Yeshiva University, Professor of Medicine Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Director of the Department of Medicine Queens Hospital Centre N.Y. Dr Rosner is the Chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee of the state of New York.

Dr Rosner has published almost 800 articles including 29 Books and 39 chapters in books. These not only include all aspects of Jewish Medical Ethics and Jewish Medical History, but also the multiple facets of Haematology including leukemia and anaemia, Immunology and General Medicine. He has many publications including books on Maimonidies.

Dr Rosner is an internationally known authority on medical ethics having lectured widely on Jewish Medical Ethics through out USA and has served as visiting professor or lecturer in Israel, England, France, Germany, Mexico, Canada, Holland, South Africa, and now New Zealand and Australia.

Dr Rosner is the guest of The Jewish Medical Ethics Society (JMES). This organisation of health and allied professionals was formed to present and discuss medical ethical issues from an authentic Jewish perspective. We are affiliated with other Jewish medical ethics societies in Australasia and also with the Institute for Jewish Medical Ethics of San Francisco.

The JMES presents a number of symposia annually, addressing clinically oriented contemporary issues in medical ethics. In addition to the regular symposia, we also run bimonthly informal Jewish medical ethics shiurim.

If you would like to know more about the Symposia or JMES please contact Dr Nadine Levick President JMES

Please note that student membership of JMES is gratis.

*CME Points applied for and available for selected meetings*

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