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Letters from Jewish Australia





18 OCTOBER 1995

On the evening of 18th October, 1995 Masada College, a Jewish day school on the leafy North Shore of Sydney, held a Valedictory Ceremony for its Year 12 graduating class. The keynote speaker was Radio National personality, Peter Thompson.

On the same day in Israel many motions were presented to the Knesset on the Million Man March which had recently taken place in Washington. MK Yigal Bibi, submitted one of the many motions to the Knesset on the march. He said the "sounds and images coming out of the US are reminiscent of the dark days of the rise of Nazism. All Jews are responsible for one another and it cannot be that we here in the State of Israel ignore these things. We must think about how to deal with the problem." Deputy Foreign Minister Eli Dayan replied that "It is only fitting to condemn the antisemitic statements. We must root out, isolate and reduce the damage this type of statement is liable to cause".

The antisemitic utterances and the growing popularity of Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, who held such an important part in the march, are a matter of distress not only to Jews but to all decent people. However as Dr Robert Rockaway, who teaches American-Jewish history at Tel Aviv University, says "If this man can pull out as many marchers as Martin Luther King got to his [1964] Civil Rights March on Washington, then you cannot ignore Louis Farrakhan."

Like Rockaway, Thompson is concerned with the desperate situation of young black men in the U.S.A. and how The Nation of Islam movement, headed by Farrakhan, is exploiting this desperation. Dr.Abdul Alim Muhammad, its national spokesman appears decent and reasonable but when questioned about the founders of the NAACP, the Jewish lawyers for the civil rights movement and Jewish philanthropy to black causes, answered that "It was a clever Jewish way of co-opting the blacks, a way of working with them while keeping them at arm's length.'" and in the meantime Nation of Islam promotes and sells the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other antisemitic publications.

In choosing to speak about Farrakhan to a group of young Australians, Thompson highlighted their comparative good fortune. His concern was not just for the Jews but for the disadvantaged, poorly educated and ill informed Americans. In her speech, School Principal, Di Englander, stressed how most of the Masada parents struggle to cope with school fees and that the success of her students is directly related to the concern of their parents and that we must strive to develop greater equal educational opportunity among Australian children particularly the Aborigines.

In drawing attention to the plight of young black Americans Thompson's speech was both cautionary and inspiring. We thank him for sharing it with us in order that its message may have a wider coverage.

MASADA SPEECH. 18 October 1995

A 'day of atonement' it has a familiar ring doesn't it? Lewis Farrakhan the AMERICAN Nation of Islam leader led what he called a 'Day of Atonement' in Washington's famous Mall yesterday. At the climax of the rally he spoke for two and a half hours. You're very lucky. I'm not going to talk to you for two and a half hours or anything like it.

But I do want to talk to you seriously for a few minutes. Mind you there's nothing so unusual about a two and a half hour speech. CASTRO is well known for speaking for the whole afternoon. And GOUGH WHITLAM was capable of a two hour speech too on topics he loved such as the political history of different railway gauges in Australia.

FARRAKHAN is a mixed up man from ISLAM. He is shamefully anti Semitic, anti white and anti gay among other foibles. President CLINTON said of the FARRAKHAN phenomenon "one million men do not make right one man's message of malice and division. No good house was ever built on a bad foundation. Nothing good ever came of hate."

Yet in spite of this even conservative police estimates say that 400 thousand men marched on Washington. No women, of course which is another foible of ISLAM but I'll leave that aside tonight. Whatever the real number it was among the biggest rallies in WASHINGTON for more than 30 years. Why did they go? The most hopeful interpretation is that black American men en-masse are taking a real look at themselves. There are more black Americans in jail than in university; and one in three black American men in their twenties is either in jail, on parole or on probation.

This sort of shame has led to more public money being spent on building jails than in building public housing in recent years in the UNITED STATES. Black American men are lost in the wilderness. By their hundreds of thousands yesterday they came looking for answers. A man who really was committed to peace MARTIN LUTHER KING was the real inspiration for the MILLION MAN MARCH on WASHINGTON. In the same place in WASHINGTON on a hot August day in 1963 also before hundreds of thousands of people he spoke about his dream. In a line which struck at the heart of prejudice he said that "I have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they won't be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of the character."

MARTIN LUTHER KING was never to see his dream realised. He was assassinated by a white man in 1968. On the eve of his death MARTIN LUTHER KING spoke publicly for the last time in these prophetic words.

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land."

You as school leavers from MASADA either this year or next year are also on the mountain top and you can see the promised land ahead. The promised land is your life and what you make of it. Your promised land like ISRAEL the original promised land that MOSES saw is a place of unlimited opportunity and hope. Seeing out to the great horizons and vistas ahead it's time to ask yourself the question which Aristotle asked how should I live? What's to be the 'content of your character' by which you can be judged? What is your authentic text? How are you going to avoid being lost in the wilderness looking for answers like those hundreds of thousands of black men listening quietly to a day of speeches.

These are big questions and tonight I want to dwell on just one element of life's mosaic. The place of your heart. I want to talk about what some people call intelligent emotions. TIME magazine in the past few weeks has published a cover story which takes up the argument that success in life depends more on your emotional intelligence than on your brain hard ware the stuff which solves quadratic equations.

Two psychologists PETER SALOVEY and JOHN MAYER invented the term 'emotional intelligence' five years ago to describe qualities like understanding one's own feelings, empathy for the feelings of others and the regulation of emotion in a way which enhances living. In other words the theory goes success in life grows out of being smart about what we feel. EQ is not a substitute for IQ. But it counts as much or more. To my mind in formal education there's far too much emphasis on developing IQ. Swatting, remembering, sitting exams. It all tests whether you can pass exams but it doesn't provide many clues to the bigger questions as you pass through life. And here's the great virtue of an education in a cultural framework like the one you've received at MASADA. MASADA has shown you a belief system. You have been told the Jewish story. You have been shown a text, a language, a history, story telling, a continuity between generations which is at the heart of life's riches.

As RALPH WALDO EMERSON once wrote "One person with a belief is worth ninety nine who have only interests." This truth and insight fits with every lesson I can draw from my own life's experience. I work in the world of broadcasting because I love what I do. If I won the lottery I would still do it every day. The books I have worried over writing on communication and on conservation grew out of my profound feelings for communication and conservation. I spent years of my life working to save the FRANKLIN RIVER in Tasmania from a hydro scheme because I went there and felt for myself at the bottom of my being how diminished I would feel if it were destroyed. The years I have spent studying in universities have grown out of a deep hunger for knowing more and feelings of deep curiosity. My real rock and fortress is what I feel my intelligent emotion. And on a grander scale when the feelings are writ large the virtually impossible can be achieved. Theodore Hertzl conceived of ISRAEL with thebelief if there's a will there's a way. IM TIRT/ZU AYN ZOR UG/GAIDA.

Let me tell you a cautionary tale. One of the hats I wear is as a communication adviser. I was recently asked to work with a business executive who has to speak at high level meetings. His voice is hardly louder than a whisper. He can hardly be heard in the front row of the meetings he speaks to. After some hours working together he suddenly had a self revelation. He said that for many years he's believed that success in business has been about being objective / detached / and personally not too involved. His formula for success had literally cost him his voice the bleaching out of all his passion and life force had struck him virtually inaudible to others.

To me he had killed his intelligent emotion. In the months ahead as you step out on your own journey towards your own promised land follow your bliss. Lets reflect again for a moment on the hundreds of thousands gathered in WASHINGTON yesterday. It's good that they were looking for answers an authentic story to guide their life bad that FARRAKHAN's ego distorts the message they need. In his arrogance he said yesterday

"God brought the idea of the march through me and he didn't bring it through me because my heart was dark with hatred and anti Semitism. If my heart were that dark how is the message so bright, the message so clear the response so magnificent."

What blasphemy! His message is muddled, wrong and harmful. The light cannot come through a dark heart. You have a great tradition and authentic story to guide you. If you follow your heart too you can reach your personal promised land which was beyond the reach of MARTIN LUTHER KING.

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