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Speech at Yom Hashoah Cemetery Service

Speech at Yom Hashoah Cemetery Service

19 April 2010

JCCV President John Searle's speech to attendees of the Yom Hashoah Cemetery Service.

At the Yom Hashoah commemoration last Sunday night we focused on Poland, the Buchenwald Boys and the concept of rebuilding which has been so vital to the Melbourne Jewish community. It is hard to imagine our community being anything like what it is today without the dedication, commitment and above all sacrifice made by the survivors to establish a thriving Jewish community for all of us.

My father was one of those survivors. Shortly we will hear from other survivors. My generation and those that come after me can only wonder what it must have been like to arrive in Australia barely out of teens and with little more than the shirt on your back. My Dad was more fortunate than some, because at least he had his father and one brother. Not one other member of his family had survived. So many people, like my father arrived in Victoria to a Jewish life in Melbourne that must have been so very, very different from what they had come from and so very different from what it is today.

How must they have felt watching the destruction of virtually everything that was meaningful to them? As individuals they were robbed of their businesses, their jobs, their homes and often their entire families. As  communities, they were stripped of their buildings, their shules, their cheders their shops, everything. Whole communities uprooted and then destroyed. Yet somehow after witnessing all that, survivors arrived in  Melb and found the strength, the courage and the determination to not only rebuild their own lives but to start rebuilding what they had lost;  a strong vibrant Jewish community. The Melb Jewish community today is an extraordinary community. We are a model for other communities who have come to settle in Victoria. We have schools, shules, welfare organizations youth groups; indeed we have every facility and every organization that allows our rich Jewish Life and culture to flourish.

We owe a great deal to the courage and convictions of all those who helped transform Melb from the fledgling Jewish community it must have been in the mid 1940’s to the strong vibrant community that we have today.

We also owe a lot to the country in which we live have because we have been fortunate to build our community in a land that truly values democracy and freedom.

We, the first generations following the survivors and the generations that will follow us have an enormous responsibility to ensure the building blocks that have been laid by the survivors were not laid in vain but rather form the foundation of what will continue to be a strong thriving Jewish community. We are witnessing Jewish communities beginning to grow out of the ashes in Poland and other parts of Europe and we must appreciate that we too are part of the process of rebuilding Jewish life and communities following the Holocaust. We too are sending a message to the world that we, the Jewish people are here to stay, to grow and to flourish. We will not be destroyed.

We must encourage our youth to play an active part in the building process and to ensure it continues. The latter generations cannot simply be content with what has been given to us. We must add to it. Our youth must know who we are, where we came from and what was endured to give to them what they have today.

We must instill within our youth that sense of community that will give them the strength, the determination and the conviction to continue the building process. We are fortunate in Australia that we do not at this time need courage to build our community for there are no obstacles save for lack of interest. It is our job to inspire them so that the future of the Jewish people is not only a matter of priority for them but a matter that they must involve themselves in.

We must meet the challenge to ensure that our children have that desire, that yearning for our community to continue to grow from strength to strength.

There can be no better message to the rest of the world as to the continuity of the Jewish people  than our thriving children They will send the message just as it is sent by the emerging Jewish communities in Poland and Europe that we will not be defeated.

Today we recognize  the courage and hope that the survivors brought with them out of the ashes to these shores. It was this courage & hope that gave birth to  our wonderful and vibrant community in Melbourne  It is my fervent hope that my generation and those to follow will remember, honour and carry on this sacred legacy.

To the people who are not members of our community but came here today – I thank you for standing by our side and helping us bear the anguish.

Finally, I thank the organisers of today’s event.

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