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Jewish Community Honours William Cooper

08 May 2009

Indigenous leader honoured in Melbourne and Israel by Jewish Community.

John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the peak body of Victorian Jewry, said today:

“Last December the Jewish Community Council of Victoria hosted an event at Victoria’s Parliament house in remembrance of the march led by Indigenous leader William Cooper in 1938 to protest German treatment of Jews following Kristallnacht.

As a follow-up, a tree-planting ceremony was held in the Martyrs Forest in Israel to honour William Cooper in the presence of several of his descendants on Yom Hazikaron (28 April 2009). Seventy trees were planted to commemorate the seventy years since his historic march. A simultaneous event was held at the Aboriginal Advancement League in Thornbury, attended by prominent Jewish and Indigenous leaders.

Jewish Holocaust Centre director Bernard Korbman represented the JCCV and spoke movingly of his personal connections with the Cooper family and of the inspirational leadership shown by Cooper in protesting the inhumanity shown by a government on the other side of the world toward another people when he was not even a citizen of his own country.

Dr. Alf Bamblett, president of the Aboriginal Advancement League, spoke on William Cooper, and Andrew and Chris Carey, Cooper’s great great grandsons, read his letter to Victorian government officials on the horrors of Kristallnacht. The function was attended by Dr. Tony Weldon, chair of Courage to Care, which honours William Cooper's actions in its exhibition, Dr. Paul Gardner, past chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti Defamation Commission, and several Holocaust survivors.

The JCCV believes that there are clear similarities between the Jewish and Indigenous communities’ experiences and is committed to a closer ongoing relationship. This includes the development of an online educational activity to examine genocide through the lens of both peoples’ histories.”

Please address any queries to Geoffrey Zygier 03 9272 5579

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