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Click here to download 20090126-AustraliaDayATimeForReflection.pdf

Australia Day 2009

26 January 2009

Australia Day, a time for reflection.

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

“Australia Day is a fitting opportunity for all Australians to reflect on identity, belonging and their place in Australian society. This of course includes the members of the Victorian Jewish community.

Jews have been part of the fabric of Australian society since the first day of non-Indigenous settlement. While we have always been small numerically, we have made a vital contribution to this country’s welfare. From so-called ordinary folk to two Governors-General and Australia’s greatest soldier, we have participated in every aspect of Australian life.

Just as the Jews have been good for Australia, Australia has been good for the Jews. We have prospered here materially and spiritually and have found a haven from the tribulations of the Old World.

Yet not everything here is right. In recent days, some of the old stereotypes have raised their ugly heads. The Melbourne Age published an article that was unquestionably antisemitic. Protestors against the Gaza war have used ugly words and images that have gone beyond the boundaries of fair political comment.

And perhaps even more disturbing has been the lack of protest against these events by our partners in interfaith and interethnic work. While many individuals have voiced their support, we expect better and more from the organisations and their representatives with whom we engage, even if only for self-serving reasons. As too often has been seen, the flames of hate when fanned do not discriminate in whom they engulf.

The Victorian Jewish community does not feel under siege. We still call Australia home. Indeed, only two weeks ago, a young Jewish Australian soldier paid the ultimate price for his homeland. Yet we must not ignore the strains and cracks in society. Those of us who value our community must increase our efforts for its benefit. At the same time we must make demands of others outside of the Jewish community to also shoulder these burdens. Australia is a wonderful country, but nothing should ever be taken for granted.”

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