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Jewish-Catholic Friendship Dinner 2011

Jewish-Catholic Friendship Dinner 2011

15 May 2011

Good evening ladies and Gentleman. On behalf of the JCCV, I would like to welcome you all here to Beth Weizmann, our community center. It is particularly wonderful to see Rev Dr John Dupuche (Chair, Catholic Interfaith Committee), Fr Christopher Monaghan from whom we will be hearing later this evening and also Rabbi James Kennard who will also be speaking during the evening. I  also welcome other  Rabbonim, members of the clergy & communal leaders and all the guests joining us tonight.

For those of you not familiar with the JCCV, it is the roof body of the Victorian Jewish Community. We have 58 affiliate organizations which cover a very wide range of religious, social, cultural, sporting political, welfare and other organizations.

As the peak body of the Victorian Jewish Community we have the responsibility for representing our community to government, government agencies, media, ethnic and religious groups and the like. We also provide a forum for our multifaceted community to engage in discussion and debate on a wide range of issues affecting our local community. In short the JCCV provides leadership and the voice for 60,000 + members of the Victorian Jewish community.

As I said at this event last year there is always something very special about sharing a meal together.

This is the third dinner that I have hosted in my capacity as president of the JCCV and my excitement and enthusiasm has not waned one bit. The reason for that is very simple – with each dinner we hold the strong links and friendships between our communities that we developed at previous dinners are extended and built upon. With the continuation of these events it means that we are continuing to move forward in a very positive way. These dinners and other events that we attend together allow us to focus on the many issues in common that we as separate communities face, and also many issues that we as Victorians all face together. Tonight I am delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with friends, to continue discussions and build on the trust and relationships that these events foster.

Since we last met in this forum Pope Benedict XVI has taken a very bold, in some respects courageous and let me say welcome step. In his book, "Jesus of Nazareth-Part II"  the Pope has provided  a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity and one of the major problems that Jews have faced for centuries.

In his book, the Pope explains biblically and theologically why there is no basis in Scripture for the argument that the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus' death.

Lets not kid ourselves, Interpretations to the contrary have been used for centuries to justify the persecution of Jews. The teaching within the church that the Jews were responsible the death of Christ clearly influenced patterns of anti Semitism over the ages. While the Catholic Church had for five decades taught that Jews weren’t collectively responsible for the death of Christ, the argument laid out by the German-born pontiff in his book is truly a landmark statement  that will help fight anti-Semitism today.

In this context, the importance of the writings from the Pope cannot be underestimated and probably represent the most significant step taken to improve relations between Catholics and Jews that I can think of.

Compared to the release of the book, this dinner is only a small step in consolidating the relations between our communities, but nevertheless an important step and that is why I am so excited to see the tradition of these dinners continuing.

Last year I spoke about some of the issues we as a Jewish community face in Melbourne and I referred to the increased level of threat, abuse and anti Semitism we often face, much of which stems from due events overseas.  I was asked to something about the BDS movement that we are contending with at the moment; no doubt you have heard of this as it recently attracted some media attention.  The Boycott Divestment & Sanctions campaign – is a worldwide campaign that disingenuously labels Israel an apartheid State. Its ostensible objective of boycotting Israeli trade, academics and culture is merely a means to achieve their agenda, which is to delegitimise Israel. As the BDS movement’s founder, Omar Barghouti – who I have to tell you is ironically a student at Tel Aviv University – has openly stated, he does not want to see a Jewish state along a Palestinian state, but wants to see “a Palestinian State next to a Palestinian state.”

I don’t know how many of you have been to Israel but when you see Christian, Jewish and Arab people together in the hospitals – as both patients and doctors, together in the schools and universities as both teachers and students, together on the sporting fields, and all represented in the Knesset you realise that the allegation of apartheid is completely without basis.

In 1933, Hitler began his rule as Chancellor by dictating that the population should not buy from Jews. Sadly, today, we see this being repeated in the odious (BDS) campaign where the message is loud and clear, just substituting the Jewish state for the Jewish people. I urge all of you inform yourselves, and learn the correct story so you will understand that this is a craftily presented PR campaign that has led to anti Semitism and, unfortunately violent protests in Melbourne. We all have an obligation to fight against racism and anti Semitism.This is after all one of the issues that we as Victorians face together.

Another reason why these dinners are so wonderful, they give us an opportunity to relax together, to talk to one another about issues of concern that we all have and to simply get to know one another better.

Thank you for your time this evening. I hope you enjoy the night and I am looking forward to hearing to room filled with vibrant conversation.

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