With all the misunderstandings in our society, the writer of this article instigated a recent meeting between two Green Councillors from the Randwick City Council and the chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff. At a coffee lounge in Bondi Junction the four of us included Mayor Lindsay Shurey and Philipa Veitch. We discussed antisemitism and other prejudices that surround us.
I initiated our meeting by pointing out that because the Australian government makes poor decisions on their handling of refugees, it does not mean that all Australians are bad.
And the same can be said about Jewish people. While many people rightfully disagree with some decisions made by the Israeli government, I questioned why some people then held negative sentiments against Jewish people.
The matter was discussed at length culminating in agreement that if any government makes negative decisions about an issue, that the whole race of their people should not be held accountable.
I am a proud Jewish Australian, but don’t always agree with decisions made by the governments of Israel or Australia.
After a very positive meeting Vic invited Lindsay and Philipa to visit the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst. He commented: “The Sydney Jewish Museum is all about human rights and understanding where racial hatred and bigotry can lead. It delivers a powerful message which says that racist violence doesn’t begin with violence, but with words.
We greatly appreciated the leadership of Randwick City Council undertaking this tour and understanding how a civilised nation such as Germany could carry out the Holocaust – the murder of six million Jews.”
The museum tour ended with the four of us, plus Randwick Executive Manager Luke Fitzgerald, going to the cafe in the museum for coffee. Once again the conversation was very positive and focussed on our wonderful multicultural society.
On reflection of the tour, Councillor Philipa Veitch said: “It was a great honour to visit the Jewish museum today. Museums such as this play an incredibly important role in ensuring that new generations do not repeat the horrific mistakes of the past.
They drive you to question yourself – What would I have done then? What can I do now? I think it is vital that we all work together as a community to prevent a repeat of the horrific human rights abuses that marked much of the 20th century, and which are still occurring today.”
In a similar vein Mayor Lindsay Shurey added: “It was humbling to be reminded of the horrors of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ set out so graphically in the museum. I thank Vic Alhadeff for taking the time out to show us around and sharing his own family story.
It was so heartening to see many school children listening attentively to the stories, which for some would have been the first time they had heard them.”
The successful meeting of bringing Green Councillors and Jewish historians together was aptly summarised by Randwick Executive Manager Luke Fitzgerald: “The museum is a powerful reminder that whilst the actions of a person can be devastating, those actions do not define a nation, a culture or its people”.
Surely the time has come for all groups, religions and different cultures to recognise and respect all people, no matter what their history is.