Sydney’s The Great Synagogue in conjunction with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies hosted a very special annual “We Are All Sydney” dinner on Tuesday 13 August attended by around 90 people from over 40 different ethnic and faith communities.

In the lead-up to this special evening, the “We Are All Sydney” Community Leadership Program involved 3 months of training. The program included leadership coaching, conflict resolution, skills training as well as perceptions about other communities.

From left: Waskam Emelda Davis, Mala Mehta, John Sidoti MP, Shola Diop and Om Dhungel. Photo: NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Participants in the program were from many backgrounds including Iraqi, Kenyan, Syrian, Chinese, Burmese, Afghan, Pakistani, Rwandan, Aboriginal and many more.

The overall training helped participants to realise that we all have similar challenges, concerns and struggles.

In coming together for the third annual celebration, the Hon Justice Stephen Rothman AM, President of The Great Synagogue, opened proceedings by congratulating all participants on their achievements. Lesli Berger, President of the Jewish Board of Deputies, made all guests feel welcome.

Mr John Sidoti. Photo: NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Keynote speaker for the night was the Hon John Sidoti MP, Minister for Multiculturalism and other portfolios. He spoke of the need for harmony amongst all the diverse ethnicities in Australia and how we should all be protected from adversity. “We need to look after each other much more,” he added.

After a mouth-watering meal, everyone was invited by Chief Minister of the Synagogue Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton on a tour of the majestic building, a landmark heritage structure built in 1878.

The Great Synagogue, Sydney.

Architect Thomas Rowe had combined Romanesque and Byzantine influences with Gothic detailing for the synagogue, commissioning leading decorative firms of the High Victorian period from Australia, Britain and the United States to embellish his ‘cathedral’ of golden Pyrmont sandstone. The richly crafted interior is considered to be one of Sydney’s most elaborate of the time, and one of Rowe’s finest works.

Despite being unable to attend the function, Rabbi Bob Kaplin, founder of “We Are All New York” sent an inspiring video message to everyone. And while talking about us avoiding to be violated, he said “We should all renew our dignity together with others, Nelson Mandela achieved that, despite his guards trying to manipulate him whilst in prison.”

As the evening drew to a close I moved amongst some of the guests to get their thoughts on the evening:

Ali Murtaza (Pakistan).

Ali Murtaza (Pakistan): “I really enjoyed this event  – it was amazing to meet with different community heads and the special Jewish community.”

Emelda Davis (South Sea Islander)

Emelda Davis (South Sea Islander): “As I reflect on our beautiful Jewish family, I thank the powers that be for good people in the world.”

Noel & Marie Zihabamwe (Rwanda)

Noel & Marie Zihabamwe (Rwanda): “A great opportunity to meet different outstanding community leaders from different religious, ethnic and faith groups to show the greatness of multiculturalism.”

Amar Singh (India)

Amar Singh (India): “Great to be welcomed by a minority community in their religious place and to be treated with such love and respect. We can learn from the Jewish community how to promote diversity and live in harmony.”

Mun Mun Lahtaw (Kachin Myanmar)

Mun Mun Lahtaw (Kachin Myanmar): “It was a great experience for me  – this was my first time experiencing such an event.”

Isaac Acquah (Ghana)

Isaac Acquah (Ghana): “A very convivial evening that brought multiculturalism to the peak. I enjoyed the meeting other leaders to share and eat together.”

The evening ended with huge applause for Community Relations Manager, Lynda Ben-Menashe, one of the prime movers of “We Are All Sydney” and the main organiser of the evening.