5780: A year that turned the world upside down

5780: A year that turned the world upside down

'As we enter 5781, we should do so with some hope and optimism that it will be a better year than the last'.

Josh Burns and daughter Tia.
Josh Burns and daughter Tia.

IT’S fair to say that year 5780 has been one that will not easily be forgotten. 

For the first time in many of our lives, we were unable to celebrate the Pesach Seder with extended family and friends, spending it in lockdown confined to our own homes.

For the Jewish community of Melbourne, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will also be spent under lockdown, as our city and state battle the tail-end of a resurgent COVID-19 second wave.

The history of the Jewish people is littered with stories about times when our ancestors were not free to celebrate their religious heritage and traditions. But while our ancestors were forced to hide their Judaism because of antisemitism, we are forced to celebrate apart and adapt in order to keep each other safe.

We have seen the devastation that this virus has caused, particularly in our aged care system – including in Jewish Care Victoria.

I commend the staff of Jewish Care who helped save and look after those in their care, and I offer my condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the most difficult of circumstances. 

Staying home and observing the restrictions our health authorities have imposed is not just our civic duty, it is saving lives so that when this is over, we can all celebrate chagim and simchas together with our family and friends.

Meanwhile, in Israel, it has been a year of highs and lows. 

Three elections and political instability have been followed by historic peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain.

With these new frontiers of peace, we look forward to Israel finding peace and stability with more of its neighbours in coming months.

But sadly, our friends and family in Israel are also battling a rapidly rising second wave of coronavirus infections. 

With Israel’s health system almost at breaking point, the Israeli government is instituting a nationwide lockdown over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

If you told me a year ago that the Jewish communities of Jerusalem and Melbourne would both spend Rosh Hashanah under lockdown and curfew, I wouldn’t have believed you. But this is the world we live in, for now.

Of course, the age-old hatred that is antisemitism has not gone away. 

We have seen some shocking incidents in schools, exposed by The AJN, and now tough new laws and policies to stamp out antisemitism both in our schools and across Victoria are under review by the Victorian Government and expected in 5781.

One of the growing concerns around antisemitism is what is happening online and across social media.

Dave Sharma MP and I recently joined an international parliamentary taskforce to combat online antisemitism, and there is much for us to deal with.

The rise of online antisemitism through the growing QAnon conspiracy theory should alarm us all, especially as conspiracy theorists seek to blame the Jewish people for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The common thread among conspiracy theorists is that we shouldn’t listen to experts – in science, medicine, health, climate and more – because they are part of a sinister elite cabal trying to control us.

This is an old, dark and sadly familiar storyline that Jewish people have confronted before and we are confronting again. 

However, just as we have overcome in the past, we will, as proud Jewish people stand strong in the face of prejudice. 

5780 has been a difficult year in most aspects, but it has also been a momentous year in the courageous fight for justice by Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper to see Malka Leifer extradited to Australia.

Only a year ago, the case was still in seemingly endless limbo, as continuous hearings and panels were unable to rule on her fitness to face extradition.

But now, the Israeli courts have finally told us what we all knew was true – she is fit to be extradited, and in a few short weeks we expect to finally have a ruling on whether she will be.

We look forward to seeing the justice that has been evaded for too long. 

Many things have been broken during 5780. It has been a year that turned the world upside down. 

But as we enter 5781, we should do so with some hope and optimism that it will be a better year than the last. 

Who could have imagined a year that has taken so much away from so many? But just as we do every year, we stop and reflect on Rosh Hashanah for a better and sweeter tomorrow. 

Despite all the challenges that have faced us collectively this year, we remain a strong, committed and resilient Jewish community. 

We can be proud of how we have handled the obstacles thrown at us this year, and, together we can draw hope for what tomorrow can bring. 

May this coming year be one of health, prosperity and peace for all of us. 

Shana tova.

Josh Burns MP is the Federal Member for Macnamara.

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