ISRAEL’S top rabbi has a message for young Australian Jews: be proud of your religion, study your heritage, and marry someone Jewish.
Speaking exclusively to The AJN during his first visit to Australia last week, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said he had heard about the Australian Jewish community from his father, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who visited 35 years ago.
“He was shocked that he found a small [amount of] anti-Semitism,” he said of his father’s visit in 1982, when he was the then chief rabbi of the city of Netanya.
Stating that he knows a lot of people in Israel that have made aliyah from Australia, Rabbi Lau said, “They spoke about how nice the people feel here [in Australia], that the community is their home. This is very nice.”
Asked what his message is to young members of the community, the Chief Rabbi replied, “Learn about your forefathers, about your tradition, about your heritage and take it and be proud about it.
“If you’re going according to these ways, you don’t give any reason for anti-Semitism.”
Noting the recent influx to Israel of Australians marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, Rabbi Lau said he was “very happy” to see meetings between Australian and Israeli dignitaries.
“Maybe you need 24 hours to fly, but the heart is close,” he commented.
Rabbi Lau went on to say, “Be proud about your Jewish personality and remember that only Jewish marriage [will] continue the very nice chain that we have.
“We have a very big tradition, take it for the future.”
As part of Rabbi Lau’s whirlwind visit Down Under, he spoke at synagogues and Jewish schools around Sydney; met with members of the Rabbinical Council of NSW; paid a visit to kosher butcher Eilat at Hadassa, with representatives of the Kashrut Authority; and attended an event at Chabad of Bondi which saw the commencement of the writing of a new Sefer Torah in memory of Steve Brutman.
The visit was particularly exciting for Jewish school students, who gave a warm welcome to the Chief Rabbi. Ashley Urbach, who is in year 4 at Mount Sinai College, said Rabbi Lau spoke to the students about “how we are all one, how we are part of a global community – being one and speaking as one”.
“It made me feel very emotional and he was so interesting,” she said.
“I walked away proud to be Jewish and went home that night to tell my parents that the Chief Rabbi – the top rabbi in the world! – had come to our school.
“I felt very lucky that we were able to hear him talk.”
In Melbourne, Rabbi Lau met with the members of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria; paid a visit to the Kashrut Authority; commenced the writing of a new Sefer Torah at Young Yeshivah; addressed members of the Hamerkaz and Mizrachi communities; and students of Leibler Yavneh and Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Colleges.
Tzivi Greenbaum, newly inducted 2018 Beth Rivkah School captain, said the students felt “greatly honoured” by Rabbi Lau’s visit to their school, and relished the opportunity to converse with him personally.
“We really appreciated the Chief Rabbi’s warmth and consideration, and that he took time out of his busy schedule to address us, delivering a practical message about chessed from the relevant parsha,” the year 11 student added.
EVAN ZLATKIS AND REBECCA DAVIS