ATTENDEES of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) AGM on Monday were left in no doubt that Beth Weizmann Jewish Community Centre is a premier address for interfaith understanding, as the chants of Muslim prayers were heard from adjoining rooms.
Members of the Muslim community had asked to be excused from the meeting to perform sunset prayers. They were attending to hear reports on an interfaith “Joint Journey to Jerusalem” in April this year by women of the three Abrahamic faiths, organised by the Jewish Christian Muslim Association (JCMA).
Introducing three of the participants, Frances Prince, chair of JCCV’s interfaith and multicultural committee, said the journey “strengthened women’s leadership in interfaith in Australia”.
Reverend Dr Julie Hall of the Bentleigh Uniting Church said the women’s visit to Hadassah Hospital, “where people value life – life above all else”, was a lasting impression, as was her first Shabbat dinner.
Ayesha Bux, founder of SalamFest, said the visit was a small but significant step towards greater harmony. Di Hirsh of the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (NCJWA) reflected that looking down at Jerusalem’s rooftops, boundaries between religious quarters cannot be seen.
Summarising her annual report, JCCV president Jennifer Huppert lamented the rise in antisemitic incidents, including daubings and anti-Jewish bullying in schools.
The JCCV is “engaging with all levels of government to ensure that concerns in the Jewish community are addressed”, including meetings with Education Minister James Merlino, and with Premier Daniel Andrews and Attorney-General Jill Hennessy to discuss how laws can be strengthened. She said the first stage of Project Fortify, to increase the Jewish community’s security measures, is now almost complete.
Dr Helen Light, who was the first director of the Jewish Museum of Australia (JMA), received this year’s General Sir John Monash Award for her pioneering work at the museum and in the community at large. The JMA’s first employee in 1983, her term as director spanned 1991-2010, and saw the museum moving into its present premises, with groundbreaking exhibitions. “What I treasure most is to see the wonder of life through the eyes of the other,” she said.
The inaugural Sylvia Gelman Young Leadership Award, honouring the late NCJWA stalwart, was presented to Joel Kuperholz, for his work with Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), fostering sports activities for people of diverse backgrounds and with special needs.
The meeting rose for a minute’s silence in memory of Anton Hermann, former JCCV vice-president, tragically killed in a cycling crash this year.
Huppert said he had “a larger than life personality and could light up any room”.