DURING a speaking tour in Sydney and Melbourne last week, Johannesburg-based president of the South African Rabbinical Association, Rabbi Yossy Goldman, offered his view on how best to tackle growing antisemitism worldwide … “through pro-semitism”.
“Back in 1962, when that great icon, Nelson Mandela, was on trial for treason and sentenced to life in prison, five out of the 12 co-defendants were Jewish,” Rabbi Goldman told an audience at Sydney’s Central Synagogue on July 22.
“Jews made up only a quarter of one per cent of the population of the nation [of South Africa], yet no less than 40 per cent of Mandela’s partners in crime for the struggle of the oppressed black majority, were Jewish.
“In every major movement for positive change in the world through the generations, Jews have been at the forefront.”
Despite that proud track record – and in many cases even because of “resentment of that” – Goldman said Jewish people have continued to be the target of
“the world’s longest hatred”.
The rabbi, who also spoke at South Caulfield Hebrew Congregation on July 21 at an event hosted by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, said, “There are no reasons for antisemitism, only excuses, and they all don’t make any sense.
“In Poland they hated the Jews because they were considered poor, while in Germany they hated Jews because they regarded them as rich.
“There is more antisemitism in the world today, and anti-Zionism has become a new form.”
Rabbi Goldman claimed because of this, “we must not be naive to think that it will ever go away”.
The most effective response, he argued, is to commit to “positive Jewish action”.
“I continue to be inspired by David Ben-Gurion’s famous line: it doesn’t matter what the goyim are saying, it matters what the Jews do,” Rabbi Goldman said.
“Yes, we need Jewish Boards of Deputies, the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the IDF, the CSG here in Australia – all of these important organisations, to fight antisemitism in every way.
“But our role is not only to defend ourselves … it is also to spread light to dispel the darkness.
“We need to embrace who we are, commit mitzvahs and acts of kindness to people in need. All these things add up.”