Ukranian Jews discussed in Melbourne

December 2, 2015 by J-Wire
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The inaugural Australia-Ukraine Bilateral Relations Forum has been held in Melbourne and included a discussion on the role of the Jewish community in modern Ukraine

Jeremy Jones addresses the forum

Jeremy Jones addresses the forum

The forum also discussed relations between Jewish and Ukrainian communities in Australia.

The high-powered gathering, which included politicians, diplomats, business leaders and civil society representatives from Australia and Ukraine, involved parallel sessions focusing on economics and social concerns, and plenaries including all participants.

At the plenary on Civil Society, the two presenters were Scott Connolly, Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and Jeremy Jones, Director of International and of Community Affairs for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

In the course of his opening comments and discussion with participants, Jeremy Jones and Ukrainian community leaders spoke of parallel concerns, such as the campaign for human rights in the Soviet Union, difficulties in the relationship which were resolved through frank and open dialogue, with examples being the Nazi War Crimes’ debate and trials and the “Demidenko Affair”, common concerns for multiculturalism, and the vital  contribution to modern Ukraine by Jewish figures such as Joseph Zissels, Chairman of the General Council of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.

Mr Jones discussed concerns regarding antisemitism, and also the way Jews refused to be political playthings in Eastern European political debates.

He reported on his two visits to Kiev – the first to meet the Jewish community and the second to participate in an OSCE meeting focusing on racism.

Shortly after the second visit, the Maidan Square protests began, and the environmental campaigners, predominantly rights workers and religious activists he had befriended have kept him updated on the dynamics of Ukrainian life today.

Stefan Romaniw, Former Multicultural Commissioner of Victoria and Chairman of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations, publicly thanked Mr Jones for his friendship with Ukraine and Ukrainian Australians, and also acknowledged Jewish community leaders, such as Isi Leibler and Colin Rubenstein, who had made “outstanding contributions” to Australian multiculturalism.

“It was an amazing honour to be invited to participate in, let alone address, a Forum with such a high quality of contributions and delegates”, Mr Jones said.

“The openness of the discussions and the commitment to working for Australia and for the relationship between this country and Ukraine was extraordinary, impressive, and I hope that the Dialogue goes from strength to strength”, Mr Jones concluded.

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