Danny Lamm farewells the ZCV

November 3, 2010 by Elly Shalev
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Dr Danny Lamm has served eight years as president of the Zionist Council of Victoria. As he nears the completion of his final term, Elly Shalev asks him about his record time in office…

Q: What do you count as your biggest achievement while ZCV president?

danny lamm

Dr Danny Lamm

A: Without a doubt, to be able to purchase the property at 304 Hawthorn Road, right next door to Beth Weizmann Community Centre. Now the community has a concrete plan on which to expand the community centre and increase communal activities. Right now Beth Weizmann is full to capacity with functions and meetings most nights of the week and the community organisations we house, plus others, are looking to expand – they need more space and they want it on-site. We want to be able to give it to them. In fact the first steps to move meeting space from the current BW next door have already begun. Soon 90 square metres of meeting space will be replaced by some 500 metres at 304 Hawthorn Road.

The new site will also enable the creation of an entirely new dimension of community facility that the Australian Jewish community has yet to experience – the Jewish Library of Australia (JLA). Imagine the potential of such a location for all ages of our community. All of this will assist us in outreach to people who are not connected.

Q: Any lowlights during the 8 years?

A: Not really, no regrets from my side. I think the dishonesty of the people who portray Israel in an extreme, negative way is a lowlight, to know that in many respects humanity has not improved and that the same hateful distortions, malicious lies about Israel and Jews are being peddled today as were in the middle of the last century. Today it is emanating more and more from certain Muslim environments in the Middle East, sometimes extremist, sometimes mainstream. It is then repeated around the world, including in Australia, in Melbourne by these so-called, self-branded “Palestinian activities”. And frankly it’s intolerable.

Q: The attack on Israel’s legitimacy seems to be more intense and vicious than ever. How do you think attitudes to Israel have changed in the last 8 years?

A: As a consequence of the realization that Israel cannot be defeated on the battlefield, we are seeing a new war being launched on Israel’s legitimacy. This is the way that Israel’s enemies now believe they can win. This war is upon us; we are immersed in it on a daily basis, we have to deal with it. The distortions, the outright lies about Israel have become more sinister, more insidious.

What we find particularly concerning is that some of the media – intelligent journalists – have bought into this frenzied attack on Israel and brought about a deterioration of attitudes.

Nevertheless the majority of people remain supportive of Israel.

Q: You have just returned from Israel and meetings of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. What challenges do we face in Australia as a Diaspora community?

A: The major challenges as a Diaspora have not changed; we are facing issues of loss of identity and assimilation.

We know that we have a massive challenge is keeping the 18 to 40 age bracket connected and interested.

The Jewish Agency has accepted that it should be the centre of activity to try and reverse these trends and work towards recovering from them. Australia is strongly connected to the Board of Governors; our local achievements are well-recognized there.

Q: Are you optimistic that be peace between Israel and the Palestinians can be achieved?

A: Unfortunately and I say this with much regret, I am not optimistic about the achievement of peace in the foreseeable future. We have been in a stalemate for a while now because the Palestinians keep returning to their position of non-recognition of Israel. The Palestinian leadership has not yet realized that their partner is a thriving Israel – an Israel who will continue to thrive regardless of whether they come to the negotiating table or not – and this attitude has had a trickledown effect to the Palestinian people. Just last week Palestinian Media Watch published a photograph of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas holding up a plaque to show his future Palestinian State in the shape of all of Israel, including Gaza and the West Bank. And all the while state-sponsored Palestinian media is re-enforcing a culture inciting violence as a means to an end.

Alongside these negative internal forces, you have external factors such as Iran and their proxies Hamas and Hezbollah who are committed to terror and to the notion that a peaceful outcome must never be achieved.

Q: What is your advice for potential future communal leaders?

A: First, respect the community and respect individuals. Act for the community and not to further your own self. Meet your commitments. It’s very important to work co-operatively with your communal colleagues at all levels – not just at state level but also interstate and nationally. And work with a vision – there will be many spot fires to put out along the way but if you can achieve some major long-term goals you will hopefully leave your future leaders a tangible legacy that they can then continue.

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