NAJEX Anzac Centenary Commemoration mentioned in parliament

May 14, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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The Anzac Centenary Commemoration held recently at Sydney’s The Great Synagogue was the subject of an address made in the NSW Parliament yesterday by Walt Secord, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, Shadow Minister for Health and Shadow Minister for the North Coast.

Secord’s address:

I will briefly reflect on Anzac Centenary Commemorations within Sydney’s Jewish community.

Walt Secord and army Chaplain Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins

Walt Secord and army Chaplain Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins

During the past four years, I have spoken many times about our nation’s war veterans and their legacies and of my personal visits to Gallipoli in north-western Turkey, the Commonwealth and Australian war graves in Beersheba on the edge of the Negev Desert in Israel and Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. I have seen the Dardanelles, Canakkale and Anzac Cove, and I have visited the grave of John Simpson Kirkpatrick of the Australian Army Medical Corps, the Australian and Turkish trenches, the graves and monuments of New Zealand, Australian and Ottoman Turk troops, Johnston’s Jolly Cemetery, the Lone Pine memorial and the famous pine tree planted in April 1990 by Brigadier Alf Garland.

As an Australian of Canadian indigenous descent, I come to this subject from a unique perspective. My ancestors served in World War I and World War II as well as the War of 1812 and the American War of Independence. They fought with the British against the Americans during colonial times. As members of Parliament, it is a privilege to be asked to attend commemorations and services. I understand the solemnity of our commemorative days, and that is why I have embraced the honour of attending numerous Anzac Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies, especially those involving Sydney’s Jewish community and the New South Wales Association of Jewish Ex-servicemen and Women [NAJEX].

Most recently I had the privilege of attending the Anzac centenary commemorative service of the New South Wales Jewish community, hosted by NAJEX at the Great Synagogue in Sydney on 3 May. I attended as the New South Wales Deputy Leader of the Labor Opposition in the Legislative Council and the deputy chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel.

Other attendees included Prime Minister Tony Abbott, New South Wales Governor David Hurley, Federal Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, Federal Minister for Veterans Affairs Senator Michael Ronaldson, Attorney General Gabrielle Upton, my Federal colleague the Labor member for Kingsford-Smith Matt Thistlethwaite, military personnel, community leaders and various clergy.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivers his address     Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-W

Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivers his address Photo: Henry Benjamin – courtesy COAJP

 

The service, as part of the Jewish community’s participation in the one hundredth anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, commemorated more than 2,000 Jewish Australians who were enlisted in World War I. At the time, the Australian Jewish community made a disproportionate contribution to the war effort with more than 20 per cent of the male Jewish population in Australia enlisting. Of those, 250 Australian Jews fought at Gallipoli and 38 of them were killed in action or died of their wounds, many of whom were from New South Wales. As we know, at Gallipoli 36,000 Commonwealth servicemen died in total. Nearly 9,000 of them were Australians or New Zealanders. I know the Jewish community is proud to see the Star of David dotted amongst the Australian graves at Gallipoli.

During the proceedings, Prime Minister Abbott singled out several Jewish Australian heroes from Gallipoli and World War I for public recognition. These included arguably Australia’s finest soldier Sir John Monash, who went on to become one of the most successful generals on the Western Front, and Leonard Keysor, who was awarded the Victoria Cross. Leonard Keysor was a lance corporal who at the Battle of Lone Pine used his cricketing skills to catch bombs and throw them back into Turkish trenches. After the war Leonard Keysor famously remarked, “Everyone deserved a VC; I just happened to be noticed.” Many years later he also said, “Proud as I am of my VC, I am even more proud to belong to the Australian Army, and prouder still of being a Jew.”

The Prime Minister also spoke of Mr Harold Collins who served and photographed the efforts of the Australian troops during World War I. Mr Collins was an avid amateur photographer and his work is on display at the Sydney Jewish Museum until mid-September. I encourage members to visit the museum to see its exhibitions. In the late 1980s, I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Mr Collins, who was the Jewish community’s last surviving Anzac at the time. He was a wonderful man and said he was just fulfilling his duty.

One of the most touching moments in the event was when Governor David Hurley spoke about Private Greg Sher, the most recent member of the Jewish community to serve and give his life in the Australian military. Private Sher was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2009. The Governor became emotional and apologised to the crowd, saying “I’m sorry, I knew the man.” It was a timely reminder of the deeply personal costs that are borne by the few for the benefit of so many. Lest we forget.

 

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