NAJEX Remembrance Day Commemoration and Wreath-Laying Ceremony

November 7, 2016 by Sophie Deutsch
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The NSW Association of Jewish Ex Servicemen and Women (NAJEX) Remembrance Day commemoration and wreath-laying ceremony remembers and honours Jewish servicemen and women past and present who have served in the Australian defence forces since 1863.

In fighting for their homeland, these servicemen and women have made sacrifices to protect the freedom and ideals that Jewish Australians enjoy today.

Eddie Governor David Hurley and Charles Aronson

Eddie Vaysbakh, Governor David Hurley and Charles Aronson

The guest speaker at the ceremony, Jillian Skinner MP, Minister for Health, reflected on her own family’s experience of war, and the lasting impact of warfare on Australian troops and loved ones. Mrs Skinner recalled her visit to the battlefields of Gallipoli on a bleak wintry day, stating that the grave sites and memorial statues “reminded me that war is a terrible thing – that we truly must continue our traditions of dawn services and memorial ceremonies to remember the sacrifices that our men and women have made. But also, to remember that they fought in the hope that we not have to fight again.”

“Australians are rightly proud of our Anzac spirit of courage and mateship, but we also remember the unbelievable hardship and adversity that our troops have confronted with stoicism and dignity wherever they have served.”

Senior Fire Fighter, Eddie Vaysbakh, was awarded for his exceptional bravery at the annual commemoration and wreath-laying ceremony. In honour of his participation in a highly dangerous operation in Banksmeadow in July 2013, Eddie was the noteworthy recipient of the NAJEX Centenary of Anzac Award.

In 2013, Eddie was part of a Fire and Rescue NSW team that successfully dealt with a massive crisis at the Caltex oil terminal in Banskmeadow. A major leak of 130,000 litres left the area exposed and vulnerable to fire and explosions. After securing the enormous leak, the team sprayed the 50 metre pool of spilled petrol with foam, helping to diminish the risk of explosion.

In 2015, there was a crisis with a similar amount of fuel at the Port of Tianjin, in northern China. The fuel was not effectively contained, and a subsequent explosion killed more than 170 people. The shocking loss of life and damage to infrastructure and businesses could have occurred in Sydney, had the crisis not been effectively managed.

His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d) Governor of NSW, who presented the award, commented that our firemen ensured “we were spared a catastrophic incident here in Sydney”.

Previously, the Governor General and the State Governor awarded Eddie and his team with bravery awards. Upon receiving the NAJEX Centenary of Anzac Award, Eddie graciously reported that, “many people come up to us and they call us heroes… but the heroes are the generations that came before us. The mothers and fathers that hid their children under floors, in attics, knowing they would never see them again as Nazis broke down their wall. They are the true heroes. The military personnel that fought wars… they are the true heroes.”

NAJEX is an organisation for servicemen and women, for family members, current service personnel and the community. As interest in Jewish military history continues to grow, membership of NAJEX is expanding. Jewish families are wishing to perpetuate the memory of their forbearers who bravely and selflessly sacrificed their lives to serve Australia.

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