100th anniversary of Armistice Day

November 4, 2019 by Henry Benjamin
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The Governor of NSW Margaret Beazley and one of her predecessors Dame Marie Bashir were two of the special guests at the NAJEX Remembrance Day Service in Sydney who heard Indigenous military man Colin Watego say that it is not only a member of a family who goes to war but the entire family itself.

Rabbi Yossi Friedman Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

The Sydney Jewish Museum venue was packed including the Leader of the Opposition in NSW Jodi McKay, Labor Party and Liberal Member for Vaucluse Gabrielle Upton representing the NSW Premier. She was joined in reciting Psalms and prayers by Dr Keith Shilkin, students and scouts, the president of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies Lesli Berger, Dame Marie Bashir and Governor Margaret Beazley.

The Great Synagogue’s Rabbi Ben Elton said that this year marks the centenary of the first Armistice Day. He spoke about the Sydney Jewish Museum property. He said: “The building, opened on the 11th of November, 1923 started its life as, and still is, the NSW Jewish War Memorial. Although it now has other functions, at the memorial area we see honour rolls of those who fought and those who died when we enter the Jewish Museum.”

Keynote speaker Colin Wattago was formerly the AIF senior Indigenous recruitment officer.’

He spoke about the Indigenous soldiers who spoke their native languages at ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli,

He asked why so many suffered on the battlefields. He referred to the vanguard of the coming generations..the young.

He said: Those who follow us can be free and should not have to suffer as so many of us and our forbears had to suffer”.


Colin Wattego

He talked about the cessation of hostilities and the homecoming of those had been fighting. He said: “I have followed the footsteps of my father and my ancestors as being a proud Australian soldier.” He spoke of his family members who served in both World Wars. He pointed out that his son and daughter-in-law who were attending the event “are working with Indigenous youth to help them make good choices. to be respectful, to respect authority and to respect themselves.” He also spoke of his daughters’ work with community.

On homecoming, he said the word that resonates with him is “sacrifice”. He spoke about a telegram. “not about the end battle. Not about war. Not about conflict. About the telegram. It was about a telegram my great-grandmother received in 1942 advising her that regrettably on the 21st iof August 1942 their eldest grandson was killed in action on the battlefield of El Alamein in North Africa.

Similar telegrams were sent to and received by Australian families by the thousands stressing that mothers, fathers, grandparents siblings would also get the grim news.

We need to honour the families of our warriors who also sacrificed and released our warriors to go. For me personally there are no winners in war. I believe everyone suffers loss. These warriors who endured unimaginable hardship, those family members were left behind who released the warriors to go, they suffered in fear of losing someone they love. Warriors who eventually returned home returned scarred and injured, losing their mates.

The family members of warriors who returned home were extremely grateful but they had live through and see in many cases the pain endured the pain by their loved one as a result of war.”

Governor Margaret Beazley arrives at the function

He said that on the day he entered military service “my wife, my children, my grandchildren they also joined the defence force.”

He believes that on Armistice Day we should also the families of those who served their country.

Rabbi Yossi Friedman and Rabbi Rafi Kaiserblueth recited Kaddish and the Benediction.

Sarah Goldman spoke about Saddler Sergeant-Major Sylvester Henry Brown who fought in the battle for Beersheba.

Amongst the guests were Shadow Treasurer, Walt Secord, MPs Julian Leeser [Berorwra] and Dr Marjorie O’Neal [Coogee] the Mayors of Waverley and Woollahra Paula Masselos and Susan Wynne and Peter Wertheim co-CEO of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

Colin Watego

President of NAJEX Roger Selby presented Colin Watego with an aboriginally decorated kippah.

Moriah student Emma Cass sounded the Last Post, the Reveille and the Australian and Israeli anthems

Photos: Henry Benjamin






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