VAJEX ANZAC Day honours Greg Sher

May 4, 2011 Agencies
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More than 300 people gathered at the Rose Hall, Mount Scopus Memorial College, for the Victorian Association of Jewish Ex & Servicemen and Women Australia Inc., VAJEX’s, 96th Anniversary of ANZAC Day commemoration.
The occasion marked the inaugural presentation of the PTE Greg Sher Memorial Shield to Victorian Jewish Schools and students made in the presence of Chief of Army LT GEN Ken Gillespie AC, DSC, CSM, as Guest of Honour.
Guests viewed Judy Landau’s visual display of the meaning of VAJEX and the horrors of war. before the ceremony began with an official welcome extended by VAJEX President Mr Ben Hirsh to the Guest of Honour, as well as to the many Military Personnel, Rabbis and Community figures present.
Memorial candles had been lit prior to the start of the ceremony, and all present were invited to come forward and light a candle for departed love ones. The the glow of the many candles litserved as a solemn reminder for a reason to come together to pay homage to those who had made the supreme sacrifice to secure freedom.
Chaplain Rabbi Dovid Gutnick prayed for peace, followed by PTE Jason Hyams , a  veteran of the Afghanistan war, who read Psalm 46. Representatives from the invited Jewish schools read selected prayers.The prayers were those of hope and with the theme of peace – appropriate for the coming generation.
General Gillespie opened his address by promising it would not follow the theme of many repetitive ANZAC speeches. Rather, it would suggest the willingness of the  small  Jewish community who served their country with honour. This was exemplified by the sacrifice that Greg Sher had made. In fact it gave new meaning to ANZAC Day. The General went on to extol the bravery of a common soldier who by

Greg Sher

his deeds became revered by those who he had been sent to protect and guide. So much so, that his trainees could not believe that such a highly trained man could be both a soldier and work at a civilian profession. Such was his being that he was respected by Muslim and Christian alike, both as a person of honour and a Jew.  Greg’s bravery has been recognised in Israel  with the planting of an avenue of trees in his name. In making mention of one of his favourite  poems ‘The Man in the Arena’ the General was able to tie the death of PTE Sher  to a new growing bond between the Army and the Jewish Community. This sentence alone brought a new meaning to the sacrifice Greg Sher and his family have made. It may well become a deep and solemn legend long into the future of Jewish military service – an act that brought a cementing of our role in the search for peace.
This was a new way for Jews to remember ANZAC Day. However a more significant moment was to come when young Joshua Leach dragged a chair to the lectern so that he could reach the microphone. In keeping with the spirit of Passover, Joshua asked a question, “What is the meaning of ANZAC Day?” His question was answered by the poem ‘All the Bloomin’ Way’. More meaning was brought to the reading by the sight of young Joshua proudly displaying medals won by his relatives. Just as Joshua stood as a link to the future, so did the cries of a baby cradled by its mother – surely the reason for our fight for freedom.
A Judy Landau video was played to a hushed crowd. As a reminder that ANZACs fought in more than one theatre of war, Judy’s video zeroed in on the Anzacs performance in New Guinea to be followed by the stark images of Jewish War Graves.
The wreath laying ceremony followed in respectful silence to be continued by VAJEX President, Ben Hirsh reciting ‘The Ode’, a call to all to remember the fallen. Then as had been heard around the world on ANZAC Day came the mournful sounds of an Army bugler calling all to attention for The Last Post- A Minutes Silence- and Rouse. A calling that echoed around the bowed heads and I’m sure that the bright tone of a devoted soldier brought a few tears to the guests.
The official ceremony drew to a close with the KEL MALEH RACHAMIM and KADDISH.
The ceremony then took on a new significance with the presentation by Mr and Mrs  Sher of PTE Greg Sher’s Memorial Shields to contributing Victorian Jewish Schools and their representative who were chosen for their outstanding achievements throughout the year. The shields were inaugurated by VAJEX a s a fitting tribute to Greg Sher.

This report was sent to J-Wire by SQN LDR Harold Karpin RAAF [Ret]

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