ECAJ’s annual conference via Zoom

November 30, 2020 by Henry Benjamin
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The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s annual conference took place yesterday on Zoom with keynote speakers the United Arab Emirates’ Ambassador to Australia and Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Jillian Segal

The conference marked the first report from president Jillian Segal who outlined the impact COVID had made around the world and how it fuelled racism.

She commented: “As always occurs when fear and economic insecurity become prevalent, the atmosphere of political and social polarisation that existed even before the onset of the pandemic has deepened, and conspiracy theories and rising levels of racism – including antisemitism – have followed in their wake.   In Australia, there has been a pervasive infiltration of racist and other extremist ideologies and narratives into mainstream public and political discourse, channelled primarily through social media.”

Every state had put into effect its Emergency Management Plan or its emergency procedures as early as mid-March.

During this difficult year, the ECAJ developed two ambitious new projects, namely an Advocacy and Leadership Corps of future Jewish communal advocates and leaders which launched this month and a school education program to create a culture against prejudice, and against antisemitism in particular, in school communities from the earliest years of school onwards and counter the considerable influence of social media in promoting prejudice and hatred.
The president spoke about Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s visit to Australia from 21 to 27 February 2020, together with his daughter Anat. It was only the third time an incumbent Israeli President has visited Australia.
The ECAJ hailed the signing of what was described as the “Abraham Accords”. 
Jillian Segal told the conference: “For those seeking to demonise and delegitimise Israel at every opportunity, Israel’s normalisation of relations with the UAE and Bahrain, and its suspension of any moves to declare sovereignty over areas of the West Bank, struck a double blow. These developments demonstrated unambiguously that the efforts of Israel’s opponents to isolate it diplomatically and economically had failed.  They were also deprived of an issue on which they had been poised to launch a new campaign to restore the Palestinian issue to centre stage in international affairs.”

Peter Wertheim

She added: “It is important to note that the Abraham Accords attracted little protest from the “Arab Street”. The Palestinian Authority sought a resolution from the Arab League condemning the Abraham Accords, and was rebuffed.”

The work the ECAJ had carried out with other faiths and communities were highlighted by the president especially in the realm of religious freedom and combatting racism. She said: “The ECAJ is the only representative national Jewish organisation that many other parts of the Australian community will deal with.
There are no guarantees that Australia will continue to be as hospitable a place for Jews as it has previously been. The good relationships we have built with other parts of the Australian community need to be fostered and this requires continual effort and resources. This makes the continuing success of the ECAJ a matter of vital interest for the entire Australian Jewish community.”

In the long list of the ECAJ’s achievements in the past year was meeting with Facebook executives to improve the knowledge of Facebook monitors about the more common themes of antisemitism such as the Deicide charge, the blood libel, the Protocols and Jewish conspiracy tropes; and advocating for Australian Holocaust survivors to the German government ahead of the commencement of formal Claims Conference negotiations.

Ambassador Abdullah Al Subousi

Jillian Segal commended the constituent members of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry. She said: They provide clear and compelling evidence that the Australian Jewish community is vibrant, confident, well-governed and is meeting the challenges that it faces. I pay tribute to the leadership and activists of each of these vibrant organisations for the wonderful work which they selflessly perform on a daily basis in the service of the Australian Jewish community.

The strong public affairs and policy work done by Jewish organisations must be maintained and advanced to properly meet the challenges ahead. The times demand a strong representative ECAJ voice to co-ordinate and amplify other Jewish organisational voices. I note Jennifer Huppert has completed many years of service as Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s president and welcome Andre Oboler to the role and also welcome Melinda Jones as President NCJWA.

Ambassador Gilad Erdan

She acknowledged co-CEOs Peter Wertheim who conducted the Zoom meeting and Alex Ryvchin and their support staff. Jillian Segal added: “The only reason we are able to achieve as much as we do with such a small office is because the team is talented, committed, efficient and united.”

The president made mention of the untimely death of Josh Levi who had been the CEO of the Australian Jewish News.

During the conference passed a draft resolution for a Gender Equality Policy which among others gives equal rights and opportunities enjoyed by men in community positions and decision-making to women.

The conference heard encouraging addresses from the UAE’s ambassador to Australia Abdullah Al Subousi and Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations ambassador Gilad Erdan.

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