JCA fills the Opera House

April 9, 2024 by Henry Benjamin
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Six months ago, pro-Palestinian supporters caused NSW authorities to block Sydney’s Jewish community from attending the area where the Opera House’s sails were a giant blue and white banner following the Oct 7 incursion into Israel by blood-thirsty Hamas terrorists.

Stephen Harper and Alexander Downer   All photos: Giselle Haber

No Jews on that fateful night on October 9 when the pro-Palestinian chanted their slogans “f..k the Jews”  and the disputed calling to “Gas the Jews” in the forecourt of the iconic Sydney landmark

This year’s JCA major appeal event saw more than 2,000 members of the community reclaiming the venue, the first time the Opera House has been used for a community function.

Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minister of Canada, in conversation with former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, raised the roof of the Concert Hall on Sunday evening when he raised one arm talking about the choice of the JCA event, “I  have to say, given what happened here in Sydney, I think it’s just wonderful doing it here at the Opera House and thereby giving a giant middle finger.”

It was an afternoon of speeches, mostly working on the theme “You’ve Never Mattered More” with a warmly received musical interlude the One Day Community Choir.

Nova Peris

There was a highly emotional address from former athlete and politician Nova Peris, who mentioned the late Ron Castan, who created a quantum jump in recognition of Indigenous Australians and their lands with the success of the Mabo case.

She said: “I got a message from this Aboriginal lady who said your people helped us get to significant sites back, and there are a lot of Aboriginal people who know that. She told our family and a member of mine to watch out for the Jews. Honour the Jews. Stay with those displaced people. People who will show their solidarity. And I’m really honoured to be part of your family.”

The message that came from many speakers was that Jews have to look after each other. And to this purpose, JCA was looking an increase of 20% from donors.

The evening started with a warm welcome from JCA president Ian Sandler.

Taking two roles in the afternoon was Dan Rosen who introduced Nova Peris before taking his place in the band backing the choir providing the entertainment.

He mentioned William Cooper, who led the 1938 protest march by Aboriginals in support of German Jewry, and of the late Ron Kaston, and the 1992 Mabo case. He spoke of “That shared bond between Indigenous Australian communities and our Jewish communities, our shared sense of storytelling and our conditioning, our shared connection to land, and our shared commitment to truth and justice.”

He added: “It is certainly no coincidence that we gather here today, six months after the massacres of October 7. The chants reverberated through the courtyard outside of this very buildingNova in which we now sit.  It takes strength and courage in our community to come back and reclaim the Opera House. But we have more strength and more courage because of friends like NovaParis.”

The One Day Community Choir

President of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies David Ossip introduced Dr Sharon Nazarian, an Iranian-born American social activist, academic and philanthropist and the Senior Vice President, International Affairs, for the US-based Anti-Defamation League.

She said: “We’re all trying to make sense of what we’re witnessing in our cities, on our university campuses, to our monuments, in our political parties, and in our centres of culture.”

Sharon Nazarian

JCA CEO Alain Hasson introduced Stephen Harper and Alexander Downer. He said: “I fully appreciate and understand that we, the Jewish people, have a global responsibility for one another.”  he said that JCA is “being flooded with tJewish children who are currently in public schools wanting to be in the Jewish community.”

He added: “We need to empower children, our young adults all about them to say, yes, I am Jewish, and I’m proud to be Jewish, and I’m proud to be Australian and we are supportive of Israel. And now
this is a time of unity. It’s a time of solidarity and it’s a time of coming together.”

Following the animated start of the conversation created by Stephen Harper, who heads this report, Alexander Downer has his opinion of the growing number of Western leaders calling on a ceasefire. He said: “My sense is that they’re calling but what they mean is that the Israeli Defense Force should stop attacking Hamas that’s what they meant. It might make more sense if they demand the immediate handover of all the hostages.”

Stephen Harper added: “Among the various kinds of manifestations of antisemitism in the world, this is a unique situation. I can’t think of any other place in now or in history where people call upon the side winning a war to surrender. This is the kind of a unique thing that is imposed upon Israel.

The average Australian Canadian watching the television watching this conflict understands that the Western democratic society of Israel is like us. Its enemies are like our enemies and if our leaders will not defend us against those kinds of enemies in Israel, they should not be trusted with our own national security.”

Alexander Downer closed the discussions, saying, “I want you to go away knowing that people like us offer huge support to the Jewish community.”

A JCA spokesperson told J-Wire that initial results are very encouraging





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