Victorian Parliament introduced to Rosh Hashana

September 28, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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Over thirty politicians were treated to their first taste of Rosh Hashanah at a luncheon at Parliament House co-hosted by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) and Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV). The event was attended by many members of State Parliament and enhanced by a visit by the Premier, Ted Baillieu MP.  

David Southwick MP, Sam Tatarka, Nina Bassat, Ted Bailleau, Marsha Thomson MP & John Searle

Co-conveners of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel David Southwick MP and Marsha Thomson MP, took the initiative to schedule the luncheon around a Jewish holiday. The resultant discussion around Rosh Hashanah ensured that the event was steeped in Jewish culture and tradition.

Ms Thomson began the event with a short introduction and thanked the members from all major parties for taking time out of their busy schedule to gather in the beautiful setting at Parliament House.

Parliament House resounded with the blowing of the shofar as members of the Upper and Lower House gathered to eat bagels and smoked salmon; to listen to issues of concern impacting the Jewish community; and be served challah and apples dipped in honey by the Hon Members for Footscray and Caulfield.

Sam Tatarka, President of the ZCV introduced the guests to central themes of the Jewish High Holidays, the significance of the shofar, why the Jewish New Year is celebrated in September and the practices and meanings behind the festive season.

Tatarka provided an update on the major challenges facing Israel: Iran; the Palestinian conflict; US elections and the world-wide violence sparked by the release of the now infamous “Innocence of Muslims”.

In regard to the positive relationship between Israel and Australia, Mr Tatarka stated “relationships between Israel and Australia continue to be strong and we are proud to enjoy the unequivocal bipartisan support that State and Federal governments offer to Israel in recognition of the fundamental liberal democratic values that we share.”  Tatarka went on to say that “Whilst Israel was not beyond criticism its efforts toward forging a lasting peace were deserving of proper recognition.  We can only hope that at some point the Palestinian leadership will reciprocate with like efforts of their own.”

Nina Bassat AM, President of the JCCV, spoke of the major challenges facing the Victorian Jewish community. She spoke about the close and cohesive nature of the Victorian Jewish community and said that we fortunately do not face the same level of virulent anti-semitism and hostility towards Israel as many European Jews.

Bassat said that we share many internal issues with other communities such as youth engagement; relevance to our community; funding; speaking with one voice; and societal problems with child abuse and youth binge drinking, which the JCCV is working hard to address.

However, externally we still face anti-semitism and too many Jews have experienced that ‘being Jewish is risky’, particularly students on campus. Bassat stated “People on their way to synagogue should not be abused and have eggs hurled at them from passing cars; our children should not need have guards on their school gate and we should not have to spend communal funds on preventing such a tragedy as occurred in Toulouse.”

David Southwick, MP, closed the luncheon and on behalf of the parliamentary friends of Israel, thanked everyone for attending. Southwick stated, “It was fantastic to bring together our state’s political leaders with representatives of Victoria’s Jewish community. Our community plays a vital role in enriching multiculturalism in Victoria and it is important for MPs to have an understanding of Jewish culture and traditions.”

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