Victorian plenum told security danger level is high

June 10, 2010 by Geoffrey Zygier
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The Jewish Community Council of Victoria has been told of a shift in the focus of those monitoring security.Geoffrey Zygier has sent this report which covers the aftermath of the Gaza Flotilla Incident, Lyndhurst Cemetery and a new community centre:

There were three major topics of discussion at the June plenum, and a number of subsidiary matters.  Unsurprisingly, proceedings were dominated by the recent so called ‘peace’ flotilla to Gaza and the potential outcomes for local Jewry.  As guest speaker David Michelson of the Community Security Group noted, “While we obviously can’t control the Middle East situation, we can manage its repercussions here by strategic planning and responses.”

In his address, Michelson made the point that anti-Israel protests in Victoria were taking a decidedly more aggressive tone, with increasing calls for ‘martyrdom’ and ‘war’.  Protestors were increasingly apparently Muslim, rather than the hard left who generally had constituted the majority in recent years.  While the local Turkish Muslim community has largely seen as generally more moderate in its views, the flotilla issue has resulted in rallies dotted with Turkish flags amongst the more common Hezbollah and Hamas placards.

While the danger rating was currently at 5 (6 is the maximum), Michelson observed that staying both calm and vigilant and immediately reporting suspicious incidents were the most effective ways of thwarting potential dangers.  JCCV president John Searle noted the dedication and professionalism of the CSG and asked Michelson that its members be made aware of the community’s appreciation.

The second matter that occasioned considerable interest was the continuing saga of the Melbourne’s Chevra Kadisha’s seemingly cavalier attitude to the condition of Lyndhurst Cemetery, despite numerous public complaints.  As John Searle noted, while MCK was a private organisation, it nonetheless had a moral obligation to the Jewish community.  Where it had let down the community was in the areas of accountability and transparency.  Seemingly it is out of touch with the despair and anger felt by so many of its users.

John Searle advised that there had been considerable discussion, both oral and written, with the MCK trustees.  Unfortunately the latter had been long on promises and short on providing outcomes.  The JCCV had reluctantly brought the Australian Jewish News up to date, ‘reluctantly’ because it would have preferred a more amicable and mature process of reaching a positive result.  It remained to be seen whether adverse publicity would achieve a more fruitful outcome for the community.

Finally, plenum delegates also spent considerable time discussing the proposal for a community hub at 304 and 306 Hawthorn Road.  The Jewish community has long outgrown the latter premises (Beth Weizmann) and funding was now being sought from the State Government to develop both properties.  This proposal includes the creation of the Jewish National Library and Resource Centre of Australia (an amalgamation of various community libraries including Makor) as the centre of an expanded cultural and educational centre.  In addition to the establishment of this new entity, the resultant reconfiguration would provide a state of the art Jewish Community Centre, resulting in more Jewish community organisations being accommodated.

Part of this plan involves the relocation of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission to Beth Weizmann where it would share joint premises with the JCCV.  This move would enable a rationalisation of resources for common fields of endeavour, particularly in the areas of anti-discrimination, research, combating racism (including antisemitism) and interfaith work/dialogue.  The ADC has been the JCCV’s anti-discrimination arm for a number of years, but its effectiveness in this regard has been limited by the organisations being housed in different locations.  The provision of a ‘one-stop shop’ for these matters would create a more efficient and effective process, and greater convenience and less confusion for users.

As John Searle concluded at the end of proceedings, “The plenum really is a marvellous opportunity for JCCV affiliates, indeed for any local Jew, to understand his or her community better and to have a say in its future.  Our next plenum will be held at 8.00pm on 2 August at Beth Weizmann and I extend a personal invitation to all members of our community to take part.”

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