ZFA Biennial Conference

April 3, 2014 by Hayley Hadassin
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180 delegates, including large contingents of young adults from the Australian Zionist Youth Council and AUJS,attended the ZFA’s Biennial Conference held in Melbourne.

ZFA stalwarts

ZFA stalwarts

With keynote addresses from the Hon Bill Shorten MP, Leader of the Opposition, Yariv Levin MK and of course our very special guest, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky, the audience was treated to an engaging and informative program.

Mr Shorten opened with “I have long been a supporter of Israel”. He praised Israel – “I was curious, how can a country with a population of less than 8 million support a thriving venture capital industry that produces more successful start-ups than much larger economies like Japan and Korea? The answer was simple. Israel embraces science and isn’t afraid of failure…it is an inspiring story that shows Israel is determined to let every citizen fulfil their potential.”

He reiterated the Australian Labor Party’s strong support of Israel: “The Labor party will always be proud of the role it played in the birth of Israel. We continue to have mutual security interests in the safety of our people against international terrorism and governments that support them…Labor’s belief in the right of Israeli people to live within secure and recognised state boundaries has never wavered. We also have great hopes for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The best way to achieve this just peace is a two-state solution.”

Shorten clearly articulated what he believes is required to achieve peace in the State. “…When there is a peace treaty, with defined borders…So the real answer to the settlements is to reach a settlement. And the sooner that is done – the better.”

Bill Shorten

Bill Shorten

Shorten addressed local issues – “I also want to register my profound opposition to those promoting an anti-Israel boycott. I reject it. It has no place in our universities and it has no place in the commercial marketplace.”

Shorten used this forum to clarify Labor’s view on the Government’s proposal to repeal Sections of the Racial Discrimination Act. He said – “I believe this is a colossal mistake – and a dangerous one….I am strongly opposed to the idea of watering-down the hate speech protections in Section 18C… There is no place for bigotry, no place for racism, no place for hate speech in the modern Australia.”

All members at the conference went on to unanimously pass the resolution against the repeal of S18C.

Yariv Levin MK also spoke about the need for peace in Israel – “Yes, we do want peace and we do need peace and we are [making] every effort to achieve this.” Levin spoke about the BDS movement that has affected campuses and nations around the world – “We must stand firmly against this phenomenon (of BDS) it’s not only our problem it must be a struggle of all democracies.”

Natan Sharansky reflected on the major challenges facing Jews in Israel and in the diaspora: assimilation and delegitimisation of the Jewish state. According to Sharansky, a major battle exists on university campuses where many Jewish students choose to disconnect, remarking: “We have to strengthen our identity – to our people, our history, our community and to the State of Israel.”

Sharansky was generous in his praise of the Australian Jewish community and the Zionist movement:  “…there is no place where youth movements are so successful,” he said, following with “There is something very special about the Australian Zionist Community, Thank you.”

A panel moderated by Philip Chester and including Amanda Goodman (JCA) Roy Steinman (Leibler Yavneh College) Anton Block (St Kilda Hebrew Congregation) and Jeremy Leibler (ZFA) discussed issues affecting Jewish continuity and identity. The panel covered issues of Jewish education, the importance of youth movements and engaging the young adult demographic and engaging with students outside the Jewish day schools as priority areas.

The conference paid tribute to Philip Chester, retiring after eight years as ZFA President. Video messages from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein and many others were a highlight for the audience and for Philip.

Dr. Danny Lamm has been elected unopposed to the position of President of the Zionist Federation of Australia. Danny has had a long and auspicious involvement in the Jewish community and Zionism for several decades – “I am delighted to accept the call by the Federation to assume its Presidency. I have been involved in the Zionist Movement lifelong and am committed to the support of the State of Israel and see my new role as being the best way I can make that contribution.”


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