Social Justice Issues
Terms of Reference of the jbd social justice committee
The Social Justice Committee acts as a policy "think tank" for the NSW JBD where Members bring to the Committee their particular knowledge and expertise for discussion. The Committee provides an important networking facility for the Board for general community outreach and for advocacy within the Jewish community on social justice issues. The Members and connections of Members of the Committee provide an important resource for the Board which is utilised wherever appropriate.
The role of the Committee is to inform and advise the Board on social justice issues, raise awareness of social justice issues in the wider community, and utilise the Board’s resources and networks to support social justice issues.
Activities of the Committee include developing policy statements, providing the Plenum with information on social justice issues, preparing media releases, raising awareness in the wider Jewish community, preparing information for the Jewish News, networking with other communities and organisations such as refugee communties, Indigenous communities, Jewish Care and Sydney Jewish Museum.
The Committee does not duplicate the work of other communal organisations, but complements their activities and maintains the significant liaison relationships which have developed. The Committee's perspective and the Board's activities encompass both the Jewish community and the wider community.
With reference to Overseas Jewry, the primary duty of this Committee is to obtain information for dissemination within the community about the problems experienced by distressed Jewish communities around the world and to propose positive initiatives and solutions to these problems. Information on distressed Jewish communities is published on the Board's website. The Committee's recommendations for urgent action are developed for presentation to the Board's Plenum. The Committee highlights the overlap between the problems experienced by Jewry around the world and social justice issues.
The Committee comprise of a Chair and 6 Deputies. The Committee may co-opt members of the Jewish Community subject to ratification by the Executive.
The Social Justice Committee has developed a number of policy documents which have been endorsed by the Plenum. These are:
Anti-racism July 2004
Child Abuse July 2004
Statement on Reconciliation, reconfirmed May 2008
Statement on Australian Refugee Policy
The following notes are from ANNUAL REPORTS ON ANTISEMITISM IN AUSTRALIA, researched and written by Jeremy Jones AM
The Australian Jewish community is very much part of mainstream Australia, as it has been for most of the modern period. The facts that two of Australia's Governors-General have been Jewish, that Jews have been able to participate in the political process from very early time and that military and public figures such as General Sir John Monash are important public icons, gives Australian Jewry a real sense of belonging and creates obstacles to those antisemitic organisations who would seek to present Jews as being in some way un-Australian.
The impact of the racism debate is felt throughout the community, including in schools and the workplace. On the factory floor, in shopping centres and in educational institutions, members of the Jewish community report hearing a dramatic increase in anti-Jewish stereotyping and verbal expressions of belief that Jews are part of an anti-Christian conspiracy whenever far-right wing groups receive uncritical publicity.
Virtually all Australian antisemitic organisations either advocate Holocaust Denial or argue that Holocaust deniers have a right to be taken seriously. In the majority of cases Holocaust denial appears as a central plank in the antisemitic organisations' platforms, even though the less sophisticated of these groups simultaneously espouse admiration of Adolf Hitler's policies towards Jews.
WORDS TO ACTION
The Australian Jewish community also experiences hundreds of incidents each year of harassment, intimidation, vandalism or other acts which can be described as racist violence. While it is difficult to prove the causal connection between individual instances of antisemitic vilification and physical actions motivated by anti-Jewish hatred or prejudice, it is not at all difficult to draw the nexus between hateful language and acts motivated by hate.
RESPONSES TO ANTISEMITISM IN AUSTRALIA
A range of responses necessary if a society is serious about limiting, if not eliminating, antisemitism. The victims of attacks need to have legal recourse. Political and moral leadership is vital, especially when it is framed in a way to define antisemitism as an issue to be dealt with by the society as a whole, not just the antisemites' targets. Education to combat prejudice, informally and formally, provides a basis for a society equipped to respond to what antisemitism may be imported or develop.
Jews and Indigenous Australians
Since the end of World War II, many Jewish Australians have worked alongside the Aboriginal community both visibly and behind the scenes.
A number of notable Jewish individuals have supported the Aboriginal cause, including the eminent Jewish QC Ron Castan who represented the Aboriginal leader, Eddie Mabo, in the Mabo case in the High Court. Federal Court Judge Marcus Einfeld has repeatedly identified himself with the Aboriginal call for justice. And Jim Spigelman, current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW, first came into public recognition in the mid-1960s when he joined Aboriginal leaders, including Charles Perkins, on a freedom ride through rural areas, which highlighted the conditions that Aborigines were living under. This tour was modelled on the freedom rides of civil rights campaigners in the American South.
Today, as before, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has been at the forefront of efforts to achieve Reconciliation with Indigenous Australians and these efforts have been widely acknowledged, for example at Corroboree 2000.
Other, quieter forms of Jewish support are exemplified by the occasion of a bequest to Tranby College (an Aboriginal college in Sydney) by a Jewish family, which has funded two oral history programs. Aboriginal interviewers have been trained by Jewish interviewers who acquired their skills in the recording of histories of Holocaust survivors. This excerpt from a newspaper article explains the Rona-Tranby Project:
Aboriginal history is being reclaimed under a project linking Jewish and Indigenous Australian communities in NSW. The Rona-Tranby Project, set up through funds left in a will by Jewish couple Tom and Eva Rona, has begun to record oral history with the help of Aboriginal elder Eliza Kennedy of the Nglyampaam people from western NSW.
Patterned on the Australian Institute of Holocaust Studies' Twelfth Hour oral history project, this is a joint effort between the Rona Estate, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult education centre Tranby College.
The vast majority of Australian Jews have supported the leaders of the Jewish community on this issue. Peter Wertheim, immediate past president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, while in his position as President, gave an address in 1997 - during the height of the public controversy over the government's Wik legislation - to a packed-to-capacity auditorium consisting of Jews and non-Jews. His powerful speech referred to Jewish history and appealed to all Australians not to repeat the mistakes of the past by committing the crime of silence in the light of overwhelming evidence of acts of genocide faced by the Aboriginal community in the past.
Various Jewish organisations have well-developed relations with the Indigenous Australian community, including the B'nai B'rith, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students and others. All of these are part of the Jewish community's efforts to support the Reconciliation process and to combat racism and intolerance in Australian society. The JBD has comissioned a book on this subject, which will be launched in April 2010.