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Interfaith Issues

Terms of Reference of the JBD Interfaith aNd multicultural relations committee 

To promote and develop good relations between the Jewish community and other ethnic and religious communities and for that purpose to engage in such activities as the Committee may determine, including

  • Arranging for representation of  the Board of Deputies and other Jewish organisations and individuals at inter-ethnic organisations such as the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW;

  • Facilitating inter-religious communication on an organisational and individual basis and working to promote religious harmony;

  • Arranging for contact and discussion between the Board and the representatives of particular ethnic or religious groups;

  • Arranging functions of the Board and joint functions with other groups for the purpose of promoting ethnic and religious harmony;

  • Reporting to the Executive on the above matters and generally on issues concerning inter-religious and inter-ethnic harmony.

Constitution of the Committee

The Committee shall comprise of a Chair and 3 Deputies. The Committee may co-opt members of the Jewish Community subject to ratification by the Executive.

More information about Interfaith Activities .

It is a staggering fact that intolerance and ignorance often abound among the otherwise well educated and religiously observant. That is why interfaith dialogue was born. People who studied violent religious history, people who witnessed it, and who lived through its horrors, vowed that no democratic and free society should succumb to it, or foster bigotry and hatred. Understanding other traditions is an essential preventive measure, not, I hope, in a cynical exercise to "know thine enemy", but in order to enjoy the possibilities that friendship brings.

Like a genuine friendship, interfaith dialogue is a living thing, which necessitates, if it does not spontaneously effect, changes in the way we view each other and the way we view ourselves. There is no genuine relationship which does not change the people involved. Indeed, there would be absolutely no reason for cultivating relationships at all if they did not transform us in some beneficial way.

(Adapted from an address given by Dr Rachael Kohn at the launch of the Women's Interfaith Network at NSW Parliament House on 22 March 2001)

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is actively involved in forging positive and productive partnerships with people of different faiths in NSW.

The World Conference on Religion and Peace 

The World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), which was established in 1970, has been dedicated to promoting cooperation among the world's religions for peace, while maintaining respect for religious differences. Religions for Peace is a global movement, with more than 30 national chapters and members in more than 100 countries. Accredited to the United Nations, Religions for Peace engages in vigorous peace promoting initiatives throughout the world in cooperation with other religious, development and UN agencies

Mrs. Josie Lacey OAM, an Executive Member of the NSW JBD, is a NSW Executive Member of the WCRP.

The Women's Interfaith Network 

In March 2001 Josie Lacey convened the Women's Interfaith Network. The Network aims to bring together women of different faith traditions in order to promote understanding, respect and harmony among followers of different religions; to be a sign of solidarity among people of faith; and to empower other women to initiate other groups.

Representatives from Aboriginal, Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Zoroastrian and Quaker communities gathered at NSW Parliament House for the Network's launch to outline their purpose, pray and read from scriptures. The readings reached across all boundaries, spoke of the essential equality between men and women, of love and compassion, unity and diversity and Aboriginal spirituality. Mary Cresp, a Catholic nun, said the group hoped to encourage other groups to form around the country and create a network.

"The world is in turmoil. Wars are being fought in the name of God and religion," said Josie Lacey at the launch. "I believe women have the ability to communicate and to show that religion can unite us. Women are not afraid to communicate, but society as a whole must learn to talk. I think it's the only way to overcome divisions and social destruction in our community," she said. "No one is trying to upstage anyone and no one is trying to convert anyone. Maybe we'll be role models for men."

The Women's Interfaith Network tel: 9327 1724, fax 9327 6343, emai: lacey@bigpond.net.au or cmi@columban.org.au

The Council of Christians and Jews

The Council of Christians and Jews is a group of Christians and Jews who are drawn together because of their common heritage, a desire for understanding and dialogue and to explore their turbulent history of relating to each other.

The Council is not a religion, it has no theology and its members do not seek to make converts to Judaism or Christianity. The Jewish Board of Deputies actively fosters the work of this Council. The Board is also active in the (Catholic) Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Inter-Faith Relations and participates in regular dialogues between the ECAJ (Executive Council of Australian Jewry) and the Uniting Church.

Jewish-Muslim Relations

The organised Jewish community has had no difficulty in establishing relations with Islamic communities such as the Turks, Afghans and Bangladeshis. In fact the Jewish community publicly supported the Bangladeshi Muslim community in overcoming their problems with the establishment of a mosque in the Bankstown municipality.

We have also had meetings with Islamic representatives on matters of common interest, such as the provision of Halal and Kosher food, divorce law reform and anti-vilification law. The Women's Interfaith Network has an Arab Islamic member who attends from time to time and in April 2000 a Jewish representative spoke at the women's Muslim Youth Seminar.

One difficulty has been the publication of fiercely antisemitic articles in the local Arabic press, both Christian and Islamic. In most cases the Board has succeeded in arranging apologies and retractions through the good offices of the Anti-Discrimination Board.

Another problem has been the primitively anti-Jewish utterances of Sydney's Imam Hilaly, accusing the Jews, for example of ruling the world through sexual perversion. As long as such utterances were not condemned by the Arab Islamic leadership, official relations were simply not possible.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has carefully refrained from making inflammatory comments about these matters. We value the tradition of tolerance in Australian society, where all citizens are free to embrace whatever faith they choose according to their own conscience. We look forward to the day when the Arab Islamic community wholeheartedly embraces this principle and is prepared to have relationships with other faith communities on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

For more general background on Jewish-Muslim relations, click here.

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