Many Jewish Australians have worked alongside First Nations Australians on a broad range of initiatives.
In 2010 the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies published a book which documented joint initiatives of the Jewish and First Nations communities. Hand in Hand; Indigenous and Jewish People Working Together was co-authored by academics Dr Anne Sarzin and her daughter Dr Lisa Sarzin, who interviewed 80 First Nations and Jewish Australians about their collaborative ventures.
Rona Tranby Trust
Established in 1991 from a bequest in the will of Thomas Rona, who, with his wife Eva, was a member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and social justice activist. Inspired by the Australian Institute of Holocaust Studies’ Twelfth Hour oral history project, this is a joint initiative between the Rona Estate, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education and Training centre in Glebe. The Trust supports the recording and preservation of First Nations oral history and has awarded grants for a range of oral-history projects across Australia. A notable Rona Tranby Trust initiative was the Australian Light Horse Project, which supported 13 descendants of First Nations World War I Light Horse soldiers in researching their ancestors’ stories and travelling to Israel to take part in the World War I Anzac Centenary Commemoration Service at Beersheva in 2017.
In December 2019 the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies was delighted to host a special Shabbat service and dinner at The Great Synagogue for leaders of the of the First Nations. Guests included NSW Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord MLC, Julian Leeser MP, Chairperson of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council Yvonne Weldon, former NSW Governer Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, Pastor Raymond Minniecon, Aunty Millie Ingram and Australian South Sea Islanders Port Jackson President Emelda Davis.
Guests were given a pre-service talk by Rabbi Benjamin Elton that explained Jewish customs relating to Shabbat and then enjoyed blessings and dinner in the dining hall.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is a strong supporter of reconciliation with First Nations Australians. While president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Peter Wertheim delivered an address in 1997 during the height of the controversy over the Federal Government’s Wik legislation to a capacity audience. His remarks invoked Jewish history and appealed to Australians not to repeat the mistakes of the past by committing the crime of silence in the light of the overwhelming evidence of genocide suffered by the First Nations community. Wertheim established the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Social Justice Committee, with a strong emphasis on First Nations social justice issues. Long-time community stalwart Jeremy Jones, also a supporter of reconciliation, was instrumental with leaders of other faith communities in establishing the Week of Prayer in 1993, which developed into the annual Reconciliation Week, May 27 to June 2.