B’nai B’rith Vic celebrates 70 years

31-5-15. B'nai B'rith 70th anniversary. Prof Louis Waller speakign the the guests at the GlenEira Town Hall. Photo: Paul Gardner.
31-5-15. B'nai B'rith 70th anniversary. Prof Louis Waller speakign the the guests at the GlenEira Town Hall. Photo: Paul Gardner.

B’NAI B’rith in Victoria celebrated 70 years of serving the Jewish and broader communities recently at an afternoon tea in Glen Eira Town Hall, paying tribute to the greats who have been associated with the organisation over the decades.

In a poignant moment, Emeritus Professor Ron Taft, 95, the last surviving foundation member, proposed a toast to the future success of B’nai B’rith. Recalling his introduction to the Jewish communal service organisation in 1945, he spoke of how the principles of “benevolence, brotherly and sisterly love and harmony” had endured down the generations.

Master of Ceremonies Miriam Suss introduced Emeritus Professor Louis Waller, former dean of the Monash University Law School, and a veteran driving force of B’nai B’rith, who recounted his initiation into the organisation in 1960, among a group of inductees in black ties and dinner jackets, “a parade of Jewish penguins the likes of which it’s now difficult to imagine … Today, look around you, not a black jacket or tie in sight.”

Waller said 1967 was a signal year for B’nai B’rith when it was invited by the then Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies to be part of the joint communal effort in emergency fundraising for Israel during the Six-Day War, reinvigorating the affinity between B’nai B’rith and Israel.

He said B’nai B’rith’s campus activities through its Hillel Foundation and its fusing of Melbourne Jews of various synagogue affiliations and cultural backgrounds have been among its greatest characteristics.

Reflecting on Australian society when the Melbourne Lodge was founded in 1945, Former Supreme Court of Victoria judge Howard Nathan recalled an era when ABC newsreaders spoke with rounded vowels and governors-general of Australia had numerous titles of the British Empire after their names. Australian society was “mean-spirited” and culturally unimaginative. “The most foreign thing Australians had ever confronted was tinned spaghetti.”

He said B’nai B’rith’s introduction into this environment, with its German-speaking Jewish refugees and postwar arrivals, proved challenging to Anglo-Australia and Anglo-Jewry. But today, with its numerous projects to aid the less fortunate and to foster human rights “B’nai B’rith has been at the forefront of chesed, human kindness”, said Nathan. B’nai B’rith has been a key component of Australian Jewry, “the most flourishing, innovative and thoroughly adjusted of any Jewish society in the world”.

Faye Dubrowin, B’nai B’rith Victoria president, honoured past executive officers, Denise Duval and Leah Black, and current executive officer Frances Stiglec, for their dedication to the organisation.


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