SOUTH Australian senator Stirling Griff says being Jewish was one of the reasons he was motivated to move a motion repudiating antisemitism and calling for more Holocaust education in schools.
The motion moved by the Centre Alliance senator last Wednesday – co-sponsored by Labor’s Deborah O’Neill – cited the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s (ECAJ’s) annual report on antisemitism, noting that face-to-face attacks had increased by 30 per cent in a year.
It also noted that incidents involving direct verbal antisemitic abuse, harassment and intimidation increased from 88 to 114, and graffiti attacks more than doubled from 46 to 95.
The motion, which was passed unanimously, called for “increased Holocaust education in all Australian schools”.
“In part I was motivated by my family’s past, particularly with Russian pogroms, and the limited understanding of many young Australians,” Griff, who described antisemitism as “a symptom of ignorance”, told The AJN on Tuesday.
Speaking to the motion, Tasmanian Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam said Holocaust education is a “crucially important part of combating antisemitism”.
“Specific school curriculum issues are generally a matter for the relevant state or territory education authority, but the government welcomes all efforts to combat antisemitism at every level of government around the country,” he said.
ECAJ co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said, “It was deeply heartening to see politicians from different parties and parts of the country put their differences aside to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community at a time of escalating antisemitism at home and abroad.
“We strongly support the call for greater education contained in the motion,” he said.
“The ECAJ will be working with partners to develop a comprehensive program to engender a greater understanding of the Jewish people and our history to overcome the ignorance from which hatred stems.”
In his maiden speech in October 2016, Senator Griff revealed that his family originated from a small village in Lithuania, where all the Jews were killed during the Holocaust.
“They belonged to a people targeted for their faith and targeted for their ethnicity, and as a community they endured pogroms and forced exile under Russian rule during World War I,” he said.
“In 1941, during World War II, the whole community met its end in Nazi mass graves.
“My ancestors survived only because they left, and made Australia their home.”
Last month, in Senator Griff’s home state of South Australia, state parliamentarians commemorated the 10th anniversary of signing the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism.