Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and NSW Premier Chris Minns have joined in the chorus of tributes to Jewish communal stalwart Jeremy Jones, who passed away on Wednesday after a battle with cancer.
Jones was the director of international and community affairs at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), a former ECAJ president and life member, a veteran of interfaith affairs and a world renowned expert on antisemitism.
In 2002 he represented the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) in a landmark court case against Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben.
His work in promoting inter-communal harmony was officially acknowledged in 2007 when he was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal, and again in 2016 when he was awarded New South Wales’ most prestigious honour, The Stepan Kerkyasharian AO Medal for Community Harmony. He was also made a Member of the Order of Australia.
Jones was also involved in the drafting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Jeremy Jones. Jeremy devoted his life to the Australian Jewish community, and to fighting antisemitism and racism,” Dreyfus said.
“Jeremy was dedicated to inter-communal harmony and in 2007 he was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal. My deepest condolence to his wife wife Naomi and children Gidon and Galit.”
Minns said, “On behalf of the NSW Government, and with great sadness, I extend my deepest condolences to not only the Jewish community, but to all Australians on the passing of Jeremy Jones.
“His was a lifetime of extraordinary commitment to interfaith relations, community harmony, and service. Jeremy’s infectious enthusiasm and optimism, and his principled determination, were an inspiration to so many.
“His efforts have had a tangible and lasting impact on community cohesion in NSW, Australia, and globally. Jeremy leaves behind a loving family and a tremendous legacy, and he will be missed by us all.”
ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said for more than four decades, “Jeremy was a faithful servant of the Australian Jewish community and a consummate professional”.
“There is hardly any area of Jewish communal life that did not benefit in some way from his expertise and dedication, and he worked in a range of key communal organisations,” Wertheim said.
“He had a special passion for building relationships with other faith and ethnic communities and won over many friends, both personally and communally. He was the first Australian to serve on the Board of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (the Jewish worlds interlocutor with the Vatican, World Council of Churches and World Muslim League) and was the Chair of Interfaith Dialogues representing the ECAJ nationally.
“Jeremy was also a fearless opponent of antisemitism and indeed all forms of racism. He was a long-standing advocate of recognition and rights for First Nations Australians, and made a point of wearing kippot and ties decorated with indigenous artwork.”
Wertheim said Jones’ untimely passing is “sad news for all of us”.
“He leaves a legacy that will serve as an example to the next generation of Jewish communal activists,” he said. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Naomi, the whole Jones family and all those whose lives Jeremy touched. May his memory be a blessing.”
AIJAC national chairman Mark Leibler and executive director Colin Rubenstein said “everyone at AIJAC is utterly devastated by the passing today of our beloved, and widely admired and respected, colleague”.
“Jeremy has been an essential and irreplaceable part of AIJAC for some three decades, ever since he was the founding head of our Sydney office in 1993 – an office he has steered with such distinction and determination ever since,” they said.
“Jeremy always brought an extraordinary level of knowledge and insight about Judaism, public life in Australia, philosophy and morality, and human nature into his work for AIJAC, for which we will always be grateful. He also had a personal warmth, a kindness for those in need, an eagerness to teach and debate, and a wicked wit, all of which will be profoundly missed by everyone that worked with or knew him.
“We extend our deepest and most sincere condolences to Jeremy’s family members on their terrible loss.”
The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) also joined the community in mourning the untimely death of Jones, remembering him for his warmth, his desire to connect, and his passion for his country, his community and for Israel.
The ZFA said Jones’ promotion of reconciliation with Australia’s Indigenous community predated most of the community and signalled his principled commitment to human rights and equality.
ZFA President Jeremy Leibler recalled the first time he met Jones, at an AUJS seminar in Canberra. “From that time on, I was always so impressed at the way he could engage and inspire, and was always able to place himself above politics to pursue what was in the best interests of the Jewish community,” he said.
“Australia has lost a giant, and the Australian Jewish community is poorer for his passing. The ZFA extends its heartfelt condolences to his wife Naomi and their children.”
Rabbi Shua Solomon of Bondi Mizrachi synagogue, where Jones davvened, told The AJN, “Jeremy was dedicated to bringing peace and harmony to his fellow humans.
“An unassuming and gentle man, of rare intelligence, he went out of his way to share his knowledge and talent, widely impacting the Jewish community and many other faiths and peoples. He will be sorely missed by so many.”
Outside of his communal work, Jones was a passionate supporter of the South Sydney Rabbitohs and a fan of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.
He leaves behind wife Naomi, children Gidon and Galit, and siblings Melinda, Peta, Amanda and Quentin.
Read full tributes here.