Letters to the editor, November 5
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Letters to the editor, November 5

Opposing IHRA adoption

AS I read it, Dan Coleman (AJN 29/10) couldn’t have made it clearer why he, the Jewish Greens, Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS), New Israel Fund (NIF) and Meretz Australia among many other groups who share the same ideology, oppose adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)definition of antisemitism: Its problem is that it is not politicised.

Their fight against antisemitism, he writes, is to “combat the growing threat of white supremacist neo-Nazism”, so a definition that includes the likes of Jeremy Corbyn, and the Democrat “Squad” in America, doesn’t fit.

It seems their problem is that this definition is objective, blind to both left and right. It allows for valid criticism and free speech, while highlighting the things designed to demonise.

Sure, like with any definition, there will be a grey uncertain area, but there can be no doubting the need for an objective definition. Whether we’re fighting a virus, or bigotry, the first rational step is to define it accurately, so that you can recognise it, and defining antisemitism as a right-wing enterprise is beyond ridiculous.

Having a good definition will enhance dialogue, and allow us to act together to battle antisemitism, no matter the source.

It isn’t simply a net to catch people with, but a powerful tool. I can read about Penny Wong’s address to the NIF in last week’s AJN. I can disagree vehemently that the Palestinian narrative has the historical basis she claims, I can accept her objection to settlements, and her other criticisms of Israel’s government, but will look to see if these are consistent with her criticisms of other nations, before shouting “antisemitism”.

Conversely, Senator Wong can test herself, asking “Are my criticisms objective and equally weighted?” and become a better senator for it.

I cannot see a solitary downside to definitions that allow us all to better ourselves, and to weed out the unacceptable.

Morry Sztainbok
Bentleigh, Vic

Hatred on the left

I REITERATE George Greenberg’s sentiments (AJN 29/10) in respect of the, frankly appalling, Age piece by Messrs David Zyngier and Dan Coleman.

Of course, the Green left hates any definition of antisemitism that challenges its bigoted views about Israel. Antisemitism is in the blood of the fringe left and it certainly doesn’t want to confront the notion that its treatment of Israel (alone) is racist, bigoted, and close to the “extreme right” threat that it lauds as the greatest threat to Jews.

Mosley, Corbyn and Galloway all emerged from the Labour Party in the UK, and the current love affair between the left and Islamist terrorism is by far the greatest threat to Diaspora Jews. Hatred of the Jewish State always gets justified as mere “criticism of Israel”, a useful fig leaf for its exceptional and antisemitic treatment of the only Jewish nation on the planet.

Terry Davis
Lindfield, NSW

We’re in good company

We wish to thank George Greenberg (AJN, 29/10) for generously consigning us to “the loud but small minority of fringe left Greens Jews”.

We are in very good company internationally, especially in Israel and the USA.

In that capacity, we stand by the conclusion reached in our Age Op-Ed (21/10) on the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. It ill serves the Jewish community to put our energies into definitions that divide even ourselves.

We will better combat antisemitism by building alliances with other threatened or marginalised groups, joining the common fight against right-wing extremism, and calling out racist and antisemitic bigotry wherever it rears its ugly head.

Dan Coleman
Elwood, Vic

David Zyngier
Caulfield North, Vic

Common commitment

RABBI James Kennard’s article (AJN 29/10) included the following: “… our own Jewish fringe who object to the IHRA definition out of concern that it would stifle criticism of Israel, appear keen to defend the only types of anti-Israel campaigning that the definition forbids – the sort that singles out the Jewish State as more worthy of attack than any other nation, or uses Holocaust imagery to equate Israel with the Nazis”.

Since his opening paragraph referred to New Israel Fund (NIF) and the Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS), Rabbi Kennard is essentially linking them to the clear antisemitism of equating Israel with the Nazis.

For an educator and rabbi with a reputation for considered reflection, his contribution is more akin to the belittlement and denigration that typifies some Facebook exchanges, than to a serious debate about tackling antisemitism.

I don’t doubt the commitment of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, New Israel Fund, Australian Jewish Democratic Society and virtually every other Jewish organisation in our community, of the Right or Left, to oppose and counter antisemitism.

And as difficult as it may be for some in our community, acceptance of our common commitment to fight antisemitism should underpin this debate – particularly when we disagree with each other.

Harold Zwier
Elsternwick, Vic

‘Lashon harah’

I WAS most distressed to read your article on the allegations raised against Rabbi Gersh Lazarow by members of his congregation (AJN 22/09).

I found the article distasteful in the extreme. You have taken an internal dispute between the rabbi and some members of the congregation, and have paraded all the dirty washing in public.

You have done this before the Temple Beth Israel board has had the opportunity of discussing the matter at a meeting, and coming to any conclusion. It seems to me that you have acted as judge and jury before having heard all the evidence.

One of the clergy in the shule I attend commented that there was a pool of sermons that every preacher referred to in order to preach each week.

There are common themes, and when I have been at Shabbat dinners with people from different shules, the discussion has many times revealed that the theme of the different sermons had been the same.

I felt that your article was little more that lashon harah, or lowly gossip, and made no real contribution to the community at large. When one considers that many of the articles you publish are by well-known rabbonim and thinkers, this article does not meet the standard of those contributions. I would have been ashamed to publish this piece in my newspaper.

I will read the AJN with something of a jaundiced eye in the future.

Lex Tannenbaum
Caulfield North, Vic

Plagiarism does matter

I WAS stunned to read in last week’s AJN a letter which said that the allegations of plagiarism by Rabbi Gersh Lazarow of Temple Beth Israel “don’t matter” in light of Rabbi Lazarow’s comforting and hopeful words which uplifted spirits during the difficult COVID times.

The letter also stated that the rabbi’s words were not for financial gain. I feel this is completely missing the point.

We look to our rabbis as our spiritual leaders who uphold the very strong traditions of Jewish morality and ethics and who practise them.

Whether or not the alleged plagiarism is for financial gain or not, by simply saying “In the words of Rabbi So and So” or “I am quoting someone else here” would have ensured that there could be no accusations of plagiarism or anything else.

I believe this is a very serious matter and that appropriate action should be taken by the shule board.

Felicity Guthrie
Hawthorn, Vic

Women’s advancement

I READ with interest the joint piece in last week’s AJN (29/10) by National Council of Jewish Women of Australia president Melinda Jones and New Israel Fund Australia program manager Sharon Berger.

I wholeheartedly agree with their assessment that by and large, much of the Australian Jewish community is missing the boat when it comes to seriously addressing women’s issues.

When the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance Australia (JOFA) launched in May 2021, we were struck by the level of interest in joining our alliance. With over 100 people (men and women) attending our in-person Melbourne launch, we have since hosted two well-attended online events and have successfully established a scholarship program for 20 Orthodox women to undertake further professional training to become Kallah teachers.

The interest for leadership and inclusion among women of all walks of life is sky high.

Well done to Sharon and Melinda for organising a Women’s Empowerment Course.

If the past 18 months of a pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we cannot go back to the way things were.

Women are ready to have new and emerging opportunities for leadership and advancement, we are just waiting for the chance.

Nomi Kaltmann
President, JOFA Australia

Climate change

CLIMATE change is indisputable.Climate change cause is in dispute.

Climatologists insist higher CO2 levels lead to increased world temperatures.

Geologists analysing multi-million year rock layers, ice cores and focalised tree rings conclude that higher world temperatures lead to increased CO2 levels.

Danny Kidron
Tamarama, NSW

Glasgow must deliver

ISRAEL’S climate actions speak far louder than Australia’s (“Climate issue is an urgent problem”, AJN, 29/10).

They are sending a delegation of 120 representatives to COP26. Their president leads as he urged speedy climate action and he established the Israeli Climate Forum.

Their Environment and Energy Minsters have a national climate crisis plan including a probable carbon tax and climate law.

And business favours a low carbon, green, fair economy. It is interesting that there is no mention of a 2050 net zero emissions target, nor a 2030 emissions reduction target, but doubtless these exist or will come.

COP26 will enable lagging countries such as Australia to learn and be inspired to more ambitious action during and after the huge, busy summit fortnight.

Climate science demands emergency action from every country, commencing now and mostly this decade, in a desperate endeavour to stay close to the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5 degrees. I especially love COP president Alok Sharma’s memorable message, “Paris promised, Glasgow must deliver.”

Barbara Fraser
Burwood, Vic

Rhyme time

YOUNG Brian repeats every week

That the message we all need to seek

Is that “climate change ain’t for real

And it’s not a big deal

The icecaps aren’t looking so bleak”.

When science once said “The world is quite flat”

Did anyone argue with that?

But despite all the chatter

It’s the facts that here matter

And the science now has it down pat.

Yet Brian says: “Trust me, I know the real truth

The rest of you are so, so uncouth

Iceland is colder

Don’t cry on my shoulder

‘Bout things that I’ve known since my youth.”

Here’s a plea from a writer of verse:

(Mind you, it could’ve been worse)

Dear Brian: “Leave room in this part of the News!

These ideas, they no longer amuse

And your tone is increasingly terse.”

Gentle reader, it’s time to take heart

Don’t forget that our PM’s quite smart

He’s got a great plan

So, vote for the man

Politics, they say, is a great art.

Bob Selinger
Eastwood, NSW

Stop publishing Brian

CENTURIES ago, the overwhelming majority of people believed that the earth is flat.

In the light of modern knowledge, however, it would be unthinkable for The AJN to publish letters denying that the earth is round.

When COVID vaccines were first developed and tested, in my opinion it was entirely appropriate for scientists to question their safety and efficacy.

Today, on the other hand, the evidence is so overwhelming that I would be amazed if The AJN were to publish letters questioning vaccination against COVID.

Decades ago, climate-change denial was a reasonable response to the then-unproven claim of human-induced global warming.

In the light of what we now know, I consider climate-change deniers to be the present-day equivalent of flat-earthers. And I don’t understand why The AJN publishes their letters.

Steve Schach
Milsons Point, NSW

Keep publishing Brian

IN his letter (AJN, 22/10) refuting Brian Levitan’s claims about Icelandic ice, David Zyngier concludes that The AJN should stop publishing “…climate change denial spread by Levitan and others”.

This tactic of the “cancel culture” is used to stifle debate and silence views contrary to their narrative and perceived “truth”.

The AJN should continue to publish letters with opposing views. This encourages debate, enhances the conversation, and allows readers to draw their own conclusions.

Vivian Feldman
Caulfield, Vic

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