More than 100 Jewish students came together at the University of NSW (UNSW) on October 19 to sing, pray, comfort each other and proudly express their support for Israel at a lunchtime event organised by AUJS NSW.
Rabbis from Orthodox and Progressive shules participated, the band Chutney performed Israeli music, and state MPs Marjorie O’Neill (Coogee) and Kellie Sloane (Vaucluse) made the effort to attend, despite it being a sitting day in Parliament.
Thanking AUJS for its important work providing emotional and practical support to Jewish students at this most challenging time, O’Neill said, “I know that a huge number of people are in immense pain, but I want you to know that this pain is shared.
“Hamas is a vile organisation, and their actions must always be condemned. There is no place for this kind of hate in our society.
“I want you to know that I, and the NSW government, stand with Israel, and stand with the Jewish people.”
Sloane said although she is a member of the opposition, and O’Neill is a member of the government, “we’re both deeply connected to our communities, and I know that our hearts are side by side in this [showing support for Israel].
“I have had so many conversations with my constituents this past week, telling me about their family members [in Israel], and the grief they’re suffering,” she said.
“I want to congratulate you all for pulling together in such a peaceful and beautiful vigil here today – we need this.
“The coming days and weeks are going to be incredibly difficult but you need to understand that – as Marjorie said – people outside of your community – people like me – will be firm in our friendship, and our support … and that support is cross-party.”
UTS student Adam Marks, who founded an Australian chapter of Stand With Us, said, “We are on the other side of the world, but we can continue to pray, to give donations, to think of them [Israel’s people and soldiers], and show up to incredible events like these to give our support.”
The event’s emcee, Newtown Synagogue’s Rabbi Eli Feldman – the Jewish chaplain for UNSW, the University of Sydney, and Macquarie University – said, “We know what we can do to respond to evil, and that is goodness, by fighting darkness with light”.