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Opinion

Spinning discs and saving lives

'All Jews are responsible for one another'

Ukrainian refugees arriving in Israel. Photo: UIA
Ukrainian refugees arriving in Israel. Photo: UIA

People often ask me how a DJ became a politician. The two careers seem so drastically different that it’s hard to fathom how one leads to the other.

Of course there’s the obvious party pun and if you really want to stretch the metaphor, there’s political spin and spinning discs.

But wordplay aside, the two are actually not that dissimilar.

Over the years I worked as a DJ, I was privileged to be able to share in some of the most significant moments of your lives. Your bar and bat mitzvahs, your 18th birthdays, your engagements and even your weddings. Not only was I present at these simchas though, I hope that my involvement in some small way contributed to the sense of occasion and added to the joyous atmosphere.

Away from the decks, in Parliament and as Member for Caulfield I’ve been driven by that same sense of purpose, that same desire to do what I could to make people’s lives a little brighter and to be there to support them at crucial times.

Needless to say, I’ve been asked on various occasions since hanging up my headphones to revive DJ Dave and return to the turntable. But I always resisted. People inevitably saw it as a gimmick and, let’s face it, no one – not least a serious politician – wants to be regarded as just a gimmick.

When Zionism Victoria approached me about Israel’s 75th birthday, however, it was a different story.

This was a chance to be part of a community-wide celebration marking a major anniversary – a moment in history many of us will never have the opportunity to experience again.

But more than that, I saw in the proposal put to me the chance to showcase both what Israel was all about and what we, as Jews in Melbourne, excel at.

In linking my performance to UIA’s fundraising efforts for Ukrainian refugees, we’d be ticking multiple boxes.

We’d be providing real aid to thousands of Jews forced to flee their homes as Russian missiles reduced their neighbourhoods to rubble.

We’d be helping Israel support its new arrivals, feed and house them, teach them Hebrew and integrate them into society – surely the very essence of Zionism.

And as Jews in Melbourne, as staunch Zionists and proud members of the global Jewish community, we’d be rallying for a humanitarian cause, helping our eastern European cousins, who’d been driven from their homes, rebuild new lives in the Jewish State.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

But this isn’t just rhetoric. At the recent UIA gala event in Melbourne, as well as former prime minister Naftali Bennett, we were privileged to hear from Diana Bukhman, a Ukrainian mother driven from her home just over a year ago when Russian forces invaded, who’d arrived in Israel with nothing but her two young sons.

The words she spoke that night have stuck with me. They speak to why we as Jews need Israel and they speak to our responsibility and our humanity, not just as Jews but simply as human beings, to those in dire straits. To those in need of help – like our forebears who fled the pogroms, and our grandparents desperate to escape the Nazis.

Reflecting on the donations we have given to UIA, Diana intoned, “Some of us are literally alive because of your help.”

What greater incentive could there ever be for me to perform once again as DJ Dave? What greater incentive could there ever be for any of us to give a donation? You pledge a few dollars, I play some classic hits, and between us, as Diana said, we are literally saving lives.

To date, official figures put the number of Ukrainian civilians killed since Russia invaded at well over 8000, but the real figure is believed to be substantially higher. More than 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have also lost their lives.

There is no question that this is a humanitarian tragedy and it behoves us to do all we can to alleviate the suffering.

For its part, alongside Diana and her two young sons, Israel has taken in no fewer than 15,000 Ukrainians over the past 12 months. During the same period, thousands of Russian Jews, who are finding life intolerable under Putin, have also moved to Israel.

And Israel takes them all in, helping them find homes, jobs and schools for their children, while teaching them a whole new language and a whole new way of life.

Whatever you think about the current Israeli government – or indeed, whatever you think about any Israeli government – remember, this isn’t about politics, this is about people. As it says in The Talmud, “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh – all Jews are responsible for one another.”

So to celebrate Israel’s 75th milestone birthday, in true DJ Dave form, let’s get the party started! Bust out the YMCA and Macarena and celebrate the wonderful contributions Israel has made to the world while raising vital funds for the Ukrainian refugees.

David Southwick is the Member for Caulfield.
Support the campaign to bring back DJ Dave and help Ukrainian refugees. To make a donation, visit dj-dave.com.au.

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