“THE silence is deafening.” That’s the sombre impression of Temple Beth Israel (TBI) chazan Michel Laloum, a Victorian Jewish interfaith leader, about his long wait – and that of his colleagues in Melbourne’s Progressive Jewish community – for an elusive local Muslim response to the anti-Jewish atrocities in Israel on October 7.
Laloum, who represents TBI in the Port Phillip Multifaith Network, said he has had many messages of support from representatives of Christian, Buddhist and other faith communities since October 7, but so far, there has been no response from the network’s Muslim representatives.
An avowed believer in fostering close and productive interfaith ties, Laloum spearheaded TBI’s interfaith concerts of 2014 and 2016, which brought the music and the cultures of Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities to the shule.
He has conducted training in interfaith relations, particularly in pastoral care, and has trained hospital carers about cultural sensitivities in various faith communities.
Laloum told The AJN that when it comes to the October 7 bloodshed, Muslim community representatives have not differentiated “between Arab, Muslim and Hamas” in withholding what had been widely anticipated messages of compassion for the Jewish community in Melbourne at this dark time, as families in Australia and Israel share their grief and fear.
“When you don’t differentiate between those [identities] and when you don’t condemn the terrorists, you leave us assuming that you stand behind them,” he said.
Laloum said that at present TBI does not intend to withdraw from the Port Phillip Multifaith Network after last week’s widely publicised announcement by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria that it has suspended its membership in the Jewish, Christian & Muslim Association (JCMA), as well as withdrawals from JCMA chair Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann and past president Rabbi Ralph Genende.
But he is deeply dismayed at the inaction from Muslim leaders within the Port Phillip group.
“In all the work that we’ve done over the many years as friends, we’ve stood next to each other.
“I recognise also they have a community that they represent, however forward thinking they might be as individuals.
“[But] their role as leaders is to lead – and we’re not seeing a lot of that leadership come out. The silence is deafening at the moment,” said Laloum.
“They haven’t followed up with any expression of horror at what is being done to those who were kidnapped, including 80-year-old women, grandmas and babies. It’s a war crime, it’s terrorism. It’s not going to achieve anything.”