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Some More Worrying Signs

Some further manifestations of rising anti-Semitism in Australia:


1. More sickening “artwork” (hat tip: LGF)

Public art in Melbourne’s CBD depicting dead militant Palestinian leaders has sparked an outcry from the nation’s peak Jewish group.


The Australian and Jewish Affairs Council has branded the artwork, which features the faces of two former Hamas leaders, offensive.


The privately funded exhibition, on the exterior of an office building off a busy Melbourne laneway, depicts the faces of four Palestinians killed by Israelis.


Two of the faces belong to former Hamas leaders, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abdul Aziz Rantisi, both of whom were killed by Israelis.


“I think that it is appropriately located at the end of an alley right next to the garbage cans,” Australian and Jewish Affairs Council senior policy analyst Ted Lapkin said.

(For pictures of this trash, see Silent Running).


For his part, the exhibition curator has given a predictable response to criticism over this sickening display:

But exhibition curator and director Andrew Mac said the artist was trying to bring attention to what could be called state sponsored assassination or terrorism.


He defended the exhibition, saying it was important the public had access to a wide range of views.


“I think that it is important we receive a diverse range of opinions and cultural comment from a wide variety of people,” he said.


“In today’s kind of climate where media channels are controlled by fewer and fewer organisations, it is the role of artists to question information and provide critical and cultural comment.”

I wonder who Mr Mac believes is controlling the media channels.


2. Discrimination in the workplace

A Jewish employee whose computer user name was changed from his surname to “Hitler’s failure” has been awarded $12,500 – one of numerous discrimination payouts outlined by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.


The Jewish man, who worked for a large manufacturer, also complained that upgrading of his employment status from casual to permanent had been delayed. The company denied discrimination, and advised that despite an internal investigation, it was unable to determine who was behind the computer incident.

3. Anti-Semitic views by a political party

The federal government has accused One Nation of an obscene act of anti-Semitism and referred it to the human rights watchdog.


One Nation’s official newspaper, The Nation, blames an international Jewish conspiracy for forcing the government to adopt tougher internet censorship laws.


“There is irony in the fact that the pornography industry is owned and run almost entirely by Jews,” the article says.


Multicultural Affairs Minister Peter McGauran said the article confirmed One Nation was run by racists and he had referred the article to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).


“It is an affront to the overwhelming majority of Australians and, left unchecked, is a potential threat to social cohesion,” Mr McGauran told AAP.

These latest incidences illustrate that the rising anti-Semitism in Australia cannot be solely attributed to the Muslim population. To say so is to simplify the problem. I suspect that ignorance of Judaism, as well as of the facts behind the Middle East conflict, plays a major part in the phenomenom of anti-Semitism Down Under.


Update: While ignorance of Judaism could be a cause of anti-Semitism, those who do learn more are usually inspired. For example, take You Am I frontman Tim Rogers.

Gangly You Am I frontman Tim Rogers stars as an alcoholic Orthodox Jew in Hunter Finklestien, a short film made by VCA student Michael Weisler. Rogers spoke to Darren Levin.


How much did you know about Judaism before the film


I knew extremely little. I live in Balaclava, so I guess on a visual level, you’re exposed to Lubavitcher and Orthodox Judaism quite a bit, more than other parts of the country. But on a more learned level, it was a real crash course. Learning about Judaism is something I’ll probably continue.


Did you have apprehensions before taking the role?


Absolutely. Initially, it was about acting. Michael (Weisler, writer/director) allayed that just by his natural charm. As we got deeper into it, I became extremely apprehensive. I started wondering whether it was insulting to people. Also, I was apprehensive about someone like me taking on pretensions of being orthodox without having great knowledge. I wondered whether that was insulting and that wasn’t what I wanted to do.


What do you think of the character?


The thing about Hunter Finkelstien is that he came to Orthodox Judaism quite late; I don’t think it was what he was born into. He felt a drive to really delve in. That made me think that it wasn’t going to be so insulting, because he’s a character on the fringes of faith. He tests others that are more devout. He tests their patience. Even though he’s an inspiring character and a inspiring writer, he flirts with that. He drinks, he’s quite a lair in a lot of ways.


How did you research the character?


We watched The Chosen and some other films. The little bit of (Jewish) study that I did was just really invigorating. I was really nervous about it, but it stirred up a lot of things in me which I’m sure will never leave me. I was speaking to younger (Orthodox) guys that were just so blisteringly intelligent. Their lives were devoted to study and to prayer. It makes you feel very shallow and very indulgent … I didn’t get anything out of this (film) career-wise, but I felt really welcomed. I was really touched by the whole experience.


Will you act again?


I don’t know. It’s extremely difficult for a writer/director to have someone who’s not an actor in the role. But there was something about the character that made it OK, or maybe helpful, for someone who wasn’t an actor to do it. I don’t think there are that many roles like that around, unless you want a bit part as a dero, which is what I traditionally get asked to play.


Did you get any weird looks when you were decked out like a religious Jew

The first time after shooting, (co-star) Danny (Gesundheit) and I went to the pub and we were fully decked out in our garb for the day. As soon as we walked in, this table of guys – who I’d probably be normally drinking with or talking about footy – turned around and said, Jesus, its the f–ing jazz singer. We had this bit of a stand-off about it. In the end we sat down for a chat and it was all incredibly genial and friendly. There were some weird little moments.


Would you ever consider converting?


For those weeks and those months, I pretty much was Jewish. I’m still wondering. I’m not sure where I’m at at the moment.

And here is the story of an Aboriginal woman who was so inspired, that she decided to join our tribe.

Every Friday, after a busy working week, Dr Lisa Jackson Pulver closes the front door of her Newtown home, in Sydney’s inner suburbs, and begins kneading dough to make challah.


Lighting her Shabbat candles, Dr Jackson Pulver, a member of the Wirajuri people, welcomes “the quiet zone” that is her home for 25 sacred hours.


But Dr Jackson Pulver wasn’t born into Judaism; it was her choosing.


“I was brought up in a Christian environment; my father was Catholic, my mother was Church of England.


“In the early years my sister and I did Bible study and we went to Sunday school. I always had difficulty with this baby Jesus perception. He was this blue-eyed, white-skinned person who wanted to convert black people.


“And what I realised was that Jesus was a Jew and not many Jews that I had met — not that I had met very many — were blue-eyed and white-skinned,” says Dr Jackson Pulver.


“What I also realised was that the priests, ministers and other religious leaders in our community behaved very badly and would say bad things about my grandmother and our people, when they were supposed to be delivering faith.


“I also found it difficult having to go through a middle man to connect with God. I also had trouble with the concept of the Holy Trinity,” she says.


“In those days you were expected to hide yourself and when my grandmother came to pick us up it was obvious that we weren’t what we seemed and it changed the way people saw us. It was horrible.”


Growing up, Dr Jackson Pulver began looking at “other paths”.


“I knew that there was a great spirit,” she says. “And in the Aboriginal culture there’s a great monotheistic being that created the land and from there came the animals and the people.”


A chance meeting in Surry Hills seven years ago brought Dr Jackson Pulver one step closer to Judaism.


“I met a guy, one of those black-hat fellas, he sort of looked lost. He had the side-locks and spoke in a funny accent and everything about him was different.”


Helping the man to find the address he was seeking, Dr Jackson Pulver asked him, “Where are you from?”


The pair struck up a conversation and Dr Jackson Pulver attended a lecture he was giving on Torah, mysticism and Judaism.


“I found it really interesting and I wanted to learn more about it so he gave me the names of some books. I went to Dymocks, but they didn’t have them.”


A few years later she travelled to Jordan for short-term employment.


“The first opportunity I had, I hopped across the border to Jerusalem and went to find those books,” recalls Dr Jackson Pulver.


“It introduced me to a depth that was beyond the rhetoric of religion and beyond the superficial practice.


“When I came back I was involved with the reconciliation process and met some stunning Jewish people, including Mark, who is now my husband.”


As a self-described “angry young woman”, Dr Jackson Pulver says that Judaism naturally spoke to her.


“I was involved with a lot of the land-rights marches. And I came across a lot of Jews who were in the rank and file. I was always impressed by their ability to stand with us. You would have thought that after World War II, they’d want some peace in this country.


“But look at people like [NSW Chief] Justice [Jim] Spigelman going on the freedom rides. Those guys could have been killed on that bus but that didn’t deter them. I have always seen Jews stand up and say that’s not okay.


“And it was an Aboriginal man who went to Canberra, concerned about what was happening to the Jews in Europe in World War II, and put forward a motion that they should come here. I think from that perspective we have a lot in common. But there are real differences.”


IN 2001 Dr Lisa Jackson and Mark Pulver were married in a civil service by an Aboriginal preacher, which included an Aboriginal smoking ceremony and Jewish rituals.


“Mark insisted we get married under a chuppah and that he break a glass. I thought it was funny that for someone who said religion is not important in his life, it mattered to him so much that we do that.”


Dr Jackson Pulver began attending Newtown Synagogue and approached the Sydney Beth Din to convert. She completed the process a few days prior to Rosh Hashanah last year. A week later the couple had a second wedding ceremony at Newtown shul.


“When I started observing Shabbat it was the first time in my life where there was a total and utter consent to do nothing for 25 hours.


“Friday afternoon I stop everything, make challah and once the candles are lit my friends know — don’t bother calling, because I won’t answer. Come over here and play if you like, there’s always plenty of food, but my house goes into quiet zone.”


Last week Dr Jackson Pulver’s family hosted some of her family from Adelaide for Shabbat.


“They love helping light the candles and say the blessings for the wine and the challah. It’s like the way we used to have Christmas but we have it every week.


“People always ask me about a conflict between my Aboriginality and my Judaism and I say there’s no conflict whatsoever. I often get surprised at how people like to generalise about Aboriginal people, as I do about how people enjoy generalising about Jews. There’s diversity in my communities and that should never be forgotten.


“People sometimes say to me, “Why would you convert to Judaism, don’t you have enough trouble in your life?”


“But I feel I satisfied in my practice and it’s a way that makes sense to me to express aspects of my spiritual understanding.


“I feel as though I have been able to learn more about who I am as an Aboriginal woman through my practice of Judaism. And that for me is a sacred dreaming.”

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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