One of the many endearing qualities that mark successive CCJ Vic executives is the feeling of real camaraderie.  Virtually all of the executive have a role and nearly everyone “puts in“ as much as they can.  It’s this sense of community and volunteerism that makes the CCJ Vic one of the most active CCJs in the world.  This year is no exception.

This last year we celebrated 30 years of official  interfaith activism With the most generous hospitality of Mrs Jeannie Pratt AC over 100 guests attended a wonderful cocktail reception with the extra highlight of a short talk by Dr Rachael Kohn from ABC radio.  The Raheen event allowed us to raise well over 10,000 dollars as clear total profit.  This has to be the most delightful way of raising funds as all the work food and drinks is provided by Raheen and staff.

Following the Thursday night event Rachael Kohn gave a magnificent oration at TBI that was wide ranging and incredibly well researched, a summation of the status of interfaith in today’s world.  If you haven’t heard it just ask the CCJ office for a copy.  This was also well attended with nearly 300 people and this completed our 30th anniversary celebration

Yet another highlight was soon to follow with the launch of Gesher at Melbourne Grammar School by Rev Professor James Haire AC.  Yet another memorable evening with a most thought provoking speech revolving around Professor Hair’s own experiences and the launch of an outstanding edition of Gesher under the editorship of Walter Rappoport who sadly stands down from the CCJ executive after 12 years.  We are very grateful to Walter for all his hard work and dedication to the CCJ.

Two other members stand down this year, Max Stephens and Freda Kaufman, although Freda will continual her outreach role but away from the executive.  Again, a heartfelt thanks to both Max and Freda.

The programs committee including Thilo Troschke and Graham McAnally have also put on a very full program since last year.  Our largest attendance for a Sunday afternoon event this past year was for a totally absorbing presentation on Mark by Paul Forgasz, with great insight into extracts from the New Testament putting much of what is commonly accepted doctrine into a very different light.  Paul also gave a very well received workshop on the last supper and Passover’s seder night.  Again a great attendance and the discussion went on well after the official end.

Before he returned to North America, Rabbi Adam Stein shared the platform with Professor Revd Frank Rees on the Jewish and Christian understanding of the Covenant.  Both gave excellent presentations and we wish Rabbi Stein well in his new position in Vancouver.  For what sounded a dry topic it actually created a terrific audience who really enjoyed the afternoon.

This next year also has a wide ranging series of events one of which will be the launch of Gesher in November by our new Governor of Victoria Her Excellency Linda Dessau AM, at Genazzano College.  An event not to be missed,

In August we also will be holding a discussion on family violence with Ree Boddé from the Anglican Think Prevent and the president of the Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence, barrister Debbie Weiner.  And September Rabbi Fred Morgan and Canon Rev. Collen O’Reilly will discuss Miriam sister of Moses and mother of Jesus?  Sounds interesting?

We have also upgraded our website with Liz in the office and Martin Chatfield videoing many of events and many of the other features will become active very soon but now we can publicise our own events and soon enter into Web discussions.  Now you can read Gesher on your computer that Tzipi is looking after.  Albert has been a stalwart in his role of overseeing the administration of the office and as Hon. Secretary taking executive minutes.  I have enjoyed input and commentary from Rysia and Adrian and appreciate their support.  Talking of Liz, we heard a few weeks ago that the Sisters of Sion have given Liz a study trip to Israel in September for two weeks.  She will stay with the sisters and absorb the wonders of Jerusalem.

And where would we be with our esteemed treasurer Ed Carter with help from his daughter Roz who have kept us in the black.  In respect of this again we would like to thank Archbishop Hart for the Catholic Church’s generous annual support of $10,000 and the Uniting Church’s $6,000.  Without this reliable flow of funds our work would be impossible and with more we can do so much more.  Talking of doing more Rabbi Morgan will start our Grass Roots Program despite losing out on grants that we received for Grass Roots model 1.  The aim is to interest people in the pews to understand other peoples’ faith and beliefs.  At this stage we have targeted Christians and Jews but we hope to expand it to include Muslims and other faiths.  Through Grass Roots may sit the answer to how we can reach many more ordinary people, for them to appreciate and respect people of other religions.  With the ghastly rise in racism, hatred and “religious violence”, the Council of Christians and Jews will reach out to other communities to show how effective Dialogue can be in creating harmony.

We owe it to our own faiths and our own broader community.  As I write this in late June early July we have seen 50 gay people gunned down in Orlando, 4 Israelis murdered in Tel Aviv, a British MP shot and stabbed to death in England, 280 killed in Iraq, over 20 in Bangladesh, a 13 year old Jewish girl hacked to death in her bed in the West Bank and just last week two Black and 5 policemen gunned down in cold blood and they are just the high profile victims, many hundreds of others everyday lose their life from extremism and hatred the likes of which we haven’t seen really since the second world war.

At a time when antisemitism is again on the rise, especially in Europe and of course the Middle East, when Christian communities face violence and annihilation in many countries through Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, and of course Islamophobia through Europe mainly due to huge immigration and terrorism, the Council of Christians and Jews is eager to build on our previous success to bring faiths together.  We need to show that religions can work together educationally and socially, but also to be proud of who we are, what our own religion stands for overlaid with the need to find common threads and viewpoints.  We do that very well with our monthly programming and often attracting over 100 people but that is a drop in a huge crazy world.  Hopefully the Grass Roots Project can broaden our audience and hopefully as well increase our membership.  It seems small fry when compared to the daunting violence around the world but we must do our part to make the world a better place and reach out to far more in our community, even if it takes us out of our comfort zone.  Unfortunately, this violence is also on our doorstep as seen with the clashes in the streets of our own city.  It mustn’t fester, nor we turn a blind eye.  Let’s look it in the face and challenge it.

I write this as the world looks in disbelief at the Brexit vote in the UK, unleashing racist acts against refugees and migrants.  Sadly, with what is looking like the rise once again of Pauline Hanson, things don’t look great here either.

We must strive to keep working with NGOs, State and Federal Governments to maintain what has been up to now a wonderful multicultural community.

This last week also saw the death of Elie Weisel who personified the defence of human rights.  It was his cry for us not to be bystanders but to at least speak up when others are under threat.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to have chaired the CCJ for this last year, the executive has been a real pleasure to work with and our Tuesday evening Executive meetings have been very fruitful.

Before I finish I would really like to thank Archbishop Philip Freier for chairing our AGM and it has been great to have seen you at some of our functions Thank you!

Dr Philip Bliss, OAM

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