The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) Vic held its Annual General Meeting on Sunday 18 August. The AGM was chaired by the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter A. Comensoli, who spoke passionately about interfaith dialogue and the important work of the Council.
Thilo Troschke remains Chair of CCJ Vic, but the new Vice Chair is Alex Kats, a member of the Jewish community who has been on the executive since 2016. Alex is a community stalwart and replaces Dr Philip Bliss OAM, who steps down as Vice Chair following a number of years as Chair.
Following the formal procedures of the AGM and the election of the new executive, the meeting transitioned into the Sister Shirley Sedawie lecture, an annual feature of the AGM. This year’s lecture was delivered by Anette Adelmann, the General Secretary of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) based in Germany. She spoke about her personal inter-denominational and inter-Christian encounters, as a child of a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. Though she was baptised as a Protestant, she continues to attend both churches.
Through this background and “holy envy” rather than through the lens of the Holocaust, she also developed an interest in other religions and became an academic in theology. She has an undergraduate degree in Protestant Theology, and an MA in Jewish Studies, where she studied Biblical texts in Hebrew with Aramaic commentary. Her studies took her from Heidelberg in Germany, to Bar Ilan University in Israel and back to Cologne in Germany. She then taught Jewish and Christian students in universities across Germany for the next 15 years. This introduced her to the “Hebrew Torah rather than just the Christian Bible” and to the “beautiful elements in other religions, including liturgies and songs. It was a privilege to witness these elements, and made my own faith stronger”, she said. “God relates to all of us in all our diversity”.
In her current role at the ICCJ, Adelmann is responsible for the theological research, education and advocacy of the Council. With the state of Jewish-Christian relations worldwide as they currently are, and the rise of hate speech, some of the work of the Council is more important now than it was when the ICCJ was first founded in Oxford more than 50 years ago.
With the Australian arm of the international Council – specifically CCJ Vic – one of the most active of the 39 national branches, an international ICCJ conference will take place in Melbourne in July 2021.
The AGM also saw the launch of the CCJ Vic’s inaugural Tackling Hate Speech Program, to be delivered in conjunction with Dr Andre Oboler of the Online Hate Prevention Institute. The program is an initiative of CCJ Vic in response to the rise in hate speech and antisemitism, particularly following the spate of recent international attacks on churches, mosques and synagogues.
The program is designed to train community members in churches and synagogues initially, and is aimed at providing congregants with information on how to recognise hate speech, how to respond to it and how to report it.
In launching the program, a message was read out from the Hon Daniel Andrews MP, Premier of Victoria, in which he commended Victoria’s multicultural commitment, and the program. “We come from different backgrounds and practice different beliefs. And yet we understand that we are infinitely stronger because of the diversity that defines us,” he wrote. “It’s why your commitment to help make Victoria more connected and more cohesive matters so very much. On behalf of our Government and our state, thank you for your efforts in building that better, stronger and fairer future.”
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An international conference of the International Council of Christians and Jews will take place in Melbourne in July 2021 – the exact dates and more information to come in 2020.
Community representative training for the Tackling Hate Speech Program will take place on 10 November 2019. Registration deadline for participation is 1 November 2019.
To register, contact CCJ at firstname.lastname@example.org or (03) 9429 5212.
CCJ Vic Executive 2019-2020
Chairman: THILO TROSCHKE
Vice-Chairman: ALEX KATS
Secretary: RYSIA ROZEN OAM
Treasurer: EDWIN F. CARTER
DR PHILIP BLISS OAM
DR MARIANNE DACY AM NDS
REV NEWTON DADDOW
FAYE HASKIN DUBROWIN OAM
REV GRAHAM McANALLEY
REV DR COLLEEN O’REILLY
MARK DAVID WALSH