Chairman’s report of CCJ Vic AGM 23 August 2017

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The Council of Christians and Jews (Vic) Inc.

Chairman’s Report for AGM July 2017

I would like to welcome you all and recognise the original owners of this land, their present leaders and those yet to come.  I would also like to thank the school and in particular the principal, Mrs Gaynor Robson-Garth, for providing the space this afternoon.
Once again it is my delightful pleasure to have been chairman of The Council of Christians and Jews this last twelve months.  Once again we have seen a very full and successful calendar.  Our programs have covered many various and different topics at a variety of venues.
This time last year a very full hall at the King David School heard Mark Walsh give a brilliant account of life in Jerusalem.  Anyone who has visited Jerusalem could feel the pavement under their feet.  The great joy is that Mark has returned to Melbourne and has re-joined the CCJ Executive after his study time in Israel.
August saw a confronting workshop with Ree Boddé and Deborah Weiner presenting a Religious Response to Family Violence from a Christian and Jewish Perspective.  This was held at St Peter’s Church Hall in East Melbourne.  Those attending felt the gravity of that workshop and how family violence is a curse that we all need to deal with.  It was a shame that not more people attended but those who did gained much from the afternoon.
Also in August a very well attended Luncheon Club at East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, enjoyed a talk by Albrecht Dümling who launched his English version of The Vanished Musicians about the, mainly, Jewish German musicians who were forced to leave Germany during the Nazi era.
In September the CCJ presented the Rev. Canon Colleen O’Reilly and Rabbi Fred Morgan who discussed Miriam, the Sister of Moses, Mother of Jesus.  Both presentations showed much research and knowledge of this interesting topic.  In November we had a delightful launch of Gesher by the Governor of Victoria, her Excellency Linda Dessau AC at Genezzano College.  Her Excellency was most gracious and gave a really warm presentation appreciated by over 120 people who attended.  The editor Walter Rappoport oversaw an excellent edition and one of which we were very proud.
In mid-December we organised the launch of Rabbi Raymond Apple’s book “New Testament People” at Caulfield Hebrew Congregation with Rabbi Ralph Genende and again the Rev Canon Colleen O’Reilly.  This was also a well-attended event that hopefully inspired many to buy the Rabbi’s book which is a kaleidoscope of personalities active during the time of Jesus.
We began this year with a well-timed discussion on Religion and Freedom of Speech in light of the Governments attempt to dilute hate speech legislation.  We were very grateful to David Marlow, CEO of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and Mark Zirnsak at Temple Beth Israel.  Mark is the Director of Justice and International Mission for the Uniting Church.  A very lively discussion followed showing how, at times, we can hold and express completely diverse views in a civilised manner!
March saw a spirited workshop on the Jewish and Christian view of Isaiah 52 13 – 53 12 by Dr Mark Brett the Professor of Hebrew Bible at Whitely College and Rabbi Alison Conyer from Etz Chayim Progressive Synagogue in Bentleigh.  This passage in the bible is understood by many Christians as the foretelling of the coming of Christ but not by Jews!!  The many who attended really enjoyed the afternoon which was held at St Dominic’s Primary school.
Our event at the Box Hill Lutheran Church was probably our most challenging for many years, when David Schutz and Trevor Schaefer both ex-Lutherans gave an historical and theological presentation on Luther’s rabid anti-Jewish statements.  This was both intriguing and very confronting at the same time.  Again we had a great turn out and I would say no one left unaffected by the frank presentations.  I know the afternoon stayed with me for a good while after.
We finished this past year with a luncheon meeting at East Melbourne Synagogue with a bleak view of Islamic and Extreme Right wing terrorism in Europe.  The presenter, Cnaan Liphshiz, an award winning Israeli journalist, gave an overview, much from his own personal experience, living in Europe.  It was not uplifting!  We have to be careful with these sorts of presentations that the whole of Europe is not categorised all together.  I had just returned from two weeks in Portugal where the 5 Jewish Centres are widely advertised as important tourist places to see.
So this year’s programs have been very thought provoking and generally very well attended, many meetings had around the 100 mark.  We also have a new Gesher editor Rev. Philip Murphy who has taken on the job with great alacrity.  The theme Religion and the Arts will undoubtedly be our most beautiful with numerous full colour photos and a series of excellent articles.
This year we have spent much time on how to revamp the successful Grass Roots Program that Rabbi Fred Morgan began a couple of years ago.  Alex Katz has proposed several ideas and we hope very soon to finalise the many suggestions and present a new program.  We are also looking at a program where Christians and Jews can work together on some charitable projects.  We received a lovely letter recently from the Victorian Governor volunteering herself and her husband to work with us on a project and we intend to take her up on her offer!
Kat Bowden together with the office have revamped our web-site and set-up our own Facebook page to increase our public face to the community.  While Martin Chatfield has given much time to videoing many of our events and working with both Kat and Liz in the office and on the web-site.  I am delighted that Rysia has stepped up to the role of Honorary Secretary while we say a fond farewell to Albert Isaacs after decades of being on the CCJ Executive.  More on him later.  Rev Newton Daddow, our youth chairman, is heavily involved as the chaplain at Swinburne University and our representative on the Pathways Program.
Thilo Troschke has been my invaluable Vice Chairman while also working with me on the programs committee that has included both Rev Graham McAnally and Kat Bowden.  The three of them have made this year’s programs hugely successful and I thank them for it.  Tzipi and Adrian have given valuable advice and support whilst our dedicated and reliable treasurer, Ed Carter, has been a tower of strength as he has for a number of years now.  And what can I say that I haven’t said for many years about Liz our most reliable and loveable administrator?  I thank Liz and Roz, our bookkeeper, and all the Executive for their support and hard work over the last year.
The Executive has on numerous occasions discussed how the CCJ can be more effective and influential.  Over the years we have presented workshops on important social issues from a religious perspective.  We have covered the plight of refugees, marriage equality, slavery, particularly sex trade, family violence etc.  The Executive has felt these are issues that Jews and Christians need to be informed and concerned about.  We would love to hear from our members whether they agree and whether there are other topics that you would like aired.  We have never approached them from a “whose religion is right” on any particular issue but rather what does Judaism, Christianity and occasionally, Islam have to say.
There are so many social evils that are affecting our society today and I feel personally, and the CCJ Executive agrees, that this Council needs to have a strong voice in the community.
Finally, you should know that the CCJ is sponsoring the efforts of a small committee to send the grandson of William Cooper to Israel to attend the 100th anniversary of the Light Horse Charge at Beersheva, where there were many aboriginal solders and support staff.  We hope that Uncle Boydie will then travel onto Berlin where the German Government will accept the 1938 letter of complaint against the Nazi Government on its treatment of Jews during Krystalnacht.  If anyone would like to support this effort please grab me during afternoon tea.
And finally finally!  Our next event on August 13th is at Bialik College where we be showing the film ‘On the banks of the Tigris’.  This is a delightful film and well worth seeing!  Please join us.
Also Gesher this year, Religion and the Arts, will be launched at Raheen in Kew. We will also be paying tribute to Fra Professor Richard Divall, AO, OBE, the famous conductor who died late last year and who had also sworn an oath of poverty.  This special evening will be late November.
Thank you very much.  Any questions?

Dr Philip Bliss OAM
23 July 2017