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Press Release – 21 May 2009

Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Lau inspires our community at Yom Yerushalayim – Tel Aviv centenary celebration

The Melbourne Jewish community was treated to one of Israel’s (and arguably the Jewish world’s) top orators when Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was keynote speaker at our community’s combined celebrations for Yom Yerushalayim and the centenary of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, addressing more than 550 people on Thursday evening May 21 at St Kilda’s National Theatre.

Saluting Tel Aviv on its 100th anniversary, ZCV President Dr Danny Lamm said, “From the sand dunes of the Mediterranean has grown a world class city, a hub of business and culture. I ask you to picture in your mind’s eye, walking down the “tayelet” (boardwalk) of the Tel Aviv beach, arriving in the old city of Yafo and scouring the galleries, shopping in Shenkin, the café society, the pumping nightlife, enjoying the cool ambience of the Nahalat Binyamin markets, and the imposing Azrieli towers – exemplifying Tel Aviv’s commercial success.”

The current Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa and former Chief Rabbi of Israel for 10 years was introduced onstage to a standing ovation by Israel’s Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem who was also the driving force behind Rabbi Lau’s visit.

Ambassador Rotem described Rabbi Lau as “…not just a leader of the Jewish nation, but a leader of all mankind…who can make a difference, and leave a lasting impact upon his fellow man.” He cited Rabbi Lau’s numerous achievements: “A winner of the 2006 Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the highest civilian honour in Israel, and current Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Rabbi Lau is a celebrated author. His autobiography, Do Not Raise Your Hand Against the Boy, was published in 2005, and he has also published several volumes on Judaism, Jewish medicine, ethics and customs.” (Proof of Rabbi Lau’s popularity as an author saw people queuing after the event in an effort to get signed copies of his books).

In his keynote address, 72-year-old Chief Rabbi Lau spoke with not even one note and infused his statements with meaningful biblical quotes. He took the audience on a journey through Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, weaving in anecdotes and personal stories.

Setting a backdrop for the theme of his address, Rav Lau began with a tale about the city’s first mayor Meir Dizengoff planting seedlings in pots along Rothschild Boulevard for Winston Churchill’s maiden visit to Tel Aviv upon its establishment in 1909. “Without roots, there is no fruit…without a past we have no future…” The vital ingredient of our Jewish history being the key to our future was a theme that Rav Lau reiterated throughout the evening.

From his heartfelt address, it is clear that Rabbi Lau shares a dual love for both Judaism’s most holy city, Jerusalem and its most secular, Tel Aviv.

Describing Tel Aviv as Israel’s sophisticated and cultural capital, Rav Lau also proudly reminded the audience several times that the city has “545 functioning synagogues”.

“Yerushalayim is rooted in our people’s minds and spirits…in our blood”, he said, concluding with the well-known quote from the prophet Jeremiah: “ירושלים הבנויה כעיר שחוברה לה יחדיו” – “The unified city of Jerusalem brings together all people”.

Dr Lamm concluded the evening with a vote of thanks in which he said “Rav Lau, Simachtanu, Simachtanu” – You have gladdened us!”

Click here for Ambassador Yuval Rotem’s introduction of Rabbi Lau

For more information contact:
Elly Shalev – Public Affairs Director, Zionist Council of Victoria – 9272 5519
Ginette Searle – Executive Director, Zionist Council of Victoria – 9272 5544
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The Zionist Council of Victoria leads and encourages Jewish and Zionist activity and expression within Victoria, to represent the Jewish community, to promote and communicate Israel’s interests within the broader Victorian community and to promote Victoria’s relationship with Israel. For more information, visit the Zionist Council of Victoria website www.zionismvictoria.org.au

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