Press Release – 27 September 2011

Sweet Jewish New Year experienced by students in regional Victoria

The Zionist Council of Victoria shared the unique customs of Rosh Hashanah and other Jewish Chagim (high holidays) with primary and secondary students in regional Victoria recently, when staffers Keren Smolarski and Emily Gian were guest speakers at Victory Lutheran College, a co-educational Christian school in the border town of Wodonga.

Ms Smolarski and Ms Gian gave an interactive presentation on the differences between Jewish and Christian beliefs, answered questions and gave the 50 Grade 5 students their first-ever taste of Jewish life with apples dipped in honey, challah and matzah.

Ellie and Jaymee in Grade 5 wrote of the experience in the school newsletter “Voice of Victory”: “Our 2 Jewish visitors came from Melbourne and told is all about their beliefs and what it is like to be a Jew. They told us about their symbols. One of their symbols is the Star of David. We got to try some of their delicious food like apples dipped in honey. We also had delicious bread. It was very sweet and tasted like freshly cooked bread. It was called Challah. They told us about the Sabbath where the women light the candles, they share the bread and pray and have sips of wine. We really enjoyed learning from them”.

Grade 5 teacher Sarah Dobson said that the school had requested the presentation be directly related to the unit of study about the difference between Christian and Jewish beliefs the students were currently learning. She said, “Keren and Emily did a wonderful job in their presentation. We were so pleased to be able to have the opportunity to meet and learn from someone who is Jewish. We would love to have you visit again in the future.”

At Victory Lutheran’s secondary school, Year 8 students learnt about Judaism and Jewish values, asking many pointed questions.

The ZCV engages with non-Jewish schools, adult education groups and others as part of our Public Speakers Service (PSS). In existence for over 20 years, the PSS service has seen up to 10,000 students each year attend a specialised presentation about Israel and Judaism.

The presentation can take place at the Beth Weizmann Community Centre or speakers can travel to the school or organisation. The PSS format may be a stand-alone session or a “Jewish Life” full day program which includes a presentation and Israeli-style lunch, a visit to a synagogue, the Jewish Museum or the Jewish Holocaust Centre. Drawing on resources from affiliate organisations – from Jewish schools to charities, women’s and youth organisations, the medical and environment fields – presentations are fascinating, dynamic and up-to-date.

Sam Tatarka, ZCV president says the Zionist roof body has a proud history of outreach to the wider community. “The Zionist Council through the Public Speakers Service is successfully forming positive perceptions and experiences of the Jewish community and Israel. For many of the children and even adults who attend PSS sessions it’s the first time they have ever met a Jew or heard about Israel from a source other than the daily papers or the evening news which all too often give a distorted and negative view” he said.

For more information contact:
Jane Rapke – Executive Director, Zionist Council of Victoria 9272 5544
Elly Shalev – Director Public Affairs, Zionist Council of Victoria 9272 5519
The Zionist Council of Vitoria 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