On Wednesday 10 June, over 300 politicians, law-enforcement agents, members of the judiciary and journalists joined distinguished leaders of Melbourne’s Jewish and Zionist communities for the Zionist Council of Victoria and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s Annual Parliamentary Cocktail Reception in honour of Israel’s 67th Anniversary of Independence. The event was generously sponsored by the State Government of Victoria through its Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship.
Key communal leaders from Melbourne’s Jewish and Zionist organisations, including Zionist Council of Victoria President Sam Tatarka and JCCV President Jennifer Huppert mingled with key policy makers and discussed the goals, visions and concerns of the Jewish community. The occasion was a pivotal opportunity for building and maintaining strong positive relationships with Victoria’s key political action makers and for affirming the Jewish community’s close relationship with the State Government.
Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews addressed the reception, reaffirming his commitment to the State of Israel and his appreciation for the Victorian Jewish community. He remarked on the “ongoing contribution that Victoria’s and Australia’s Jewish community make in so many different ways to make us a fairer and stronger state, a more progressive state, a state that has the values and their application that we can always be very, very proud of.”
Andrews proceeded to scrap his pre-prepared speech in favour of a more personalised reflection on his own private experiences in Israel with his family. He noted the strength and vitality of Israel as an innovative multicultural democracy and as a “modern economic miracle” with a “transition from effectively a command economy to the greatest centre of innovation, endeavour, risk-taking and commensurate reward anywhere in the world.”
Andrews concluded his remarks with a celebratory toast: “It is a great honour and privilege to propose a toast on this, the 67th Yom Ha’atzmaut, to Israel, her people, her prosperity and to peace.”
Leader of the Opposition Matthew Guy delivered positive remarks about the Israel’s vibrant democracy expressing pride that “we unanimously believe the Middle East’s most stable and successful democracy is one that should be supported unconditionally.” He also spoke about Israel’s technological success and was excited about the “great opportunities [for our State] to cooperate with and learn from Israel.
Guy further reflected on his positive experiences with the Melbourne Jewish community during his time as Minister of Multicultural Affairs. In particular, he mentioned challenging MP David Southwick to a ‘shule-off’, an endeavour to visit all of Caulfield’s shules in a single Shabbat.
Zionist Council of Victoria President Sam Tatarka shared greetings from Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, Israel’s ambassador to Australia, who was unable to attend due commitments abroad. In his own remarks, Tatarka focused on Israel’s many accomplishments and contributions even in the face of its great challenges. “Often amongst the first on the ground in cases of natural disasters, Israel, through ISRAID, has been involved in assisting people throughout the world”, he said. He reflected on the strong relationship the Jewish and Zionist community has with the Victorian Government and Victorian Parliament mentioning, in particular, the government’s budget announcement of funding toward the security of Beth Weizmann Community Centre and expressing appreciation for the “generous support and deep understanding of the issues that confront our community.”
JCCV President Jennifer Huppert acknowledged the support of the Multicultural Commission and appreciation of those who took time from their busy schedules to attend, a “testament to the support for Israel and the Jewish community in Victoria”. Huppert spoke of the similarities of some of the issues faced by both Israel and Victoria, “such as the challenges of dealing with a multi-cultural society and an environment which can be hit by water shortages and extremes of temperatures.” She added that “the ties between Israel and Victoria allows for an exchange of ideas which can only benefit both communities.”