The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) and Zionism Victoria hosted a Passover-themed luncheon at State Parliament with thirty Members of Parliament, including Ministers and Shadow Ministers, with the support of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel, led my David Southwick MP and Marsha Thompson MP.
The lunch coincided with Purim, and Rabbi Gersh Lazarow explained the stories and themes of Passover and Purim, with a special emphasis on the Seder and the Seder plates which were placed on each table. The parliamentarians gained an understanding of the some of the key events in Jewish history, as well as Jewish traditions and festivals. They were particularly interested in some of the rules of Kashrut, and the symbolism of the items on the Seder plate.
Member for Caulfield, David Southwick welcomed the guests on behalf of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel, and explained how many Jewish festivals have a common theme of “They tried to kill us. We survived. We ate.” He also explained the different roles of the JCCV and Zionism Victoria as the Jewish community’s peak bodies.
Jennifer Huppert, President of the JCCV expanded on the themes of the Haggadah, speaking about freedom and the importance of being able to live freely as Jews in Victoria. Ms Huppert explored issues of antisemitism, community security, Holocaust denial and multiculturalism. She stated, “We are grateful to have the support of our institutions against antisemitism, including universities and Government.”
Ms Huppert contrasted the freedom that the Victorian Jewish community was enjoying on this Purim against the Jewish community of Brussels which was in lockdown, unable to celebrate Purim openly, safely and freely because of the terrible terrorist attacks there.
Sharene Hambur, President of Zionism Victoria explored the theme of freedom in the context of the daily terrorism being faced by everyday Israelis trying to go about their lives.
Ms Hambur explained that although Israel was not living in a ‘nice neighbourhood’, Israeli doctors and hospitals were assisting victims of the Syrian conflict, who often arrived in Israel with horrific injuries. She explained the stresses faced by Israelis, living with terror tunnels, daily terrorism and bad neighbours intent on doing harm, while contrasting this with the wonderful research and entrepreneurship in Israel, leading to important partnerships in technology, science, agriculture and healthcare across nations.
Marsha Thompson MP thanked the JCCV and Zionism Victoria for organising the event, and led a question and answer session on Jewish traditions, Kashrut and the festivals which engaged the politicians and helped them better understand the Victorian Jewish community.