SYDNEY, Australia (Dec. 16)
The Australian Jewish community must focus on “bringing Jews back to Judaism” and making the fight against assimilation “the No. 1 issue on the communal agenda,” delegates to the annual meeting of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry were told this week.
David Gold, the president of the Australian Union of Jewish Students, said “the task of saving Soviet Jewry is over. We now have a more difficult task — to save Australian Jewry.
“If we continue to ignore the threat of assimilation, we will lose thousands of Jews forever. It is happening right now, ” he concluded.
The group’s newly elected president, Isi Leibler, called on Australian Jewry to devote attention to its cultural and spiritual needs. He argued that the improved atmosphere generated by the Middle East peace talks would free communal energy, which should be devoted to strengthening Jewish education, knowledge and culture.
The annual meeting discussed a range of community concerns, including Jewish- Christian relations, immigration by Jews from the former Soviet Union, Australia’s Middle East policy, Nazi war crimes trials and the persistence of anti-Semitism.
The council repeated its calls for the immediate introduction of laws to outlaw racial vilification and incitement to racial violence.
Acting immediately to put conference resolutions on international affairs into effect, Leibler wrote to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, calling on his government to move strongly against the threat of neo-Nazism to German stability and to combat racist violence.
In the letter, Leibler argued, “Freedom and democracy in Germany or anywhere else should not mean standing by and watching thugs murder innocent people, accompanied by anti-Semitic slogans and demands for the extermination of Jews.”
The council also appealed to U.S. President Bush to commute convicted spy Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence to the time he has already served. It expressed the “sincere belief that a life sentence imposed on Jonathan Pollard is unreasonably harsh and altogether inconsistent with the punishment given to Americans convicted of worse crimes.”
Leibler, a resident of Melbourne, Victoria, who is also co-chairman of the World Jewish Congress, was elected to succeed Leslie Caplan of Sydney, New South Wales, under a constitutional arrangement guaranteeing that no Australian state will host the presidency for more than three successive years.