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Rabbis back apology to Aborigines

Two Australian rabbis support the government’s plan to apologize to indigenous Australians for stealing their children.

Jeremy Lawrence, the senior rabbi of the Great Synagogue in Sydney, and Rabbi Raymond Apple, a former dayan, or judge, on the Sydney Beth Din, two of Australia’s most senior Orthodox rabbis, made public their support this week for the planned apology to Aborigines who have become known as the “Stolen Generation” – up to 100,000 children who were forcibly taken from their families by the government between 1910 and 1970 to be socialized into European culture.

“We may not deny nor stand by nor stand silent in the face of the pain of the Stolen Generations,” Lawrence said in a speech to mark the beginning of the legal year this week. “It is incumbent on us to acknowledge the wrong, to apologize for the damage caused,” the Australian Jewish News reported him as saying.

Apple, a founder of the Council of Christians and Jews in New South Wales, said Jews have a “moral imperative” to support the apology, which was a major source of controversy under the Liberal government of John Howard, who believed Australians should not be forced to take responsibility for the actions of their predecessors.

Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd this week gained bipartisan support to make the apology, to be broadcast Feb. 13 on national television. No financial compensation is being offered as part of the apology.

Aborigines, whose ancestors can be traced back about 40,000 years in Australia, make up about 2 percent of Australia’s population of 21 million. Many live in Third World conditions, and their life expectancy is significantly lower than non-indigenous Australians.

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