The first lesson I learned from the Jewish community of Melbourne and from its leaders like Mark, is the imperative to be vigilant against racism.
I’m very much conscious, as everyone is, that this community is ever vigilant against all forms of racism, not just anti-Semitism, but racism against many other groups in society. And Jewish leaders like Mark, and Ron, and so many others, have been at the side of our indigenous leaders over many decades in the fight against racism.
No people know more keenly how dangerous the virus of racism can be. And the vigilance of Jewish organisations, and the courage, and the persistence in confronting that racism, and calling it out was, of course, my first lesson in observing that community.
The second thing I learned from the Jewish community and from Mark in particular was that whilst the Jewish people have long been victimised, they have never succumbed to victimhood. And that paradox really seized me. How is it that a people who have been so egregiously victimised over many, many centuries, not least in the horrors of the 20th, how is it that a victimised people have never succumbed to victimhood?
It is not to deny the truth of victimisation and the fact of its occurrence, and the persistence of anti-Semitism and racism. All of those things are true, but equally true is this community's refusal to bend to victimhood. To give to the victimisers the ultimate victory over those that they have victimised. To succumb to victimhood. Rather, a steadfast defiance, and a steadfast self-reliance, and a steadfast determination to prevail, and to survive, and indeed to prosper in the future as a people, as a community, as a religion, as a language, as a people possessed with history.