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The threat of rising anti-Semitic incidents must not be ignored

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As a child, I remember the weight of invisible relatives who were murdered during the Holocaust.

My Zaida (grandfather) Joseph Kaltmann was the sole survivor of his family, losing his 17-year-old sister, Renee, his 16-year-old brother, Poldi, his mother, Pesil, and his father, Max. Their photos dotted his living room, copies of originals saved from the fires of the Holocaust by a gentile neighbour who had stored some of the Kaltmann family’s most precious assets.

In Ashkenazic Jewish tradition one does not name after people who die young, deeming it bad luck, which means not one of his tens of grandchildren was named after his brother and sister who were murdered. It’s what Zaida wanted, but I’m sure it was devastating not to be able to perpetuate their memories in the most tangible way on earth.

My grandfather never complained about the hand he had been dealt, but I know he made a point of extolling his gratitude to Australia.

‘‘This is the Goldene Medina,’’ he would say, using a Yiddish expression describing Australia as the ‘golden country’.

Zaida was the survivor of six concentration camps and unable to sleep at night always jumping at small sounds.

Australia has always been seen as a haven for Jewish people. For decades Jewish people have flourished and prospered here.

But of late, I wonder what my grandfather would have thought about the unsettling feeling besetting many Jewish people in Australia.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise. According to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, incidents in 2022 were at their highest in a decade, with 478 reported incidents.

It’s a worrying trend, one that leaves me feeling insecure and at times scared. It’s sobering to hear the head of ASIO say that the rise of right-wing extremists is a real and growing threat to Australians. Each week, it seems that there are new anti-Semitic incidents. This threat must not be ignored.

This month, we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, dedicated by the United Nations to remember atrocities committed against Jewish people in Europe during World War II. As a rabbi, it’s the first time I remember feeling so uneasy.

We must continue to educate the next generations so that people are aware how hatred can lead to racism and dehumanisation. We must educate average Australians that Nazi costumes are no laughing matter for a fancy dress party.

Soon, Australia will be one of the only countries in the world that will have Holocaust Museums in every state and territory. State governments are investing in Holocaust education for all public school students. In Victoria and NSW the Nazi swastika was recently outlawed, with further legislation on the cards in other states.

I’m worried, but I echo my grandfather’s sentiment: This is truly a Goldene Medina. Long may that last.

Gabi Kaltmann is a rabbi at the Ark Centre in Hawthorn.

Article link:
Article source: The Age | Gabi Kaltmann | 15 January 2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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