The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies charted new territory last week when it expanded its bridge-building work to the far-western Outback town of Broken Hill and to the State’s second city, Newcastle, for the first time in about 20 years.
The Board annually conducts comprehensive outreach programmes to centres throughout regional NSW, recent excursions including such towns as Coonabarrabran, Mudgee, Byron , Albury-Wodonga, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Parkes, Griffith and Narrabri.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Board, Vic Alhadeff spent two days working in Broken Hill – which is also known as Silver City because of its rich silver, lead and zinc deposits.
He then joined Board Education Committee chair Marilyn Immerman and Education Manager Suzanne Green in Newcastle for three days, conducting an intensive programme of presentations and meetings.
The week’s presentations reached a total of about 1500 high school students, principals and teachers, as well as untold thousands of people through television, radio and newspaper interviews.
The itinerary included presentations on “The Jewish experience in Australia”, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Holocaust and Judaism to audiences of up to 250, meetings with political, civic and faith leaders, as well as Rotary Club presentations and media interviews. The programme included a cordial meeting with leaders of Broken Hill’s Anglican, Catholic and Uniting Churches, Salvation Army and Indigenous Church, along with a broad-ranging discussion with the Bishop and Dean of the Newcastle Anglican Church.
In Broken Hill – which had a Jewish community dating to the beginnings of non-Indigenous settlement in 1885, peaked at 250 people and waned after World War II – Alhadeff visited the 103-year-old synagogue, now owned by the Broken Hill Historical Society.
Historian Margaret Price, who once ran a road-house at the edge of the Simpson Desert, runs the Historical Society and in that capacity diligently takes care of both the synagogue and the Jewish section of the local cemetery, arranging tours and assiduously promoting the once-proud Jewish history of the area.
In Newcastle the Board emissaries attended a Chanukah service at the 80-year-old synagogue – in desperate need of repair – after which they engaged in a candid discussion with members of the 70-strong community.
“These tours to regional NSW are a vital aspect of the work of the Board and fulfil a range of objectives,”
Alhadeff told the Australian Jewish News.
“They are a means of forming relationships with key sectors in areas where there is minimal or no Jewish presence; they enable us to disseminate in-depth perspectives on Israel, the Holocaust and Jewish practice; and underpinning all that is a message which promotes acceptance of diversity and the need to counter racism. Ongoing connections always flow from the tours, enabling the positive interactions to endure.”