I wish to describe a few scenes for you. The first involves our Year 11 students weaving friendship bracelets, playing soccer, making ice cream and reading with young members of the Australian Sudanese and South Sudanese communities. This occurred at the annual King David and Stand Up joint Mitzvah Day event at our Dandenong Road Campus. For the eighth year in a row, the Jewish and African communities came together for a joint celebration on this special day.
A highlight of the day was the iCan program graduation. This is a tutoring program which employs Jewish tertiary students and teachers to tutor African high school students to support their successful education and leadership development. It was so inspiring to hear the graduates speak of the enormous difference that this had made to their educational attainment and to witness the beaming pride emanating from their parents. I reflected that it is such a blessing for our largely immigrant community who have managed to build a flourishing way of life here, to be able to offer support to another community which can benefit from our experience.
The second scene involves Jewish Year 6 students from The King David School joining with Muslim students from Sirius College on a visit to the Islamic Museum of Australia. This is a follow up from their joint visit to the Jewish Museum of Australia some months ago. The program allows for the students to explain their cultural and religious heritage and identity to one another and to have the opportunity to act as both hosts and guests. The hope is that through demystifying the other through genuine encounters we can build meaningful links between our communities.
The third scene was from the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s Annual General Meeting which was held earlier this week. At this event a tremendous presentation was held to explain the work of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association and, in particular, the women’s group’s Joint Journey to Jerusalem. This involved a contingent of representatives from each of these faith groups visiting the sacred space of Jerusalem and learning from, and with, one another. A stunning moment occurred when the Muslim members present had to temporarily attend an adjoining room to participate in sunset prayers. I found it a surreal and inspiring moment to be sitting at the most important annual meeting of the Jewish community’s roof body whilst hearing the Arabic prayers of another faith group waft through our space. I thought that this was a microcosm of the possibilities for true cooperation and friendship that exist.
I think that these three scenes tell a unique story that is not shared often enough. Our media tends to focus on flashpoints, conflicts and challenges, and far less frequently on the moments of harmony and unity that occur when we open our hearts and hands to one-another.
The scourge of anti-Semitism has had a resurgence globally and within our local community. Our responses to this must be to act with vigilance to ensure the safety and security of all of our community members. We must also continue to look outwards and seek moments to build the relationships with other ethnic and faith-based groups and communities to ensure that we foster a culture of compassion, empathy and understanding.
We are so lucky to live in a nation where we have opportunities to meaningfully interact in peaceful dialogue with other groups. We must not take this for granted and should continue to find new ways to build connections that are likely to enrich our experiences and build up the sort of society in which we want to live and flourish.