Activities in South Australia


One of the chief initiatives sponsored by the Council of Christians and Jews of South Australia over the past several months was a short course of six weeks duration (in June and July) on “”The History of the Jews,”presented by Dr. Evan Zuesse, co-chair of the SA CCJ, at a local synagogue's social hall. It was co-sponsored by the S.A. Jewish Community Services, an organization that offers social services to the local community, and almost all of the fee for the course that participants paid went to support that organization's charitable activities. The course was successful and well-attended: it had been advertised in Christian newsletters, and half of the participants were Christians, including some pastors of local congregations.

Recent Council meetings have devoted a good deal of time to the discussion of the significance of the Noahite Covenant, which according to the Talmudic rabbis apply to all non-Jews; it is an authoritative teaching that those who keep its seven commandments will be assured of salvation, no matter what their religion. The most recent Council meeting laid out plans to discuss in future meetings the issue of fundamentalism: what is it? Are there varieties? Did the Jewish and Christian traditions have different ways in the pre-modern era of dealing with it? How do they deal with it now?

Some of the most vigorous support for SA CCJ activities over the past years has come from representatives of Christian groups often considered fundamentalist, such as the Baptist Union and Assemblies of Christ. According to John Morey, who retired this past year from Council activities for health reasons, many in his Baptist community support Israel's fight for its existence, but there are also many who persist in antisemitic hostility both to Israel and anything Jewish, so his activities on the Council's behalf have been oriented as much to raise the awareness of his own community as to contribute to wider Christian-Jewish understanding. Very similar statements have been made by Pastor Ron Hoffman in regard to his own Assemblies of God community. Pastor Hoffman has also had to retire from the Council, his work for the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, his role as pastor of the largest Assemblies of God church in Adelaide, and indeed all his pastoral work, in the past year, due again to health reasons. The SA Council voted life membership to both Ron and John for their terrific support over the years, so the link with our group will not cease with their retirement. The Baptist Union has nominated other representatives to replace John. Pastor Barrie Hibbert, of the Flinders Street Baptist Church, was warmly welcomed at a recent meeting. He has already drawn upon our group, in inviting Dr. Zuesse to address an adult education group at his church in July on what it means to be a Jew. Dr. Zuesse introduced both Pastor Hibbert and his congregants to the writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel, which they have now begun to read with great enthusiasm.

Other new representatives on our Council are Dr. Stephen Spence, Head of Burleigh Baptist Theological College, and Rev. Jay Arulampalam, the South Australian representative of the Ebenezer Emergency Fund for aiding Jewish immigration from eastern Europe to Israel. Rev. Arulamapalam will present the rationale for his group's work to the Council in a public meeting in October.

A further important topic for discussion is presented by the recent Vatican statement affirming that anti-Zionism is, in most of its aspects or expressions, merely another form of antisemitism. Council discussions are not public events, but they often provide the foundation for public debate and presentation, so we may hope for such public events in the coming year.

August 2004