The Year Book of the Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies for 1962, published on page 7 the details of a Victorian Council of Christians and Jews with its address given as 3rd Floor, 57 Swanston Street, Melbourne, C.1. with its telephone 63 27 36.
It lists its joint Presidents as the two Archbishops of our Catholic and Anglican churches:
Anglican: The Most Rev. F. Woods, D.D.
Catholic: The Most Rev. D. Mannix, D.D.
The Chairman was the Rt Rev. Monsignor James Hannan with
Vice-Chairmen: Sir Robert Knox
Prof. Zelman Cowan
Rev. Dr A. H. Wood.
Office bearers are listed with a list of foundation members, naming distinguished churchmen and prominent leaders of the Jewish community.
This Council presented difficulties. It never met on a regular basis with a set program of events; it acted as a group to supervise outbursts of antisemitism.
Once the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion had opened a Centre for Christian-Jewish Relations which they called Shalom at 179 Cotham Road, Kew, 3101, the Sisters felt that the time had come to work towards the foundation of a Council that would have an established Constitution and a program of events that would further the aims of the Council.
To this end they sought the good offices of the Victorian Council of Churches whose Secretary, the Rev. Douglas Dargaville, would be able to assist in the formation of such a Council. From March 1973 until June of 1982, seven meetings were held with Dr Dargaville, the two Sisters who were working at Shalom – Shirley Sedawie, nds and Lenore Sharry, nds, together with the Rev. Prof. Robert Anderson, representing the Working Committee to establish the Council of Christians and Jews.
Once established, the Council began planning functions that would fulfil the aims as set out in the Constitution, to counteract antisemitism and racism wherever found and of encouraging dialogue, education and research. The Council saw the necessity of publications to promote its aims. Over the years it had published pamphlets to introduce itself. One of the main features of these brochures has been the prominence it gave to its symbol, created for it by the late Jewish artist, Louis Kahane. This design is in the shape of a shell, symbol of eternity and of pilgrimage. It contains symbols of things of importance to both our religious traditions. The central image is the Tree of Life, the burning bushy. Behind the tree is the cup of blessing and surrounding these is the rainbow, symbol of universal peace and a reminder to God and ourselves of the Covenant promise. As we turn the page we see a photograph which represents a historic moment in our joint relationship – the welcome accorded to Pope John Paul II by the then Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Elio Toaff when the Pope made this significant visit to the Synagogue across the River Tiber which separates Vatican City from the imposing Synagogue on the banks of the Tiber.
This Council of Christians and Jews (Vic) inc. held its inaugural meeting on Monday, February 28, 1985 at Temple Beth Israel, Alma Road, St Kilda. This meeting was a very fruitful one.
Its general business was:
the title of the Group: ?Council of Christians and Jews”
Composition: Patrons; Heads of Churches (Anglican, Catholic and Uniting Churches and the Orthodox and Liberal Jewish communities).
Chairman: The Rev. Prof. Robert Anderson
Vice-Chairman: Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky
Secretary: Sr Rosalie Handley, nds
Treasurer: Fr William Smith, SJ
Rabbi John Levi
the Rev. G. Brown
Rabbi S. Phillips
Mrs Betty Willis
the Rev. Nigel Wright.
Other proposed members to be approached:
Rabbi. M. Katz
For the media:
Constitution of the Council:
Permission had been obtained from the Council of Christians and Jews as established in London. A sub-Committee was named to draw up a draft Constitution based on the British model: the Rev. G. Brown, Rabbi John Levi and the Rev. W. Smith SJ. This work to be presented to the next meeting of the Council.
An annual subscription of $10. The Rev. W. Smith, SJ, was asked to assume responsibility for the printing of letter-heads: Mrs B Willis would research the necessary information regarding tax deductions, insurance and required signatures for cheques.
The next meeting was set for December 12 at 4.30 p.m. at St Paul?s Anglican Church, 17 Hale Street, East Kew. Once established, the Council began planning functions that would aim at fulfilling its aims of counteracting antisemitism and racism wherever found and of encouraging dialogue, education and research.
The Council saw the necessity of publications to promote its aims. Its first publication was a book entitled: ?When Jews and Christians Meet”, a book of Australian essays commemorating the publication of the Document of the Second Vatican Council ?Declaration on the Relations of the Church to non-Christian Religions”. This document treats of world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam. The most important paragraph is para. 4, dealing with Judaism which opens with these telling words:
?Probing the mystery of the Church, this Sacred Council remembers the bond by which the people of the New Testament is spiritually linked to the line of Abraham”.
The final paragraph is entitled ?The Brotherhood of Man” and states that:
””No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned”.
This document is know by the two words which open it: Nostra Aetate (In Our Time).
This first book was published by the Victorian Council of Churches through its members who belonged to the Council?s Working Group on Christian Jewish Relations of the Commission of Living Faiths
and Community Relations.
This was followed by a second booklet: ?Jews and Christians Creating a New Spirit”. Both of these works had as their editor, J. W. Roffey.
Finally a third book followed, edited by Sr Marianne Dacy, nds and entitled: ?Pathways to Understanding”. In addition to containing interesting essays, it is a handy reference book to churches and Jewish Institutions.
Since these publications others have followed. ?Rightly Explaining the Word of Truth” consists of Guidelines for Christian Clergy and Teachers in their use of the New Testament with reference to the New Testament?s presentation of Jews and Judaism.
In 1999 the Rev. Brendan Byrne, SJ was asked by the Council to do the same thing for the writings in the New Testament written by the Apostle Paul.
This publication has the same aim as the preceding one: Guidelines for Christian Clergy and Teachers in their use of the New Testament with reference to the New Testament?s presentation of Jews and Judaism.
These two works concerning the New Testament are concluded by excellent bibliographies.
Another book is in the process of preparation: ?Torah in Transition”.
An important step was taken on 18 December 1991 when a National Council of Christians and Jews was inaugurated. It is through the National Body, known as the Australian Council of Christians and Jews that it is possible to be affiliated with the International Council of Christians and Jews with its headquarters in Heppenheim, Germany. This national body brought together the Victorian Council with its more recently established counterpart in New South Wales. The new body encourages the involvement of persons interested in the field of Christian-Jewish Dialogue in other Australian States, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
His Excellency, the Rev. Dr Davis McCaughey, former Governor of Victoria, and Sir Zelman Cowen, former Governor General of Australia, serve as Patrons.
A Quick Glance at Functions Throughout the Years.
The Council has held Annual General Meetings which have always been chaired by one of our Chairpersons according to the Constitution.
A pleasing initiative has been inaugurated by Mrs Fleur Freadman, a member of the Council?s Executive, who, in conjunction, firstly, with the Council of Adult Education, and now with Victoria University, has organised series of lectures on a given theme that have attracted wide audiences to listen to well-qualified speakers. Material relevant to the Council has been distributed to the varied audiences and new members have joined the Council.
Another initiative came from Werribee when a branch of the Council presented speakers who delivered the annual St Thomas lectures. This was a most pleasing function which proved the point that a Council of Christians and Jews has a role to play in our society in a place where there is no visible Jewish community.
Launch of Gesher: Since 1990, a function has been held to launch the appropriate year?s copy of the Council?s annual journal ?Gesher”. This most readable journal has bee produced each year under the editorship of Mr Gad Ben-Meir, aided by an editorial board.
The CCJ Vic has combined with the Sub-Committee of the Catholic Church?s Ecumenical Affairs Committee to invite Christians and Jews together to pray that the Shoah victims may be remembered and that never again would such a calamity befall the world as it did during the Second World War.
We have been fortunate to have been able to present for our members and friends, speakers from overseas such as:
Rev. Prof. John Pawlikowski, OSM, present President of the International Council of Christians and Jews. Prof. Pawlikowski teaches in Chicago in Catholic Theological Union.
Professor Lawrence Schiffman, an internationally recognised scholar on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Cardinal Maria Martini, SJ, Cardinal Archbishop of Milan.
Mr Paul Mendel, Director of the CCJ London
Rabbi Sacks, Chief Rabbi of England and the Commonwealth.
On different occasions those present at various functions have been entertained by music – vocal and instrumental.
Popular themes have been arranged in order to enable Christians and Jews to mingle and to meet one another such as ?Holy Envy”, when two scholars from each Faith expression praised what they found admirable in the religious practices and customs of the other.
Another way of achieving this result was to have a wine and cheese night.
A popular way of mingling was by such meetings together as ?Queries, Questions and Quandaries” when people would meet around a table and pose their queries, etc. to a well chosen panel.
Other functions have been organised to enable Christians and Jews to get to know one another personally.
The Council is very fortunate to have as its office administrator Ms Liz Parker, who is present in the Office at 179 Cotham Road, Kew, Vic, 3101, Australia, Monday to Thursday from 9.30 am to 3.00 pm. Telephone/fax: 0011 61 03 9817 3848 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org