NEWSLETTER No. 55/1 – June/July 2003


Christian & Jewish




Old guard becomes new guard to head Victorian Council

Earlier this year of the Victorian Council's Chair, Rev. Anne Amos left vacant the chairmanship of the largest branch of the Australian Councils. The resultant search for a successor to Rev. Amos has revealed the acceptance by one of its experienced veteran Executive members, Michael Cohen (pictured) who has agreed to come out of virtual retirement to fill the vacancy.
Mr. Cohen has served the Victorian Council in manifold roles for 15 years, including the organisation of the 2001 successful Australian visit of Rabbi.Dr. David Rosen.
””Notwithstanding, on the one hand the difficulty persuading others to accept the position of Chair and on the other, my personal great reluctance to be recycled, I consider it a great honour and privilege to have been entrusted with a task which I perceive as being of great importance for an organization to whose objectives I am passionateli devoted””, he said.
The enthusiasm, dedication and drive which Michael Cohen brings tc all his endeavours is reflected in the proactive programming which has been announced by the Victorian Council.


Holocaust memorial's Warsaw Uprising theme
A special emphasis on the Warsaw uprising and its implications for Polish Jews underlined the theme of this year's annual Holocaust Memorial Service conducted by the NSW Council in the Crypt of Sydney's St. Mary's Cathedral.
The service lights candles for the six million who perished between 1933 and 1945 as well as for the righteous Gentiles, recognised for their humanity in aiding the plight of persecuted Jews throughout Europe and credited with saving thousands of lives.
Principal speaker at the service this year was Senior Religious Education Coordinator at St Patrick's College Strathfield and Director of the Australian Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Shalom College UNSW, Paul O'Shea.
According to organiser, Council of Christians and Jews Hon. Secretary, Dr. Marianne Dacy the service took on a special significance in the light of the 60's anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
””We wanted the various Christian denominations and the Jewish community to see this as an important occasion to honour the memory of those who perished in Warsaw as well as the many millions
who died during the period of Nazi persecution,”Dr. Dacy said.
Over 70 people attended the service which was introduced by Catholic educator and a member of
the Council's NSW Executive, Fr. Joseph Sobb, SJ


ACT Branch picnics to express community spirit
Members of Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities came together at a picnic held at the National Jewish Centre in Forrest in May.
The gathering was aimed as a down-to-earth expression of communities living in peace with participants sharing poetry, games and picnic fare, acting locally for community harmony and thinking globally.
The concept originated with the Working Together for Peace workshop held at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture earlier in the year, attended by 200 people and which was opened by the Governor-General.
Participants at the Working Together for Peace workshop and subsequent core group meetings agreed to pursue the objectives of developing mutual understanding and bonds of friendship between members of the three faiths and exploring ways in which practical action for peace could be developed, particularly as three-faith activities.

Death of George Stern
ACT Branch sadly reported the death last week of George Stern after a long illness. The Jewish co-founder of the ACT Christian Jewish dialogue group which recently became a branch of CCJ worked assiduously with Ray Brown, a member of Canberra's Catholic community to launch the group in the mid 1980s.
Over 150 participants at NSW Council's 2003 Passover demonstration evening
Over 150 participants from various Christian denominations braved torrential rain and wintry weather last month to attend a Passover Demonstration at St Joachim's Catholic Church Hall in the inner Sydney suburb of Strathfield.
Presented by North Shore Temple Emanuel's Rabbi Alison Conyer, the evening was marked by the involvement and participation by the audience in the ritual sequences of the traditional Jewish Seder evening.
Singing the Passover songs, sampling the wine and the (grated apple, honey and raisin) Haroses and gingerly testing the bitter herbs was all part of the demonstration.
Among the participants were 22 students from St Aloysius College, North Sydney with their Studies in Religion teacher, Frank Clark. The youngest of the students was able to take the part of the youngest child who asks the questions during the meal. Another participant was Rev John Alt, parish priest at St Joachim's, as was Anglican priest, Rev Paul Weaver, an executive member of the NSW Council.
The evening was ably organised by Anita Sicari, a coordinator for the Archdiocese of Sydney of Catholic scripture teachers – who work in public schools.
Much of this work is done in an interfaith context. The teachers among the participants indicated that they had found the evening of interest and benefit for their professional development.


First event for recently-established Queensland Council dubbed highly successful

The audience numbered more than 50, some coming from as far afield as Gatton with the event's topic centring on a core Council objective, Understanding the Other.
The venue was the new Multi-faith Centre at Griffith University where the audience heard Rev. Dr. Ray Barraclough of St. Francis Theological College and Rabbi Emeritus John Levi OAM, Regional Director of the Union for Progressive Judaism in Australia, Asia and New Zealand discuss the recent Pontifical document dealing with the early Hebrew Scriptures and their influence on early Christianity.
Chaired by Rev.Dr. Rick Strelan of Queensland University, “”the event was highly successful””, according to co-presidents Rev. Russell Morris and Garek Fysh.
The audience was given hands on experience with Rabbi Levi's presentation of archaeological artefacts and question time was enlightening.
A section of the audience of the function attended a first night Passover Seder celebration at Brisbane's Progressive Synagogue at the conclusion of the discussion.
A spokesman for the Queensland Council expressed its appreciation to Griffith University Chaplain, Trish Blundell for her co-operation in making the venue available for the milestone event.
It is anticipated that the newly-formed Queensland Council will announce programming for the remainder of 2003 in the near future.

The old man and the Sea

The Sea of Galilee in northern Israel was the scene of most of the ministry of Jesus, as related in the Gospels. His teachings were shaped by the culture of lakeside Kineret (its Hebrew name). The earliest disciples and followers were fishermen and sailors and it was to them that Jesus first preached, standing on the lakeshore.
For most of his life, octogenarian Mendel Nun (his name is the Aramaic word for fish) pieced together the world of fishermen who lived and worked on the Sea of Galilee during the time of the Second Temple,some 2000 years ago. He discovered that the fishing techniques which he learned as a young
man in the 1940s – the young Mendel Neistadt had fled his native Latvia to then Palestine a few days before the start of World War II – had not changed a great deal to those once used by Jesus' disciples.
Some Christian scholars say Nun's research sheds fresh light on many gospel stories. For one thing, says David Bivin of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, Nun's comprehensive knowledge of ancient fishing on the Sea of Galilee has allowed him to determine the exact time and place of the beginning of Jesus' ministry with the disciples, namely winter on the lake shore at Heptapegon near Capernaum.
The list of Nun's discoveries is substantial. Among them are the discovery of the remains of a monumental Byzantine church at the ancient harbour of Kursi.

Net fishing
One of 16 ancient harbours, Kursi was discovered along the lakeshore, primarily during the low water levels during droughts, beginning in the 1970s. Most of them had been submerged since the time of Jesus. Today only four small ports serve the motorboats, fishing boats and pilgrims' ferries on the lake.
Net fishing was the stock in trade of the people who lived here and the Gospels point to Jesus' knowledge of this. Various types of fishing nets are referred to in parables which Nun explained in much of his writings.
In his time, Nun crossed swords with biblical archeologists, primarily over his more controversial theory concerning the location of the biblical town of Bethsaida. The third most mentioned city in the New Testament (after Jerusalem and Capernaum) Bethsaida virtually vanished until archaeological finds began to be described in 1987 as having been sited on the north shore of Lake Kineret.
Nun's vision located it in the Jordan delta, closer to a site called el-Araj. His contention however has remained uncontested, since no digs have taken place in that area.

Nun has been described as a “”treasure partially revealed””. Part of the problem is evidenced by the fact that most of Nun's writings have been in modern Hebrew so that important studies have remained inaccessible to English readers. This is likely to change given that many of Nun's published pamphlets and essays on the Sea of Galilee have been gathered and published recently in a German language volume. This has been translated into English so that the erstwhile Latvian immigrant's passion for the Sea of Galilee, his erudition will be able to be presented to a broader world.