Melbourne Jewish day schools: PM is ‘dissing us during visit next month’

“He may or may not realize just how tenuous is the connection of Australia’s next generation of Jews with Israel, given the strong and growing anti-Israel mood both domestically and internationally."

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January 23, 2017 00:11
2 minute read.
STUDENTS CELEBRATE Israel Independence Day at Mount Scopus College in Melbourne last year.

STUDENTS CELEBRATE Israel Independence Day at Mount Scopus College in Melbourne last year.. (photo credit: FACEBOOK)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is missing a golden opportunity to fire up thousands of Jewish students about Israel by turning down an invitation to speak to two large Jewish day schools in Melbourne next month, according to the principals of those two schools.

Following a story last week in the The Jerusalem Post about Netanyahu’s visit to Australia, where he will spend only one day in Melbourne, James Kennard, the principal of the city’s Mount Scopus College, told the Post there was “considerable disquiet” over his short visit to Melbourne.

Kennard and Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, the principal of Bialik College, issued a joint statement saying that it was with “profound dismay that, despite our requests, the prime minister of Israel is not addressing the youth of the Melbourne Jewish community in his only major function in Melbourne. One of our schools offered to make available space for 2,000 people – enough to address community members and many hundreds of young people, but this was declined in place of his addressing community leaders and a token smattering of young people in a synagogue near Melbourne’s financial district.”

Kennard and Stowe-Lindner asserted that at a time “when bolstering the next generation’s connection to Israel is so critical, we regard this as a sorely missed opportunity.”

According to the statement, “The offer for our students to watch the address from afar on YouTube, no more engaging than one of billions of clips available on the Internet, and of very small delegations from some of the schools, is unacceptable for a community which prides itself on its Zionism and strives to instill that spirit in the next generation.”

In a follow up email exchange with the Post, Kennard and Stowe-Lindner said they were “incredibly disappointed.”

“He may or may not realize just how tenuous is the connection of Australia’s next generation of Jews with Israel, given the strong and growing anti-Israel mood both domestically and internationally, but for him to pass over this wonderful opportunity to put Israel’s case to such a key part of the Jewish community implies to some that he’s not interested in sustaining that connection,” they said.

Although in the past prime ministers visiting cities with large Jewish populations would occasionally include visits to Jewish day schools, this is something that largely has fallen out of practice over the last two decades.

Instead, visiting prime ministers traveling to places like New York, London, Paris or Moscow will meet with Jewish organizational leaders, but not make an effort to go to schools. This has been criticized over the years as a missed opportunity, since such meetings in the past were seen as a powerful way to instill Jewish pride and pride in Israel on impressionable students.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.

Netanyahu is scheduled to make a much-anticipated visit to Australia in late February, the first visit there by a sitting Israeli prime minister.

After spending a day in Singapore, he is expected to arrive in Sydney on Tuesday, February 21, and fly back to Israel on Saturday night, February 25. He is scheduled to travel to Melbourne for one day, but not stay there overnight.


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