How far ahead do organizations and institutions have to work in order to finalize a meeting with President Isaac Herzog? In the case of the Mount Scopus Foundation, largely made up of alumni – or Old Collegians as they are generally known – of Australia’s pioneer Jewish Day School, the arrangement was made almost a year and a half in advance.
Melbourne-based Mount Scopus College had its first intake of students in 1949, and today boasts third generation students from numerous families, some of whose members have been there from kindergarten to matriculation. Just as Melbourne’s Jewish community grew with an influx of Holocaust survivors and later Jews from the former Soviet Union, so did the student population.
This necessitated a new campus, because the original school premises were too small to meet the demand. The new, much larger campus was moved to an area way beyond where most Melbourne Jews were living, but offering plenty of room for expansion. The school grew greatly over the years, and now has three campuses.
Graduates are part of a global community of more than 13,500 professionals living and working in many countries including Israel, where there are several hundred, including among others lawyer and former honorary consul of Papua New Guinea Daniel Lew, former diplomat and current head of the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy Mark Regev, psychiatric mental health practitioner Julie Adler, Executive Director of the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce Paul Israel, and many others.
In some cases, several former classmates meet regularly, and in other cases, there are occasional reunions including friendships that have been maintained since school days by people such as Louise Israel (nee Goulburn) and Amiel Gurt, who were among the earliest students at the school and have been living in Israel for many years.
Presumably, there will be a gala reunion when a Mount Scopus Foundation delegation comes to Israel at the end of December or the beginning of January to meet with Herzog on January 3, 2023. Some may have met him previously when he visited Australia in 2018. Several Jewish community leaders in Melbourne are Mount Scopus old collegians.
■ MORE THAN 500 Mount Scopus Foundation members as well as federal and state politicians and Israel ambassador Amir Maimon came together for a gala dinner in Melbourne last week to hear former US ambassador to the UN and defender of Israel Nikki Haley. The main purpose of the dinner was to launch the largest ever construction project undertaken by the Australian Jewish community, which according to Scopus Foundation President David Gold will radically change the trajectory of the Victorian Jewish community for the better.
The project includes relocating the college to Caulfield, a suburb which has long been the hub of Jewish community life in Melbourne, and incorporating it into the Centre for Jewish Life, which will also include a Sports Precinct in partnership with Maccabi Victoria, a comprehensive Jewish Community Centre, a Centre for Adult Education, a Wellness Hub, a Centre for Creative Arts, and a Music and Performing Arts Precinct that will include a larger Performing Arts Complex. There will also be function venues, lecture theaters, cafes, a synagogue, a library and a range of other facilities.
The hope is that the project will enable more Jewish children to have the opportunity for a life-changing Jewish education. Needless to say that in its totality, the project will also be of value to adults who missed out on a Jewish education as children but want to be part of a distinctly Jewish environment.
Visitors to Melbourne often speak of the warmth of the Jewish community. Once the project is completed, it will be even more so.
■ RETIRED AMBASSADORS, judges, and heads of major organizations and institutions such as Mossad and the Shin Beit (Israel Security Agency), don’t have to worry about being idle in their retirement. They are pounced upon by universities and think tanks that appreciate the fact that the knowledge they impart is not merely theoretical, but based on personal experience. Among the more recent personalities in this category is former Mossad director Tamir Pardo who has joined the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Institute as a Senior Fellow and co-head of its geopolitics program.
Having joined the Mossad in 1979, Pardo became its director in 2011 and served in that capacity for five years. He was welcomed to the JPPI team by its president Yedidia Stern, who said: “Tamir Pardo possesses extensive in-depth knowledge and operational experience regarding Israel’s geopolitical situation. We are proud to have him join JPPI to deepen our ongoing work analyzing and conveying information about the enormous challenges confronting Israel and Jewish communities worldwide.”
Pardo will be the keynote speaker at JPPI’s upcoming conference: “Ukraine: Moral Considerations in Israel’s Foreign Policy” which will take place on June 7 at the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University. Among the other speakers will be former Education minister Limor Livnat, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs president and former Israel ambassador to the UN Dr. Dore Gold, former Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On, former director-general of the Defense Ministry Gen. (res.) Amos Yaron, Tzohar Center for Jewish Ethics director Rabbi Yuval Cherlow and JPPI co-chair Ambassador Dennis Ross.
■ AFTER HOSTING President Herzog and his wife Michal at his residence in February when he celebrated both the birthday of Emperor Naruhito and the 70th anniversary of Israel-Japan relations, Japanese Ambassador Mizushima Koichi was the guest of honor last week at a gala 70th anniversary event hosted by the Israel-Japan Friendship Society and Chamber of Commerce, which together promote cultural and commercial connections between the two countries.
Some 350 guests including Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, converged on the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation where they were welcomed by Chamber and IJFA chairman Zeev Weiss.
Among those present were Dr. Ron Tomer, president of the Israel Manufacturers Association; Shmuel Schnitzer, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Award Committee; and former MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, who chairs the Israel Export Institute. Also present was Zvi Hauser, head of the Israel-Japan interparliamentary friendship group. Japanese investments in Israel are in excess of $3 billion.
■ THE PERES Institute will on June 9 be the venue for the Ilan Innovation Award in memory of Shimon Peres, who encouraged innovation in so many different spheres. The name “Ilan” has several connotations in Israel. Sometimes it refers to the late astronaut Ilan Ramon, and sometimes to ILAN, the Israel Association for Children with Disabilities, which this year also marks its 70th anniversary.
However on this occasion, ILAN stands for Israel-Latin American Network, and the event will be used to strengthen Israel’s relations with Latin-American countries, which will be represented by ambassadors, charges d’affaires and economic attaches. Today, with the exception of Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela, Israel maintains full diplomatic relations with all the countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean. It would be wise for Israelis who are attending the Thursday morning awards ceremony to brush up on their Spanish and Portuguese.
■ THE FACT that someone has the title of “Rabbi” does not necessarily make him a holy man. Basically, it’s the equivalent of a BA in religious studies and does not guarantee that the person who receives it is an individual of high moral character. Just as there are many wonderful rabbis, there are also those who tarnish the movements to which they belong.
Case in point is Rabbi Moshe Yazdi, who was brought to trial in Jerusalem last week. Yazdi who was working with women who were on the way to becoming religiously observant, passed himself off as one of the legendary 36 righteous human beings in every generation, and told the women that the relations that he had with them were part of their “spiritual awakening.” Preying on their naiveté, he performed what could be termed spiritual rape.
Some of the women realized too late what was happening to them, but once they did, ten of those in his community filed complaints with the police. There has been a spate of complaints against him for some seven years, but it took time for the police to gather sufficient evidence to charge him with sexual assault.
It is important for everyone who is finding their way toward religion, no matter which religion it might be, to know that regardless of what they may be told by a rabbi, a priest or an imam, they do not have to submit to sexual relations of any kind, and if pressured to do so, should immediately go to the police or a social worker, because in all likelihood, others have fallen victims to such predators.
■ ON A much happier note, young adults in their 20s and 30s who are looking for both a social and a religious outlet in English on Shavuot are invited to the Tel Aviv Beit Midrash on the 3rd floor of 1 Carlebach Street, from 10.30 p.m. on Saturday, June 4, until dawn on Sunday with a 4:30 a.m. reading of the Book of Ruth.
Billed as the Other White Night in honor of Shavuot, it will feature Rabbi Shlomo Chayen, Rabbi Jonathan Feldman, Tamar Weizer, Barr Solnik and Ariel Sterman among the speakers who will address a number of subjects on Zionism and Judaism per se. The event is free of charge. Eats and drinks will be available, including a never-ending supply of coffee to keep everyone awake. Registration is required at https://TelAvivTikkunShavuot.eventbrite.com