Youth movements lead the way

It was an impressive and inspiring event that our youth movements, led by the Bnei Akiva and Habonim shlichim presented to our community this morning.  Approximately 50 youth and 30 adults joined to commemorate the yartzeit of Yitzchak Rabin, and did so using an engaging, challenging and dignified format.  A small commemoration followed by workshop discussions about the value and limitations of democracy was hosted.  Similar to the Israeli style of discussing the virtues and values of Yitzchak Rabin (ZL) and the impact that his murder had on Israeli and Jewish society, a demographic cross section of the community was able to join together and talk candidly about Rabin’s legacy. 

It is pleasing that the Zionist community in Perth has the maturity to move beyond the political fracture that plagues the way in which Rabin is commemorated in other places.  It is very dissapointing to read how elements of Israeli society use the Rabin Yartzeit as a “secular yomtov” to further slander the religious right. 

It was a diverse cross section of the Perth Jewish community that attended this morning’s event.  The structure of the event, and the spectrum of presence spoke volumes about the areas of strength and weakness that currently sits within Jewish Perth.  Take for example the public lament that only 4 people have listed to attend the Commemoration of Kristallnacht.  Perhaps the community are no longer responsive to the same group of leaders who for decades have been running out the same boring presentations year after year.  Perhaps we don’t want to be used as “rent a crowd” to satisfy the presence of the Governor.  Perhaps we are not engaged by speeches and poems, and candles and minutes of silence? 

To make an historic commemoration of a tragedy in Jewish history meaningful, we need to move away from simply recounting what happened and when.  Images and literary prose only do so much to allow us to connect to the meaning and significance of what happened.  Providing the medium to interact, to place the event into a historic context, to contrast Jewish values and religious beleifs against those of the perpetrators of genocide, are all ways of bringing the current generation closer to a Jewish historical moment.  We also need to do more than digesting the tragedy.  We need to move beyond the death and destruction to understand the ethics of the moment, and the enduring survival not only the memory, but the people of the memory.  One further point – Jewish people should not stand in silence with their heads bowed.  We should take our texts and bring them to life, to the merit of the memory of those who perished.

This morning’s workshop and youth group presentation acheived exactly what is needed in the form of a contemporary memorial.  One can only assume that this event will grow.  Having the leadership of many organisations present, and in particular the UIA (the Shaliach Ofir Simchony presented an outstanding address), as well as the Jewish Community Council was important.  Only two Rabbi’s attended which is also sadly a notable statement on which sectors of the religious leadership of the community connect with our youth.

Overall, top marks and huge accolades are due to the youth groups for coming together and delivering an important lesson of modern Zionism and Jewish unity to us all.