I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional custodians of the land on which we gather and pay my respects to their Elders – past, present and emerging.
I want to also take a moment to pay my respects to those lost in the tragic events at Lag Baomer last week. We stand with the people of Israel in their sorrow.
Thank you Yossi and Daniel for inviting me to join you tonight.
And thank you to Zionism Victoria and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria.
Not just for hosting myself and all of our colleagues, but for all the important work you do for the Jewish community and for Victoria.
I’d also like to acknowledge:
- Michael O’Brien, Leader of the Opposition
- State colleagues on both sides of the aisle
- Federal Members of Parliament
- Ambassador, Jonathan Peled, Charge d’affairs of the Embassy of Israel
- Friends from the Diplomatic Corps
- Justice Stephen Kaye
- Religious and community leaders
- and all members of the Victorian Jewish community who join us tonight
I’m delighted to be here to celebrate the anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day.
The Premier has spoken at this event for many, many years.
At each of those events he speaks with passion and eloquence. I share his passion for the state of Israel, and I’ll try and be as eloquent.
73 years ago, a ceremony in Tel Aviv and the signing of a declaration marked the birth of a thriving democratic state.
Over those 73 years, Israel has built a prosperous, diverse, and innovative and exciting nation.
A place that Jewish communities here in Victoria, and around the world, can be proud of.
It was a personal joy for me and my wife Megan when we travelled to and spent precious time in Israel back in 2013, it’s a memory seared into my mind and I look forward to the day that we can return.
Of course, Victoria has been home for Jewish people for far, far longer – in fact since the very beginning of our state.
The Jewish community that has grown here is tremendously vibrant – particularly here in Melbourne.
As a state, we are so proud of that contribution – across all aspects of our society.
And proud to celebrate the cultural, linguistic and religious diversity of all the communities that call Victoria home.
It also means we have to be vigilant against those who threaten that.
Not just by practicing tolerance – but by taking active steps to combat antisemitism and promote inclusion.
As Education Minister I want to take this opportunity to again thank those who worked so closely with myself and my department specifically in response to incidents of anti-Semitism in our schools.
Jeremy Liebler, from the Zionist Federation of Australia, Sharene Hambur from Zionism Victoria, Jennifer Huppert from the JCCV, Gabbi Kraftian, Itzik Stockman from UJEB, Andre Oberle, founder of the Online Hate Prevention Institute.
Last year, as part of that work, I was proud to announced that all Year Nine and Ten students in our government schools would be taught about the Holocaust.
Not just students studying history, but every student, at every single government secondary school.
We’re also working with Gandel Philanthropy, the Jewish Holocaust Centre, Zionism Victoria, the JCCV and others to ensure our schools have the best resources available to teach all our kids.
There’s the partnership with Gandel Philanthropy that will see 110 extra teaching teams undertake professional development with the Jewish Holocaust Centre before the end of next year.
We’re supporting Connecting Cultures – an outreach program in primary and secondary schools run by Zionism Victoria.
The program gives students the opportunity to visit the Jewish Holocaust Centre, the Jewish Museum of Australia and local synagogues – bringing their lessons in their classroom to life.
These programs are so important to gifting all Victorians, particularly our young people, with an understanding of our past.
All of those changes that I’ve spoken about, help strengthen Victoria as a welcoming, inclusive and socially cohesive community.
I want to acknowledge the people in this room who are helping to make all of that happen – In particular, my thanks to Danniella Gozlan for all of her work, thank you.
As I look around the room tonight and see many friends and leaders here, I am reminded of someone who is no longer with us.
Isi Liebler. Isi made a huge contribution to this community.
Indeed, important organisations like the JCCV wouldn’t be what they are today without his vision and dedication.
I’d like to acknowledge Jeremy who is here tonight – the community, and our state, is better off because of for your uncle’s many many years of service.
May his memory be a blessing.
It is the strength of our Jewish community groups that makes the Jewish community such an important contributor to our state.
Organisations like Zionism Victoria and the JCCV are tireless in your efforts – promoting knowledge, understanding, diversity, and inclusion.
And connecting all of us with Israel – its people, its stories, its creativity, its opportunity.
I hope you will join me in a toast as we mark this anniversary of this most extraordinary of nations:
To the State of Israel. L’Chaim!