8 December 2017 / 20 Kislev 5778
Last week I was surprised to open the New York Times and read a story of my colleague, Rabbi Shmueli Feldman, from Chabad of Canberra. The story read, “On a Sunday afternoon in October, he was hosting a small celebration at his home. When suddenly, a car carrying four teenagers swerved in front of the house. One passenger leaned out the window and cursed Jews before the car sped off. The Rabbi reported the incident to the police but nothing came of it”.
This incident adds to a long list of anti-Semitic abuses directed at Rabbi Feldman and his community. The Rabbi has been verbally abused, had eggs thrown at him and a rock thrown through his child’s bedroom window. Furthermore, the Chabad House had objects hurled through the window including, rocks, a chair and swastikas had been scrawled on the walls.
“For the first time in my life, I don’t feel safe in Australia,” said Rabbi Feldman, a fourth-generation Australian.
Unfortunately, his experiences are not isolated ones. A recent study on anti-Semitism compiled by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) stated: “In the last 12 months, there occurred 230 registered episodes of anti-Semitism in Australia, an increase of 9.5 percent over the previous year”.
These statistics highlight that we must never be complacent, we must always be vigilant even in such a wonderful Country as Australia that allows us to freely practice our religious beliefs.
For his part, Rabbi Feldman said he was trying to bridge the divide between the perpetrators and victims of racial abuse. After the police caught the young man who had hurled a rock though the Synagogue window, the Rabbi invited him to the centre and explained the impact of his actions. “We told him about the work we do, we told him about the impact of the incident and introduced him to survivors in our community. He was remorseful, paid for the damage and committed to changing his ways.”
The Rabbi’s write in Ethics of the Fathers “Who is a true Hero, a person who can turn an enemy into a friend.”
Rabbi and Sheyna Riesenberg