Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, senior rabbi of Melbourne’s 1500 family strong S. Kilda Hebrew Congregation and President of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand, delivered a speech in the presence of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorton at a Parliamentary Interfaith Breakfast in August.
The event was hosted by the Australian Catholic University (ACU) and took place at the National Press Club in Canberra.
Over 250 guests attended including senior faith leaders representing 24 faiths across the country and around 50 Parliamentarians including Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, opposition leader Bill Shorten, Senator Richard Di Natalie, Leaders of the Australian Greens.
Other Jewish leaders in attendance were Rabbis Alon Meltzer of the ACT Jewish community, Rabbi Shmuel Feldman of Chabad of ACT and Mr Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of the ECAJ.
Rabbi Glasman was then privileged to have been one of a few faith leaders to speak in the Prime Minister’s presence, representing the Jewish faith. He was formally introduced in his capacity as President of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand and had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister for a brief discussion prior to the formal proceedings.
The Prime Minister remarked at the event that “it is such a human thing to share food, to share company, to take that opportunity to sustain each other, and in doing so, to help each other, to understand each other, to demonstrate in a very practical and tangible way, love. After all, that is when we are closest to God, when we love. When we open our heart and think not of ourselves, but of others. Seek to help them understanding that our truism – if you like – not just to our closest relations, not just to our family, our children, our wives and husbands, but to others. To the stranger, to the person we don’t know, perhaps don’t understand, but nonetheless something urges us to reach out and help them.”
Rabbi Glasman noted following the event that “the interfaith breakfast was a highly successful event which brought together multiple faith leaders and demonstrated that there is much more that unites us than divides us. Breaking bread is one of the most widely recognized means of building bridges and harmony between various faiths. This is especially important given the conflicts that occur around the world as a result of religious extremism. We are truly blessed to live in a country like Australia which not only tolerates differences of belief, but celebrates it.”
Below is a transcript of Rabbi Glasman’s Speech:
“One of the most acclaimed historic religious leaders of numerous faith communities was Abraham. Today, billions of people – both religious and secular – know his name.
What afforded Abraham his rise to prominence? Why is Abraham such a towering figure in the world’s bestselling book, the bible? The answer is simple: Because he dared to be different.
Abraham stood as a pillar of morality in a society bereft of values. He shone as a beacon of light in a world of darkness and deception.
In the bible Abraham is referred to as “Ivri”, literally meaning “the Jewish one” but etymologically meaning “the one who stood on the other side”.
Indeed, society stood on one side and Abraham stood defiantly on the other. Scorned by his family and derided by his community, Abraham anchored himself on the side of morality because he believed in something higher than himself.
And it is this trait more than any other that has become the calling of the elected leaders of our incredible nation. In a world so full of division, we seek leaders who can unite us. In a world so plagued with hatred, we yearn for leaders who can inspire us.
Synagogues around Australia, together with many other places of worship, pray for the welfare of our elected representatives. We pray not only for their physical well-being but also, and equally importantly, that they be blessed with the wisdom and kind-heartedness of our Patriarch Abraham who tended to the sick, cared for the needy and treated every wayfarer with the dignity and respect he or she deserved.
May each and every one of you, our representative leaders, continue in your important work for the betterment of all Australians and indeed all peoples on this earth – Amen.”