By COLlive reporter
The Australian Parliamentary Friends of Multiculturalism (Liberal, Labor, Greens) commemorated their annual UN Interfaith Harmony Week in Parliament House on Feb 13 2019. It was promoted by Religions for Peace Australia and the Canberra Interfaith Forum.
In what was the first time a Jewish guest was invited to deliver the keynote address, Rabbi Shmueli Feldman, Chairman of Chabad ACT, gave a speech about “Multiculturalism in today’s Australia”. Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Richard Di Netali gave the opening remarks and introduced Rabbi Feldman.
Rabbi Feldman elaborated on the Jewish approach to Multiculturalism and Interfaith, showing how our society is made stronger through our robust diversity however contingent upon upholding our common religiously inspired Australian values. The Rabbi also showed how dangerous the anti-Israel movements can be for Jewish Australians.
Rabbi Feldman spoke of the historic and ongoing Jewish contribution to Australia and highlighted the growing threat of antisemitism to the Jewish community whilst urging our elected Federal Members to be more proactive in adequately addressing the troubling trend.
Following the 45 minute speech, Maria Vamvakanou MP (Labor), who also Chairs the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine, and Russell Broadbant MP (Liberal), moderated a 30 minute Q&A where the Rabbi fielded questions from MPs, faith leaders and ambassadors, including the Ambassador of Palestine.
In attendance were Federal MPs and Senators from all sides of the political divide including Jewish Senator Stirling Griff (Nick Xenophon Team), Bob Katter (KAP) and Wentworth’s Dr Kerryn Phelps (Independent), Ambassadors, and Faith and Community Leaders.
For many of the attendees, it was the first time hearing first hand the story and status of Australia’s Jewish community. Those present pledged to do their utmost to ensure the Jewish communities security and welfare.
The organizing MPs concluded with a vote of thanks by gifting Rabbi and Rebbetzin Feldman with a onesie for their newborn baby, Chana, who at two weeks old made it to Parliament in their first trip out of the house since returning from the hospital. The cute baby outfit had the words “future Prime Minister” on it.
“I appreciate the MPs inviting me to address this important gathering. I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback and by the impact it appeared to have on those in attendance and those who watched the speech afterward online,” Rabbi Feldman told COLlive.com.
“I am hopeful that everyone will do their bit in making Australia the most successful multicultural society in the world and as a result, ensuring that Australia’s Jewish community continues to thrive for generations to come.”