The Zionist Federation of Australia held its Plenary Conference on Sunday, featuring Rabbi Dr Donniel Hartman and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.
In his opening statement, President Jeremy Leibler noted the political controversies rocking Israel today, and reinforced the need of the Australian Jewish community to come together to discuss the issues facing Israel and the community. “Perhaps this year”, he said, “more than any other, it seems to me that we should maximise the time we have together to focus, with clear eyes, on the challenges the Jewish world is facing, and on the opportunities available to us.”
Mr Leibler continued, “While we cannot solve all of Israel’s problems today, what we can do is to ensure that no one feels that their option is to be silent. Because, regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, Zionism is about doing. It’s about engaging.”
Rabbi Hartman gave the keynote address to the conference, and later sat down with Mr Leibler for a special ZFA Conversation that was live-streamed from the conference. Rabbi Hartman’s keynote address was a treatise on the responsible use of power, in which he reflected on statements by some current Israeli government ministers. In the ZFA Conversation, Rabbi Hartman and Mr Leibler discussed the philosophical and ideological challenges that religious Zionists are facing from religious ultra-nationalists in Israel.
Mr Marles engaged in a ‘fire side chat’ with Mr Leibler. Their discussion focused on the Australian Government’s recent change in terminology in regards to the West Bank and Gaza.
Mr Marles said after the conference, “It was a pleasure to join members of the Australian Jewish community at the Zionist Federation of Australia’s Plenary conference. It was an engaging conversation with a range of views shared and I look forward to continuing this positive engagement.”
The Plenary Conference also included an interactive workshop, and a panel that included federal Member for Wentworth Allegra Spender, Executive Council of Australian Jewry President Jillian Segal and Australasian Union of Jewish Students President Alissa Foster, who discussed the recent ZFA survey of antisemitism on campus, and what community, student, university and government responses should be.
ZFA CEO Ginette Searle reflected on the topics tackled during the day. She said, “The delegates and guests certainly left the conference with much inspiration and food for thought. We’re thrilled that the conference provided opportunities for deep dives into important topics as well as in person, open conversations and exchange of ideas.”