The Age 2: Our Leaders: Disingenuous, but Delightfully Patronising

The response to the article in The Age about this blog has been staggering. Comments have been flooding in and unique visits have soared. Supportive Jews and well-wishing non-Jews have mixed it up with angry Jews and even angrier anti-Zionists.  Even our friend, Antony Loewenstein has seen fit to write about our support of The Apartheid State. We will devote a Reader Response to some of these comments in the next post.

For now, we want to thank Tom Hyland for his exhaustive research, and his bravery in broaching a potentially incendiary topic: Jewish community debate. We believe his article was both fair and accurately representative of the spectrum of our community’s views.

We must take issue, however, with the appallingly disingenuous statements made by Danny Lamm and John Searle.

Both men claimed that not only is the community adequately represented, but all one needs to do to become part of the process is to raise a hand. John Searle stoops to outright misinformation when he claims that his body, the JCCV is democratically elected by the community. He first attempts the diversionary tactic of alluding to the 51 organisations that comprise the JCCV. This is an utter furphy inasmuch as the number of organisations is irrelevant if a) they themselves are not representative, and b) they must gain approval from the JCCV before they can join.

For example, the homosexual support group, Aleph, established in 1995 was still being refused membership in the JCCV in 2008. While there is a link to Aleph on the JCCV site now, we are not able to ascertain whether the group has been formally accepted by the roof body. If any of our commenters have information on this matter, it would be greatly appreciated.

Even if Aleph has indeed been accepted into the JCCV, it would only be after more than a decade of lobbying the body. Having to beg for admission into a roof body does not speak highly of its democratic credentials, and certainly makes Dr Lamm’s and Mr Searle’s claims of an atmosphere of representation and inclusiveness seem somewhat bizarre.

All that aside, what is democracy really? When John Searle talks about a democratically elected JCCV, is he talking about one Jew, one vote? Is he talking about transparency of any sort?

A significant number of people who have worked with the communal leadership have mentioned to us that leadership is agreed upon in a consensual fashion, more than through any voting process. But even if there were a voting process that were more than just a cosmetic touch to an utterly incestuous process of succession planning, voting is ABSOLUTELY NOT the same as democracy. Democracy requires franchise. It requires transparency. Votes took place under Saddam. He won over 90% of any election he stood for. Kim Jong Il has been similarly successful. We repeat: voting is not the same as democracy.

These are very basic elements that may elude Mr Searle. If he is unaware of such fundamental political definitions, he may perhaps be in the wrong job.

Now for something a little lighter. Let’s say there is an advocacy organisation. Let’s say this organisation has been having a lot of trouble convincing the public that the country it represents is not a bully. Let’s say that this organisation is perceived in the media as something of a bully itself, threatening defamation suits, and writing aggressive letters as though it were a necessary part of good public relations.

What should the spokesman from such an organisation say when asked to comment on a critic from his own community? Perhaps he has read this critic’s writing and heeded the suggestion that when you don’t want to make an unpleasant/difficult issue into a big, national news story, the best thing to do is be dismissive and somewhat patronising.

Here is Colin Rubenstein’s response in The Age, “Dr Rubenstein, executive director of AIJAC, says of the bloggers: “If they’re enthusiastic, that’s fine, and good luck to them.”

But he’s dismissive of the bloggers’ understanding of how community representatives operate. “They’re a little jejune and starry-eyed and novices in terms of public affairs and their complexity,” he says.

Considering Yvonne Fein’s long involvement in communal organisations and the mystery Sensible Jew’s mysterious identity, contending we are novices is either evidence of disingenuousness or a case of AIJAC talking to the press before it’s done its homework. Again.

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75 Responses to “The Age 2: Our Leaders: Disingenuous, but Delightfully Patronising”

  1. Congratulations.

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  2. Sam says:

    Sensible Jew,

    Do you know of a model of a Jewish Community around the world that is elected on the basis of one jew one vote? How would you determine who is Jewish and entitled to vote? Should anyone be entitled to vote even if their beliefs and values are fundamentally not Jewish? (ie: Jews for Jesus etc).

    What Jewish community around the world should we model ourselves on? Our communal leaders have received much criticism on this blog for bad PR and mishandling of certain situations. No doubt some leaders have badly handled certain events (ie: Maccabi). However, compare the “PR” of other Jewish communities around the world. Do you think they are doing a better job? The fact is that the Australian Jewish community has a very good relationship with the wider community and in particular, with both sides of Parliament.

    In my view, the facts on the ground are inconsistent with the image portrayed on this blog.

    My advice is to harness the interest in this blog for a discussion on real issues rather than a forum to criticise our communal leaders who devote enormous amounts of their own time for the community.


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  3. jewish genius says:

    seeing you’re critical of others for not doing their homework, i’ll point out a couple of mistakes you’ve made above.

    firstly, 56 organisations constitute the jccv, not 51 as you state.

    secondly, aleph is not still being refused membership of the jccv. as it hasn’t applied since the initial refusal, despite the opportunity to do so, this hasn’t been tested.

    now a comment on the integrity of your website. after reading about in today’s paper, i scanned the last few weeks reading. i understand, yvonne, that you have only now just revealed your identity. hence i find your effusive comments on michael fagenblat’s bit on the margolyes play totally inappropriate. you are a good friend of Michael and his wife (reputed to be your colleague on this blog) and surely it is inappropriate not to disclose that when lauding his work.

    further, there may be issues on which you disagree with the leaders of our community. fair enough, but two things you cannot deny is that these men and women work exceptionally hard, and that they often get results that benefit the jewish and larger communities.

    finally, given your clear commitment to democracy, why not start your own community leadership? just test the market. who knows, you may well win and have the opportunity to amend the terrible failures of the current leadership.

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  4. Notinmyname says:

    SJ can you please clarify whether the views you present on this blog are consistent with the Shira Hadasha synagogue’s leadership’s viewpoints?
    I have attended Shira previously as I support the increased inclusion on women in prayer services – but if the shul is becoming anti-establishment and “even-handed” in it’s approach to the middle east (which is a ridiculously naive concept when so many of our arab “brothers” openly profess do want to destroy us) I’d like to know as I would not continue to endorse the synangogue.

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  5. Michael says:

    Edited for trolling.

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  6. Gillian says:

    I’m SO pleased the Age pointed me to your blog. I am entirely on your side and agree certainly with your basic premise. Can’t wait to share it with my son, either-he’s been arguing with Antony Loewenstein for years. I am adding this site to my bookmarks. Mazeltov-keep up the good wrk.

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  7. Faygale says:

    You consider yourselves moderates and Loewenstein and his IAJV members Richter ,Adler and CO. lunatic extremists,I,m not sure what you classify all the Jewish Community organizations [ AUJS, AIJAC,SZC,] etc. that you attack etc why don’t you inform your readers ‘precisely’ in terms of the Israeli/Arab-Muslim conflict what you consider is Moderate.???????????

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  8. Notinmyname says:

    I’m curious as to how a SMALL blog with only a handful of posts got to be featured in The Age as a voice of “moderate” jews.
    I understand that Yvone Fein is a journalist and playwright and so must have journalistic buddies but I dont see how this blog is particularly newsworthy. SJ please come clean on how you get the age to write a piece on this fringe blog?

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  9. Michael says:

    ‘Notinmyname’ M/s Fein is or was engaged by the AJN as a blogger , the AJN in last weeks edition promoted her by way of Editorial and their Shmooze section because they are all politically in tune.

    The Age as we all know is obsessed with Jews and Zionists and Age journalists monitor the AJN and publish anything negative or controversial about Jews.

    Although M/s Fein is not the only person behind the Blog site [ she may not be the writer ] there are others probably left wing Academics , however M/s Fein is out for self promotion as we can all see worked on the story with Hyland.

    Whilst Fein claims to be a Zionist how working with The Age Journalists who are clearly anti Zionist helps the Zionists I fail to understand.

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  10. Daniel Levy says:

    Ah, it’s about time that a clean, moderate voice rose from the drivel that has enveloped debate in the Jewish community.

    Every week, I read the letters section of the AJN with disdain. Henry Herzog, Michael Burd, Zyngier et. al flood the columns with their usual diatribe, often going at each other’s throats with gusto as if it were their raison d’etre. And, in attempting to further their dogmatic stances on right/left position, they merely alienate anyone who may be sympathetic to their cause. It’s usually conspiracy theories and underhanded personal attacks.

    I think Procel’s latest farce with Maccabi truly underscores just how out of touch the self-proclaimed leaders of the Jewish community are. Many of your angry opposition have lauded Searle and Lam for the hours they put into the community. I ask anyone reading this, is the relationship of volume of work to quality of work one that is directly proportional? It most certainly isn’t. It can be, but when one considers the direction in which the Jewish communnity is headed, they are certainly underperforming.

    I graduated from Bialik College in 2007, and am now a student at Monash University. When I see old classmates around campus, the vast majority of them will be huddled in some corner with other familiar community faces, completely insulating themselves from the vibrant tapestry of culture that surrounds them. It is sickening how so many Jewish day school graduates stick hard and fast to the cliques they formed during high school. If I could make one request, could you please pen an article regarding the insularity of the community? I feel this is an issue that needs an urgent response. Young Jews are not being taught the appropriate skills to unfurl their wings and soar into the wider community after they leave school. Staying only with what is familiar and never leaving one’s comfort zone is never a good idea.

    It has implications for the Jewish community at large. If young Jews do not go out into the community and become active participants, this will only fuel anti-semitism. After all, bigotry is the product of fear of the unknown. What people cannot see, or experience themselves, generally leads to fear. This fear usually turns into xenophobia and in the case of the Jewish community – anti-semitism. By expanding their circle of friends, young jews are able to connect with the community at large. This alone is our greatest defense against anti-semitism. Not to assimilate into the community and do away with old traditions, but to participate within the larger community and leave our comfort zones. Some will argue that this is impossible, I would argue that they have never tried it out of fear.

    This is just a collection of my thoughts, take from them what you will, and I would be most interested to hear anything you have to add or perhaps disagree with. Keep up the good work!


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  11. Robert says:

    I have to say that the Jewish Community gets exactly what it deserves. Take for example the claim, stupidy accepted by the Police, that Jews in Caulfield were prohibited by the Torah from pressing a pedestrian crossing button. Now even Jews know that the Torah was written before Electricity was even known about but here we go again with another example of acceptance of community standards only when you cant weasel out of them.

    I was also interested in one of the early comments above because it also highlights in a different way the same issue. What was said above was “devote enormous amounts of their own time for the community.”

    The problem is that it actually means “Jewish Community” as though Jews have no belonging to the wider community which really is how many of them seem to behave. Just for an example, how many Jewish Organisations have gone out into the country and helped the bush fire victims ? In comparison thousands of other organisations including 4WD clubs and others have gone out and rebuilt fence lines, donated time and money etc. How much involvement in general do Jews have with other general community service organisations ? It has been interesting as a member of one of the major community organisations that I have seen Muslims participating ….. but I am yet to see Jews. Perhaps they are members of all the community service groups in the area and the insulated groups driving around in tinted windowed vans not being part of the rest of the community are really a minority …. but I see them every morning on my way to school in Caulfield. My wife and wifes girlfriends [because we are in the larger Caulfield/Elsternwich area] feel exactly the same way about many of them. Rude, unsmiling outsiders in the Australian community.

    Harsh words I know but that is how Jewish people people seem to the rest of the community and the farce of the “can’t push a button at a pedestrian crossing so will ignore the signals” will long be remembered. As much for the crackpot response from Victoria Police as the original action.

    Congratulations on bringing the debate on.


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  12. Daniel Levy says:

    I think you will find, Robert, that TSJ will not agree with you here.

    Your comment smacks of ignorance and a failure to do the most basic of homework. Just one click on google with the search term “Bushfire Appeal Jewish” yields this article as the second result:

    Countless fundraisers, countless man hours put in all to help the relief effort. Millions of dollars raised.

    The comment you have posted typifies my fear for the Jewish community, however. That by not getting out into the wider community, this type of xenophobic opinion will only burgeon with time.

    The comment, “The Jewish Community gets exactly what it deserves” is horrifying. I sense some deep hatred in you to actually wish for a community to fail.

    I agree with you about the traffic light fiasco in Caulfield being excessive, however, was it really necessary on your part to make such a generalised comment on Jews? It might surprise you to know that the vast majority of Australian Jews are in fact secular, and would not have cared about the caulfield trafic lights. Again, it comes down to the failings of your ignorance that you did not know this.

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  13. Adam Hominem says:


    In replying to Jewish Genius, you failed to address the most important point. Instead of bitching and moaning, why don’t you run for public office? It is easy to poke sticks (anonymously) from the sidelines, it is difficult to affect change.

    Put your money where your mouth is!


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  14. Adam Hominem says:

    I forgot to mention that Michael Fagenblat is hardly a “prominent academic” not particularly respected in his field. If you wish to make such claims, you need to back them up with some facts. That would be the ’sensible’ thing to do…

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  15. Michael says:

    sensiblejew said
    June 7, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Michael, your comment deals in shocking misinformation. We strongly suggest you check your sources before putting finger to keyboard. The writer of this blog has never written a word for the AJN.


    Print this pageEmail a friendSubscribe to AJN Discussion Forum

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    Joy of an armchair Aussie Rules fan (October 1, 2007)

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  16. Israel Jacobson says:

    Robert, I find your comments disheartening but not surprising given the actions of the community.

    A close (Jewish) friend of mine worked at a shop in Malvern Central a few years ago. This is the place where many Jewish mothers come to socialise during the week. She could always tell who they were as they were the parents of the kids she had gone to school with (she had attended a Jewish School a few years earlier). However she does not look Jewish, and she does not socialise in completely Jewish circles. The result was that these mothers were absolutely horrible to her, wouldn’t converse with her directly, and acted in an incredibly snobby manner. However if she was to alert them that she had attended a Jewish school, the attitudes would change immediately. Over time she didn’t want to bother any more, as she found it fascinating to see how horrible members of the community would be to her on the simple premise that she was supposedly not Jewish.

    More recently a (non-Jewish) friend of hers got a job offer to work in retail in the same area. However this person refused the job before speaking to my friend as she had heard how terrible it was to deal with “the Jewish community”. Instead she would keep job searching. When my friend was told this she said to be careful what she goes around saying, as not everyone is like this despite how it may appear. Yet from my friends perspective such views were very unfortunate yet perfectly understandable.

    Robert, I understand why you may have come to have these feelings. But please be careful not to stereotype. I think as SJ and Daniel are pointing out, there are ordinary people within the community and it’s a real shame that such a poor image has come about from some (I hope it’s the more visible minority).

    I also agree with Daniel Levy’s comments. a post on the insular community would be appreciated.

    Thanks and keep up the good work SJ.

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  17. MelbaAbroard says:

    Reading your blog and the resulting comments from London – I can only say: “more power to your arm”. The institutions and dynamics of the community in Melbourne have been shifting for some time…so, it follows that new outlets/blogs will also emerge. Hooray!

    Growing-up in La Melba, some of us found certain aspects of Jewish Melbourne that we loved (vibrant/warm/committed/generous, etc.) and the bits we found maddening and often suffocating (broigus on an often intergalactic level/introspective/sometimes paranoid)… Some of our “big machas”, who have dominated organisations for decades, have done some tremendous work for the community…perhaps it is time for term limits for JCCV office holders? The question is whether others would willingly take their places in the many meetings, committees, etc…??

    I can understand that you may be a little p-ssed at Colin Rubenstein’s comments. No-one would call Colin a softie, but he has done some tremendous work behind the scenes to expose and oppose some fairly nasty operators (from far-right/Irving, to rabid anti-Israel groups). Make nice – a two way exchange may prove fruitful.

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  18. Adam Hominem says:

    Perhaps you are not really interested in free speech but he google search that I performed (at your recommendation) clearly identified Fagenblat as a Doctor of Philosophy with a focus on issues unrelated to the play hosted by the Australian Friends of Palestine. Thus, your claims regarding him are disingenuous at best.

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  19. Master Debater says:

    Congratulations on the initiative but the real test will be what you do with it. Please don’t turn into simply another website that points out everything that it wrong with the world (and the Australian Jewish Community). Try and make a difference. It is easy to destroy but difficult to build.

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  20. Ghost of Tom Joad says:

    In so many ways, well done SJ. Even thought the name is as puffed up and patronising as it gets, that doesn’t lose you points in the blogosphere. As to all the twits demanding you out yourself/ves, obviously a blog doesn’t carry the weight of a public campaign for community office, IT’S JUST A BLOG. Take it (or leave it) for what it is, and isn’t.

    I have a couple of problems with the blog. The first is that it’s a blog predominantly about the Melbourne community, that only discusses Israel-Palestine issues in relation to our community, and yet seems to cast anyone who isn’t Zionist, who prefers to focus their energies on this rather than that community, as a ‘lunatic’. TSJ isn’t the first and won’t be the last ‘third way’ in Jewish life.

    The second issue relates to the blog’s white liberal tone. I’m thinking in terms of Steve Biko’s criticism of white liberals in South Africa here. Sure, my seders have also been dominated by arguments bouncing from “Beth Din to Antony Loewenstein” since well before 2009, but if all the blog succeeds in doing is making my seders (or the blogosphere) more sensible, then that’s nice, but that’s about all it is. Like the South Africans who claim to have been opposed to apartheid forever, but “that [now largely black] neighbourhood used to be a nice place, now look at it.”

    Sense and sensibility might be a start, but I’d prefer social justice as an end.

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  21. Cunning Linguist says:

    I refer to Jewish Genius’ earlier post. If indeed Melanie Landau is associated with this website, then your comments regarding Fagenblat are misleading and dishonest. You have no qualms in attacking (personally) Community leaders so it is only fair that you open yourselves up to the same srutiny….oops, that might be too democratic.

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  22. Michael says:

    defamatory post deleted. Any further such posts falsely naming contributers to this blog will be summarily deleted.

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  23. Ghost of Tom Joad says:

    “google search that I performed (at your recommendation) clearly identified Fagenblat as a Doctor of Philosophy with a focus on issues unrelated to the play hosted by the Australian Friends of Palestine”

    hahaha…think Dershowitz and others…only a few of the celebrity academics beloved by our community and its newspaper have a qualification that covers all their commentary. No, that’s right, none of our prominent community figures, now or in the past, have ever made comments outside their specific area of academic training.

    And if Melanie Landau is involved in the site, so what? Olmert’s wife didn’t exactly agree with his politics, did she? In 2009, women are allowed to hold opinions seperate from their partners. They’re even allowed to comment on the work generated by their partner. Exactly what level of seperation must a commentator have from the subject of their commentary to have satisfied your criteria of not being dishonest before they fall into your box of not being appropriately qualified in the area?

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  24. Anonymous says:

    I just went to see the movie ‘Defiance’ and then came by chance, to read The Age article. Two jews, three arguments? At least. People with entrenched positions will defend themselves by dividing those who dare to question them [or launching diversionary 'trivia. Said questions are often being asked by those seeking information, not [negative] opinionated responses. Responses suggest that said people are ignorant and should not bother to participate, unless there is agreement with the regime. One alternatively employed tactic is to petition [or is that partition?] people to stay away what can a shikse Deputy PM know, anyway.

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  25. Great. Colin Rubenstein has made himself ineffective as a commentatory because of his “repugnant persona to the media” (in your balanced opinion – don’t you keep to your own standards regarding inflammatory statements?). Loewenstein and Saikal are equally tainted by their affiliations and previous statements. Anything I read about the Middle East in The Age comes from the left; anything I read in The Australian comes from the right. Most everything in the media (both news and opinion), and certainly the blogosphere is prejudged by the reader based upon its source.

    Because your criticism of our right-leaning leadership comes from a self-described balanced & centre view, do you think it has more credibility than anything else?

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  26. Robert, your comments about the use of a pedestrian crossing button on Shabbat reek of bias. Are you an expert in the interpretation of Torah law?

    I won’t tell you not to press the button on Shabbat, and equally, you have no right to tell me that I can. Orthodox Jewish law does indeed prohibit this, so out of respect for those Jews within our community who abide by those laws (and in Caulfield, their numbers are significant), it is a very reasonable claim to have an automated system implemented, rather than a case of “weaseling out” of community standards. I like to think one of the standards in our community is tolerance and respect for all.

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    • sensiblejew says:

      Adam Hominem, free speech and defamation are not the same things. Free speech and the promotion of false information are not the same things. You have done nothing to demonstrate that Dr Fagenblat is not a highly respected academic. We are uninterested in continuing this line of argument and will delete further discussion on it.

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  27. Michael Barnett says:

    I would like to respond to the statement/question “… the homosexual support group, Aleph, established in 1995 was still being refused membership in the JCCV in 2008. While there is a link to Aleph on the JCCV site now, we are not able to ascertain whether the group has been formally accepted by the roof body.”

    The only application by Aleph Melbourne for membership of the JCCV was in 1999. There have been no further applications submitted by Aleph Melbourne since the vote against our membership in May 1999.

    Immediate Past President of the JCCV Anton Block claimed in a Letter to the Editor in the Australian Jewish News that the JCCV would welcome an application from Aleph Melbourne and that such an application would be handled by a democratic process via the JCCV Constitution. In principle this sounds good but it makes little sense to reapply for membership whilst the organisation’s voting membership is “stacked” in favour of organisations who have yet to show their willingness to accept that gay and lesbian Jewish groups are acceptible within the Jewish community and welcome as a member of the JCCV.

    Michael Barnett
    Aleph Melbourne co-ordinator
    0417 595 541

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  28. TheSadducee says:

    Keep up the good work SJ! :)

    Has anyone noticed the irony that you (SJ) found it difficult to source community leadership views on anti-Indian violence/racism yet the Age didn’t seem to have any problem at all sourcing their opinion on your site!

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    • sensiblejew says:

      Melanie Landau and other Monash academics are NOT involved in this site. Although Michael Fagenblat submitted his address at the 8 minute play, he has had no further involvement with us. Any future speculation and false allegations about the identities of SJ bloggers will be summarily deleted.

      Also, Cunning Linguist/Master Debater, your screen names happen to be coming from the same IP address. We advise that these screen names are offensive and urge you to choose something more appropriate. Failure to do so will result in deletion.

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  29. Robert says:


    the fact that the Koran makes many statements about killing others gives it no more credibility than a Jewish Scripture nor any greater excuse for terrorism than the Torah does for other criminal acts [albiet in this case relatively minor].

    If the Jewish community in the local area want automated crossings and can persuade either themselves or the entire community to pay for them thats fine regardless of the reason however to hide behind religion in order to avoid the laws used to regulate the entire population was the sort of action which engenders exactly the sort of reaction that Jews then wonder and wail about. Just for a minute, think about what would have happened had one of the Jews concerned been hit by a car. Oh I get it, it would have been the non Jews fault for not providing the proper respect and understanding for the Jewish faith.

    I would even go further and say that in our country, Australia, no religion should be able to claim to be above the law on anything …. and this includes the Catholic Church shielding confessions from proper reporting, the Catholic church having shielding Pedophile priests and so on. Those in power within the Catholic church who did so should also have been charged as Assessories to the original crimes.

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  30. Jewish law states that one may not press the crossing button on Shabbat. It also states that one must observe and respect the laws of the country. In this case, the clash can be accomodated by automating crossings. There are plenty of situations where local councils have spent public money to accomodate a minority.

    Your examples of Koran-sanctioned killing or organized religion shielding sexual abuse (and yes, unfortunately, there have been cases of this in the Jewish community as well) are a bit over the top compared to this case.

    What this really comes down to is your *generalized* claim that Jews “hide behind religion … to avoid the law”, and while this does happen (and when it does, it causes a Chilul Hashem), you provide little evidence that this is systemic behaviour.

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  31. Ghost of Tom Joad says:

    OK, so I missed your irony. Sorry. Pretty subtle…

    “we do not consider “sensible” certain attitudes and positions. Anti-Zionism is one of those.”

    Jewish communities here, now and there, then, have included those who aren’t Zionists. Which Zionism are you talking about anyway? Because Zionism does have a manifesto that makes it an “ideological package” that you are clearly identifying with. It’s called the Jerusalem Program and it’s updated regularly. I have a problem with much of the Jerusalem program. That means I’m NOT a Zionist. Am I immensely proud of my Jewish heritage and do I do my hardest to actually live a Jewish life here and now in this community. Absoloutely. But I’m not a Zionist.

    “what exactly is our relationship to White South Africa?”

    And I’m the one that can’t understand the subtleties? There is plenty that you have in common with many white apartheid-era South Africans criticised as ‘liberals’ by the black consciousness movement. Is it because you are white? No. Is it because you don’t live with blacks? Is it because your “sensibility” is essentially conservative? Yes.

    That said, I’m glad the blog is here.

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  32. Daniel Levy says:

    I cannot speak on behalf of TSJ, but for me, Anti-Zionism means having a problem with *an* Israel in ANY incarnation existing.

    Anti-Zionism would have been a valid philosophy 62 years ago before the creation of the state. Now that Israel is a well-established nation state, “Anti-Zionism” is just horrendously stupid.

    You cannot undo history. Israel has already been established. What you can do, however, is create the nation state of Palestine within Israel’s borders, which is the two-state solution, and certainly the only viable one.

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  33. Ghost of Tom Joad says:

    Convenient definition Daniel!

    Remember though that a great many individuals who weren’t Zionists played a huge role after the war and after 1948, in establishing community institutions such as Jewish Welfare (now Jewish Care) and others. Few of those still with us have changed their stripes either.

    For those of you who knew him, I imagine Bono Wiener is in danger of resurrecting himself to make this point. And he won’t be the only one.

    I didn’t discuss anti-Zionism, I just said I wasn’t a Zionist. Does that make me a supporter of genocide, as your motherhood statement definition of Zionism suggests? Over the dead bodies of many members of my family and those who lived and many who died for a vision of Jewish life based on something far richer than territorialism. Zionism is an ideology. Not all Zionists (evidently) agree with each other. You don’t identify with our community leadership and I’m betting you don’t count evangelic US Christian Zionists as your friends either. “Anti-zionists” (I’ll use your phrase) have a similarly diverse range of positions.

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  34. Hammer Head says:

    Deleted for grossly inaccurate and defamatory content.

    Hammer head, any further breaches will see you deleted without explanation.

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  35. Daniel Levy says:

    Ghost of Tom Joad, I apologise for poor wording.

    Firstly, I never called you an anti-zionist. I apologise if this was unclear. I was addressing your point in the context of the quote that you raised, where you were unsure about TSJ’s use of anti-Zionism.

    Now, it is certaintly reasonable to have a problem with Israel coming about the way it did. I know it’s not the most pleasant thing in my mind knowing that a large portion of the Israel of today was forged during bloody wars.

    What I had intended to argue, was that to be anti-Zionist today implies that you disagree with the right of Israel to exist, currently. This viewpoint would have been perfectly valid 62 years ago, before Israel gained UN recognition as a nation state! But it is now a well-established nation with 6 million citizens. Attempting to argue rationally for its dismantling is a ridiculous notion. What I think you are (from your writings), is anti-Israel-remaining-in-its-current-form, a viewpoint to which I subscribe.

    My ideal Israel involves pre-1967 borders for Israel, Palestine and surrounding neighbours, a shared Jerusalem, and peaceful relations from all parties. To me, this represents the most equitable, rational solution to the problem.

    Your ideal Israel may involve a different scenario, and you’re welcome to it. I’m not claiming to have all the answers and my argument may be flawed. However, this is an argument for a different time and place. This blog is for matters pertaining to current affairs confronting Australian Jewry. If you would like, I will supply you with an e-mail with which we may converse further on this topic.

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  36. Daniel Levy says:

    edited by moderator: Daniel Levy,we’re so sorry to delete your post. We agree with your setiments entirely, however, by answering the troll, you are feeding him, and perpetuating the defamation. Again, apologies.

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  37. Robert says:

    Evening Sensiblejew …. and David

    I dont apologise for the tenor. It should be confronting but not confrontational for the sake of being confrontational because if it is not then we can all wander around patting each other on the back and wondering why Indians in Melbourne are currently being mistreated …. until it is you or I. And despite my reservations about many aspects of Jewish behaviour I will be the first one to stand up and defend anyone from physical attack.

    Let me really set the cat amoung the pidgeons.

    There are many similarities between the Jewish Faith and Muslims but an interesting one is that related to “Tribalism” and “Faith”. Does anyone serious suggest that praying 5 times a day and holding prayer excluding Women [in the case of Muslims] and being forced, yes I have lived many years in a Muslim Country, to attend Friday prayer has anything at all to do with faith ? Of course they do but like Jewish Rituals they are much more concerned with judgements of others, excluding the non believers and religious control than any love of God. They, like the Buttons, are nothing more than Witchcraft dressed up as faith. If anyone seriously suggests that if there is a just God and that pressing or not pressing a button of a form not contemplated when the Torah was written [I believe the are 24 sections ?]has anything to do with beliving in or loving God will then they hold a view of faith that simply beggers belief. We all like to belong to a “Tribe” but our behaviours as a group will affect how others perceive us. So far, frankly over centuries, Jews havn’t done to well just as they are not doing well in managing relationships either in Australia nor around Israel.

    Now in my first comments, I didnt tell you that my wifes best friend happens to be a Jewish woman. Her views [my wifes friend] are appallingly disparaging about the many “rituals” imposed allegidly in the name of religion on members of your faith. What hope when even within your organisation there is a recognition of the corruption of religion in the name of control and dogma. Roll on the debate though because from the current situation there can be improvement.



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  38. Daniel Levy says:

    Robert, your ignorance is astounding.

    I grew up in a Jewish family and went to a Jewish school my whole life. In my 14 years of experience of involvement in the Jewish community, I have never once been forced to believe anything to which I did not ascribe. When I was taken to shule as a youngster, if I did not want to stay in shule, I could go outside and play. Any rituals (like my bar-mitzvah) that I peformed was not an imposition, but a cultural experience that gives me fond memories to this day.

    In this Jewish environment, I was not only encouraged, but welcomed to pursue my current views of agnosticism. When we had religious classes, where other communities might have chastised for opposing beliefs, our teachers fuelled the debate, entertaining all sides. It is a remarkable testimony to the strength of reason within the Jewish community that I have formed these opinions with the blessing of those who believe otherwise. In that same classroom, others went the way of orthodoxy. It all depended on what they took from the experience. But they were never forced to believe anything they did not want to. Utmost respect for other people’s beliefs was all that was expected from us. A characteristic in which it appears you are sorely lacking.

    You have never been a part of the community, so you cannot talk with any great authority about what is or is not imposed on our youth. Now, I did go through the Bialik section of the Jewish community which is markedly more secular.

    You have already been proven wrong quite resoundingly on your other accusations of the Jewish community. I notice you could not even fathom the words with which to reply to my previous rebuke of your comments. I’m sure that you will now be compelled to defend yourself, but hear this: bigotry is not something to be tolerated. It is something to be expunged.

    Who are you to judge whether pressing a button is against somebody’s religious beliefs or not? They are entitled to it. It is perfectly reasonable for you to be angry at the taxpayer having to pay for the automated system. And I agree with you there, I think the automated system should have been funded by the Jewish community.

    But you have gone one step further into questioning somebody’s beliefs. You have absolutely no right to do so.

    It is truly a shame, because you had nailed the reasonable argument on the head. There was a point in that situation where religious beliefs transcended the personal zone and entered someone else’s, namely their jaywalking and subsequent use of the taxpayer dollar to fund their automated system.

    However,your argument collapses entirely when you rest the crux of your argument on the validity of their beliefs (a judgment to be made by themselves, and not you) and not how those beliefs have affected others negatively. You must delinate these two things, and prusue the latter to have a reasonable argument. That argument is one that I would certainly agree with.

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  39. Daniel Levy says:

    Oh, I had meant to finish off this: “You have never been a part of the community, so you cannot talk with any great authority about what is or is not imposed on our youth. Now, I did go through the Bialik section of the Jewish community which is markedly more secular.”


    “I cannot speak for the entire community, but the portion of it that I have seen, which almost makes up the majority (Bialik and Mount Scopus) has been welcoming of all creeds which respect others. However, you have attempted to speak for the whole community, and about this, you are certainly wrong.”

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  40. Daniel Levy says:

    SJ, just wanted to say that I hope you’re not taking my non-replies to your compliments as rudeness. I just don’t want to clutter your comment space with useless “Thanks!”s. I think I might tack it on to replies to other people in future.

    It’s great to find people with similar worldviews. Keep up the good work, I will be following this blog actively!

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  41. Robert says:

    Somewhere I seemed to have missed something. I havnt commented [as far as I can see] on what is or is not imposed on your youth. Certainly SensibleJew you can admonish me, even ban me for stating things that in [perhaps one case ... and I need to dig deeper on this issue as someone who was out there afterwards and rostered on during the crisis were incorrect], are certainly confrontational but nevertheless need to be added to the debate.

    And no, the issue with the Traffic Signals is no different than me telling the Police that I believe in Ley Lines or as a member of the Atherius Society that laws do not apply to me … but only others. If it was an issue for those concerned they could have addressed it previously ….. but to claim special privilage in the name of the Jewish religion brings all Jews into contempt by the wider community. Sorry you dont like the concept but it is a fact ….. just as is the lenient treatment of the Police Officer who was involved in the Bus Incident in Caulfield who brings Victoria Police into disrepute.

    Tell me why after centuries of problems, mass movements to new counties [Australia and others], creation of a Jewish State ….. tell me how the image of Jews is so positive ? Even Neutral ?

    As for respect of religion. Respecting someones right to have a faith does not mean that in a debate like this the mechanics of how it is controlled by men for men should be off limits. Abd I didnt note any dissagreement with how the control is exercised by ummmm Imam
    s over the Muslim Populace.

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    • sensiblejew says:

      Have we ever claimed greater credibility David? Or is this comment the construction of a straw man?

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  42. Daniel Levy says:

    Robert, your mind appears to be shut to notions of tolerance and acceptance.

    You are willing to accept only what you know, and what appears right to you. It is useless to debate you, because your mind will never change. You have come here not for debate, but to re-affirm your racist pigeon-holing of the Jewish community and it appears other religions as well, such as Islam.

    Further discussion would only incur the brick-wall effect, so I will terminate my discourse with you here. You might have better luck getting SJ to devote her time to arguing with your ignorance, but I am only interested in debating with those who are open to entertaining differing opinions. You are clearly not.

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  43. Robert,

    My taxes go to fund schools just for Christians, just for Muslims, and just for Jews. My taxes pay for the needs of specific cultures all over the country. Does that mean these groups are claiming special priviledges in the name of their religion or culture?

    It sounds to me that in your view, if only the Jews would blend in more, and not kick up a fuss in the name of their quaint religion (or walk around in those funny hats and coats), they would not attract the ire of wider society. We tried that in Germany; did that help?

    Perhaps if all those gays wouldn’t march up and down the street every year in their silly outfits, their might be less gay-bashing and discrimination?

    You clearly have no faith, and no respect for faith, so your comments on what is or isn’t a valid representation of faith have little credibility. Just because you don’t understand the link between pressing a switch on Shabbat and the connection between a Jewish person and God doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It can be explained to anyone who has an open mind and is willing to listen (just not in the space of a single blog post).

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  44. Robert says:


    sorry I have been busy today so only getting back to it now.

    So David, just to pick up on the Gays marching up and down. Do explain how dancing around dressed as Nuns in Leather assists their cause and indicates tolerance , acceptance and love of Catholics? How about they do that in Black Suits with Skull caps and beards? In short not an issue of much relevence to this discussion.

    As for Ire, denigration of opposing points of view and hiding behind religious dogma, some of the greatest minds in history were indeed pilloried for exactly the same. Ummmmmm, let me think for a minute, How about Galileo for example who fell victim to the Inquisition ? Are you seriously suggesting that the edicts, customs, beliefs [other than believing in a God], rules and so on of the Jewish faith are likely to be any more robust than those of the people who persecuted that man for his contrary views ? I am not arguing that you have the right to have a different view merely that assuming it is right, assuming that your religious leaders are right and assuming everyone else is wrong is probably not a good idea. Claiming religious immunity in Australia though is wrong and contributes to the poor image which is what this blog was about.

    As for Germany. Well that was a tragedy and might have suggested that a change might be a good idea and in large part I think that there probably was a change …. but the behaviours just might be reverting. Equally a tragedy was a Palistian Pregnant Woman bayoneted by Israelis as well as other atrocities during the 1967 war and the ongoing land grab in the name of the Jewish State. Pretending that Jews are eternally missunderstood and only victims doesnt stand up now does it?

    An open mind might consider that the current [and in general historical] state of relations more due to your community and its image than to mine [meaning the everyone else] and perhaps some people in the Australian Jewish Community are starting to wake up to this as an issue. I would like to see things improve and I think that they will.



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  45. sensiblejew says:

    Thank you, Kevin!

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  46. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Sam, and welcome.

    One Jew, one vote? See Canberra.

    That details will be tricky to work out is about the poorest reason we can think of to avoid doing the right thing.

    Better Jewish communal representation, see North America. Devoting “enormous amounts of their own time” does not mean that our leaders are doing a good job. The mainstream media and academia are arenas in which our failures are clear. You are welcome to read our numerous posts on the issue.

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  47. sensiblejew says:

    Jewish Genius, you’re right: the JCCV website states that it comprises 56 organisations. We were using the number referred to in The Age.

    As for Aleph, we never claimed that they had gained admission. Indeed, we were asking our readers for more information on the issue. So again, thank you for this information. That Aleph decided not to back for more punishment from a roof-body that had rejected it previously is understandable.

    Please do not address me as, “Yvonne.” I am not Yvonne. She is our public face, spokeswoman, and consultant. She does not blog, nor does she respond to comments.

    Your statement that we have given to Michael Fagenblat overly favourable treatment is ridiculous. He is a prominent academic, highly respected in his field. Besides that, he wrote to us before he was made aware of our identities. I, not Yvonne, lauded his article, and he and I do not know each other socially.

    We have no problem with the assertion that our leaders work hard. But we do not believe that hard work is synonymous with productive and successful work. The wonderful results they supposedly achieve are grossly overshaddowed by their lack of transparency or mandate, and their utterly counterproductive PR.

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  48. sensiblejew says:

    Notinmyname, you are coming perilously close to having your comments deleted for trolling.

    For the record, no. This blog has nothing to do with Shira Hadasha.

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  49. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Gillian, and welcome. We’re glad you found us! And we feel for your son: arguing with Antony can be somewhat enervating. We look forward to reading your thoughts here.

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  50. sensiblejew says:

    We have answered this question numerous times, and will delete all future variations on this comment.

    In short: we do not comment on Israel/Palestine beyond their direct relationship with Astralian Jewry.

    For all those for whom this is unacceptable, we suggest you read the tens of thousands of blogs that already deal with this issue.

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  51. sensiblejew says:

    Michael, your comment deals in shocking misinformation. We strongly suggest you check your sources before putting finger to keyboard. The writer of this blog has never written a word for the AJN.

    And of course we spoke to Tom Hyland. That how journalists write their stories.

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  52. sensiblejew says:

    Daneil Levy, hi and welcome! Thank you for your thoughts on the challenges facing our community. We share many of your concerns. Most of all, we believe that the security and health of our community is dependent on not shutting out the rest of the world.

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  53. sensiblejew says:

    Robert, your comment does not exude good-faith. We ask that any future contribution from you keep in mind that our community – like every community – comprises human beings. When you paint in such broad brush-strokes about us all, we are unlikely to want to engage you.

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  54. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Daniel. Thanks for your reply to Robert. It’s really well articulated.

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  55. sensiblejew says:

    Yvonne Fein is not the writer of this blog. She is the public face and consultant.

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  56. sensiblejew says:

    Adam Hominem (an appropriate name), you may not like Dr Fagenblat’s politics, but his position is not open to question. Do a very brief google search if you need more evidence. Any more comments on Michael Fagenblat on this issue will be considered flaming and trolling and will be deleted.

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  57. sensiblejew says:

    AH, we have most certainly dealt with this issue and recommend you read the posts of the blog in order to answer your question.

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  58. sensiblejew says:

    Notinmyname, the blog accrued thousands of views and hundreds of comments in the few weeks since its birth. But OK. The truth is, the Sensible Jew is part of a great conspiracy with The Age, the Zionists, the Palestinians, and Scientologists.

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  59. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Israel, and thanks for your post. We’ll have a think about writing a post dealing with exclusivism. It’s a tough issue because there isn’t the hard data to support assertions – only gut feeling and anecdotal evidence. Even so, your concerns are shared by others and it would definitely make for an interesting discussion.

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  60. sensiblejew says:

    Hello Ghost of Tom Joad. Our name is ironic. Everyone assumes his/her ideas are sensible. That’s the fuel for the ideological stoushes that take place in our community.

    We don’t really understand your second point. We are not a third, fourth, oir fifth “way” because we do not and never will promulgate an ideological package. We have declared from the outset, however, that we do not consider “sensible” certain attitudes and positions. Anti-Zionism is one of those.

    Your third issue is even more perplexing: what exactly is our relationship to White South Africa? We may have pale skin. We may not live in neighbourhoods populated by Blacks, but beyond that, your analogy makes little sense.

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  61. sensiblejew says:

    Master Debater, regarding your screen name, please see comments directed towards Cunning Linguist.

    Thank you for your good wishes. We have written before that good criticism is not necessarily easy, that it is a necessary part of the functioning of any healthy community/society, and that our role is not to lead, but to comment. One doesn’t write to political journalists demanding that they stand for elected office. The two functions are separate, if mutually dependent.

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  62. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Melba Abroad, and welcome. Thank you for your kind words. We’re glad you found us. We agree with much in your second paragraph.

    Regarding Dr Rubenstein, however, we may have to agree to disagree. WHile Dr Rubenstein and AIJAC have certainly done some valuable work – the most important, in our opinion, being the exposure of Amin Saikal at ANU for the apologist for abhorrent regimes that he is – unfortunately, that work cannot find its rightful audience because Dr Rubenstein has constructed a persona that is utterly repugnant to the mainstream media and academia. Actually, we find it infuriating that he and AIJAC have let their organisation come to this: issues like Saikal are crucial to the health of Australian academia, but AIJAC’s arguments will never be heard in the places which need to hear them most. For a public affairs outfit, this is truly a dereliction of duty.

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  63. sensiblejew says:

    Michael Barnett, thank you very much for clarifying this very important issue. No one seemed to have a clear idea what the story was with Aleph. When we next write about our institutions/leadership, we will quote what you have written.

    Once more, thanks!

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  64. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Sadducee. You’ve been missed during all the tumult. Good to see you back. And yes, it’s very cute that our leaders are so voluble about a blog, but so very quiet about violence against a minority group.

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  65. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Robert.
    If we may suggest, your tone is not conducive to measured discourse. That’s a real shame, because you clearly have some very interesting and important things to say. We’re going to touch on some of your arguments in a post in the near future.

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  66. sensiblejew says:

    David Werdiger, regarding your comment on hiding behind religion (in response to Robert): this is an example of the sort of debate we wish to see here. Your arguments are reasoned and considered. We hope to hear more from you in this vein.

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  67. sensiblejew says:

    Ghost of Tom Joad, we’re glad you’re glad – even if we’re still not entirely sure what your’re on about.

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  68. sensiblejew says:

    Daniel Levy, as a matter of fact, the opinion you express re anti-Zionism is nearly identical to ours. We thank you for your intelligent, well written comments. We hope to hear more from you!

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  69. sensiblejew says:

    Once again, Daniel Levy, kol hakavod. Great comment.

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  70. sensiblejew says:

    Robert, once more: we find what you have to say very interesting and we think you have important ideas to contribute. But we ask you to posit your arguments as respectfully as possible. Respect and intellectual honesty needn’t be mutually exclusive.

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  71. sensiblejew says:

    Daniel Levy, yet another great comment. There’s a new post that asks many questions connected with what you just wrote.

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  72. sensiblejew says:

    No worries, Daniel. Sorry to be so repetitive about your posts. They’re just great to read.

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