JNF DINNER SPEECH
Melbourne, November 19, 2000.
National Fund of Australia
Dinner in honour of Rabbi Chaim Gutnick
On Sunday 19 November 2000, the Premier, Steve Bracks, attended a Jewish National Fund Dinner in honour of the Rabbi Chaim Gutnick and to launch its Drop of Life Water Campaign.
The Water Campaign will raise funds to assist with water recycling and reclamation projects in drier parts of Israel.
As Guest of Honour at the dinner, the Premier recognised the ongoing contribution of Rabbi Gutnick, a former President of the JNF and applauded his work for the community spaning for more than 50 years.
Text of remarks
Dear Rabbi Hayim Gutnick and Rebbetsin Kenny Gutnick,
· Mr Michael Naphtali, President, Jewish National Fund
· Mr David Mandel, President of the Victorian Division of the Jewish National Fund
· Mr Joe Krycer, State Executive Director, Jewish National Fund
· Mr Joseph and Mrs Stera Gutnick
· Sir Zelman Cowan and Lady Cowan
· His Excellency, Mr Gabby Levy, Ambassador for Israel
· Col. Gissin
· Mr Michael Danby MHR, Member for Melbourne Ports
· Mrs Helen Shardey MP, Member for Caulfield
· Religious and community representatives
· Business representatives
· Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very pleased to be here tonight to honour Rabbi Hayim Gutnick.
I am also pleased to be here for the launch of “The Drop of Life” water campaign in Israel.
Rabbi Hayim Gutnick
I would like to begin with a few words about the contribution of Rabbi Hayim Gutnick to Victoria, and indeed Australia.
The story behind Rabbi Gutnick’s migration to Australia symbolises some of the challenges many migrants face upon arrival in a strange and new country.
When he arrived in Australia in 1940, Hayim Gutnick faced the misunderstandings, and often the prejudices, of not only the local mainstream community but also the established Jewish community.
I’m told that Rabbi Gutnick’s immediate response to such a hostile reception was to seek sanctuary in the United States.
Thankfully, he didn’t get there - and on the advice of his spiritual leader in the US, he decided to stay here in Australia and face the challenges.
He stayed and took on the task of reigniting faith in the local Jewish people and of uniting what appeared to be a somewhat divided community.
The Rabbi proved to be particularly successful in this task.
Hayim Gutnick has spoken of how he never really felt like an “outsider”, despite some of the initial challenges he faced upon arrival to Australia.
His experience in the Australian Army served to further strengthen his feeling of being “Australian”.
As a child, Hayim was sent to the Jewish Free School in London where he acquired a life-long love for the game of cricket.
I read recently how Hayim felt that an understanding of the local sporting culture helped him build bridges with people with whom he had little else in common.
As you know, the Gutnick contribution to sport continues - with Rabbi Joseph Gutnick being President of the Melbourne Football Club since 1996.
To Hayim, there was no paradox between being a devout, religious Jewish person and taking part in Australian life.
He felt comfortable in most circles and was able to build bridges of understanding where there had been none or very few.
He not only reached out to the longer established Jewish communities, he also strived to get in touch with non-Jewish Australians.
On reflection, Rabbi Gutnick appears to personify the very notion of multiculturalism we celebrate today.
Multiculturalism is about recognising the value of difference, understanding its dynamics and celebrating it as a defining characteristic of our nation and our lives.
Rabbi Gutnick stands for all that - and for much more.
He has also made an extraordinary contribution to education.
Throughout his life in Australia, he taught Jewish students privately, as well as in schools.
His work with the Freemasons also brought him closer to non-Jewish Australians.
Gutnick family stand against racial prejudice
Rabbi Gutnick is of the school of thought which supports action rather than simply contemplation on important matters in life.
His has imparted that approach and his sense of social and moral justice to his children.
In particular, I would like to mention the strong stand Hayim Gutnick’s son, Joseph Gutnick, made against One Nation in 1998 and his strong support for Aboriginal land rights.
His strength in this area is testimony not only to the Gutnick family’s commitment to racial tolerance, but also to the work of the wider Victorian Jewish community in opposing racism.
The Victorian Government shares that opposition to racism and intolerance.
The Government is currently developing legislation which will make acts of racial and religious vilification unlawful.
The new legislation will reinforce the right of all Victorians to live without fear of vilification in their public and private lives.
We have also established an Aboriginal Advisory Council and a Cabinet Committee on Aboriginal Affairs which will coordinate a whole-of-government approach to Indigenous issues and needs in Victoria.
The Government looks forward to continuing this important work in partnership with the Jewish community and through community leaders such as Rabbi Gutnick and his family.
“The Drop of Life” - Water Campaign
I would now like to say a few words about “The Drop of Life” water campaign, and the Jewish National Fund.
The Gutnick name is strongly associated with the Jewish National Fund. Rabbi Hayim Gutnick was President of the Fund in the early 1960s and his contribution to the Fund has been a significant one.
So it is fitting that we honour his work today at the launch of “The Drop of Life” water campaign.
This latest initiative of the Jewish National Fund is devoted to water recycling and conservation in Israel.
The shortage of water is widely held as the most crucial environmental problem Israel faces today.
Over the past few decades, Israel’s population has steadily increased resulting in growing pressure on the environment in a number of ways.
The Jewish National Fund has undertaken a number of important projects designed to improve the quality of life in Israel, particularly along the Israel-Lebanon border.
Major tasks being undertaken include building and enhancing recreation sites, developing forests, constructing dams and water reservoirs, and implementing ecologically sound projects.
Specifically, the water campaign will recycle waste water for agricultural and horticultural purposes on an environmentally-sound basis.
Jewish National Fund
This project is the direct result of the vision and extraordinary commitment of the Jewish National Fund which was established nearly 100 years ago and today stands as one of the world’s oldest environmental organisations.
The Fund is also committed to sharing its knowledge with other like minded organisations and institutions. It currently has information sharing arrangements in place with five universities in the United States, the Turkish Government, Provinces in China and the New South Wales Government’s Department of Land and Water Conservation.
On the 11 August 1998, a Memorandum of Understanding was also entered into between the Fund and the Victorian Government’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
Since the agreement was signed, a number of important information exchanges on environmental issues have taken place and more are planned for the future.
Victorian Government’s commitment to water recycling and conservation
For a number of years now Victorians have also come to understand the importance of using water wisely.
Victorians share this awareness of the precious nature of water with their friends in Israel.
Water restrictions are something almost every Victorian would have experienced at some point in their lives.
That is why the Memorandum of Understanding which exists between the Jewish National Fund and the Victorian Government is so important.
The agreement will ensure that we learn from one another about the best ways to achieve sustainable use of our limited resources.
The Victorian Government has established partnerships with the local Jewish community on many important issues.
We have worked together on promoting our State’s cultural diversity as well as various initiatives designed to eradicate racism and prejudice.
Victoria is fortunate to be home to such a vibrant community and to people like Rabbi Hayim Gutnick who have been at the forefront of much of this work.
I am honoured to have been invited to join you tonight and to reflect on some of our collaborative efforts as well as those of Rabbi Gutnick, which have served to inspire many Victorians over the years.
I thank Rabbi Gutnick for his contribution to Victoria and I congratulate the Jewish National Fund for its continuing leadership in the area of environmental conservation.