J-Wire noted that former B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand (BBANZ) President James Altman was elected as a senior vice president of B’nai B’rith International last month, ahead of our annual Leadership Forum.
Sydney’s James Altman has been elected senior vice president of B’nai B’rith International by the organization’s International Board of Governors during its triennial meeting in Washington.
In this leadership position, Altman takes an active role in implementing B’nai B’rith’s policies and programs during a three-year term.
James Altman served as president of B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand (BBANZ) from 2002-2006 and 2010-2013. He is also past chairman of B’nai B’rith Courage to Care—a community education program for students and adults aimed at teaching how to be an upstander rather than a bystander in the face of discrimination and prejudice, especially in relation to anti-Semitism. Having been involved with the program since its inception in 1999, he became chairman of Courage to Care in 2019 and was honoured with the B’nai B’rith International President’s Award for his work with the program.
Altman is also chairman of the B’nai B’rith Foundation in Australia, which aids victims of natural disasters around the world.
Through his involvement in BBANZ, Altman was instrumental in securing amendments to the Resolution on the Rights of the Child from the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. He has also volunteered with the Refugee Council of Australia, the Australian Refugee Foundation and the Online Hate Prevention Institute.
In 2008, he received the Medal of the Order of Australia from the Australian government for his service to the Jewish community and for fostering intercultural understanding.
Altman is the son of Austrian Jews who escaped to Australia from Vienna in 1938. They were among the founding members of B’nai B’rith Australia, established in 1944.
James Altman told J-Wire: “In my new role as Senior Vice-President in B’nai B’rith International, I’m hoping to expand the awareness of our amazing Courage to Care program, promoting the importance of every person being an upstander when confronted by discrimination and racism. We have had expressions of interest in this unique program from the USA, UK, Israel, and New Zealand, and I’m looking forward 1to being able to build on this.
B’nai B’rith is involved in some world-leading initiatives and advocacy in the areas of human rights and social justice, especially in Canada, but also in other countries. I hope to be able to bring an awareness of these to our members and supporters in Australia, and to raise our profile in the community through innovative programs and events.”
Outside of his work with B’nai B’rith, Altman has a passion for music and has been involved in choirs for most of his life, including in the late 1970s and 1980s when he conducted the choir of the Great Synagogue in Sydney. Altman is married to Elaine and together they have two adult daughters and three grandsons.
The Jerusalem Post quoted B'nai B'rith International President Charles Kaufman's letter to the principal of an Australian school where a Jewish student recently became the target of anti-Semitic bullying.
Two separate antisemitic incidents involving children in Melbourne are shocking the Australian Jewish community, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday.
In one incident, a five-year-old boy was harassed for weeks by other children in his school’s bathrooms. The child, who comes from a family of Holocaust survivors, was attending the Hawthorn West Primary School.
According to the report, he was chased continuously to the bathroom and laughed at for being circumcised, to the point that he started to wet himself in class rather than using the toilet. He was also addressed with expressions such as “Jewish cockroach.”
In an interview with The Australian Jewish News, the mother of the boy said that after behaving strangely for months, one morning he burst out crying over breakfast.
A 12-year-old Jewish student was forced to kneel down and kiss the shoes of a Muslim classmate, while a five-year-old boy was allegedly called a "Jewish cockroach" and repeatedly hounded in the school toilets.
“He literally fell down on the floor,” his mother told The AJN, “and said, ‘Mummy, you shouldn’t love me. I’m a worthless Jewish rodent. I’m vermin."
Although the school acknowledged the bullying, they did not treat it as an antisemitic incident.
“While school staff were not able to substantiate that any negative interactions were antisemitic in nature, on the basis of those investigations, school staff identified an incident that involved children laughing at [the boy],” the North-West Victoria Department of Education director Barbara Crowe told the Sydney Morning Herald. “This was not acceptable and would have been an unpleasant experience for [the boy]. I am sorry that this occurred.”
In a separate incident, a 12-year-old was forced to kiss a Muslim classmate’s feet in a public park under the threat of being beaten by several other boys. The incident was filmed and the images circulated widely online.
The child was attending Cheltenham Secondary College in Victoria. According to the report, no action has been taken by the school against the group of Muslim boys involved, because the incident did not happen on the school’s premises.
However, the parents of the student who presented his feet to be kissed were described as “horrified” by their son’s behavior.
Both boys were withdrawn from their respective schools.
B'nai Brith International President Charles Kaufman wrote a letter to the school principal of Cheltenham Secondary College, expressing his disappointment in the response to the incident. "Somehow you find the hurling of vile anti-Semitic slurs and physical abuse against a 12-year-old Jewish student as mere bullying, an isolated incident," Kaufman wrote. "Somehow you feel powerless to do anything about this shameful act because the incident occurred off campus.
"Are these nine students enrolled in your school?" he asked. "If so, you have an ethical and professional responsibility, if not a legal one, to address this matter with the students and their parents."
He concluded by stating that "B’nai B’rith International condemns this hateful, criminal assault. If you sit and do nothing, you sit in shame."
B'nai Brith International is an organization dedicated, among other things, to advancing human rights and Israel advocacy.
JTA.org quoted Dvir Abramovich, the chairman of B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation Commission, in its coverage of anti-Semitic bullying in Australian schools.
Two reports of anti-Semitic bullying at schools in Australia are receiving widespread media coverage.
A photo that allegedly shows a 12-year-old Jewish student being forced to kneel to kiss the shoes of a Muslim classmate was circulated on social media. The incident occurred at the Cheltenham Secondary College in the town of Cheltenham, a Melbourne suburb, according to The Age, a Melbourne-based newspaper.
The report did not make it clear if the Muslim boy’s religion had anything to do with the incident.
A second incident took place at the Hawthorn West Primary School in Melbourne, where a 5-year-old Jewish student was called a number of anti-Semitic insults, including a “Jewish cockroach,” according to The Age.
Both Jewish boys have left their schools.
Dvir Abramovich, chairman of B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation Commission, said the incidents are part of a broader trend of anti-Semitic bullying.
“There is mounting evidence that families are forced to take their children out of public schools and to enroll them in Jewish day schools due to a growing sense of insecurity and fear that their kids will be harmed simply because of who they are,” Abramovich told The Age.
The mother of the boy in the photo said she was disappointed by the school’s lack of response. She told The Age that the school said it was not responsible for the incident since it did not take place on its campus. But the mother said she talked to the parents of the Muslim student, who disapproved of their son’s actions.
Another boy involved in the incident was later suspended for punching the Jewish boy, The Age reported.
Meanwhile, the boy at Hawthorn West Primary School was repeatedly subjected to anti-Semitic insults and teased because he was circumcised, his mother told The Age. The school sent the parents an apology letter last month, the mother said.
In a joint statement, B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich and B’nai B’rith International executive vice-president Dan Mariaschin said the lack of outcry against the wave of terror was disturbing.
“If a rash of terror broke out in any other democratic nation, most of the international community would be appalled,” they said.
In April 2013, he was named Australia's first (and so far only) honorary citizen, after prolonged advocacy from members of the B'nai B'rith lodge. Advocacy efforts also produced several rounds of limited edition stamp sales, but the one set to be released in October is the first mass-distributed Wallenberg stamp in Australia.
Read more about his life and enduring legacy courtesy of The Australian Jewish News:
The 70c Wallenberg stamp will be available as a first-day cover and card, and will come in various groupings.
It is due to be issued on October 5. Israel, Argentina, Canada, Hungary, Sweden and the United States have already issued Wallenberg stamps.
A MASS-circulation Australian postage stamp honouring Raoul Wallenberg...is set to be issued next month, after a long personal campaign by Judi Schiff of Melbourne.
In 2010, Wallenberg appeared on a limited-edition stamp sheet issued in conjunction with Melbourne philately company Max Stern & Co, marking the 25th anniversary of B’nai B’rith’s Raoul Wallenberg Unit.
But Schiff campaigned for Wallenberg to be recognised on a standard Australian stamp, using online petitions platform Change.org, where she gathered more than 520 signatures. Her involvement with the B’nai B’rith Raoul Wallenberg Unit inspired her tireless drive for a Wallenberg stamp.
“I’m over the moon that this has finally happened after repeated submissions and requests over decades,” Schiff told The AJN, saying that for years she had been told it was Australia Post policy to only use Australians on stamps, with the exception of the Queen.
Earlier this year, B’nai B’rith Raoul Wallenberg Unit filed a petition calling for the creation of a stamp to honor Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg during the 70th anniversary of the Righteous Among the Nations’ Jewish rescue operation.
As Sweden’s envoy in Budapest, Hungary, during World War II, Wallenberg issued passports and sheltered Jews in Swedish-controlled buildings, effectively saving tens of thousands from extermination by the Nazis.
Now, after receiving approval from Parliament, the stamp will be released in 2015.
Read highlights from the article below:
In the face of rising global anti-Semitism, Australia's B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission has called on university leadership to police the rhetoric and demonstrations on campuses across the continent.
B'nai B'rith ADC Chairman Dr. Dvir Abramovich spoke with the The Herald Sun, highlights of which can be found below:
The B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission’s chairman Dr Dvir Abramovich has called on universities across the country to “demand and enforce a policy of zero tolerance” towards anti-Semitic rhetoric and conduct.
He says it is on the rise and university leaders and staff must publicly condemn any acts of Jewish hatred.
“At a time when virulent anti-Semitism continues to be a serious problem on Australian campuses we call on the university leadership around the country to take immediate steps to address this troubling phenomenon head on, and to make it clear that there is no place for hate and racism on Australian campuses,” he said.
“In the short-term the most important thing is the strength of their response to individuals where they are implicated,” he said.
The B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission has raised a number of concerns including: five Jewish students allegedly being refused entry to a Socialist Alternative discussion on Israel at Monash University; two Jewish students, one wearing a Kippa, allegedly being verbally abused and shoved at RMIT; and a motion by the Monash University Student Council accusing Israel of genocide.
“All students have the right to express their lawful and reasonable views without fear or favour. However, freedom of lawful expression does not include the right to harass, vilify, threaten or intimidate others. Such behaviour has no place on a university campus.’’
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