AUSTRALIA has “one of the best, most lively and young-thinking Jewish communities in the world”, the outgoing Leon Liberman Chair in Modern Israel Studies at Monash University said last week.
Professor Fania Oz-Salzberger, who will end her five-year tenure in Australia in coming weeks, will present a farewell lecture at Monash University on May 3, two Encounters@Shalom courses in Sydney in late April/early May and an Encounters@Shalom lecture at North Shore Temple Emanuel on May 8.
The academic, author and lecturer told The AJN she would remember her time in Australia fondly. “It’s the human warmth, and the directness, and the fact that you guys are very close to us Israelis,” she said. “I consider Australian Jews to be our first cousins.”
Prof Oz-Salzberger said she felt “extremely privileged” to have held the position of the first chair in Israel studies to be established in the Southern Hemisphere.
“We’ve done quite a lot over the five years. I think in many ways we have lived up to the vision of the Liberman family who established the chair,” she said.
“The vision for the chair was to create a kind of a separation between teaching about Israel and the usual things that people think about when they think about Israel.”
Prof Oz-Salzberger recalled with pride the eclectic range of speakers from all aspects of Israeli society that have visited the university under her watch. “I would say that I’m most proud of the series of international conferences we held, which are now becoming a book,” she said. “It’s going to be state-of-the-art collection of essays about nationhood, religion and multiculturalism in Israel today. This is really my legacy, and my present to Monash University upon the ending of my term.”
But the focus of her farewell lecture at Monash University will be on a different book, Jews and Words, co-written with her father, celebrated Israeli author Amos Oz.
“The book is still in manuscript form, but … in this lecture I’ll be giving a sneak preview into some of the more daring, the more chutzpah-ridden assertions in the book itself,” she explained.
Prefessor Fania Oz-Salzberger.