A LANDMARK $4 million boost to security upgrades for the Victorian Jewish community was announced by Premier Daniel Andrews at South Caulfield Hebrew Congregation on Sunday.
The funds delivered in this week’s State Budget were secured through the Multicultural Community Infrastructure Program and will flow into projects large and small to ensure the community will be able to continue practising their culture and beliefs in a safe and secure environment.
Organisations and sites with the greatest need have been identified in consultation with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) and Community Security Group (CSG).
Addressing community leaders and politicians on Sunday, Andrews said, “[These are] very practical concerns that I know dominate the thinking and are a real cause of concern for every member [of the Jewish community] … not just synagogues but also community centres and other places”.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott, who accompanied the Premier said the Jewish community “has the misfortune” of being targeted by bigotry from both the far left and the far right, which threatens its safety.
“I’m proud to be part of the Victorian Labor government which has no tolerance for anti-Semitism … we will stand with the Jewish community, we will do our share to protect the Jewish community,” he said.
In a 12-month period from December 2016, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) recorded 230 anti-Semitic incidents nationally, with 34 per cent of cases from Victoria.
ECAJ also noted an increase in incidents of almost 20 per cent over the past two years.
Andrews commented, “[These] are the realities that we face and the important thing is to be steadfast and consistent and 100 per cent certain in the support that we provide. Now for us that means 100 per cent support for Israel, it means 100 per cent support for freedom and inclusion, and the right of Victorian Jewry to practice faith and culture.”
Of the $4 million funds, $1 million was allocated towards security infrastructure upgrades at the Beth Weizmann Community Centre.
Andrews said this additional budget boost comes after the fourth straight year of failed lobbying to the federal government to match the original $500,000 State Government investment.
“I would hate to think that something terrible happens while people are waiting around playing bureaucratic games,” cautioned the Premier. “I don’t want to be partisan about it but the time for waiting is over; the federal government need to provide this money … and then we can get on and build this and make sure that that facility where so many thousands of people visit every single day can be as safe as possible.”
JCCV president Jennifer Huppert told The AJN, “We are delighted that the government has underlined its support for the Jewish community with this funding, and we expect that this is the start of an ongoing investment program over a number of years to better secure our community.”
The sentiment was echoed by Beth Weizmann Community Centre chair Sam Tatarka, who added, “We hope that the prolonged wait for the federal government to respond in kind will soon be over.”
While he welcomed Andrews’ announcement, Liberal MP for Caulfield David Southwick said, “Given skyrocketing crime rates under Daniel Andrews, the Victorian Coalition believes more is needed to ensure the safety of both the Jewish and broader Victorian community.”