Abbott headlines Chabad North Shore dinner

Tony Abbott speaking at the Chabad North Shore gala dinner. Photo: Shane Desiatnik

MORE than $200,000 was raised for Chabad North Shore at its annual gala dinner at Curzon Hall last week, headlined by Tony Abbott.

The Warringah MP and former prime minister didn’t disappoint, delivering a powerful speech in support of Israel and Australian Jewry that drew a standing ovation from the audience of 200.

Reflecting on his trip to the Jewish State last month to receive an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University, Abbott described Israel as “a country which Australians feel very much at home in, almost like family”.

“And yet Israel is almost uniquely a country that even today is under existential threat,” Abbott said.

“It is a bastion of freedom in a diabolically difficult part of the world.

“So it’s absolutely critical that Australia, as a matter of national policy, continues to give the strongest possible support to the State of Israel.”

Abbott said a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict must be one “which absolutely recognises the right of Israel to exist behind secure borders and, as far as I’m concerned, it should be a solution which acknowledges a continuing role of Israel in Jerusalem”.

Noting the Palestinian Authority (PA) is “providing awards and recognition to people who are out and out terrorists inside the State of Israel”, Abbott said “as long as this is the case, I believe we should commensurably reduce our aid to the PA”.

He concluded by calling the Jewish people “champions in every area of Australian life” and acknowledged Chabad North Shore “for the wonderful work that you do”.

Other highlights of the night were a musical tribute to Leonard Cohen by The Potbelleez and Glass lead singer Ilan Kidron, a giant raffle, a silent auction, and a talk by Rabbi Benzion Butman, who moved to Cambodia in 2009 with his wife Mashie and their six children to run that country’s Chabad centre.

Rabbi Butman said life in Cambodia has its challenges, but he is kept inspired by Chabad’s philosophy “if there are Jews in the world that need help, we will be there”. 

Funds raised on the night for Chabad North Shore, and via an accompanying online appeal, will support the St Ives-based centre’s many services, including outreach and youth programs, a preschool, crisis accommodation, a mikvah, a Jewish learning institute and community events.

“We are truly humbled and grateful for those who have supported us,” Rebbetzin Fruma Schapiro said.

SHANE DESIATNIK