Commemorating our combatants

Harvey Baden pays tribute to the late Major-General Paul Cullen. Photo: Noel Kessel

MEMBERS of Australia’s armed forces who have served in the line of duty and made the ultimate sacrifice were honoured at last Sunday’s NSW Association of Jewish Service and Ex-Service Men & Women (NAJEX) Remembrance Day commemoration and wreath-laying ceremony.

Held at the Sydney Jewish Museum, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry Peter Wertheim reflected on the meaning behind remembrance in his keynote address. In addition to the publishing of information about wartime service, remembrance is “about how key events that shaped Australia’s national character, and helped define the values we cherish, have become conventionalized and memorialized through public ceremonies and popular culture,” he commented.

With centenary commemorations of the Battle of Beersheba currently at the forefront of public consciousness, Wertheim stressed the importance of elevating this military victory in the nation’s memory. Traditionally, he said, Beersheba has been eclipsed by Gallipoli and the Western Front, but “the achievements of Australian troops in the Middle East theatre in World War I are just as deserving of annual, public recognition”.

“This is a proud and honourable history which has direct relevance to contemporary international affairs,” said Wertheim.

The annual NAJEX Youth Leadership Awards, intended to perpetuate the memory of Jewish service men and women, while inspiring Jewish youth to pursue opportunities in service organisations, were inaugurated at this year’s ceremony.

Four Jewish day schools elected one year 11 student based on personal qualities such as integrity, loyalty, courage, innovation and teamwork.

Masada College student David Cohen and Jaimi Knep from Moriah College accepted their award at Sunday’s ceremony. A separate presentation will be made for recipients Nemi Lobel from Kesser Torah College and Emanuel School student Jade Reuveny who were unable to attend.

Meanwhile, in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Track battle, a special tribute was made to the late Major-General Paul Cullen.

NAJEX president Roger Selby announced that the NAJEX recently changed its name to incorporate current service men and women as well as ex-service men and women. “This is an important move to make us more appealing to Jews who are currently in the Australian Defence Force … We hope that we could have some role in bringing them together,” he said before updating the audience about the planned Australian Jewish War Memorial in Canberra set to open in August next year.

The memorial – to be created at the National Jewish Memorial Centre – is likely to comprise a commemorative wall displaying the names of Australian Jewish military personnel killed in war, as well as landscaping with a ceremonial speaking area.

Members of the community are encouraged to contribute to the creation of the new memorial through the Federation of Australian Jewish Ex-Service Associations’ fundraising campaign.

SOPHIE DEUTSCH