Jewish expats organise celebration for Mandela

MORE then 400 people attended a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) on Saturday, gathering on lawns where a bronze bust of Mandela is mounted to sing, dance and celebrate.

The event was organised by a number of expat South African Jews – author Joanne Fedler, B’nai B’rith NSW project manager Vivienne Radomsky, social media trainer Elana Bowman, musician Hylton Chilchik and Professor Andrea Durbach from the Australian Human Rights Centre.

“We felt we were missing out on the commemorations in South Africa and there was nowhere to go in Australia for us to commemorate and celebrate his life,” Radomsky told The AJN.

“Mandela was very much a part of our lives and we lived through apartheid and the struggles to end it. We felt like we were grieving from afar.”

“We were there and we lived through it, but we felt very isolated in our grief as South Africans here,” Fedler told The AJN. “We’re still South Africans and we still love Mandela.”

Speakers at the event included Durbach, Ray Sithole of Canberra’s South African High Commission and Karel Solomon, an anti-apartheid protester who was jailed for his activism.

Chilchik and his band sang African songs, which had the crowd up on their feet.

A speech given by Indigenous rights activist Ray Jackson, who was recently bestowed with the French National Consultative Council on Human Rights Award, caused some controversy when he referred to Mandela’s support of Palestinian rights.

“Jackson is an activist for Indigenous rights and Mandela supported many liberation struggles,” Fedler said.

“People in the audience did boo Jackson when he spoke about ‘the liberation of the Palestinian people from Zionist hegemony’, but I don’t think it was a blight on proceedings.

“Mandela was very sympathetic towards Jewish people and supported us, but he also supported Palestinian people. That Jackson can even make that speech is an amazing sign of the democratic society we live in.”

Jackson made similar remarks during another Mandela memorial service held at Pitt St Uniting Church last Friday.

“It was highly unfortunate that both ceremonies, which were intended to focus on Mandela’s ability to forgive and bridge divides, were sullied by hateful and divisive views,” NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff, who attended both events, told The AJN.

“It was inappropriate.”