Senator Griff’s Jewish roots

Senator Stirling Griff giving his maiden speech.

SOUTH Australian Jewish senator Stirling Griff revealed during his maiden speech in Parliament last week that his family had originated in a small village in Lithuania, where all the Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

Reflecting on his forebears from Zidik, the member of the Nick Xenophon Team said, “They belonged to a people targeted for their faith and targeted for their ethnicity, and as a community they endured pogroms and forced exile under Russian rule during World War I.

“In 1941, during World War II, the whole community met its end in Nazi mass graves.

“My ancestors survived only because they left, and made Australia their home.”

Drawing on the lessons of he Holocaust, Griff said that fear is a powerful tool but one that he finds abhorrent and destructive.

“I believe in freedom of thought and I am open to ideas from all sides, and will base decisions I make in this place on the merits of what is presented to me. However, there is one exception.

“I am not open to fear and hate campaigns for political gain and control, whether it be demonising refugees and asylum seekers, and particularly those who are now living – if you can call it that – in offshore detention centres, or the singling out of a particular race or religious belief and branding them to be ‘un-Australian’ and dangerous; or using this fear as an excuse to restrict civil liberties or even invade or justify interference in another country.”

Griff said the Australia he wants to live in is not ruled by fear but rather it nurtures the young, teaches real-world skills, supports families from school to retirement, ends predatory gambling and builds an education system that delivers for young people.

“I believe that together we can do great things for our communities and to build a better Australia.

“It is not going to be easy and it is likely we will not agree all of the time, but I am up for the challenge.”

JOSHUA LEVI