Diverse voices, different opinions and an open forum for debate
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society is a progressive voice among Jews and a Jewish voice among progressives. Members of the AJDS organise and participate in fund raising, educational campaigns, film screenings, demonstrations and vigils in order to provide a platform for discussion and debate on issues affecting contemporary Jewish life.
These issues are discussed and debated within the group, but most of our events are open to the public. We want to engage people from the Jewish community as well as the wider population, and collaborate with other organisations. Read some of our recent statements.
Since 1984, AJDS members have spoken out about many issues in order to promote freedom and offer advocacy for marginalised groups. These issues have included:
- Indigenous Australians
- Asylum seekers and refugees
- Climate change, biodiversity & environmental conservation
- LGBTIQ identities
- Secular Jewish identity
AJDS Oral History Project
The Oral History Project, developed in celebration of the AJDS 30 year anniversary, focuses not just on the ins and outs of the history and politics of the AJDS but also on the personal stories of the interview subjects. We’re interested in how people became part of the AJDS and what impact their involvement with the AJDS has had on their lives. We want to explore the historical context of people’s lives and what forces, events, political and social groupings led people to the AJDS. Through looking at the written record – letters, editorials, statements, and newsletters – one can get a fair idea of the politics of the AJDS and its public positions on a range of issues throughout the past thirty years. But the oral history project aims to uncover something that can only be barely glimpsed in the written record. That is the personal stories, the characters, the personalities and the importance of the organisation itself in the lives of AJDS members. Part of what we’re hoping to capture is the humour, the enjoyment of political involvement and the challenging of boundaries of Jewishness and identity.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Are you an anti-Zionist organisation?
A: No. Our members hold a range of views about Israel/Palestine. But we share a belief in the right of both Palestinians and Jews to self-determination, and the right of both Palestinians and Israeli Jews to a safer, more just, future, free of Occupation. We support activists from Israel and elsewhere, those who share our values. We encourage a critical, informed debate about where Zionism is today and how it affects Australian Jewish life and the Middle East. We also reject the notion that criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic but we’ll continue to address anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia in all their forms.
Q: What is your position on BDS?
A: Members of the AJDS support boycotting the Settlements, an end to the Occupation and a solution which respects the aspirations and security of both nations, as long as it is democratic and abides by International Human Rights conventions. However, we are not unanimous on the contentious issue of non-violent forms of resistance, including boycotts, divestment and sanctions. When the AJDS launched its boycott the settlements campaign, we also published the views of four of our members to reflect this plurality. You can read that post here.
Q: How do I get involved?
A: You can become a member, join our mailing list (at the bottom of this page), come to our events or contact us if you have specific ideas and interests. We are always trying to find creative and effective ways to work with people in our community.
WHAT IS THE AJDS
The AJDS was formed in 1984 to promote free discussion on Jewish and general social and political issues. Specifically, it grew out of a profound concern at the continuing Israeli-Arab conflict.
History of AJDS (Summary) The conflict had taken its toll in the Australian Jewish community, where people with views some what different from the “official leadership” were not being heard. break In addition to expressing views on the Israeli-Palestinian confilict, the AJDS also promotes cooperation with broader social groups on a range of issues.
We in AJDS believe that in a genuinely multicultural society like Australia, Jews should be concerned with Indigenous rights and the rights of other minorities. We have all complained at some time about the indifference of the world to the plight of the Jewish people at their most horrific period in human history. Neither can we then ignore the plight of other minorities.
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society aims to provide an open forum for discussion and debate on issues affecting contemporary Jewish life. These pages are an extension of the magazine of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society.
We hope to reflect:
- A pluralistic Jewish community, by encouraging contributions from a wide range of viewpoints and perspectives
- A Judaism that grants equality of expression and participation to all streams of Jewish thought.
- The traditional Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam: “Heal, repair, and transform the world”
- A specificially Jewish approach to the issues of Peace and Social Justice.
- Recognition of the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace in their own lands
- Jewish concerns with the continuing struggle against all expressions of racism
- The interrelationship of our Jewish community with the rest of Australian society
- We will also feature commentary on current issues of concern, and links to other material from organisations in Australia and elsewhere.
Recent AJDS Statements
Executive Committee Members
Yael Winikoff, Community Organiser | Yael started working as the Community Organiser for the AJDS in March 2015. Prior to this she spent a few years living in Sweden and studying a Masters in Community Development. Active around a number of social justice and environmental issues for many years and particularly indigenous solidarity and migrant justice, one of Yael’s interests is finding different ways to engage people, such as through the use of art and music. Her upbringing within the Jewish community and some years of her early life in the Negev desert have led her to also feel connected with the situation in Israel/Palestine.
Keren Rubinstein | Keren works in higher education, having taught in Australia, the US and Canada. Her PhD examined Israeli autobiography and national identity as it is represented and shaped through the act of creative writing. She also runs the AJDS Reading Group, translates from Hebrew to English, looks after two small children and makes collage art.
Jordy Silverstein | As well as being on the executive of the AJDS, Jordy is a historian working at the University of Melbourne. Her PhD looked at Holocaust education in Jewish schools in Melbourne and New York, and she now researches the history of government policy towards child refugees in Australia from 1970 to the present. Jordy is the author of Anxious Histories: Narrating the Holocaust in Jewish Communities at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century and co-editor of In the Shadows of Memory: The Holocaust and the Third Generation.
Sivan Barak | Sivan is an Israeli Australian human rights activist. She’s a member of ASPIRE (Australian Supporters of the Palestinian Iraqi Refugee Emergence), which successfully resettled over 250 Palestinian/Iraqi refugees in Australia. Sivan is a textile designer, and currently studies Social Work.
Danya Jacobs | Danya joined AJDS in 2011 after returning from two years living in Jerusalem working and volunteering for human rights and activist groups in the West Bank and Gaza. She is a lawyer, a Hebrew-speaker and an advocate for change in Israel/Palestine to bring about a shared future, free from occupation, violence and segregation. As well as sitting on the executive of the AJDS, Danya is the current President of Lawyers for Forests Inc and an active environmentalist.
Rachel Liebhaber | Rachel has degrees in Arts and Law. She currently works as an Assistant Industrial Officer for the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union. She wrote her Honours thesis on the work of the little-known writer Anzia Yezierska, on the topic of Jewish immigrant literary fiction. Rachel joined the AJDS Executive in 2015.
Robin Rothfield | Robin’s interest in the Israel Palestine saga began in 1947 when the family rejoiced at the UN General Assembly’s decision to partition Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. But as the years passed it became clear that the aspirations of the founders of the State of Israel were being ignored. The growth of the settlements in the occupied territories represented a major violation of human rights for the Palestinians and was an obstacle to a peace agreement. Following a visit to the West Bank with Machsom Watch in 2007 Robin published Challenges facing Israel at 60 (2008). The Australian Jewish Democratic Society was founded in 1984 with a policy of two states for two peoples and Robin, who joined the AJDS in the mid 1990s, wants AJDS to remain as an organization dedicated to this goal. While being concerned about justice for the Palestinians we cannot forget that anti-Semitism is still rampant in parts of the world and as long as anti-Semitism remains we Jews need the state of Israel. Robin’s principal focus since 2001 has been on refugee policy and he is currently National co-convenor of Labor for Refugees. This organization published Alternatives to Offshore Processing in 2013 and The Drownings’ Argument in 2014 and both books were edited by Robin.
Liam Neame | Liam is a PhD graduate in Australian Indigenous Studies, and is currently working for the Yorta Yorta community writing a Joint Management Plan for the Barmah National Park. This developed out of an interest in decolonising principles and practice in working in solidarity with Aboriginal communities. Since 2013 he has worked with RISE (refugees, survivors and ex-detainees) in community organising programs for their members, working particularly with the Rohingya community. He is interested in Jewish (and other) family history narratives and complexities, and dreams of surfing when not surfing.