The Jewish Community
Australia has a Jewish community of about 100,000, with a high proportion of Jewish students attending Jewish day schools, and proportionally the highest concentration of Holocaust survivors in the world. Post war immigration of Jews led to the burgeoning of synagogues and the revitalisation of the Australian Jewish community. Jews are prominent in the arts, legal and medical professions. There are about forty synagogues in Sydney and Melbourne respectively, Jews in Melbourne numbering slightly more than those in Sydney.
Besides many Orthodox Jewish congregations, there is a strong Progressive movement, however, with all this vitality, there is within the Jewish religious leadership a deep concern regarding the lack of Jewish commitment on the part of the young, and concern about assimilation. The same concern exists of course within Christian communities.
The Christian Community
Catholics and then Anglicans are the largest religious groups represented in the recent 1996 census. Much work needs to be done in changing attitudes and strengthening religious values, though some progress in changing negative attitudes towards Jews is being made. The slow gradual work of Jewish Christian relations, the teaching of biblical studies in the theological colleges, the support of some individual Christian leaders committed to dialogue, as well as some rabbinic input in courses at theological Colleges have all helped to bring about a minor shift in Christian attitudes.
There needs to be the heightening of awareness among Christians of their Jewish roots and a greater sensitising to prejudice, racism and antisemitism, in this age of increasing materialistic pragmatism where the “bottom line” is “the almighty dollar.”
Groups in the Field of Jewish-Christian Relations
These groups include Councils of Christians and Jews in Victoria, New South Wales, Canberra, Perth, and South Australia, and the Australian Council of Christians and Jews. Others are the New South Wales Catholic Ecumenical Affairs Commission, the Victorian Council of Churches’ Commission on Interfaith and Community Relations, and the Uniting Church of Australia Working Group on Jewish-Christian Relations.
The Councils of Christians and Jews
The Victorian Branch of the CCJ was founded in Melbourne in 1985 and in Sydney in 1988. In Melbourne there is a strong ecumenical movement amongst the churches, whereas in Sydney a strong evangelical strain within some sectors of the Christian churches makes ecumenical and interfaith dialogue more difficult. Canberra has an interfaith dialogue group and a youth group, and Adelaide and Perth have Councils. The Australian Council of Christians and Jews was inaugurated in December 1991.
See also Guidelines for Catholic-Jewish Relations
by the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations
of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference