By Miriam Bell…
It was a hot, balmy summer night at the Auckland Hebrew Congregation last Thursday week. And, like the evening itself, the atmosphere at the book launch was warm, positive, and celebratory.
The convivial feeling in the air was appropriate for the occasion as it was the launch of “Identity & Involvement Volume III: Auckland Jewry into the 21st Century”. The brainchild of Ann Gluckman, it’s the third in a series which tells the stories of the Auckland Jewish community.
Edited by Gluckman, Deb Levy Friedler and Lindy Davis, the new book’s launch attracted a stellar turnout of dignitaries and community heavyweights. Among them were Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon, and National MPs Alfred Ngaro and Simon O’Connor.
A series of speakers paid tribute to the book, the efforts of the editors – particularly Gluckman, and the contributions of the Auckland Jewish community.
Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa, who passed on greetings from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, said that since the Jewish community first established itself in New Zealand it has made an exceptional contribution to the country.
“And today we unveil another extraordinary contribution. This book takes the story of Auckland’s Jewish community into the 21st century. It brings to life the past and preserves the present for future generations.”
She said the book – which features the 150 different contributions from the community – is also a salient reminder of the continued importance of collective action and what communities can achieve collectively when you work together with a common purpose.
“It’s important to acknowledge this. Our government appreciates the contributions of all our ethnic communities and the Jewish community has made an outsize contribution. It is important that we continue to be a nation that values our shared history.”
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who described the book as a wonderful chronicle and a fantastic achievement, said the history of the Jewish community in Auckland, and in New Zealand, goes back to the founding of the city and, indeed, the nation.
While the Jewish community has always been relatively small in number, they have made a huge contribution to New Zealand, he said.
“As a mayor, I find it interesting to note that there have been six Jewish mayors of Auckland. We have had three Jewish prime ministers, two Jewish chief justices, and New Zealand’s first woman lawyer and doctor were both Jewish.”
There are few cultures, and histories, as old as the history of the Jewish people, Goff said. “It is hard to ignore that history has also been one of tragedy and persecution. But that has made that identity and culture even stronger.
“This book is a record of the multi-culturalism in our city and a call to action to protect the right of every individual to practice their faith as they choose and to celebrate their cultural identity.”
Goff added the book is a mark of what Jewish identity means to everyone who has contributed to it and that he hopes members of the Jewish community continue to be both Jewish and proud New Zealanders.
For Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon, the book is immensely important to the future wellbeing of all New Zealanders.
“The more that we can learn about the Jewish community, about being proud to be Zionist, about being proud of the Jewish culture, history, and land, and knowing where you come from the better.”
He thanked the Jewish community for its contribution to New Zealand as a nation. “Thank you for being you and for who you are and being proud of it. Thank you for holding on to your language and culture.
For future generations, it’s important that the Jewish community shares its stories and culture – because, as a nation, there is a lot of work to do, Foon said.
“We must stand up and be upstanders against racism and antisemitism and all types of phobias. We must stand up and call them out.
“Because there are examples of people who can turn around and become advocates. Because we all have rights and freedoms. And you have the right to be Jewish and proud.”
He added that he is encouraging the New Zealand government to allow the Jewish community to tell their stories in schools. “Because we must not forget. Ignorance is what builds evil and education is what destroys it.”
One of the final speakers was one of the editors, Lindy Davis, who talked about the current encouraging revitalization of the Auckland Jewish community and what the book represents in that sense.
The book captures the soul and encapsulates the heart of the community, she said. “It’s an exciting and important recognition of both the AHC and Beth Shalom communities.
“We can be proud of being such a dynamic group that punches above its weight and contributes so much to both the Jewish community and the wider New Zealand community.’
“Identity & Involvement Volume III: Auckland Jewry into the 21st Century” was self-published through Renaissance Publishing. It is being handled by Toni Hayman from PDL, an arm of Book Reps (NZ). Toni’s email is email@example.com.
The book is available from a number of outlets including Paper Plus Remuera, Wheelers Books and The Women’s Bookshop, as well as the Greys Ave Deli. Paper Plus Remuera have arranged an author event at the Remuera Library on 23rd April.