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Melbourne Holocaust Museum reopening notes

Bruce Hill, Melbourne Holocaust Museum reopens, Australian Jewish News, 23 November 2023

“Jewish Australians have been bearing a pain you should never have had to bear again,” said Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (right) and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton at the opening of MHM. Photo: Peter Haskin.

In a rare sign of bipartisan unity amid rising antisemitism in Australia and worldwide, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition both spoke at the reopening of the Melbourne Holocaust Museum (MHM) on Wednesday.

Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton joined with many other political and Jewish leaders in a solemn ceremony attended by several Holocaust survivors. They both spoke about the tide of antisemitism which has affected the Australian Jewish community since the October 7 terrorist atrocities in Israel.

Albanese told the audience that since the atrocities of October 7, “Jewish Australians have been bearing a pain you should never have had to bear again. And you are feeling fear. Anxious that the long shadows of the past have crept into the present.

“That should not be happening in a land that offered refuge then – and embraces you now.

“As the conflict continues, antisemitism is on the rise, but we will not let it find … a foot- hold here. Australia will always denounce it and reject it utterly,” he said.

“My government is acting to make it clear that there’s no place in Australia for symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust. And there is no place for those who seek to profit from the trading in this evil.

“What the Holocaust museum so powerfully reminds us is that when we maintain meaningful contact with the past, we give our- selves our best chance of ensuring it doesn’t become our future. To make the words ring true, as we repeat them, never again,” Albanese said.

He noted, “Wherever racism has raised its head, if you look for the leaders of those campaigning and speaking out against it, it is the Jewish community that consistently do that.”

Dutton said, “Whenever and wherever the forces of antisemitism are on the march, there is a need for moral courage and moral clarity. Across Australia, right now, there is a need for unequivocal and unqualified condemnation of the antisemitism we are witnessing.”

Dutton said it is our solemn duty to see that the phrase ‘Never Again’ does not become ‘Never Again’ with a question mark.

“And that duty starts with our providing moral courage and moral clarity. It starts with our responsibility to confront the truth and to have reverence for the truth,” he said.

Dutton told the audience, “We stand here today in the aftermath of the most obscene acts of antisemitism on our own soil … acts we didn’t think were possible in a tolerant country like Australia. Right now, we are witnessing a resurgence of the same hateful thoughts and behaviours which ultimately led to the Holocaust.

“There must be no tolerance for that which must not be tolerated,” he said.

“For everyday Australians, a simple act of moral courage which leads to moral clarity is to visit this museum, including with your children. To hear the voices of those who died and survived, [and] to understand how hateful ideas so easily transform into evil deeds. To confront the truth.”

MHM CEO Jayne Josem said, “[We] opened this museum nearly 40 years ago to shine a light on the dark side of civilisation and to shine a light of hope for the future of humanity.

“Right now, this is vital, sadly, perhaps even more so today.”

She addressed the political leaders present, saying one of the main messages of the museum is about the importance of the choices we make.

“Please think about the important choices you make; the words you use, the messages you send – leave with compassion. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, we need to heal this fractured world. Each and every one of us needs to stand up and say it’s my responsibility.”

During the ceremony, 99-year- old Holocaust survivor and MHM board director Abram Goldberg OAM, who has come to the museum every week for 40 years to speak to school groups, brought the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation when he issued a challenge to everyone to be a voice of reason in these dark times.

The event began with a smoking ceremony, while Rabbi Ralph Genende made a brachah and read a poem he’d written specially for the occasion, Today We Remember the Dark.

The museum had been closed for remodelling since 2020.

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