Two Michaels: Danby and Kroger and the Jewish News

Michael of the Liberal Party is a political Machiavellian. He is good at it, however, his criticism of Michael Danby the long-term Jewish, Zionist member for Melbourne Ports is misplaced. Allow me to dispel in brief terms some of Kroger’s points. I don’t have time for an informal dismemberment.

  1. If a politician can get preferences from an irrelevant party, viz, the Greens, then you take those preferences. They put you into power, and allow you to hold to your agenda. If the Greens do not like what Danby has said or achieved in his years in parliament, then they will not redirect their votes. Clearly, Mr Kroger, it’s a question of degrees of distaste. The Greens distaste of the Liberal party is known and is almost uniform. That being said, Mr Kroger knows how to obtain Green preferences in other seats for the Liberals in order to block Labor. Without being party political, Kroger’s comments are simply jaundiced.
  2. It concerns me greatly that Mrs Bishop and the Australian Government has anything to do, whatsoever, with the regime of the Ayatollahs in Iran. This is indefensible. Talk is cheap. Actions speak. Iran can trigger a bomb when it wishes, how it wishes, and will do so irrespective of whether Julie Bishop kowtows to the Obama left-wing Government of the USA or whether dons a Shaytel at a Jewish event in the “same” way that she placed a head covering on for the Ayatollah.
  3. In extolling the Jewish credentials of David Southwick, let me just say that I am impressed by the almost weekly attendance at Elwood Shule of Michael Danby, where a sadly dying congregation offers him zero political leverage and succour. Michael has nothing politically to be gained by going to a Shule with barely 20 people each Shabbos. David’s perennially capacious grin seems to appear at events only, especially  in the Jewish News. David know how to stamp himself.
  4. There were major errors (and I’m using a diplomatic term) in David Southwark’s CV. Claims of certain employment were fallacious and easily known to be. I knew it and remained silent. Thankfully he corrected these.
  5. Jews are known in the Talmud as רחמנים, merciful. Accordingly, there are a number of Jewish people who tend to vote Green, among a bevy of anti-Semites who do so as well. Those Jewish people, and many are intelligent, know the Greens will not win Melbourne Ports, but Michael Kroger seems to assume that they are uncomfortable with Michael Danby receiving their preference. The last time I knew, prophecy ended with Ezra and Nehemia. I’m not aware of prophet Kroger, nor do I contend he has better inside knowledge of the mind-set of Jewish Green voters than anyone.
  6. It is true that extremism is something that Jews tend to veer away from, on both sides. Whether it’s Daniel Andrews and his mindless cavorting with the Unions on matters as grave as the control of our legendary fire fighters, or the undiplomatic, and unstatesman-like rhetoric of Donald Trump in the US elections. In this vein, the past Howard Governments’ record in the UN cannot automatically be assumed to be in the same breath as the Julie Bishop visits to Iran. One would not get an answer on the record, but I would not have expected John Howard, a true friend of Israel, to send even mild Alex Downer to dine with ayatollahs who engrave “Death to Israel” on their missiles, today.
  7. I do contend that Malcolm Turnbull is a true friend of Israel. I am not convinced by Bill Shorten. In respect of policies: the Superannuation Policy of Shorten will affect me more than the Turnbull policy. We’ve seen over the last few days, that all three parties, including the extreme Greens, cannot fully explain their policy unless the relevant minister is doing so.
  8. The Greens have a bigger Jewish thorn in their ranks than Bernie Sanders. Her name is Lee Brown, Halachically Jewish on both sides, she now goes by the name of Senator Lee Rhiannon. There is little worse than a self-deprecating Jew who tries to be less Jewish than one who is not.
  9. We do have our strange Australian Jewish News editor, Zeddy Lawrence, who in keeping with his mantra? of “mixing it all up” refuses to apologise for promoting in a large photo and article, a “Jewish” wedding, which wasn’t, and which was conducted by a non-Jewish Celebrant! Be under no illusion. Lawrence received letters about this תואבה and in his usual open “democratic” style, where he serves us boring predictable left-wing letters from Henry Herzog every two weeks, Zeddy refused to publish letters critical of that editorial disgrace. He tries to sell papers. That’s his job. He needs though to be a little more responsible.
  10. In summary, those  who cannot put aside their personal party preferred preference and make your Vote 1, for Michael Danby, are guilty of commission and omission. Michael appears as just about the only sane voice in the moving, social and written media as a strong, effective and unadulterated supporter of the State of Israel.
  11. We may get to a point, where, like France, we become an irrelevancy in Australia. This will simply herald the continued ingathering of the exiles to the Holy Land.
  12. On right vs left, other examples abound: those who simply label “Avigdor Lieberman” as right-wing, and rub their hands, are being simplistic, and fail to account for real politick. Israel has not done well under the left-wing Obama regime. It never was going to. It would do worse under Bernie Sanders, and will do no better under Hillary Clinton. That was obvious as soon as B.H. Obama was elected. I doubt whether Trump will be any better.
  13. In Australia, I think Turnbull is well ahead of Shorten both in ability, intellect, experience, believability and integrity. Shorten is a nice and likeable fellow, but hasn’t got the broader touch. He’s almost an incarnation of a political Eddie McGuire, the Broadie boy. In Melbourne Ports however, there is only Michael Danby. Do not waver.
  14. Michael Kroger’s comments are a distraction down Machiavellian roads.
From left: My father ע’ה, Vice President of Elwood Shule, Fred Antman, President Elwood Shule, Michael and Amira Danby
From left: My father ע’ה, former Vice President of Elwood Shule, Fred Antman, former President Elwood Shule, Michael and Amira Danby

Statement to clear the air and set the record straight

This may be relevant only to the dwindling number of members at Elwood Shule. Our family has been associated with Elwood for 60+ years. My father ע’’ה was Vice President and a very long-term board member, as well as regular mispallel. I joined the board several years ago, and functioned as the Ba’al Tefilla on Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur for many years. I accepted the role of leading Musaf and Kol Nidrei the year prior to the untimely death of Chazan Levy ע’’ה, the Shule’s last, full-time Chazan, in the year before he passed away. He then passed away on Rosh Hashono itself.

I worked assiduously at Board Level, and oversaw and edited the updated version of the constitution and assisted in the unfortunate but necessary legal fight for survival with our tenant. I was involved at many other levels.

I came to the conclusion, some 6 months ago that my tenure as a board member was no longer tenable. It had preyed on my mind for longer, but only emotional ties kept me going. I will not use this blog to discuss a range of issues that contributed to my decision. I later resigned from the board, as did three other board members, and of course, my father passed away, thereby making the board four fewer people than when it was constituted years earlier. When I informed long-term President Fred Antman that I had finally resigned, his comment was that I should have done so long ago, for reasons I won’t go into. He had encouraged me to resign many times and said my father would have told me the same.

Elwood is at a cross-road, where it says goodbye in the next years to Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, and welcomes a new Rabbi. Rabbi Karnowsky, the outreach Rabbi is assuming some of Rabbi Gutnick’s functions. Rabbi Karnowsky has a documented plan of what he was going to achieve as outreach Rabbi when he joined, and I assume remaining members of the board express a level of confidence in his achievements thus far.

Years ago, It was long-term President Fred Antman, who prevailed upon me, literally tens of times, to assume the function of Ba’al Tefila for Yomim Noroim. I also stepped in as needed on other occasions, willingly. I did not and never wanted to be the Ba’al Tefila. To be honest, I know my personal imperfections, and never felt worthy of representing this (or any) Kehilla. My children know too well, how, after members of the Shule passed away later during the year, that I took it personally. I might arrive home on Shabbos with bloodied knuckles and in tears or sloshed because I considered that Hashem had not listened to my prayers of מי יחיה or מי ימות and that this was due to me not being up to the spiritual level required to be a Ba’al Tefilla (or Chazan). I felt I wasn’t listened to and that my prayers were vacuous.

I was blessed with a good voice. This is not my achievement. My father ע’ה sang in the choir in the Rawa Mazowiecka Shtiebel with the Amshinover, R Zishe Shochet הי’’ד. My mother’s father played violin (as do I). These are not my achievements, they are some of Hashem’s Brachos.

A great source of personal happiness was descending the steps after Mussaf on Yom Kippur and spontaneously dancing with “Gandhi”, R’ Yossel ע’ה, a Buchenwald boy, as he was affectionately known. Of course, there was the scene of some 15+ Balbin offspring males sitting around my father on Kol Nidrei night, after he had carried the Torah during Kol Nidrei which I had intoned, and my father’s occasional glances at me. Upstairs a similar contingent of Balbin female offspring were present. My sons have beautiful life-long memories of walking with me and Zayda through thick and thin on a Shabbos (my father was, together with Rabbi Gutnick and Viggie Aron the only three people who walked a real distance on Shabbos to get to Shule and actually kept Shabbos). Nowadays, on Shabbos, Viggie only comes for layning, and Rabbi Gutnick mainly for Shabbos Shachris.

I vividly recall some feedback one year. I didn’t seek feedback. If proffered feedback I was happy to hear and sometimes listen. One man, whose face I knew, but whose name was not familiar, asked me why I kept stopping and starting during הנני העני ממעש. He sat in the front area, so he could presumably see my face, although I wear a Tallis over my head, as opposed to the more German style ecclesiastical headwear. Returning to the story, I couldn’t believe that this man hadn’t noticed that I was unable to resume my comportment at certain phrases, and often struggled not to weep. I am not talking about the iconic Chazanishe Krechtz or an “Oy yoi yoi” punctuated with a perfectly timed trill as choreographed according to the score (or iPod recording). I am talking about raw emotion.

I was shocked. That year, I decided I needed to “control myself”. I am sure I was wrong, but I consciously stopped myself thinking, perhaps over-thinking, about the meaning of the words I was uttering. At the same time, Rabbi Karnowsky approached me about incorporating his new sons in the service. I agreed (although musically, I felt they were young and raw). Nevertheless, it would be cute and perhaps would appeal to a majority of congregants who cannot follow or read a Machzor (we have 3 versions at Elwood and the Gabbay uses a fourth, and Davening is punctuated by annoyingly constant page call outs of different versions. I hope they have fixed this and settled on the magnificent Soloveitchik Machzorim, but I digress.)

Now, recall that I resigned from the board months before the High Holidays. In my letter of resignation, I also made it clear that the board should not feel encumbered in any way using my services as Ba’al Tefilla. I asked only that they inform me as soon as possible whether they required my services; a reasonable request.

Unfortunately, I was to find out that Mark Oyberman had asked around for people in Melbourne available to replace me, after which they settled on Shimon Wallis. I actually wrote to the board to confirm this as they had not communicated they were even looking let alone that they had already made a decision! Shimon has a fine voice, and his Nusach is derived from his grandfather ע’’ה, whom I enjoyed listening to on his rare visits. He was a Ba’al Tefilla with an authentic Yerushalmi Nusach. I wish him success.

What prompted me to post this article, was an Elwood promotional video I saw yesterday. I genuinely feared that some might assume that my absence from Shule was due to this new appointment.

Nothing could be further than the truth. I kept a seat at Elwood. I will hopefully be able to daven quietly and with some purpose this year. The reasons for my resignation as a board member are seemingly as valid now as they were then, and they will not be discussed in this blog post.

שנה טובה ומתוקה