Professor Tsvia Walden, renowned educator and linguist, and daughter of the late Shimon Peres, along with her husband Professor Raphael Walden, a high-profile medico and activist, visited Australia as part of a United Israel Appeal’s Progressive Trust campaign. From their arrival on March 3 until their departure on March 12, leadership of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ), Helen Shardey, former parliamentarian and member of the UPJ Executive, Brian Samuel, Vice-President, and Roger Mendelson, President, welcomed, hosted and led the Waldens on tours and site visits of key Jewish schools and communities in Sydney and Melbourne.
A highlight of the trip was a visit to the State Parliament where the Waldens, along with UPJ and other Jewish community leaders, had afternoon tea with a contingent of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel. The visit was organised by Helen Shardey, who was, for many years, a member of State parliament and one of the founders of the Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Israel. During the meeting, Professors Tzvia and Rafi Walden provided overviews of their backgrounds before presenting how and why they became involved with Progressive Judaism, the importance of its philosophy and how they integrate those values into their individual public and professional lives.
Professor Rafi Walden outlined much of the work he and his colleagues were performing both in the Ramallah region, as well as Gaza. In addition, he informed them about the medical assistance provided to injured Syrians on the border with Israel, where the wounded are initially treated before being moved to the larger hospitals in Tel Aviv, if required. This information was gracefully welcomed by all present, as much of what was communicated by the Waldens is not openly expressed in our Australian news services.
The key message that came out of this meeting from both sides of government – including some parliamentarians who had visited Israel before – was the need to provide examples of where the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) are working closely to establish positive relations with Palestinians in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
As their trip coincided with Purim, the Waldens attended Megillah reading at Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne.
To read more about the Waldens’ visit to Jewish communities and Reform congregations in Australia, including an interview with Professor Tsvia Walden in the Australian Jewish News, click here.