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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Cultural Studies »

Bernard Korbman on Multifaith dialogue and education

Bernard Korbman and Mara Moustafine.



Date Added:

21 April 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

17.5 MB






When this museum was first set up, the people who set it up were secular Jews. And there was a problem because they wanted religious Jews to come here on one hand, but they –they had an uncomfortable relationship with them. And I remember two years ago, I – Chabad, the Lubavitch wanted to do a course on the holocaust from a religious and theological point of view and I suggested they do it here. This caused a lot of angst amongst some of our survivors. Especially the ones with a left leaning. But as I said to them, “In a sense it’s not really your property.” I mean the Chabad people coming here, “Because you may think that, you know God doesn’t exist because of your experience in all of that and I understand that. But the second and third generation are searching for answers and so we as a centre have to be sensitive to their needs for answers.”


So the Chabad came and that was a real breakthrough but after the Chabad came, I was then able to go to the religious schools and say, “You guys have never really visited here enough, I want you guys to come here.” And they’ve come. Every year we get Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah all the Jewish schools except for Adas Israel which is still too religious, but then individual members come here from there. And we’ve been invited to speak at their schools as well. So that’s been a big breakthrough and I’ve also had Fred Morgan from the liberal synagogue come here and give lectures and so now we’re much more comfortable with other members of the Jewish community.


There was never any problem in terms of other communities and religions coming here. That was never an issue. I had – because of my teaching of religion in society and I was one of the people on the initial accreditation team for that and philosophy I made a lot of friends in the Christian theological world so an arch bishop – not an arch – a bishop came here and spoke a couple of years ago and he wanted to come on a private visit and I said, “Fine.” But the word spread so all of a sudden the museum is full of about 80 survivors and they said, “We want him to talk to us.” So I went up to him and said, “Would you be prepared?” And he said, “Fine.” And what was wonderful is that he went out there, and the first thing he said was, “We the Catholic Church, are guilty by association and through our members of the greatest crime in history.” And he got a standing ovation for this – for being straight forward about that.


So we have very strong links with the Catholic Church. The Catholic schools – the government schools make up about 52% of schools that come here and about 38% are Catholic schools and the rest are from different schools. So we have a very strong bond with others, we get – we get Muslim kids who come here, the United Nations declared the 27th of January, International Holocaust Memorial Day. And for the last three years we’ve had ceremonies. Now, what’s been interesting is in the first two years, I’ve invited Muslim dignitaries and no one’s come. This last Sunday, I had about eight or nine Muslim dignitaries come to the Holocaust Centre and to give their apologies because they were away or busy that particular day.


So that is slowly breaking through. For Yom Ha-Shoah, the holocaust memorial day from the Jewish point of view, there is a celebration which is obviously specifically Jewish and that’s at Robert Blackwood Hall at Monash University but we’re going to run a couple of events here and one event is that I’m having two speakers: one is going to speak about Raphael Lemkin and the other one is going to – is an Armenian scholar coming from the United States and he will be speaking about the Armenian genocide. I’ve had a couple of people say to me, “Oh look, you know, this is Yom Ha-Shoah, we should be specifically Jewish about this.” And I said, “Look, I agree with you except Hitler made a very, very interesting comment and it was when he said, “We will murder the Jews,” he said, “Who remembers the Armenians today?”” And I said, “You know, there’s the link, it’s very important for that link to be understood. And once I said that there was no problems about that.


I’m involved in multi-faith dialogue, I’m on a – I’m a regular invitee to different boards and things at Catholic University, which I think probably in terms of ethics and those sorts of things is probably one of the best universities in Australia. They invited me to speak about multicultural issues and so on as far as Brisbane and Perth and so on. And yes, I meet with imams and priests and so on at different functions and I’m invited to speak and I invite them to speak. So we’re certainly opening up our doors. And we’re involved in a lot more projects where we can combine our resources. I’m thinking of trying to organise from Australia, a tour of Safadi Jewish history. But bring a Turkish scholar with us as well. So that when we go through Turkey and so on that he will be able to educate people with that.


End transcript