Interview: Head On
Unions: Do You Have a Moment?
Industrial: Vital Signs
Economics: Taxing Times
Environment: It Ainít Necessarily So
History: Melbourneís Hours
Immigration: Opening the Floodgates
Review: Pollie Fiction
Poetry: The Cabal
The Locker Room
The Cowra Clause
Belly Spreads The Word
Lying Lies And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them
From Chaver to Cobber
This Monday - in the Sydney Trades Hall - Unions NSW will co-host, with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, for the first time ever an Australian Labour Union Passover.
John Robertson explains why this night will be different from every other night.
Well that's the traditional and key question asked at Passover tables across the globe.
Why is this night different from every other night?It is a question which has been asked for millennia around tables in Jewish homes when families come together to celebrate Passover.
At Passover tables across Australia I hope members of the Jewish community will this week consider that this night is different from every other night because :
- We must all think about how best to maintain the Australian tradition of social and community support for workplace decency;The African-American civil rights struggle looked to the Passover story as the symbol for their own struggle in the USA.
So I was not shocked to hear that Rev Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated just as he was about to lead a march of unionised garbage workers, had planned the very next day to join the great Abraham Joshua Heschel at his Passover table.
Rabbi Heschel, a refugee from Hitler's Europe and Dr. King both used Exodus imagery when writing and speaking about civil rights - especially worker rights.
They marched arm-in-arm to defend both civil rights and workers' rights.
To Heschel fighting for the rights of others was simply an extension of Jewish traditional values.
Like Moses, Heschel became a great leader because he recognised injustice and he had the courage and the fortitude to speak up.
Let us hope that in the years to come union leaders and Jewish leaders in this country will come together to oppose injustice and to speak up in the best traditions of both the Jewish community and the Union community.
I am told that the tradition on Passover is not only to re-tell the story of Exodus - but to read into this story new meanings.
The first big collective agreement won by Moses the union organiserSo in that spirit let me take the opportunity to read into the Passover story new meanings for Moses - to see Moses as maybe the first great union organiser.
Moses the union organiser:
- rallied the slaves to campaign for their rights.
Our Jewish cobbersFinally can I please thank the Jewish community in Australia for one important input into our Aussie tradition of mateship - one that is not often recognised.
It is the expression in the now under-utilised Aussie vernacular - a Cobber.
It seems - according to some academics - that this word probably snuck into our slang thanks to an East London Jewish convict sent to Tasmania, who used the Yiddish/Hebrew word for a mate, a pal, a comrade - Chaver.( Pronounced Haver or Haber )
Corrupted it became Cobber - which is the essence of Aussie mateship and comradeship - and a central part of the ethos of unionism.
So at this time of year I would like to thank our Chavers/Cobbers in the Jewish community for their on-going support for social justice.
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