News

Archdiocesan Farewell Dinner for Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
12 Jun 2014

Friends gather for the farewell dinner for
Rabbi Lawrence

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney this week hosted a Farewell Dinner for the Senior Rabbi of The Great Synagogue, Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence and his wife Mandy.

After nearly a decade in Sydney Rabbi Lawrence is relocating to London, in the United Kingdom.

The dinner was held at Cathedral House with the Apostolic Administrator the Most Rev Peter Comensoli welcoming guests.

Other guests included Mr Peter Wertheim AM, the Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry; Mr Yair Miller, President NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and his wife Sandra; Mr William Szekely, Chair of the Australian Council for Christians and Jews and his wife Gudula; Sr Giovanni Farquer, Director Sydney Archdiocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Relations; Mr Chris Meney, Director of the Life, Marriage and Family Centyre for the Archdiocese and the Hon Justice Francois Kunc and Felicity Rourke.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence and his wife Mandy and
Sr Giovanni Farquer

Speaking on behalf of the Archdiocese, Supreme Court Justice Francois Kunc paid tribute to Rabbi Lawrence's prominent service among the religious communities of Sydney.

Rabbi Lawrence had been "an enthusiastic and articulate collaborator with Catholic and other faith leaders in claiming and exercising the right of religious voices to be heard in the public square on issues of faith, morality and ethics" the judge said.

In the area of Catholic-Jewish dialogue Rabbi Lawrence had made a very special contribution. This began early in his term when he made The Great Synagogue available as the venue for a joint Catholic-Jewish celebration for the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II document on relations with the Jewish people "Nostra Aetate".

In 2008 Rabbi Lawrence honoured the Catholic community with his speech of welcome to Pope Benedict XVI during the Sydney World Youth Day.  However, Justice Kunc recalled that the most profound encounters had occurred when there was joint reflection on the Shoah.

A farewell dinner - a farewell photograph

"On those occasions we have sat together and felt the unspeakable suffering of the Jewish people and our own painful acknowledgment of the complicity, through action and inaction, of Christians in those terrible events. But from our meetings has come a strong commitment, while respectful of our differences in faith, to building a better future together as children of the one, loving maker of us all."

Justice Kunc concluded by, above all, thanking Rabbi Lawrence and his wife for their friendship to the Catholic community and offering every good wish to them and their family for his new role in the Finchley United Synagogue in London.

In  his remarks in reply, Rabbi Lawrence thanked Bishop Comensoli for hosting the dinner.

The Rabbi paid tribute to Cardinal Pell for the close working relationship they had together, which itself built on the ecumencial efforts of their respective predecessors, Rabbi Apple and Cardinal Clancy.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence and Bishop Peter Comensoli

Rabbi Lawrence reminded those at the dinner that this weekend the story of Moses sending spies into Canaan would be read in synagogues. The spies returned with reports about the promised land but did not actually speak to any of the inhabitants. The Rabbi said this was a failure of dialogue, a mistake which Catholics and Jews now know not to make.  The Rabbi said that interfaith work had been an enriching experience for him.  However, dialogue had to take place not just among religions but also between religions and secular society. He emphasised that the Jewish community was committed to work with Christians and other faiths not only to improve relations between religious groups but also to ensure that the fruits of that dialogue would be a blessing for all Australians.

Following the dinner Chris Meney said the evening was a reminder that Australians should be extremely grateful that we live in a country where the opportunity to dialogue and work cooperatively is possible.

"We should do all that we can to ensure our efforts within society are seen by others as coming from people of faith who are deeply committed to the wellbeing and flourishing of all."