Peter Kohn was presented with the President's Award by Roger Mendelson on 9 June at Temple Beth Israel. Click on "Read More" to read Peter's inspiring words of thanks.
Roger Mendelson, Members of the Union for Progressive Judaism and Progressive Judaism Victoria, Rabbi Kim Ettlinger, Cantor Michel Laloum, Temple Beth Israel President Rebecca Silk, Congregants of TBI, and my dear friends.
Thanks for joining me here today on this simcha, this joyous occasion. And thanks especially to the TBI Honours Committee for this terrific award. As many of you would know, I’m a child of the Progressive movement, from my time at the religion school at Etz Chayim (which back then was known as Southern Liberal Congregation of Temple Beth Israel, and later Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue).
I’d like to pay thanks and tribute to my late parents Ernst and Edith Kohn and grandmother Sarolta (Charlotte) Syrop, as these three amazing people, who many of you here remember with great fondness, were the ones who imbued me with the values that I’ve held over a lifetime and also in my journalism career.
They’re the values of decency and fairness, and the shunning of racism and prejudice in all its forms. What more worthwhile cause could there be for Jews in the generations that have followed the Holocaust than for us to view all humanity for what we are -- equals b’tselem Elohim, in the eyes of God. And as it says in Devarim or Deuteronomy – these precepts are not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. Translated into the modern idiom, you could say that these are "no brainers"
And yet in recent years, I've seen these basic principles distorted, watered down, demeaned, or even mocked, by leaders, politicians, and ideologues -- some of them well meaning (and of course, some of them not) -- in their rush to embrace political or ideological goals. This seems to be the sentiment of our era – all the way from national leaders to ordinary women and men.
So for me, Progressive Judaism stands as a lighthouse, a constant, that we can navigate to. It’s always stood for these basic principles of moderation, fairness and equality -- and I’ve tried to model my life and my work on these principles. And as we know, these are the principles expounded every day by our wonderful Union for Progressive Judaism.
So thanks again, to all of you, and let's keep the good work going! Again, Shabbat Shalom!