William Cooper Spoke Up

Sometimes it's asked why the good citizens of the world didn't do more to stop the Holocaust; because - so the answer goes - the world did not know the Holocaust was happening.

But we know that this is false. Good people spoke up, but those with power did not want to listen.

In 1938, William Cooper of the Yorta Yorta people led a march on Australia's Parliament House to protest the Night of Broken Glass massacre against German Jews.

In his time working against the genocide of his own mob, Uncle William developed a finely-tuned ear to all the alarming signs of a genocide and he could see the Holocaust coming a mile away.

But the Aussie government did not want to listen to Uncle William, who couldn't vote and was still classified by the national census as 'flora and fauna' on the basis of his Aboriginal heritage.

Last Friday night, I was privileged to share a Shabbat meal at Newtown Shul with Aboriginal elders Uncle Ray and Michael Cooper, William's great-grandson.

Typically the Jewish and indigenous communities live on different sides of Sydney, mix in different crowds, but here they were united over the legacy of a great man.

We must continue building the bridge between these two communities.

Here's how we can keep Cooper's legacy alive and return the favour: listen to Aboriginal voices when they tell us that the genocide against their people is still ongoing. The Aussie government continues to steal children from Aboriginal homes in larger numbers than ever before.

Don't say you "didn't know"; that wasn't a good excuse seventy years ago and it isn't a good excuse today.

When will we start speaking up? If not now, when? If not us, who?

Commenting on this Blog entry will be automatically closed on November 11, 2017.