Sol Encel and Liam Getreu on society’s minorities

Sol Encel is someone I wish I had known more about in his life than in his death.  Reading his obituary moved me deeply.  His genuine and selfless concern for people is a rare quality these days.  Michael Pusey wrote (19/08/10):

Encel was a broadly educated and deeply scholarly liberal intellectual who cared mightily about public ethics. He believed that a society is only as good as the way it treats its minorities.

Liam Getreu had a piece first published in the Jewish News (17/09/10): “Why are we failing future generations?“.  He shares a similar wisdom to Encel on minorities:

The ancient maxim that where there are five Jews there are six opinions should be translated here into our community’s targeting of different groups so as to maximise Jewish engagement. Ask the Russian or Israeli expat populations if the Establishment is meeting their needs; they’ve formed their own communities because we, by and large, struggle to include them our communal activities. We need events and campaigns for them, as well as young people, secular Jews and GLBTs to ensure the future strength of the Jewish population in Australia.

To be sure, they have ideas and they have leaders. When people are putting up their hands, pleading to be listened to, and crying out to be involved, actively, in putting this into action, we can ill-afford to dismiss them. When people are begging to lead, who are we tell them no? When this community means so much to so many people, we have to find a way to include them.

Too often passionate activists are dismissed or lambasted, publicly ridiculed or swore at, blacklisted or threatened, and that cannot continue. Those who represent us, and those we look up to have to be worthy of their epithets and one of their top priorities has to be creating a community for the whole of our people, not only a portion.

I live at the intersection of two minority communities.  I was brought up in the Jewish community in Melbourne.  Indeed, Jews are a minority in Australia at roughly 0.5% of the population.  Some 15 years ago I found myself in a community of people defined by my homosexual orientation, a characteristic that many in the Jewish community struggle to accept as normal and actively discriminate against.

I am continually staggered at how the Jewish community, a people who suffered the worst atrocities humankind has ever perpetrated on itself, can exclude and bully a smaller, more vulnerable community of people.  It’s as if a lesson was not learnt.

Sol Encel and Liam Getreu are inspirational people, for their insight, compassion and humanity.