The Last Word: Jeremy Jones – In Memoriam
Sep 28, 2023 | Colin Rubenstein
The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) is utterly devastated by the passing of our widely admired and respected colleague Jeremy Jones AM on September 6, after an extended illness which he fought with great courage.
There has been an outpouring of sorrow and disbelief around the world at Jeremy’s untimely passing – from Federal and State Parliaments and leaders, from the US, UK, Israel, and Indonesia, from religious leaders, the Federal Police and many more. There has been a flood of amazing tributes applauding his remarkable qualities, personal and professional (see pp. 38-39) – and they are all true.
Jeremy has been an essential and irreplaceable part of AIJAC for some three-and-a-half decades, and a leading light of the Australian Jewish community for even longer.
He was our community’s one-man intelligence agency, who knew almost every person of importance in Australian politics, religious communities, the media and other areas of public life. His interfaith work, and personal warmth, also won him hundreds of friends, admirers and colleagues around the world.
He was the founding head of AIJAC’s Sydney office in the late 1980s – and steered that office with distinction and determination up until his passing. AIJAC is proud to have also helped facilitate Jeremy’s ability over those years to assume numerous other public service roles across the wider Jewish community, multi-faith and multicultural Australia, in our national public life, and especially in the international arena – to the benefit of everyone who had the pleasure of working with him.
Among other things, he served for many years as Vice-President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the peak representative body of the Australian Jewish community, before being elected ECAJ President between 2001 and 2004.
He was at the forefront in exposing and fighting antisemitism, racial hatred and bigotry in all its forms. He was also the community’s main chronicler of statistics on antisemitism for more than two decades, and a main voice formulating policy responses to it. As an Australian delegate to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), he was one of the group of experts who helped formulate IHRA’s now widely used working definition of antisemitism. He was also the plaintiff in two landmark court cases which established that antisemitism was covered by Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and that Holocaust denial was a violation of that Act.
Jeremy attended the infamous UN Durban “Anti-racism” Conference in 2001 as a member of the Australian government delegation. He was witness to the vicious anti-Israel behaviour and outcome of that gathering, which have percolated through so many UN bodies ever since, including its Human Rights Council, UNESCO and so on. He understood the challenge, alerted us all to it and fought it vigorously with determination ever since.
He was always measured, thoughtful and constructive in negotiating these vexed issues and more broadly in promoting interfaith understanding and cooperation – areas in which he played a leading role, both in Australia and globally, throughout his life. His promotion of Jewish-Muslim dialogue also led to Jeremy playing a unique role in Indonesia, where he spoke widely to Muslim groups about Judaism and was able to bring many groups of Muslim religious, academic and media leaders on AIJAC study visit programs to Israel.
Jeremy always brought an extraordinary level of knowledge and insight about Judaism, public life in Australia, philosophy and morality, and human nature into his work. He also had a personal warmth, a kindness for those in need, an eagerness to teach and debate, and a wicked wit, all of which will be profoundly missed by everyone who worked with or knew him.
We are proud at AIJAC of the immense legacy of service to the Australian Jewish community, to Australian society, and globally, that Jeremy leaves behind. It is a legacy built up through decades of hard work, dedication, integrity and inspirational leadership, which will continue to have a positive impact for many years to come.