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Tributes flow for interfaith ambassador

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP with his friend and interfaith ambassador, Jeremy Jones AM, who was farewelled in a moving prayer service after a long illness. Photo: Supplied
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP with his friend and interfaith ambassador, Jeremy Jones AM, who was farewelled in a moving prayer service after a long illness. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has joined other religious, political and community leaders in paying tribute to the interfaith ambassador, Jeremy Jones AM, who worked for more than four decades on behalf of the Jewish community to promote harmony between religious faiths in Australia and internationally.

Mr Jones died earlier this month after a long illness, at the age of 64. He has been farewelled in a moving prayer service at the Jewish funeral home, Sydney Chevra Kadisha in Woollahra, followed by a burial service at Macquarie Park Cemetery in North Ryde.

The director of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Commission for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, Sr Giovanni Farquer SJ attended the services alongside representatives from many other faith traditions to support Mr Jones’ family and the Jewish community in their grief.

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Mr Jones was a great role model in the field of interfaith dialogue, making history as the first Australian to serve on the Board of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations: the Jewish world’s interlocutor with the Vatican, the World Council of Churches and the World Muslim League.

In a letter of condolence to the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, Archbishop Fisher paid tribute to Mr Jones who had been a personal friend of his since school and university days.

“He was a great advocate of interfaith dialogue, especially Jewish-Christian relations. His dedication to this work took him all the way to the Vatican as a participant and interlocutor with Bishops, Cardinals and even the Pope!” Archbishop Fisher explained.

“He was a regular guest at our annual IFTAR dinner, and I greatly enjoyed his company over the years discussing relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community and many other topics.”

“On a personal note, I will always recall Jeremy visiting me in hospital when I was paralysed with Guillain Barre Syndrome. He came to pray the psalms with me; psalms of lament and of hope. It was a genuine act of friendship and faith and one I will forever be grateful for. In turn I have been praying for Jeremy during his recent struggle with cancer,” Archbishop Fisher added.

Mr Jones was a former president and honorary life member of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and a former deputy of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

He was a staunch campaigner against anti-semitism and all forms of racial discrimination and in 2002 he prosecuted a landmark successful court case against Holocaust denier, Fredrick Toben.

His decades of work in promoting interfaith harmony was honoured with an Australian Human Rights Medal in 2007 and with the prestigious Stepan Kerkyasharian Medal for Community Harmony in 2016.

The Co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Mr Peter Wertheim, said Jeremy Jones’ contribution to community life was extraordinary.

“There is hardly any area of Jewish communal life that did not benefit in some way from his expertise and dedication and his untimely passing is sad news for all of us. He leaves a legacy that will serve as an example to the next generation of Jewish communal activists,” Mr Wertheim said.

Jeremy Jones leaves behind his wife Naomi, children Gidon and Galit and siblings Melinda, Peta, Amanda and Quentin.

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