32nd Conference of the Australian Association for Jewish Studies

Sr. Marianne Dacy spoke about what the ancient Greeks and Romans thought of Jews.

Notre Dame de Sion Sister Marianne Dacy took part in a panel at the recent 32nd Conference of the Australian Association for Jewish Studies (AAJS) attended by about 150 people at the the Sydney Jewish Museum.

The theme of the conference was “Imagining Jews: Jewish Imaginings.” Such a broad title left room for a wide variety of papers ranging from philosemitic fantasies through to longstanding Jewish caricatures.

The aim was to shed new light on both historic and contemporary views of Jews and Judaism, through a series of presentations showing how Jews have been “imagined” across time and place.

Papers ranged from biographies of Iraqi Jews in Australia and Jews in the work of artists, to aspects of the Sabbath, the Holocaust, Zionism and Australian history such as three early synagogues in the Egyptian style.

Sr. Marianne was on the panel called “Ancient Imaginings” and gave a paper on what the ancient non-Jewish Greeks and Romans thought of Jews. These views are preserved in fragments in Josephus, a first-century Romano-Jewish historian, and some Fathers of the Church, the ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers who established the intellectual foundations of Christianity.

Most of the beliefs were based on hearsay and stereotypes and they show little attempt to understand Jews. For example, they did not understand Judaism when they said Jews fasted on the Sabbath, and the view that Jews were descended from lepers was widespread. The questions of antisemitism and anti-semitic propaganda were recurrent themes raised in several papers throughout the conference.

Sr. Marianne has been involved in the AAJS since its inception in 1987 and for many years was Secretary and Treasurer there. Over the two days of the conference, she appreciated the opportunity to hear about Judaism and Jewish people, history and culture from so many different perspectives, and to further her understanding of how different imaginings have shaped views about Jews within and beyond the Jewish world.

The conference was supported by the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies of the University of Sydney, the School of Humanities and Languages of the University of New South Wales, and the Sydney Jewish Museum.

12th International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Podkarpackie Province, Poland

Thanks to the efforts of Prof. Waclaw Wierzbieniec and the Jewish History and Culture Department of University of Rzeszów’s Institute of History, and with the support of local authorities and institutions, over 30 towns of Poland’s Podkarpackie Province honoured the 12th International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a series of ceremonies that took place between 2 January and 22 February.

Many of the events were organised at grass-root level by institutions and bodies such as schools, town halls, cultural centres, parishes and village administrations. The high degree of local involvement and the extensive scope of the initiative are unique and unmatched throughout Polish regions.

Sisters Katarzyna Kowalska (NDS) (born in Podkarpackie) and Anna Bodzinska (NDS) joined local people for some of the events organized in towns and villages across the province, such as Rzeszów, Przemyśl, Leżańsk, Gniewczyna Leżańska, Dynów, Tyczyn, Kraczkowa, Jasionka, Pruchnik, Jarosław, among others. We recount how four towns and villages supported remembrance of the Holocaust.


The commemoration at the Jewish Cemetery in Rzeszow.

On January 27 the ceremony in Rzeszów began at the Jewish Cemetery, where prayers were recited by Rabbi Shalom Ben Stambler of Chabad-Lubavitch. Later in the day, there were lectures and meetings, and students had an opportunity to listen to and meet Jewish Polish Holocaust survivors, including Lucia Retman, who lived in the region before and during World War II and now lives in Haifa, Israel. There was also a concert of cymbals, a Jewish Polish instrument. The day concluded with a prayer in Fara Church, where the names of local Poles killed were read out: Jews and Christians were read by Polish and Jewish representatives.



Jasionka: Sr. Katarzyna (NDS) speaks about Righteous among the Nations.

On 29 January, commemorations took place in the primary school in Jasionka. Sr. Katarzyna (NDS) was among the speakers. She gave a historical overview to 13 to 18-year-old students about non-Jews, including Sr. Marie Francia (NDS), who received the honorary title of Righteous Among the Nations from the State of Israel because they risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis for altruistic reasons. She also explained why it is important today to play an active role in Holocaust Memorial Days.



Tyczyn: lighting candles at the Jewish Cemetery.

Students and locals took part in the whole-day programme at Tyczyn on 30 January. Students lit 12 at the Jewish Cemetery to remember the 1,200 Jews who were killed and deported from Tyczyn, which counted 3,000 inhabitants before the war.

There followed a visit to a church and cemetery, the burial place of several Righteous Among the Nations. Students heard stories of courage and difficult choices that locals had to face during the Nazi occupation. The local cultural centre prepared a programme of meetings and lectures, a musical performance and an exhibition on Jewish life and customs.



Holocaust Remembrance Day lasted two days in Przemyśl. It began on 29 January with a commemoration event to remember those who perished in the Przemyśl ghetto and a session dedicated to meeting Holocaust survivors. On 30 January there was a multimedia presentation and a panel discussion on the history and culture of Jews from Przemyśl and its surroundings, from a current perspective.


Sharing Holocaust survivors’ stories.


A work in progress

Podkarpackie’s 12th Holocaust Remembrance Days initiative went unnoticed in world media. However, it is a worthy example of the kind of ground-level work taking place in Poland concerning memory of the Holocaust and the dialogue surrounding it, and it goes to show that there are many places in Podkarpackie where the Jewish past is not forgotten but, on the contrary, is seen as an integral part of Polish history and today’s Holocaust education.

Click here to read the complete programme of the 12th International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Podkarpackie Province in Polish or English.

By Sr. Katarzyna Kowalska (NDS)

Holocaust Remembrance Week

In recognition of last week’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we, the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, reaffirm our solidarity with all victims of persecution and discrimination. 

At this time, as we remember the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp, we stand together with the Jewish people in saying:

“never again

and pledge ourselves to work against all forms of anti-Semitism.

Together, we work towards a world of justice, peace and love.

Notre Dame de Sion’s feast day message

Every January 20th, since 1842, we remember and give thanks for the extraordinary and life-changing experience of grace, mercy and love granted to Alphonse Ratisbonne through Mary at a side altar of the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. Alphonse’s experience with Mary became one of the signs of confirmation for Theodore Ratisbonne to found the Congregation of the sisters of Notre Dame de Sion, “to witness in the Church and in the world to God’s faithful love for the Jewish people and to his fidelity to the promises revealed to the patriarchs and prophets of Israel for all humanity”.

A voice for indigenous people in the Philippines



The ANAWIM MISSION, participated by the Sion Philippines community, is hosting a day-long conversation with indigenous people in the run-up to the year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples declared for 2020 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

This is in keeping with the CBCP’s aim “to work for unity and harmony while respecting diversity and to recognize peoples’ identities, spiritualities and ancestral domain.”

The Conversation with the Indigenous People in the spirit of the Year of Ecumenism, Inter-religious Dialogue and Indigenous People will take place on Friday 6 December 2019 from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm at the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies (IFRS) in New Manila, Quezon City.

Anyone who wishes to attend should write to anawimmission@yahoo.com.

Logo and theme of the Philippine Church’s Year of Dialogue.



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