Vale Jeremy Jones, Jewish communal and interfaith leader

Vale Jeremy Jones, Jewish communal and interfaith leader

Long-serving communal professional Jeremy Jones has died, aged 64. Communal leaders pay tribute to a ‘one-man rolodex and intelligence agency’.

Jeremy Jones AM has been involved in Jewish communal leadership for more than 40 years and was especially prominent for his leadership in interfaith and multifaith relationships.

A former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Jones worked for both the ECAJ and the Australian Institute of Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).

Jeremy Jones

Peter Wertheim, ECAJ

For more than four decades, Jeremy was a faithful servant of the Australian Jewish community and a consummate professional. There is hardly any area of Jewish communal life that did not benefit in some way from his expertise and dedication, and he worked in a range of key communal organisations. He was a former president and Honorary Life Member of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).

He had a special passion for building relationships with other faith and ethnic communities and won over many friends, both personally and communally. He was the first Australian to serve on the Board of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (the Jewish worlds interlocutor with the Vatican, World Council of Churches and World Muslim League) and was the Chair of Interfaith Dialogues representing the ECAJ nationally.

Jeremy was also a fearless opponent of antisemitism and indeed all forms of racism. He was a long-standing advocate of recognition and rights for First Nations Australians, and made a point of wearing kippot and ties decorated with indigenous artwork.

Jeremy’s work in promoting inter-communal harmony was officially acknowledged in 2007 when he was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal, and again in 2016 when he was awarded New South Wales’ most prestigious honour, The Stepan Kerkyasharian AO Medal for Community Harmony. He was also made a Member of the Order of Australia.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Stephen Rothman and I had the honour to represent Jeremy in a legal capacity in some long-running litigation which he pursued in the Federal Court on behalf of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry against two well-known antisemites. Both cases were won, and both defendants were effectively put out of business, but the strain took its toll on Jeremy work-wise and emotionally.

Jeremy’s 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.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Naomi, the whole Jones family and all those whose lives Jeremy touched. May his memory be a blessing.

Jones with Nitza Lowenstein on SBS radio

Mark Leibler and Colin Rubinstein, AIJAC

Everyone at AIJAC is utterly devastated by the passing today of our beloved and widely admired and respected colleague Jeremy Jones, after an extended illness which he fought with great courage.

Jeremy has been an essential and irreplaceable part of AIJAC for some three decades, ever since he was the founding head of our Sydney office in 1993 – an office he has steered with such distinction and determination ever since. 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 even the international arena – to the benefit of everyone who had the pleasure of working with him, including of course AIJAC.

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 for AIJAC, for which we will always be grateful. 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 that knew him.

He was a one-man rolodex and intelligence agency, who knew almost every person of importance in Australian politics, religious communities, the media and other areas of public life – and was almost universally liked and respected. His interfaith work, and personal warmth, also won him hundreds of friends, admirers and colleagues overseas – including in the most unlikely places.

We take some comfort from the immense legacy of service to the Australian Jewish community, to interfaith dialogue and to Australian society, that Jeremy leaves behind. It is a legacy built up through decades of hard work, dedication, integrity and inspirational leadership, and will continue to have a positive impact for decades to come.

We extend our deepest and most sincere condolences to Jeremy’s family members on their terrible loss.

Deeply saddened by the passing of our colleague, friend and, often, mentor, we can only fall back on Jewish tradition and say: May His Memory be a Blessing.

David Ossip, New South Wales Board of Deputies

For close to four decades, Jeremy was a distinguished leader of our community who occupied many formal leadership roles, including as a JBD Deputy for close to three decades and as a long-serving member of the JBD executive. But, beyond any mere titles, Jeremy distinguished himself as a leader of unique standing through his tireless efforts to build bridges with other faith and multicultural communities and his unceasing efforts to confront all forms of racism and discrimination. 

Through his service and dedication, Jeremy was instrumental in shaping our community. He was also a generous mentor to younger members of our community and was always available to share his wise counsel and experience. Most importantly, Jeremy was a mensch par excellence, who treated everyone with respect and decency. 

Jeremy’s passing leaves a big void and we will miss him terribly. We wish his family and friends a long life and trust that his name will be a blessing.

Jeremy Leibler, Zionist Federation of Australia

Zionist Federation of Australia leadership and staff joins the entire Australian Jewish community in mourning the untimely death of Jeremy Jones AM, a committed and passionate Australian Jewish leader.

For decades, Mr Jones served as a lay leader and professional in an incredible number of Jewish and interfaith organisations. His interfaith work went hand-in-hand with his unstinting fight against antisemitism, including his famous — and victorious — Federal Court battles.

His promotion of reconciliation with Australia’s Indigenous community predated most of the community and signalled his principled commitment to human rights and equality.

His warmth, his desire to connect, and his passion for his country, his community and for Israel will long be remembered.

I was always so impressed at the way he could engage and inspire, and was always able to place himself above politics to pursue what was in the best interests of the Jewish community.”

Australia has lost a giant, and the Australian Jewish community is poorer for his passing. The ZFA extends its heartfelt condolences to his wife Naomi and their children.

Lynda Ben-Menashe, Consultant to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and Former Head of Engagement, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

Jeremy Jones was king among the young men who led us by example in the days when I first met him as a new member of AUJS’ national executive in the mid 1980s. I looked up in awe at his stunning intellectual dexterity, his Internet-breadth knowledge in those pre-Internet days, and his depth of commitment to laser-focused purpose. Jeremy inspired me and so many others to learn, to speak and to at least try to follow his example of service. When years later I finally entered the Jewish professional arena, Jeremy was there as a mentor and exemplar, helping me find the balance between devotion to our own and the wider community and in the interfaith and intercultural space opening so many doors. In the days since his passing I cannot count the number of true friends from other communities who have reached out to me to convey their sadness. Jeremy was one of the giants on whose shoulders our community stands and thrives; he was unique and is irreplaceable. May his memory be for a blessing. 

Top photo: Known for his interfaith work, Jones demonstrates a lulav to members of the Hindu community