In praise of The Other Side of the Story
"Rachael Kohn is a wise and morally generous writer. Her voice is one of calm, judicious and yet companionable evaluation. She understands the issues she writes about at the deepest level and as well as providing a way through the thorniest controversies always keeps a sense of the shape of the whole argument that she's dealing with. This is a superb volume of insightful essays which everyone interested in the religious dimension of life should enjoy. Rachael is especially helpful on the points at which different religious traditions interact and sometimes conflict." Greg Sheridan, foreign editor The Australian and author of Christians, the Urgent Case for Jesus in our World and God is Good for You.
'Rachael is one of Australia’s most effective advocates of the argument that there are immense practical benefits, and even more a demanding moral necessity, to investigate and uncover the intricacies of religious faith. These essays make it eminently clear how important the understanding of religion is to our society and, indeed, societies around the globe...
Her ability to penetrate so deeply into other people’s modes of religious expression and belief, whether they stand in light or in darkness, is remarkable and unique. At the same time, her choice of where to direct her gaze, whether at Christian media accounts of Jews in the period of the Second World War or the sexual machinations of cults of the late twentieth century or the struggles of women to make a place for themselves in religious institutions, is both brave and expansive. In every case she bids us, almost subconsciously, to join her by extending that steadfast gaze further into our present-day realities...' Rabbi Fred Morgan AM, Emeritus Rabbi, Temple Beth Israel, Former Professorial Fellow, Australian Catholic University
“For many years Dr. Rachael Kohn was an important and well-known voice on the Australian cultural scene, as the presenter of the programs about religion on the ABC, Australia's national broadcaster, and similar to the BBC. In her remarkable collection of essays, she shows the wide range of her interests in many aspects of religious belief, as well as her other great merits as a commentator in this often controversial field, such as her objectivity and wide range of knowledge and research. I found her two essays on the attitudes of the Catholic and Lutheran religious press towards the Jews and Nazi Germany particularly impressive as important contributions to Australian history.” William D. Rubinstein Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales, author of A History of the Jews in the English-Speaking World: Great Britain (1986) and The Jews in Australia: A Thematic History (2 volumes, with Hilary L. Rubinstein, 1991).
"Rachael Kohn is one of the nation’s foremost public intellectuals especially in the sphere of religious issues in which she is eminently well qualified. Indeed, she is a star in the firmament with prize-winning books and a host of pioneering essays to her credit....What Australia needs more than ever are such public intellectuals who are not only ecumenically engaged but also those who are capable of advancing the inter-faith dialogue. That is crucial to defining who we are and what as a nation we shall become. Rev Professor John Moses, Fellow, St Marks National Theological College, Canberra
“This is a book for the connoisseurs, but accessible to the broad public. Rachael Kohn brings to the table a unique mix of academic research, prescient analysis and engaging writing. We can savour her analysis of sometimes obscure historical sources to dissect anti-Semitism - or to examine the role of women of faith. We can also devour a fascinating discourse on the obsessions and behaviour of an eclectic variety of cults and sects. The author's passion is to celebrate, yet expose where necessary, the ramifications of religious belief on disciples and society. She does this with her own inimitable blend of verve and insight.” Stephen Mutch PhD LLB is a retired attorney, former MP and academic.
“Dr. Kohn is one of Australia's best-known writers and broadcasters on religion. In 'The Other Side of the Story', she has brought together a selection of her essays, together with insights that were distilled over several decades. The eclectic structure of the book will appeal, not only to theologians and academics, but to lay people who want to learn more about the nature of religions, especially Judaism and Christianity. The phenomena of religious cults, New Age beliefs, women's movements, and the place of art in spiritual expression, all find a place in this book. Eloquently written, The Other Side of the Story, deserves a place on the bookshelf of every thoughtful reader. Dr Brian Wimborne, Ph.D., B. Sc., B. Econ. Researcher for the Australian Dictionary of Biography and author.
“Dr Rachael Kohn’s research and incredible knowledge about cults and sects within Australian society is to be applauded. … Ultimately each member contributes to the power of the cult leader by trading his or her freedom for the security and glory that group membership holds out. This is a compelling look at the times we live in as the internet is now playing a big role in recruiting the vulnerable who are looking for answers for their life. Ros Hodgkins, President, Cult Information and Family Support (CIFS).
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2020: A Year in a Life
We have all heard that COVID has a silver lining
It’s reminded us of all our self-centred whining
That has filled our internet blogs and Twitter
With umpteen ways of getting slimmer and fitter
Just eat meat and salt and drink filtered water
No, eat grains - the paleo the better
Or give up wine and spirits and beer
And get on that bicycle in your lycra gear
And women who have reached a certain age
Don’t let your cheeks look like baggage
Book that trip to Thailand, but don’t let on
Your friends will be too polite to say you look – drawn
Yes, life before COVID was serious business
So much of it was a modern version of Narcissus
Who gazed in the mirror and liked what he saw
And wished it could remain forever without flaw
But then suddenly the bush was on fire
Green turned black and it got drier and drier
Birds fell from the sky and animals burned
People lost lives and something had turned
We no longer lived in a fool’s paradise
And political finger pointing did not suffice
To bring home the message loud and clear
We only had ourselves to fear
The much talked about 'silver lining' of the pandemic is not 'front of mind' to the people at the front line in the health care industry. That's mostly for people with a lot of time on their hands.
Doctors, nurses and social workers are in a daily race to respond to the fear, sickness and loss, as well as the isolation and economic hardship that the pandemic has wrought in the lives of countless Australians. As professionals they require acute sensitivity and well honed expertise in performing their duties, without losing hope that we will beat this virus.
For hospitalist, Haroon Kasim, the lesson of empathy and compassion was learned the hard way, but he never forgot its impact, not only on him but on the young patient whose life was slipping away. As a Muslim, who knows that his faith is often viewed harshly, with hijabed women often taking the brunt of bigotry, he learned first hand the power of compassion to heal desperation and despair.
For social worker, Renata Ieremias, the often hidden work of Jewish Care's more than 300 workers, is bringing support to many people affected by Covid19 in their homes. Age and various kinds of infirmity have intensified the impact of the virus, and social workers are called upon to provide a quick and discreet reading of their needs and the means to nurture their natural strengths in a range of settings, from complex family situations to profound isolation.
For ethicist, Daniel Fleming, who leads ethics formation for staff at St Vincent's Health Australia, the supportive Catholic-Christian environment ensures a profound commitment to providing the most human centred approach to care. Yet, the largest not-for-profit health care system in the country was faced with the ethical challenge, in the early stages of the pandemic, of how to allocate limited resources.
Haroon, Renata and Daniel bring a wealth of experience and insight into how the Coronavirus pandemic challenged them, their organisations and most of all the people they served and brought to the fore their foundational values, derived from their faiths.
And yes, it seems there is a 'silver lining' to this pandemic, which is in the realisation that whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, as individuals and a society, we have the same fundamental needs of compassion and understanding and oftentimes the comfort of the faith traditions and communities we hold dear.
Join them and me for a unique opportunity to hear the best practice from three distinguished professionals who are at the front lines--or just behind them!
Sunday 15 November 2:00-3:30 Register for the free Zoom link: