David Zwartz with Governor General Pasty Reddy at his investiture ceremony at Government House in Wellington on Wednesday.
Having his family with him made interfaith leader David Zwartz’s memory of being honoured at his investiture ceremony even more exceptional.
The Wellingtonian has been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the Jewish and interfaith communities.
Zwartz was honoured at Government House along with eleven other recipients on Wednesday morning and described the experience as “gratifying”.
Attending the ceremony with him were his brother and his wife, Zwartz’s two children and three grandchildren.
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“It really is lovely to be thanked publicly for doing something that you feel is worthwhile, and it was particularly enjoyable because my family were there and I heard the stories of the other people there.”
“It wasn’t the sort of ceremony where you feel there’s only a few select people who are involved, it was a very democratic sort of investiture and the whole atmosphere was very nice, it embraced the families of those being awarded in a very nice way.”
Zwartz, co-founded the Wellington Interfaith Council and is a volunteer for the Holocaust Centre, the Regional Jewish Council, Wellington’s Interfaith Council, and the faith-based Downtown City Mission.
He was editor and on the editorial board of the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle, and a presenter of Jewish programmes on community radio since 1982.
Zwartz was also honoured at the Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian Awards on Tuesday night.
“I just do everything I can to stop any spread of anti-Semitism and anti-Jewishness because that’s something that shouldn’t exist in any healthy society.
“But unfortunately it does still continue and I think that fighting against it is something important for New Zealand society as a whole, not just the Jewish community which is the direct sufferer of anti-Semitism. If we allow that kind of racism to continue, it just infects society as a whole.”
Zwartz believed there “wasn’t quite enough concern for racism, when it raised its ugly head in New Zealand”.
“Unfortunately with the rise of social media, it is easier for people who hold those attitudes to spread their feelings without any comeback. They can post things anonymously that are very vicious, untrue and fake and it’s very hard to combat that.
“But if we have more outspoken concern about that sort of thing, then people will be less prepared to indulge in it.”
Zwartz said he would like to become further involved with the Holocaust Centre’s education programme, raising awareness for school children about the cultural diversity in New Zealand.
“If somebody is different from you, whether they look different, wear different clothes, eat different food or behave differently, that’s not something to regard as ‘wrong’ or ‘beneath you’, it’s something to admire, it makes New Zealand a different place.”