Aboriginal and Jewish woman named deputy vice-chancellor at University of Sydney
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Aboriginal and Jewish woman named deputy vice-chancellor at University of Sydney

SYDNEY — An Aboriginal and Jewish professor has been appointed deputy vice-chancellor of Indigenous Strategy and Services at the University of Sydney.

Lisa Jackson Pulver is the first known Aboriginal person to receive a PhD in medicine at the University of Sydney.

The newly appointed deputy vice-chancellor is a former president of Sydney’s Newton Synagogue and currently a member of Sydney’s The Great Synagogue.

Jackson Pulver played a key role in the development of a designated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health unit, Muru Marri, in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and was the inaugural chair of the Aboriginal Health department. She cites one her proudest achievements as co-founding the Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program at UNSW, offering residential scholarships to Indigenous students studying medicine and other disciplines. The Shalom Gamarada is a Sydney Jewish organization which sponsors and accommodates Aboriginal medical students.

Jackson Pulver tied herself to trees as fledgling environmental activists protesters waged a peaceful war against the damming of Tasmania’s Franklin River in the 1980s.

The Jewish Aboriginal president of Newtown Synagogue battled a Sydney municipality in 2011 when it passed a resolution to invoke boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel in protest against the treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank. The Marrickville Council is twinned with Bethlehem.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr. Michael Spence said he was delighted Jackson Pulver had accepted the role. “The selection panel and I have been enormously impressed with Lisa’s commitment to embed belonging and key Aboriginal frameworks and world views into initiatives across the education, research and government sectors, as well as into the RAAF where she is a specialist reserve member,” he said.

Professor Jackson Pulver said she was looking forward to re-joining the University of Sydney next month. “The University of Sydney gave me the opportunity to enter tertiary education. I was the first in my family to do so,” she said.

Jackson Pulver’s husband, Mark, was a non-observant Jew when they first met, though she began attending services at a local synagogue. She eventually underwent a two-year conversion process, completing her Orthodox conversion in 2004.

She has said she celebrates all the Jewish festivals, keeps a kosher home and has other community members around the house for Friday night dinners. “For me,” she said, “being Jewish is not contrary to my beliefs in spirituality as an Aboriginal woman.”

Though one would think that Aboriginal Jews might comprise the smallest minority in Australia, Jackson Pulver says there are “quite a lot” of them.

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