Here’s what this peak body told the Feds about JCA

parsha BalakThe beautiful thing about being a Jewish communal CEO with a weekly newsletter to write is that when you’re lost for words or ideas there is one text that will never fail you – the Torah. And thanks to the brilliance of serialisation, the storyline changes every week. So let’s go to written scroll:

This week’s parsha, Balak, is a good one. It features the world’s most famous talking donkey (other contenders were Eddie Murphy in the Shrek franchise, and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and a minor, non-Jewish prophet, named Balaam. The story will be familiar: Balaam, enlisted by the Midianite King to curse the Jewish people, instead offers the blessing we now say every morning:

Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishkenotecha Yisrael . . .

How good are your tents, Jacob, Your dwelling-places, Israel . . .

Often it takes an outsider to see how good our tents are. I felt that this week when I got an email from Philanthropy Australia. They are making policy recommendations to the federal government and want to use JCA as an example of a model which could be more broadly adopted in local philanthropy.

This is what they had to say about our tents:

JCA is an organisation which connects funders within the Jewish community with charities operating within the Jewish community. It is a trust jointly “owned” by 22 member organisations the Presidents of which serve as Trustees. Funders within the Jewish community … donate to JCA so that it can then distribute the funds based on the needs of the various charities which make up the “community chest”. The needs of these charities will vary year by year and JCA is in a position to ascertain these changing needs and direct donations accordingly. Consequently, rather than undertake their own detailed research and make multiple grants to charities operating within the Jewish community, funders … use JCA’s expertise and skills by making one donation to JCA’s fund each year, with JCA then determining where these funds go. The charities want this too as it leads to better coordinated and more strategic philanthropy.

As JCA president Stephen Chipkin and vice president Michael Graf said at our recent campaign events, no other community in Australia, Jewish or non-Jewish, does what we do.

NewsFlash1And here we are now, past 30 June, and I guess you’d like to know what we’ve done so far:

Almost 3,000 pledges have been made, and almost $9.5m has been gifted to our community so that we can ensure that it is sustainable, vibrant and secure – that certainly translates into some very good and sound tents.

Thermometer 3 July 2015 v2.jpgAnd even better news: both of these numbers are significantly up on the same time last year, so a huge thanks to everyone who has contributed their time, talent or treasure over this past six weeks.

Of course, we still have a way to go to raise our $13.5m target, but thankfully we are building from a very strong base. So now, the focus of the JCA office shifts slightly to the planning, facilitation and allocation function.

And on that note, what are you doing on Thursday, 30 July at 10:00am?

If you’re free, why don’t you join us for a guided tour of the Wolper Jewish Hospital with president Daniel Goulburn, and also hear from Danny Hochberg, president of Maccabi NSW?

These ‘Community in Action’ tours give you an opportunity to learn more about JCA’s member organisations and to speak to people who are delivering the services and programs we fund through your donations. To join us, email our community relations coordinator Ruth Nissim via

This tour, and others like it that we hold throughout the year, is a unique chance to see another one of our beautiful JCA tents.

Shabbat Shalom,

Dan, CEO

P.S. If you, or more likely some youngster you know, would like to develop some sweet, actual tent building skills, then look no further than our own 3rd Rose Bay (Judean) Scout Group. Leon Waxman will be happy to show you the ropes (and pegs – keeping with the tent analogy). Though, without wanting to sound judgmental, I think the kids these days have it a bit easy with lightweight pop-up dome tents. No way we’d have been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years if we’d had them…

Vale Fred Seskin

Guest speaker Gerardo Porteny Backal with Fred and Necia Seskin on Saturday night. May his memory be a blessing.

Guest speaker Gerardo Porteny Backal with Fred and Necia Seskin on Saturday night. May his memory be a blessing.

Saturday night was a night of incredible highs and incredible lows. But through it all we saw our community at its absolute best. And even for those of you who weren’t there, we have one man to thank: the late Fred Seskin.

Fred, a stalwart of the North Shore community, arrived early at our Chatswood function with his wife Necia as they had decided to come at the last minute and wanted to pay for their ticket. There would be no difficulty finding a table for Fred with people that he knew because Fred had friends at nearly every table in the hall.

The night was wonderful – a joyous culmination of what has been a very well-received and executed campaign. JCA vice-president Michael Graf spoke forcefully about the threat of rising anti-Semitism, the opportunities of engagement and innovation that face our community, and what JCA and its member organisations are doing about these challenges.

We heard inspiring speeches from two young men: our own Ian Reichman, who we watched grow in confidence through our campaign, as he helped out as a volunteer and finally, asked to speak so that he could explain the impact your support of our community and JCA has had on his life. What value can you possibly place on donations that help a young man learn to walk and talk again after collapsing on the soccer field?

Mr Kaye with three young musicians from Masada provided the musical entertainment (photo Jason Silverstone).

Mr Kaye with three young musicians from Masada College provided the musical entertainment (photo Jason Silverstone).

Our guest speaker, Gerardo Porteny Backal, inspired us all to make a difference in the world, though he also made us feel a little lazy for not having started five not-for-profit organisations between the ages of 16 and 20, and a breast cancer awareness speed car racing team. It was just a bit humbling to have to wish him a happy 21st birthday, which he celebrated on the plane home from Sydney on Monday.

We were all on such a high, and the JCA team, lead by Terry Katz on Saturday night, had done such a great job. Just as we were contemplating starting a JCA Formula One Racing team, as the last of the guests left the hall, a CSG volunteer came running in to say that someone had collapsed and CPR was being administered. Five doctors from our community (including Terry’s husband, Ian) battled to resuscitate Fred until just before midnight when unfortunately it was clear that nothing more could be done.

A large turn out to the event held at Chatswood Chase.

A large turn out to the event held at Chatswood Chase.

Fred Seskin was a family man, devoted to his community and a real icon to many.

In summary, Fred Seskin was 86 years old, a congregant at Kehillat Masada and very involved in the North Shore Jewish community, serving as president of the North Shore Friendship Club up until very recently, and a regular attendee and organiser of events at Kadimah Gardens. He was also a long time donor to JCA and dedicated to all aspects of our community.

After his passing, we were unsure whether or not to process Fred and Necia’s pledge form. But on Monday, several of us from JCA attended his funeral along with hundreds of others. Rabbi Krebs delivered a most powerful and moving eulogy.

Rabbi Krebs noted that he spent his final day immersed in community – both at shul in the morning and at our JCA dinner in the evening. Literally, Fred’s last stroke of the pen had been to sign his JCA pledge form and give tzedakah to our community and those members of it who are less fortunate.

We can all get very carried away with ideas, and strategy, and innovation, and threats, and messaging, and engagement, and brand, and marketing, and social media, and cover charges, and speakers, and catering, and videos, and donor numbers, and demographics, and a hundred other details that need to be thought through in running a large communal philanthropy. But every now and then, something cuts through.

On Saturday night, and then at the funeral on Monday, that thing was the final act of communal generosity of one donor, who reminded us that it is our great responsibility and honour to be the conduit of our community’s huge philanthropic heart.

We wish to thank every single person who has supported JCA’s 2015 campaign to-date. There really is something truly wonderful about every single donor, and every single donation. Something far bigger than all of us. Something immortal.

We wish Fred’s wife Necia, children Hilton, Mark and Sharon, grandchildren and great-grandchild, and all of his other relatives and friends, long and healthy lives biz hundert un tsvantsik.

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg, CEO

You’re not going to believe this… last night I shared dinner with Einstein and Elvis.

Einstein and Elvis. Aka Jeff Einstein and his wife Helen, and female Elvis impersonator Jacqueline Feilich and her husband Maurice.

Einstein and Elvis. Aka Jeff Einstein and his wife Helen, and female Elvis impersonator Jacqueline Feilich and her husband Maurice.

So there I was eating my 20th serving of kosher fish in as many days and I found myself sitting between Einstein and Elvis.

I am, of course, referring to Jeff Einstein, who designed the wonderful trophies we presented on Sunday night to the winners of our volunteer awards, and Jacqueline Feilich, the world’s best female Elvis impersonator. And there are people who think JCA functions are dull!

Wedged between the most famous scientist and artist of the 20th century (just go with me on this), I started to think about the two sides of giving: the rational and the emotional, and CP Snow’s 1959 Rede Lecture, “The Two Cultures”.

Snow’s thesis was that “the intellectual life of the whole of western society” was split into the titular two cultures — namely the sciences and the humanities — and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. The gaping chasm between science and humanities. Between reason and emotion. Left brain and right brain. And sitting there between Einstein and Elvis, I realised that we at JCA had built a bridge over that chasm and I knew that because you told me.

Almost 80,000 people have now watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk since we linked to it in last week’s newsletter, which really is the strongest indication we’ve had to date of the power of @jcatoday (anyway that’s our theory, and we’re sticking with it). Thank you for sharing your WHY of JCA. It really was heartening to hear from a number of our most loyal subscribers that their WHY was the same as mine. But as predicted, there were a range of WHYs, many were left brain Einstein reasons, rational, reasonable and logical: donating to JCA means giving to 22 member organisations. This means they can do what they’re good at – helping us. Can you imagine fielding 22 phone calls, 22 letters, or eating 22 kosher fish dinners in a row?

einstein3For those who want to understand the rational basis for supporting JCA, all you need to do is watch this video of our Chair of Building & Captial, Kelly Bayer-Rosmarin, who sets out the case with precision and conviction. (Sorry about the lighting, and ignore the bit where she says the major advantage of a central communal fundraising body is not having to deal with 22 of me).

But, by far the most common WHY we heard from you, was a right brain emotional Elvis reason:  the centrality of Tzedakah. We give to our community, and support those in need, because it is just and right, and because we don’t think too much about, it just feels in a visceral way, something we need to do. It’s what we learned from our parents and grandparents, and all the Jewish people who came before them in chain leading back to our founding fathers and mothers.

Ian Reichman

Ian Reichman on Tuesday night.

I got to see exactly that on Tuesday night when our two guest speakers let us into their lives and the deep heartfelt reasons why they want to give back. First, we heard from 23-year-old Ian Reichman, who spoke about the role community, and your support of JCA, played in literally helping him walk again after a shocking collapse on a football field. Ian has been helping the amazing Dr Denise Meyerson at some of our donor dinners, and was inspired to speak in public for the first time since his traumatic accident, and we thank him for that and for having the courage to stand up and tell us his story. He will be speaking again on Saturday night at our Communal North event and we’ll share the video with you soon.

We interrupt this blog post with an opportunity for you to donate now. Click here.

Ian was followed by our guest speaker from Mexico, Gerardo Porteny Backal, who spoke about his love and admiration for the amazing women in his family – his mother, his older sisters, and his grandmother, whose repository of Jewish heritage in Mexico City is UNESCO listed.

Gerardo Porteny Backal at Tuesday night's talk, which also featured Ian Reichman.

Gerardo Porteny Backal Tuesday night.

And yet, he was shocked to discover that they, as females, could be treated differently to men, simply due to their gender. Five years and five not-for-profit organisations later, Gerardo travels the world urging men to take an active part in the gender equality movement, within the context of Jewish values like Tikkun Olam. If you’re coming to our Communal North event tomorrow night, you’ll get to hear him too – his last speech of his trip to Sydney on behalf of JCA.

So whether you are an Einstein or Elvis, please give generously to our community. Be open to the reason or emotion that may just be what you need to ignite your own passion for giving, so that we can together solve the world’s problems. Starting right here in our own backyard. So if you haven’t already donated to JCA, here’s another opportunity – please click here to give generously now. Thank you.

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg, CEO


Lauren Placks and Lauren Kavnat with JCA’s Ashleigh Levett (far left).

P.S. On Saturday night we held our JCA Casino Night with over 200 of our bright young things turning out to gamble on the future of our community. Well, actually the future of our community seems to be in pretty safe hands with volunteers of the calibre of Lauren Placks and Lauren and Russell Kavnat. A huge thanks to them (and as always our hardworking JCA team) for pulling off a great night of entertainment and communal heart. If you want to see how your kids partied the night away, you can always check out the photos here. And, by the way, a huge thank you to our amazing photographer Giselle Haber, who cheerily showed up to each function, and faded into the background, but captured so many fantastic shots of our VIP speakers, hosts, and YOU.

Bestselling author Markus Zusak at the JCA Communal East Awards function last Sunday evening.

Bestselling author Markus Zusak at the JCA Communal East Awards function last Sunday evening.

P.P.S. And on Sunday night, over 500 people were inspired by Markus Zusak at our Communal East and Awards Night. Mazal Tov to the three winners of our volunteer awards: the Hal Goldstein Lifetime Award went to Zara Young OAM for her many decades of service to NCJWA NSW; the Shofar Award went to Alan Joffe for his 10 years+ of service to the Shalom Institute, B’nai B’rith and COA; and the Mensch Award went to JCA’s Rose Temple, who has devotedly volunteered to JCA and the wider community, also for many decades. Photos of this event are here. A huge thank to the entire JCA team, all of whom have worked tirelessly over the last months, weeks and days.

Thanks also to: Stanley and Felicia Kahn of Amaze in Taste for their delicious kosher catering at every dinner and function, and Danny Lander and his team at CEG Events for their events management.

No one has ever become poor by giving. – Anne Frank

At a recent dinner, host doggie Cooper, watched on but kept a close eye on the catering.

At a recent dinner, host doggie Cooper, watched on but kept a close eye on the catering. (Photo by Giselle Haber.)

The best thing about going to JCA dinners every night for the past two weeks has been meeting you, and hearing how much you appreciate this blog. And the question you ask the most: “Is how do you find the inspiration to write something every week?” And the truth is, sometimes it is hard, especially when we are smack in the middle of Kosher Groundhog Day. But when that happens I turn to the world’s third most watched TED talk.

If you haven’t done it yet, drop everything now (well, don’t drop your phone because who wants to pay for another cracked screen) and be the 22,663,237th person to watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk: How great leaders inspire action. Even if you have watched it, watch it again. Like I just did. Because I may not be a great leader, but I certainly need to be this week to inspire you to action.

As Simon says: It all starts with WHY?


Danny Goldberg (photo by Giselle Haber).

We all get carried away with the WHAT? What is JCA? We are the fundraiser, planner and facilitator for our community (are you still awake?). Some of us get fixated on the HOW. I could seriously speak to you for an hour about the brilliance of the Allocations Committee and the Building & Capital Committee and the Investment Committee and the Fundraising Committee and the Planning Committee and the Strategic Working Groups we’ve set up, and the Gen-gage group, and of course our hard working Executive Committee and the powerful feeling of community around the big table of the Board of Governors (now I know you’re not awake – you did drop the phone didn’t you).

But the critical question is WHY? In the words of Simon Sinek: “It is not what you do, but why you do it” that makes the difference in this world. Why does JCA exist? What is our purpose? What is our cause and our belief? Why do we get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? Why should you care?

So if I’m to be a great leader, all I need to do is explain to you the WHY of JCA. And its pretty simple really but the only problem is that my WHY will be different to yours. And yours will be slightly different to the tens of thousands of other members of our community.

DonateNowGirlSo let me tell you about my WHY:

JCA exists to ensure a sustainable, vibrant and secure Jewish community (by the way, that’s what is says on the back of my business card). Our purpose is to be the collective expression of our collective love of community. We are the manifestation and the machinery of our sense of Jewish responsibility. To each other. And especially for those too weak and old to be able to look after themselves. To present, at the same time, a strong and beautiful face to the broader world.

Our cause is contemporary and it is to provide the most up-to-date education, welfare, and social service delivery as befitting a connected, switched-on and affluent 21st century community, living as we do in the most benign corner and time of our Diaspora. But our cause is also, in the words of our CSG, “to protect Jewish life and the Jewish way of life” in a more threatening environment.

And our belief is ancient.

It is a belief that our time on this planet is precious. Our texts and teachers have taught us that our lives are not accidental and that we have an obligation to spend our time on this planet in a manner befitting the God-given nature of that gift. We get out of bed every morning to make the world a little bit better. And we start with our little corner of it. But we don’t stop there. And for those of us who are religious after getting out of bed, we say Modeh Ani, and thank God for restoring our soul. Because even though we are not all of us religious, we are Jewish and Communal and find both of those things incredibly Appealing.

And why should anyone care?

Well, I won’t presume to answer that, but what I have loved over these past two weeks is hearing so very clearly from you why you care. And the hundreds of donations that are coming into JCA’s offices, many for small amounts. Cheques with spindly European scrawls, from elderly people on a fixed income, SMS’ed donations from GenY kids with uncracked screens, phone calls and emails, sackfuls of mail and people who just come by the office to drop in their annual contribution, are the visible proof of that care.

Thermometer 12 JuneThis week, we ask for your generous contribution to our community and as Anne Frank once said, and which our president Stephen Chipkin has mentioned throughout the last two or three weeks:

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

We are all the better for it. So please donate now – you can donate here.

Of the $13 million+ we need to raise, the good news is that in just a few short weeks, nearly $5 million has come in. But we still need to raise over $8 million so we can ensure all the services and programs that make our community great.

But more importantly, we need to tell each other why we care. This Shabbat, take a moment to tell your family why you have contributed to our community through this year’s JCA campaign, and why you think they should too. (If you want to crow about it on social media – and we hope you do – use the #whyIgavetoJCA hashtag, and your friends and family will wonder if you know Mark Zuckerberg personally.)

And after Shabbat, you can tell us in person at the Young Professionals Casino Night on Saturday, or the Communal East and Awards Night on Sunday, or eastern suburbs event with international speaker Gerardo Porteny Backal on Tuesday night, or the Communal North event the following Saturday! (Apparently special visas have been issued which allow those from South of the bridge to attend the event in Chatswood should they wish to!)

Thank you for your generous gift of caring for our community and Shabbat Shalom,

Dan, CEO

P.S. If you are looking for a really direct way of telling others your WHY, we are still looking for people willing to help out with telephone campaign the week after next, so please get in touch with Rose Temple on 9360 2344.

Why Last Night Was Like Kosher Groundhog Day

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin and her LEGO

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin and her LEGO Tower of Awesomeness (photo by Giselle Haber).

Last night I attended my 10th donor dinner in almost as many days. We were 29 for this dinner, all of us sitting around three tables at our hosts’ beautiful home, but just like the other nine dinners, we did what Jews do best: talking (loudly), alternately kvelling and kvetching, about this community of ours.

You might think I’m describing kosher Groundhog Day. And it is true that there are certain similarities at each event: the utmost dedication and professionalism of the JCA team; the tirelessness of Stanley and Felicia Kahn from Amaze in Taste and their wonderful staff; the warm hospitality of our hosts in opening their homes to our community; the focus of Stephen Chipkin and Michael Graf and countless other JCA committee people and volunteers to share our message; Dr Denise Myerson’s endless cheer and energy; and, of course, the reason why we sit down night after night, the significant generosity of our donors.


Steven and Jodi Sher, who hosted last night’s dinner along with Rodney Rosmarin and Kelly Bayer Rosmarin (photo by Giselle Haber.)

And, at every single dinner over the last few days, there has been something that has blown my mind and reminded me of how incredible our community is, and how blessed we are to have people of such talent and generosity, who care so very much.

Last night, one of our brightest, hardest working lay-leaders Kelly Bayer Rosmarin (who chairs our Building & Capital Committee) gave the most thoughtful and powerful articulation of the importance, relevance, and brilliance of JCA that I have ever heard from a Gen Xer.


Jonathan Rosenberg and Jenny Kaldor  (photo by Giselle Haber).

Over 15 minutes, and mainly without any notes, Kelly spoke about her generation’s responsibility to keep the legacy going that her parents – our parents – have given this community. Kelly noted that our JCA is the envy of every other community, Jewish and non-Jewish. As she pointed out, we all benefit every day from the hard work of the past fifty years.

CSG is in place and protects us. The Sydney Jewish Museum educates our children and those of other faiths and backgrounds about the horrors and lessons of the Holocaust. The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies advocates for us and pushes back to those who attack us. The Burger Centre provides wonderful programs for our increasingly ageing community. Our Jewish day schools and Jewish education programs for non-Jewish schools, are educating our kids.

JCA lego

This may or may not be an infrastructure photo.

The infrastructure is built – aren’t we lucky? But she went on. She pointed out that our donor base is shrinking, and aging, while the need is growing. Why is that, she asked? Is it that our Gen Xers haven’t yet accepted that they are now the grown-ups, that they are the ones hosting the Shabbat dinners now?

She also asked everyone to remember that when you give to JCA, you give to 22 member organisations. You don’t have to fend off appeal letters, invitations and phone calls from 22 SEPARATE organisations. You don’t have to hear from ME 22 times (as if that was some kind of negative?). And this means that each organisation is free to do what they do best: look after all of us.

So, please, when you next hear from JCA and we ask you to step up, to make a donation, to attend an event, to share our campaign appeal with your family and friends, remember that what we have is the envy of others for a reason. It’s ours and we must support it. But it’s also at risk. We could be the generation that stuffs it up.

Which brings me to kibitzing

It’s been a while since I recommended a podcast (actually given the juggernaut of the JCA Campaign it’s been a while since I got to listen to a podcast). But last night, buzzed by the great evening, and pumping with adrenalin, I turned to what I had hoped would put me to sleep: a podcast on language and linguistics. If you have time you really should listen to the Lexicon Valley episode on “kibitzing”, even if you’re not descended from a long line of bridge players. I’m still not certain where I sit on the great “onlooking” vs “back-seat driving” divide.


Shelly Kalinko with Caryn Kaplan (photo by Giselle Haber).

But what I am learning from each dinner (and when I finally get it, our campaign will be over, just like Groundhog Day finally ends for its star) is that we have a great community of people wanting to do much more than merely kibitz, and we need to find a way to deal them all into the game.

One sure way is for you to attend any or all of our community’s fantastic events. I hope to see you at Limmud Oz this long weekend – what an amazing 2015 program with literally something for everyone. I hope to see you at the Communal East and Awards Night to celebrate our tireless volunteers and hear from our guest speaker bestselling author Markus Zusak Sunday week, June 14. I hope to see you at our GenX event on Tuesday, June 16 with the inspiring Gerardo Porteny Backal. I hope to see you at our North Shore event in Chatswood with Gerardo on Saturday, June 20.

Frankly, I just hope to see YOU – because together we can play our part in keeping this amazing community thriving.

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg


P.S. You might have had a Groundhog Day feeling this week if you received a JCA co-branded letters from a few of our 22 member organisations. Thanks to all our member organisations for spreading the word through their networks, we are hearing from all sorts of new people. A huge thank you and hello to the new donors who have joined us, particularly the Chinese families from Masada who have seen fit to contribute to our campaign: 谢谢.

P.P.S. If you’re an excellent kibitzer or schmoozer we need your help for just 2.5 hours during our phone campaign nights. You have four to choose from: Wednesday June 17, Thursday June 18, Tuesday June 23 and Wednesday June 24. Please email Rose Temple via or phone on 9360 2344 on Monday to put your name on the list and join us. We’ll kvell when you walk through the JCA door and have plenty to nosh on after learning your spiel. Kvetchers need not apply.

Gerardo Porteny Backal

I admit: I was so wrong and had completely missed the point

Denise Meyerson collage

Huge thanks to Denise Meyerson, who has generously given of her time and more to take a very special (top secret) role at each of our campaign dinners and events.

You might recall a year ago I somewhat controversially confessed to not having attended a JCA event for nearly 20 years. This is what I wrote then:

It’s not that I had anything against the events per se, but there always seemed to be a reason not to go. I didn’t like the speaker. None of my friends were going. My wife thought perhaps the 10 year old was not yet ready to babysit his siblings. There was paint drying somewhere that needed watching.

My general attitude was “please, just tell me where to send cheque”. (right now, our younger readers are asking, “what’s a cheque?”).

But I was so, so, so wrong and had completely missed the point.

And now as CEO, with JCA’s 2015 campaign in full swing after a successful start last week, it is one of my happiest duties to attend every single event we host. And every single one has been energising and interesting. A huge thanks this week to our fantastic fundraising team of Lydia Vesely, Lara Levin, Di Odze, Terry Katz, Ashleigh Levett, Rose Temple, and Kylie French, led by the indefatigable Sharon Philippsohn, all of whom have put in incredible hours to make sure everything runs just right. Enormous thanks also to our volunteer leaders, especially president Stephen Chipkin and vice president Michael Graf, who have spoken with such clarity and candour about the challenges and opportunities we face together.

But wait, there’s more. Huge thanks to Dr Denise Meyerson, whose role in these dinners and events is TOP SECRET and if you’ve already attended one, you’re sworn to secrecy.

Back to me missing the point about our dinners and events a few years back… There was one this week that really made me think about everything that makes this community great. Here’s what happened:

We had two dinners planned for one night so we decided to combine them. Some of our guests had recently moved to Australia with school-aged kids – recent enough to remember the food on the Qantas flight over from Jo’burg. So naturally, we mixed them with a group of grandparents, most of whom had arrived in Australia as young children, or been born here to refugees, and survivors of the Shoah.

Regardless of how they came to be in the room together, everyone had two great things in common: Dover Heights (in its humble, and high class incarnations), and a love of our local Jewish community. And that’s all everyone needed to connect over the dinner table. If you had been observing the table, you would’ve thought they had known each other forever. At one point, the gracious hosts looked at me nervously, wondering if the new found friends might settle in to see the sunrise.

And last night, one of our hosts told her own story about being embraced by this community of ours, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It made me think of all the events I had been invited to – for 20 years – and had declined, and really, I had no idea what I was missing.

And before you know it, this campaign will come to a close. I really don’t know how politicians do it – their campaigns last for months and months (some say years). But one of the joys of the communal calendar is we only have a few weeks to wine and dine (OK, not so much wine, but plenty of dine), and raise the $13,653,245 we need to keep this community running. And then, thanks to our ‘spiritual calendar’, the only thing that could possibly trump the communal calendar, we get Shabbat off – so we can reset and recharge for another week of essential JCA fundraising and engagement.

And this Shabbat we will be thinking and taking stock of the first few days of our 2015 campaign. We have had such a wonderful series of dinners. With many more to come and larger events, and smaller ones. And younger ones. And older ones. And some for women and some gamblers. And every single one of them for people who care about our community, and want to come together to share their dreams, and fears, and hopes, and priorities.

If you haven’t found a seat at one of these events, please contact one of our fabulously friendly staff on 9360 2344 and they will find you a place so that you can enjoy our big Jewish family.

It is customary for a charity CEO to write to you at this time of year, and say “We Need Your Support”. But that really doesn’t apply at JCA. We are a unique charity, in that we are all contributors and we are all recipients. And if you are reading this email, you don’t even need me to tell you that. The fact is “We Need Our Support”, and without wanting to get too cute, “We Support Our Need”.

It’s pretty simple really. Even the 12 year old (who has started babysitting, thank God) gets that.

Shabbat Shalom, and thanks to all of US for OUR support.


P.S. You will have seen signs popping up all over Sydney with a cute kid imploring you to “Donate Now!”. There was an audible groan in the office when I suggested a Thermo-clock for the person who emails through the most photos of themselves in front of different signs (hint, there are 19 for you to collect), so sadly, there will be no Thermo-clock for the winner. Unless you really want one…

P.P.S. What are you doing on Tuesday, June 16th? See your invitation below to join us for a very inspiring speaker.

Gerardo Porteny Backal event invitation

Three Weddings and a Birth!

you cant danceWho doesn’t love dancing at a Jewish wedding? But whenever I’m under that swirling chair (hoping that whatever we do, we don’t drop the bride), I think of my grandmother’s sage advice that you can’t dance at two weddings with one behind. It sounded much better in Yiddish: Mit eyn tokhes ken men nit tantsn af tsvey khasenes. So what hope did my tokhes have on Wednesday night needing to be at three places at once?

To start with, we were privileged to host ‘From Telegrams to Twitter’, a sold out Sydney Writer’s Festival satellite event at our Sydney Jewish Museum, where I moderated a wonderful panel of four women writers in their 20s, 40s, 60s and 80s. If you missed it, you can follow the first three on Twitter: Phoebe Roth (@phoebe_roth), Kerri Sackville (@kerrisackville), and Adele Horin (@adelehorin). Or, you can just follow the magnificent Olga Horak OAM in person, as she guides hundreds of visitors each week through our gem of a museum.

On the same evening, at JewishCare, nearly 50 of our most engaged young (and young at heart) communal leaders, board members, staff and volunteers were inspired by Seth Cohen who came to Sydney thanks to our partnership with Melbourne-based Australian Jewish Funders (AJF). A big thank you to Tracie Olcha from AJF, who is devoted to building vibrant Jewish communities, as is Dr Hilton Immerman OAM and the Shalom Institute, who me must thank for graciously hosting this event and taking the pressure off JCA as our 2015 appeal campaign moves into full swing.

The LaunchPad 2015 cohort. Mazal tov on a fantastic program.

The LaunchPad 2015 cohort. Mazal tov on a fantastic program.

Seth is the Director of Network Initiatives at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation in Atlanta – our partners with AJF – in what has proven to be another hugely successful LaunchPad program, which wrapped up in Melbourne earlier this week.

Seth spoke at length about the power of networks in the Jewish world, and their capacity for us to transform our communities to be sustainable, vibrant and secure in the 21st century. (OK so he didn’t actually deliver the JCA’s mission statement, but I’m pretty sure he believes in it).

At exactly the same time on Wednesday night, our Wolper Jewish Hospital hosted a Q&A panel discussion on suicide and depression. Talking about these topics within our community is essential so if you missed the Wolper Q&A, like I did, you might be interested in JewishCare’s intervention workshop on 2 June: ‘Staying Connected When Emotions Run High’. JewishCare’s Mental Health and Well-Being team is the most well-resourced in our community, and it is vitally important that we are all aware of what this team does so we know who to contact when issues relating to mental health arise.

Oh, and all the way back to Monday night at the Annual Maccabi NSW Awards, a swag of sporting awards were given out, including our top sportswoman (Jessica Fox) and sportsman of the year (Steven Solomon), Team of the Year (Under 11s Cricket Team), the Maccabi Youth Leadership Award (Shayna Levitt and Yoni Hochbergeven), and even Administrator of the Year, which went to  Joel Weiner for bringing back all of our teenagers from Melbourne Carnival (how he found them in the foam party I will never know), and many others.

Zac Midalia, Daniel Grynberg, Lance Kalish and Daniel Cohen

Zac Midalia, Dan Grynberg, Lance Kalish and Daniel Cohen.

And then just last night, JCA hosted some of our best and brightest young entrepreneurs at Boston Consulting Group, where Zac Midalia interviewed Lance Kalish and Daniel Cohen. Thank you to Allocations Committee member Anna Green for organising this.

It has truly been one jam-packed week, and I haven’t yet mentioned the birth: the start of JCA’s 2015 communal appeal with a major donor dinner on Tuesday night during which we heard, via video, from overseas philanthropists and their innovative, ‘game changing’ ideas for their communities in Boston, London and Montreal.

And all of these amazing events provided for our community by the staff and volunteers of our JCA member organisations and JCA team. No wonder we need a communal calendar! You could easily write a book: My Year as Jew in Sydney and Canberra. The diversity, quality, intelligence, and heart of programs and events put on day in and day out by organisations across our community never cease to amaze me. And there are still a few more tickets left for My Mother and Other Catastrophes, “a choreographed reading with dance and film projection of a new Australian black comedy about four generations of formidable Jewish women. It will have you simultaneously laughing and crying and gasping in admiration.” Thank you Florette Cohen and team as all profits will go to JCA’s 2015 appeal campaign. Break a leg, as they say in the biz.

As full as this week was, over the next few weeks nearly two dozen JCA donor dinners and other events kick off as part of our 2015 JCA appeal campaign. If you are one of our hosts, we cannot thank you enough for being willing to invite your friends and family, and in some cases even open up your homes, as part of the JCA appeal. It is truly the pointy end of the year for us and the bulk of $13 million+ must be raised for the benefit of our community during this time.

JCA sign at Masada

Our new signs are popping up at our JCA member organisations. Do you know where this one is?

And to help get the word out that it’s time for all of us to give, and give generously, you might have seen some signs popping up at our various JCA member organisations across Sydney yesterday. The rest will go up on Tuesday. Thank you to all our constituents for helping to promote the 2015 appeal campaign, and to Elliott Placks and his team at Ray White Double Bay for helping out with the signs (especially marketing manager Danielle Banton). Elliott’s terrific team will also be helping during our upcoming telephone campaign. Real estate agents using their considerable powers of persuasion for the benefit of our community – how good is that!

It is, after all, Shavuot and a time for the collection of first fruits. A time to celebrate. A time to give as we would want to receive.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Shavuot Sameach. Enjoy your cheesecake.

Daniel Grynberg

P.S. No matter whether you live across the street, or have to cross the bridge, I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, June 14th at our awards night. Our guest speaker Markus Zusak, bestselling author of The Book Thief, will share his own inspiring story. Please book asap by following this link or calling the JCA office on 9360 2344.

Markus Zusak JCA event