Check out the Michael Graph


OK so truth be told we nicked this picture from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (and yes, for anyone who’s ever been there, we know the city of Angels does sprawl, but clearly not quite as far as this side of the Pacific). Their theme was 8 real life miracles we created in 2015, and seeing as so many of their miracles sounded familiar, it seemed like a pretty good way to celebrate the achievements of our community this year too, so here goes:

  1. Empower: JCA’s Observership Program has gone from strength to strength, empowering a new generation of community leaders and activists. Though it is not the primary goal of the program, some 20 graduates (out of nearly 100) have gone on to become full-time board members in our community, and others are working on a myriad of innovative communal projects.
  1. Heal: So I looked it up in the dictionary, and this is what it said: /hiːl/; verb: cause (a wound, injury, or person) to become sound or healthy again; alleviate (a person’s distress or anguish).  Once again this year, one of JCA’s founding members, Wolper Jewish Hospital, delivered on its mission of providing the absolute best in rehabilitation and palliative care to our community and way way beyond. And once again Wolper, in its most communally-minded way, did not request an allocation from JCA and instead provided significant funding for communal health-related projects from its own surpluses and endowment.
  1. Strengthen: Regrettably, again this year our CSG has had to look to strengthen our defences as we have watched insanity unfold from Paris to San Bernadino. But at the same time our NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has spent an incredible year strengthening our relationships with other communities and friends.
  1. Help: Thanks to your support our JewishCare has this year helped hundreds of families in crisis, as well as our aged, and those in our community dealing with mental health and disability. An absolute highlight this (and every) year, was being at the closing concert for Camp Sababa and Sababa Lagamba earlier this week. There is so much more to do, but it is good to know that our JewishCare is there to help. Of course helping is also what JCA’s aged care constituents do every day and this year thanks to your support through JCA, thousands of our community’s frail and elderly have benefited from the wonderful work of Montefiore, the Burger Centre, B’nai B’rith Retirement Villages, and COA Sydney (check out the Hannukah party photos on their Facebook page – and please don’t tell me that COA is on Facebook and you’re not!).
  1. Teach: Thanks in part to your support of our community through JCA, some 3,300 students were able to be taught at our wonderful Jewish schools: Emanuel, Moriah, Mount Sinai, Masada and Kesser Torah. JCA’s support of the Board of Jewish Education, and the Board of Progressive Jewish Education, helped to teach a further 2,000 students what it means to be Jewish. And at the same time our Sydney Jewish Museum has been able to teach a record 23,000 school kids about the Shoah.
  1. Connect: Our inaugural 10×10 event saw a fantastic group of young adults at LinkedIn (you can’t get more connected than that) stepping up to support some of the most innovative programs our community has on offer: PJ Library, Mum For Mum, and Sababa Lagamba, all of which are supported by you through JCA, and all of which are about making and deepening connection.
  1. Build: Well this year our community didn’t build anything in terms of bricks and mortar, but the annual “capital appeal slot” was given over to what has been perhaps our most ambitious endowment project ever: Y2i. This unique collaboration of JCA, UIA, JNF, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and ECAJ has seen nearly $10m committed to ensuring every child who completes year 10 has the opportunity to go on an organised educational trip to Israel. At this very moment 224 young students are in Israel, building relationships, strong Jewish identities and the future of our community.
  1. Support: We’ve saved the best to last. We still have a little way to go until we close the books at midnight on 31 December (and it’s never too late to DONATE), but we are incredibly humbled and honoured to announce that this year we have received a record quantum of pledges, totalling more than $14m to fund all of the organisations and programs above and so very much more. All thanks to your support.

Of course all of the above was as a result of an incredible team effort, and there are so many to thank. However there is one person who deserves particular thanks, and who wants none. And that is outgoing Fundraising Chair and Vice President Michael Graf. Michael has certainly gone out on a high (literally, the highest ever fundraising result in JCA history). This is the Michael Graph:


During Michael’s time as Appeal Chair, $64m has been raised by JCA for the benefit of our community, an incredible achievement in anyone’s books. On top of that, having sat for 8 years on JCA’s Executive Committee, Fundraising Committee, Board of Governors and given countless hours of selfless work and devotion to our community, we also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Lianne Graf for sharing Michael with us (and countless kosher fish dinners).

JCA’s office staff in particular will be so sorry not to have Michael’s gentle and generous energy in our daily lives. But all is not lost (to our community). We are so very happy to be able to wish a heart Mazal Tov to both Michael, and the Montefiore Home, on his election this week, to their board. It is wonderful to see cross-pollination of leadership between JCA and our member organisations, and can only help in strengthening the bonds which make our community so strong and cohesive. And it is so very fitting that Michael is in the vanguard of these moves. On behalf of JCA’s Board of Governors, Executive Committee, staff and indeed our entire community, we thank Michael for his service and congratulate him on his new role.

And so that concludes 2015 for @jcatoday. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to making 2015 such an incredible year, and has helped to ensure that our community remains sustainable, vibrant and secure. We will be recharging our batteries and getting ready for JCA 2016. Where we get to do it all again. Only better.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah,

Daniel Grynberg, CEO

PS. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the latest version of Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song.

What a Week, What a Year

Einstein told us that space and time are part of a continuum, and that clocks on earth run slower than those hurtling through space. If only he’d won a JCA thermoclock, he might have known better. As we hurtle towards the end of 2015, it seems to me – and no doubt you – that our slow earthbound clocks are speeding up, out of control. Time has flown, and is flying. And none of us have any time anymore, for anything. Even writing this newsletter. Let alone reading it.

And yet there were a number of things that happened this week you really should know about, because they encapsulate the sustainability, vibrancy and security we’ve all been working on together for this past year:

  • In terms of sustainability, Monday evening’s Board of Governors meeting saw the presentation of the much anticipated Allocations Report.  We take this opportunity to congratulate and thank outgoing Allocations Chair, Louise Thurgood Phillips for four years of conscientious dedication to ensuring our community’s precious resources are deployed in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

2015 Allocations Graph

Thanks also to JCA’s Head of Planning & Projects Alain Hasson and   Planning Co-ordinator George Davey for all their hard work and support of the Allocations Committee, which will now be headed by Phillip Wolanski AM. We would like to welcome Neville Katz who joins Howard Ware and Anna Green on this important committee.

We also welcome Peter Wohl who assumes the Chair of JCA’s Building & Capital Committee, and will be joined by Andrew Boyarsky and ex-Observer, Rebecca Finkelstein.

  • There is of course no better guarantee of our sustainability than theDaniel Grynberg, Steven Lowy AM, Stephen Chipkin ability of our community to attract new volunteers and leaders and find ways to harness their time and talent, and ultimately treasure. JCA’s flagship Observership Program wrapped up its fourth year on a high with an inspiring talk by Steven Lowy AM. Steven spoke with clarity and candour about his experiences – and challenges – on a range of not for profit boards, including his recent appointment to Chairman of the FFA (where he has been joined by JCA’s Kelly Bayer Rosmarin). Steven challenged the room to be bold and embrace innovation and in that vein, we are so very thankful that Kelly has agreed to co-chair an exciting initiative to jumpstart some projects that will hopefully rise to Steven’s challenge. Watch this space.
  • Vibrancy was overflowing at our second JCA Jewish Women inJemima Whyte, Michelle Goldstone, Audette Exel AO, Louise Thurgood Phillips and Denise Meyerson Leadership breakfast. A packed room was inspired to learn from Audette Exel AO (brilliantly interviewed by the AFR’s Jemima Whyte) and her story of using the profits from her investment banking business to fund development work for some of the most at risk children in the world in Nepal and Uganda. Denise Meyerson then brought it all home, describing the incredible sense of safety and security she felt when she first arrived in Australia, and the role this community and JCA plays in providing that support.
  • Our emotional and psychological security was in safe and dedicated hands as JewishCare hosted the annual Jewish Youth Interagency lunch where an incredibly brave young man, Adam Schwartz, spoke with honesty and bravery about his battle with teenage depression and the important role community played in supporting him and his family through many challenging years. Adam’s message to the room full of school psychologists and social workers was that openness and communication is key. If you know anyone who might need support with these kinds of issues we can only encourage you to contact Mimi Zilka at JewishCare. You could also pick up a copy of Adam’s book mum, i wish i was dead, which despite its harrowing title, does assuredly have a happy ending.

So there you go, sustainable, vibrant and secure, this week and every week. All thanks to your support of our community through JCA.

And seeing as we started with Einstein, we will leave you with one of his thoughts:

“More and more I come to value charity and love of one’s fellow being above everything else … All our lauded technological progress – our very civilization – is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal.”

If Einstein doesn’t resonate with those of you under the age of 40, maybe you will be inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s pledge to donate 99% of his Facebook shares to charity.  On that note we are coming to the end of our 2015 campaign, next week will be our last newsletter of the year and we will let you know how we’ve gone in reaching our campaign target (hint, we are pretty close to finishing on a high). If you have already supported our community this year we thank you. Without you none of the above could happen. If you are yet to make a contribution please consider making a gift to our community this year, even a small one, it is important that we all stand up and be counted, every dollar and every donor really does matter.


If reading about the amazing work that comes out of this organisation has inspired you, but you are at a loss as to where to go next, we have the solution. JCA is seeking three ambitious and talented individuals to fill exciting new positions. See details below.  Or if you can see yourself helping to manage one of the largest sporting clubs in NSW, Maccabi is searching for a new General Manager.

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg, CEO


I Dream of Turkey

We’ve got Turkeys on our mind.  A Russian jet is shot is shot down, and the post-Paris sense of a world unravelling leaves us feeling confused and scared. My mind is cast back to those lessons in high school on the causes of WWI: a gunboat crisis here, an assassination there… In the past of course we’ve been able to comfort ourselves that it is all a long way away. Across oceans so vast that it might as well be happening on another planet. But no such comfort is available now. After Parramatta, and as we approach our own sad anniversary, of Martin Place. Even typing that phrase a year ago would have been unthinkable.

But Turkeys are on our mind for positive reasons too. We wrote a couple of weeks ago about, thinking about wonderful things like Halloween, PJ Library, Moishe House, the Observership Program, and Y2i, that “we can be thankful for American cultural creep”. And this week, our friends and relatives across the pond, have celebrated their most wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving – which is yet to really make much of an impact in Wagga Wagga (sur Mer, or proper), which is a pity really because we have so very much to give thanks for.


Turkeys are so emblematic of the modern world we find ourselves in. Confusing, ambiguous but delicious. Discovered in the New World and brought back to Europe by the conquistadors, only to be reimported to North America by the Pilgrims. We don’t even know what to call them. In many European languages, a turkey is an Indian chicken (indyk in German, and hendika hen in Yiddish). In Hebrew too, the turkey comes is assumed to have come from Hodu (India) and even in Turkey, a turkey is a hindi, and yet in Hindi it is a turkee. Even within English, the status of turkey is a bit ambiguous. Call someone a turkey, and it’s probably only slightly better than calling them a goose. But ask Diane in our office (or any other Maccabi ten pin bowler), and she’ll tell you she knows people who dream of nothing but turkeys.

Who could blame the bird for being a bit confused.

In terms of the delicious part, even though there are serious questions around turkey kashrut, unless your family are vegetarians, there will be very few homes which won’t happily serve turkey for a Shabbat meal (many more than that goose, which is not in any kashrut dispute). In this way the turkey is also emblematic of our Jewish ability to adapt to, and incorporate the new. Here is the final word from the kosher mavens:

Conclusion: The near universal acceptance of turkey as a kosher species, given the halachic quandary it presents, would indicate that the Jewish people have either accepted the possibility of originating mesorahs where none existed before or of accepting birds without the need for a mesorah. It is very possible that had the turkey question been posed when it was first introduced in the early 16th century, Jewish gastronomic history might have been different. It seems that many authorities may have initially come out against turkey because of its obvious lack of a mesorah. For some reason “bird controversies” erupted in the 18th and 19th centuries and when the turkey question was posed it often took the form of “why is it eaten?” rather than “may it be eaten?”.

So if there is one take away as you tuck into a bit of turkey this Shabbat, consider that this bird is on your plate because we are people who ask “why” rather than “whether”.

We are also a people who give thanks, and for us every day is a day of thanksgiving. Indeed, that is what Modeh Ani means, which is the prayer said upon waking every morning. So Thanksgiving and the Jews have been comfortable bedfellows since the start. Coming as we are towards the end of an incredible year, of energy, and creativity, and a huge effort from JCA’s dedicated staff, and impassioned lay leaders, and selfless volunteers, we have much to give thanks for.

The good news is that even though our 2015 Campaign will close at year end, we are already very very close to raising the nearly $14m required to run all of the services and programs that keep our community sustainable, vibrant and secure. We will be sending out some letters to those who haven’t had a chance yet to contribute to our community through JCA this year, and we really do hope that everyone can contribute something. Or you can just jump online here. For those who have already made a contribution we give thanks. Our community thanks you, as do the people who rely on your support but cannot thank you in person.

So this Thanksgiving Shabbat, Teşekkürler, which is how a turkey would say thanks if it spoke Turkish,

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg, CEO


The Only Direction You can Look is Up

There is nothing we can add that has not already been said about the
recent atrocities in Paris. Our thoughts are with our friends in France, as they are with our family in Israel each and every day. We feel this week is an appropriate time to reflect a little.

We made a decision at the start of this year to commence every JCA Executive and Board of Governors meeting with “something Jewish”. This week Stephen Chipkin, our President, returned from a trip to Israel in his capacity as Chair of Weizmann Australia. For the “something Jewish” at our Executive Committee meeting, the day after he returned, Stephen reflected on his trip in the context of the recent escalation of violence in Israel.

This is how Stephen Chipkin, commenced the Executive Committee meeting this week:

Last week I visited the original laboratory of Chaim Weizmann on the campus of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. Weizmann Institute of ScienceIt was Weizmann who conceived back in the 1930s (more than a decade before its formation) that the modern State of Israel needed world-class scientific research to succeed. How prescient he was.

There is a photograph of Weizmann in his laboratory standing over his beakers of chemicals and Bunsen burner with a cigarette dangling from his lips. No workplace health and safety inspector in sight. Luckily the whole Zionist experiment did not end in a chemical explosion there and then. For the link between Weizmann, his chemicals, the State of Israel and our sense of being Jewish in this modern age, is a path not well understood.

Chaim Weizmann invented a chemical process for the production of acetone – a chemical of vital importance in the manufacture of explosives and the success of the British war effort in WWI. Weizmann’s contribution was noted by Lord Balfour (amongst others) and the Balfour Declaration of 1917 followed not long after – a critical precursor to the formation of the State in 1948.

Some years ago on a previous trip, I sat on the lawns of Chaim Weizmann’s House on the campus of the Weizmann Institute to witness Shimon Peres receive an Honorary Doctorate. In his acceptance speech, Peres said: When our land is small to the north and even smaller to the east, there is only one direction you can look to. It is up. Upwards to the unlimited boundaries of our imagination, hopes and dreams. That is Israel and our people, he said.

Last Friday at Machane Yehudah in Jerusalem, I saw our people in all their vivid variety. Despite thinner pre-Shabbat crowds than usual (the recent knife attacks were having their intended effect), Jews of every description amongst the piles of fresh challahs, the traders and the hustle – Ashkenazi, Sephardi, the Charedi with their medieval Polish garb and tzitzit, the Zionist Orthodox with their knitted kippot, the secular and everything in between – different shapes, sizes, colours and backgrounds. Outwardly with little in common, yet sharing a deep and profound connection.

What is it that binds Jews together, I ask. Is it our history, our tradition, our teachings, our values (to do what is good and just, to make the world a better place)? Or is it a connection borne out of our shared story of survival and loss, or that God chose us or we chose God, or the fact that we learned to learn through questioning and argument? Is it the modern man-made miracle that is Israel? Or is it the remarkable achievements of a small people over the ages, not bound by the present, but always looking up in the direction of our imagination, our hopes and dreams?

Perhaps it is elements of all those things, fused together by the bonding process of time and faith.

And it made me think of JCA and its role in this long chain. Perhaps it is simply to keep mixing the elements – to help bring our local community together. By doing the things we do, we play a small but important part in the continuation of this unlikely and extraordinary heritage.

Stephen Chipkin
President, JCA

The Unexpected Chagall

I’ve got an old friend called Eytan who apart from being an ex-lawyer, banker, and now oil & gas guy, is quite a prolific blogger. His stuff is good (particularly if your interests lie in food, art or things Jewish, or any combination thereof).  A little while back he wrote a lovely piece entitled The Unexpected Chagall, which is an homage to the painter we all know and love, and in particular some stained glass windows in a small stone church somewhere in Kent.

Eytan wrote: “So what is it about Chagall for me? And seeing as he cribbed my 3 Unit Ancient History notes, I feel completely entitled to peek over his shoulder and copy his answer (because its identical to mine, and it can’t be plagiarism if you name your source):

Chagall_Jerusalem WindowsWell first, I relate strongly to Chagall and his art. He was a Jew, and although not especially religious he identified completely as being Jewish – culturally, traditionally and nationally. So much so that, to quote art critic Robert Hughes, Chagall is: “the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century”. His work often contains strong Jewish motifs and iconography – flying angels, sacramental objects, biblical characters and stories – all of which are innately familiar to me.

Second, it feels a bit like Chagall has always been there, in the background of my life. Few can afford originals, but Chagall’s art is nonetheless present in so many Jewish homes, whether as prints, reproductions, posters, or coffee-books. There was a Chagall image somewhere, in one form or another, in the homes of many of my childhood friends. And in our family home my parents’ pride and joy were three signed Chagall lithographs, as well as some Chagall prints, that hung on the walls of the living room (they are still there today).

But more than anything, I just love his work. My early introduction to Chagall through friends, family and the familiar subject matter has morphed over time into something much deeper: an abiding appreciation of the dream-like, semi-mystical quality of the work, and his unmistakable technique. Most especially I am entranced by Chagall’s amazing use of colour, bright and vibrant and vivid, to the point where his paintings often seem to have a life and soul of their own.

Picasso summed it up succinctly: “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is”.

Well, there was a Chagall lithograph in my home too. And coffee-table books. And a collection of wine glass coasters in my grandfather’s home we used every Shabbat, which featured Hadassah Hospital windows. And no doubt in yours too. And all this came to mind last night at the dinner hosted by The Joint Australia, as I sat entranced listening to Bella Meyer and looking at the beautiful images created by her grandfather, Marc Chagall.

I realised that both Bella’s and my grandfathers had been saved by “The Joint” in the darkest years of the 1940s. Chagall was whisked to safety in America, and my grandfather along with 4,000 other Jewish Refugees in Kobe, Japan, was fed, clothed and ultimately given passage to, and helped to resettle in Australia.

13Nov Image1

I wrote not so long ago about the role The Joint played in helping so many of our families to reach these shores, and in establishing this community, and its institutions, which we all take so very much for granted. We never did find anybody milked a cow (in English or German) at Chelsea Park. Kol Hakavod to the most wonderful Eva Fischl OAM and her team for bringing to The Joint back to town.

So you are thinking, that’s nice that the JCA CEO is busy plugging another Jewish charity, but where’s the relevance? To which I say, there would be no community for us to ensure is sustainable, vibrant and secure without The Joint. So that’s the start. But as I listened to the other work of The Joint over the past 100 years, including the work that continues to this day, I realised that the JDC and JCA have in their DNA the same sense of collective responsibility for fellow Jews, regardless of their circumstances or origin.

And what makes our community particularly special is how we all own each other’s stories. People with no direct connection to the Shoah feel our Sydney Jewish Museum to be their own. We all take pride in Sir John Monash even if when he was leading the Australian troops our forebears were serving in the Kaiser’s army. And we all feel the sense of loss experienced by the Sephardim among us who were forced to flee their homes in the tumultuous 1950s (with much assistance from The Joint, I learned last night) following the establishment of the State of Israel and the rise of Arab nationalism.

In relation to that last group, We Were Refugees Too is a new initiative to recognise the plight of those in our community who were refugees from Arab lands and Iran – including Eytan’s family from Morocco. The Jewish Board of Deputies is calling for people to share their family’s story on their Facebook page and at the inaugural annual event held to honour these refugees on November 30 at the Sydney Jewish Museum from 6-8pm.

Wherever your family has come from, and however you got here, we wish you all Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg, CEO

PS. It is not too late to get tickets for the B’nai Brith Oration this year.


It Only Takes 10 People

I’ll let you in on a secret, if you are under 35 you’re not reading this. Which really gives us Gen X’ers and Boomers and beyond, the space to do what we love to best: Kvetch about Gen Y. You know, how they’re all spoiled, and entitled. How they have ridiculously over-inflated expectations. And pretty much every other gripe every generation in history has heaped on the next, since Adam and Eve worried about how Abel was ever going to afford his own one bedroom apartment close enough to get home for Shabbes at Eden Heights, and if Cain would ever get a job. (We know how that one worked out).

Anyway, it’s a pity Gen Y aren’t going to read this because, this week all I want to do is celebrate them. On Wednesday night JCA held its inaugural 10×10 event and it was incredible. Put simply one of the most inspiring events of the year. Over 150 young professionals rocked up on a cold and rainy night to Linkedin (thanks to CEO Cliff Rosenberg for hosting) to hear about three wonderful charities in our community. I’d love to tell you more about it, but seeing as the whole point is empowerment of younger members of our community, much better for you to hear from JCA’s fantastic Gen Y, Ashleigh Levett, who pulled it all together:


It only took 10 people, ten enthusiastic, intelligent and community minded individuals to pull off what has been deemed one of the best ‘young’ JCA events in a long time. With the mission to engender a culture of philanthropy within our generation, we set out to give three organisations innovatively dealing with complex social issues the time to shine. Our 10×10 event is similar to Shark Tank where guests had to pay $100 prior to the event (that was a hard sell!). On the night Sababa Lagamba, PJ Library and MUM FOR MUM were given 5 minutes to pitch their programs to the audience. Together with the brilliant David Shein, audience members questioned each organisation about their business model and plans for expansion. At the end of the night each guest decided where they wanted to allocate their donation.

 The event was a success on a number of fronts:

  • The incredible work of JCA’s member organisations was showcased
  • Over half of the people that attended the event had never given to JCA
  • More than 20 hands shot up when asked who wanted to be part of the next 10×10 committee
  • And finally there was no mad rush for the door once the formalities concluded, people actually stuck around!


Thanks Ash, with the future of our community in the hands of people like you, and Laurie Marshbaum, and his 10×10 committee of Anthony Biggs, Andrew Cohen, Leora Friedland, David Hirsch, Ruthanna Klawansky, Lisa Kirstein, Ricky Kitay and Daniel Lazarus, we are well on way to ensuring our community is sustainable, vibrant and secure. We seemed to have struck a chord and we’ll definitely be holding another 10×10 next year, so make sure to add it to the Shabbat Table agenda tonight.

Shabbat Shalom, especially to Gen Y,

Daniel Grynberg


PS.  A generous friend has given me tickets to the AC/DC concert on Saturday night. Don’t expect to see many Gen Y faces there, which is their loss. In the meantime, prepare to be transfixed. I know it de riguer for metal bands to be clad in black, but this Satmar version of TNT is truly dynamite.

PPS. Have you heard about this great B’nai B’rith event? B'nai B'rith

Trick or Kosher Treat

Challaween.jpgAny number of Jewish parenting websites will confirm – in case you didn’t already know – that Halloween is up there with Christmas and Easter (and for that matter Eid al-Adha, Wesak, Loi Krathong and every other religious festival), and is off limits to the Jews.

And yet, as Shabbat ends this weekend, thousands of kids across town will be roaming the streets like zombies (some actually as zombies) in search of sugar rather than blood. Sounds like pretty good training for some door to door canvassers if you ask me.

The growth of Halloween participation in Australia over the past two decades has been one of America’s most successful exports (though most of the economic benefit seems to have been picked up by Chinese manufacturers supplying our $2 shops).

Both as Australians, and Jews, we internalise a strange combination of pride and fear in all things American. We look across the Pacific and see something familiar, and yet also something just a little bit strange and – to the extent it is a portent of our future – dystopian.

Certainly when you speak to Americans, either visiting Down Under, or those few brave souls who took Horace Greeley’s exhortation to “Go West, young man” to a bit of an extreme and made the move here, they will tell you that Australia is basically like America … 20 years ago. And they usually mean that in a good way.

We read with a degree of anxiety about the rates of assimilation and fragmentation of American Jewry described in the latest Pew Report and wonder, like Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck in On the Beach, how long it will take for the fallout to reach our shores. If it’s anything like Halloween, the answer is probably about 20 years… It always has been.

And yet, there are so many great things that we can learn (and shameless copy and adapt) from our American friends and relatives. Just in the JCA universe alone, we were the first community outside of North America to roll out a PJ Library program (which now sees over 1,000 Jewish-themed children’s books mailed out each month – in many cases to families where this is the first, or only, Jewish cultural contact). Another US import, Moishe House, is part of an international network of share houses which empower Jewish twenty-somethings to create their own community and programming.

Perhaps our best US import to date has been the incredibly successful Observership Program (thanks again to the importer – Jonathan Gavshon – who participated in a similar program while working in NY). The program will be entering its fourth year, and has seen over 100 talented young professionals and entrepreneurs apply for an opportunity for some top quality training and networking, and a role in the leadership and future ownership of our community.

An alumni group of over 100 ex-Observers is starting to make an impact in our community. And once again this year, a number of Observers have been invited to join JCA constituent boards in a full capacity, underlining the remarkable success of this program for renewal and regeneration as well. So in this case we haven’t had to wait two decades to feel the impact.

And the biggest US import is about to hit us, and that is Youth 2 Israel – Y2i (a name we were generously allowed to use by the inspiring Bob Lappin, whose foundation north of Boston has been running Y2I since 1971).

Y2i – an ambitious endowment fund whose objective is to subsidise the cost of post-year 10 Israel educational experiences for any and every child with one Jewish parent in NSW or the ACT – is the first joint venture of JCA, UIA, JNF and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and Executive Council of Australian Jewry. A fact so wonderful I’m going to repeat it: JCA, UIA, JNF, JBOD and ECAJ all working together! It is has been underpinned by years of JCA research and planning (including the Gen08 and TouchPoints Reviews) and has been seed-funded with an incredible $5m gift from the Education Heritage Foundation.

So when we peer into our pillow case stuffed with goodies at the end of this Halloween, we will find it overflowing with treats: PJ Library, Moishe House, Observership, Y2i, and very few tricks, and for that, we can be thankful for American cultural creep.

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg


For many, including my late grandfather – a lifelong Satchmo devotee – there is no greater American cultural export than Jazz music. Satchmo was keen on matza and wore a Magen David, but of course the Jewish links with Jazz run much deeper, check out this list of the 9 Jews who changed Jazz music, and make sure to turn the speakers up. And when you are suitably In the Mood, there are still tickets available for the Twilight Jazz in the Grounds, at the Montefiore Home in Randwick on 8 November.

Montefiore Home swing city band