‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life

We missed a couple of Billionaires this week: We probably weren’t the only Jewish charity in town that got all excited for about 30 minutes yesterday – when the headlines read that James Packer had taken up Israeli citizenship (and had converted?), but alas his office denied it before we could send out an invitation to our Major Donor dinner (damned Communal Calendar!).

James Packer - almost.......

James Packer – almost…….

And the night before we were privileged to be at the Observership Program’s training event held at the every so funky Facebook offices (when will the JCA office get a shuffleboard I wondered?).

And as wonderful and inspiring as Brian Schwartz AM was (thank you Brian), Mark Zuckerberg – like Elvis – had left the building, as was nowhere to be seen. So it turns out we had to look a little closer to home for some philanthropic inspiration this week.

Brian Schwartz AM

Brian Schwartz AM

I really need to write a letter to the Chevra. One of the bittersweet duties of being the JCA CEO is to go from time to time to the funerals of people who have been stalwart supporters of this community for longer than I’ve been alive. And as I sit there on the sparse wooden pews, listening to eulogies of one remarkable life after another, I think to myself, we are missing an incredible opportunity here. These should be recorded. Actually I think they should be live-streamed and podcast, because every life story I’ve heard over the past year, has been “extra-ordinary”.  As they must be, because as we know, the tragic fact is there is nobody to tell the “ordinary” stories of European Jewry in the 1940s, ending as they do in oblivion.

The story this week was that of Victor Newman, who was born in Split (today in Croatia) 95 years ago, and died peacefully in his home in Sydney last week – on Yom Hashoah, the day to commemorate the cataclysm which consumed almost his entire world. Because of the tempest that struck Sydney in the early part of the week, Victor’s funeral was delayed to Thursday, which as Rabbi Kamins pointed out was Yom Ha’atzmaut. The journey from Yom Hashoah to Yom Ha’atzmaut, and the palpable sense of rising from the ashes and rebuilding strong and independent lives is told week in and week out in that little brick building on Oxford Street, and we need to capture those stories while we still can.

I cannot do justice to Victor’s incredible life in this short column, (maybe we can get permission to reprint it), but there was one thing which Rabbi Kamins neglected to mention in his eulogy: That Victor’s (and his late wife Irene’s) great communal generosity and philanthropic leadership will live on, in perpetuity, because in 2007 they established a JCA Endowment Fund. Every year the fund provides two scholarships to university students studying medicine: one for an indigenous student at UNSW (through the Shalom Gamarada program) and another for a Jewish student in need.

And I know that the Newmans’ philanthropy was not limited to our local community, because sitting beside me at the Chevra were our friends from the JNF. People in our community who give to one worthy cause, tend to support many, and not just Jewish ones of course.

So like Victor, we are all on a journey this week from Yom Hashoah to Yom Ha’atzmaut, and we hope to see you and your family at the communal celebrations at Moriah College this Sunday afternoon. Who knows, we might even get James Packer to pop bye to celebrate Israel’s independence with us. If you know him, and he’s in town, let him know he’d never be more welcome at a party, I’m sure the CSG boys won’t give him too hard a time, and the felafel’s on us.

100 years of anzac resized

It would be remiss of me not to mention ANZAC Day tomorrow.  Chair of JCA’s Marketing Committee, Garry Browne AM has been instrumental in organising this year’s Anzac Centenary Commemorative Service of the NSW Jewish Community at The Great Synagogue.

 

His father Wesley is an honoured returned Jewish serviceman, and a longstanding leader of NAJEX. We published his story a year ago but it’s so relevant with it being the 100 year anniversary and the Browne family’s involvement that we’re re-publishing in honour of Anzac Day tomorrow.  Click here to read Wesley’s story.

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg
CEO

 

 

 

Eva, Ibi & Flore mark 70 years since liberation

It is hard to believe it has been a whole year since I wrote you about going to our annual communal Shoah memorial ceremony:

“So, on Monday Wednesday night I went to Moriah Angel Place to attend one of the communal Yom Hashoah commemorations. I never used to go to these events but since my grandmother died a few years back, I’ve sort of figured that if I don’t go, who will (which is kind of symbolic of a whole range of generational changes that will need to take place in our community). I started to go before taking on this gig, but now I have to go, so I took my mum wife (talk about a hot date). The event was really well done. Kol Ha’Kavod to Yair Miller Jeremy Spinak, Vic Alhadeff and the team at the Board of Deputies, in particular Shoah Remembrance Committee Chair, Michael Jaku.”

I don’t want you to think I’m being lazy merely recycling last year’s material. The fact is that this year’s 70th anniversary commemoration of liberation and the end of the war event was a powerful and moving evening. Angel Place Recital Hall was literally packed to the rafters with not one of the 1,238 seats spare. Josh Frydenberg spoke entirely by heart and from his heart, about visiting Auschwitz for the first time as a representative of the Australian government and Australia. The presentation of survivor and rescuer testimonies was devastating and dignified. Including  this wonderful video of Michael Jaku’s mum, Flore.

So the reason for repeating last year’s bit, is for you to notice that the people who give of themselves to our community, do so year-in and year-out. Having our office next to the Board, and sharing a non-descript boardroom, we see the countless hours put in by volunteers for all manner of inspiring communal projects. And it always seems to be the same people. A big Kol Ha’Kavod and heartfelt thanks (again) from our community to Michael Jaku, and his Shoah Remembrance Committee of George & Margaret Foster, Sandra Rothman, Dane Stern, Vivien Gorney, Eli Hochberg and Danny Hochberg (who clearly doesn’t have enough on his plate as President of Maccabi NSW, and a JCA Trustee Governor) as well as Jenna Bloom and Iliya Borecki who worked with the Board’s Sarita Gold to coordinate all aspects of this incredible tribute event.

shoah 2015

I actually didn’t want to write much else this week, because we have these wonderful videos (this one’s of Eva and Ibi) which were screened at the Yom Hashoah ceremony, and if you weren’t there really stop reading anything I write and just click on the videos. Even if you were there, you probably want to watch them again.

The thing is, as we squeezed through the crowd to leave I passed by Eva Grinston and Ibi Wertheim who featured in a previous JCA newsletter. And both of them came up to me with knowing smiles. It turns out that Eva’s late-husband Michael, was a Sugihara survivor friend of my grandparents, and arrived in Sydney on the same boat. And Ibi is a close friend of my other grandmother, who told me she very much enjoyed my barmitzvah, which is nice to know 32 years later.

Seriously, stop reading this and watch the video! But, the one thing you will not feel is the warmth of their hands when you shake them. And the sparkle in their eyes, when they smile at you, and more particularly their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Wishing you all, especially Eva and Ibi and Flore and their families Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg
CEO

Marika Weinberger

Marika Weinberger

In this week’s community in action story we document another part of the event above, Their Names Survive – Marika Weinberger.

 

A poignant pass over

It really isn’t easy, writing this bit every week. Trying to find a title interesting enough for you to want to open this email in the first place (our best was “Buses, Bullies and running to Bondi” – but we don’t want to have to rely on ugliness too often). And then trying to write something interesting and compelling enough that you click through to the next page.

Especially this week during Pesach or Passover we need to find a way to get you to pass over to the other side of this email.

If your attention isn’t gripped by now, or at least your interest piqued, you will never click through. Though sometimes you might hover with your mouse or index finger, and in a leap of faith akin to a Pentecost Island land diver you just click here, and …

HERO_NAGHOL_LAND_DIVING_David_Kirkland

… end up on the other side of the email. And now that you are here, we need to say thanks.

So while it isn’t easy writing each and every week, we aren’t complaining. Over the past year we have managed to tell the most incredible stories of the impact in our community of the wonderful work done by our constituents, and sustained by the incredible generosity of JCA supporters like you. But really the thing that sustains us, is the wonderful feedback we receive every week and the insights you provide into our unique and diverse community.

So as I was sitting down late on Wednesday night trying to write something interesting and compelling. I was going to do this riff on the great Seder jokes, and all I can do is read over and over and over again the comment posted in reply to last week’s blog, by Harry Freedman on April 2, 2015 at 2:42 pm:

“wonderful writing as usual, poignant and important message. I will be raising some of these comments at our seder table this year. well dan CEO
Chag Sameach to all the community”

Because half an hour ago I received an email from a friend that Harry passed over the weekend, (a much sadder Pesach) and his funeral was today. I do not know if he raised our newsletter at his seder table, but I did hear that he very much enjoyed his final seder. It is in keeping with the Harry I knew that he left wishing Chag Sameach to all of us.

harry freedman

Vale Harry Freedman

At last year’s Law and Justice Foundation of NSW’s annual Justice Awards, held at Parliament House, Harry received the Law Society President’s Award for his pro bono work. In receiving his award, Harry noted that “Giving charity in its various forms was part of my family and religious upbringing.” And certainly from our records, Harry didn’t miss a year out of the last 30 years in making a contribution to our community through JCA.

We often celebrate our major donors (though we could do that more). And rightly so, because like all charities, a huge proportion of the funds we raise comes from a very small number of wealthy donors and their families. But it is important for a communal charity like JCA to celebrate and recognise all of our donors. Like Harry, who contribute year in and year out, and who give to our community, and beyond, not only of their treasure, but also their talent and time.

Speaking of talent and time, we have some incredible women in our community who are putting on an event on 19 April.  The 360 Women’s Empowerment Day organised by the Professional Women’s Forum through The Shalom Institute will offer provoking and stimulating topics across corporate career development, holistic living, parenting, lifestyle and relationships genres and features speakers that will inspire.  Click here to read more.

360U FLYER

On a more sombre note, on Sunday and Wednesday respectively there are the annual Yom Hashoah gatherings – see the flyer below.  I hope to see you at one or the other.

Chag Sameach as we go into the last few days of Pesach.

Dan Grynberg
CEO

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Newsflash! There is no wicked son

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world, and those who are intelligent enough to know otherwise. But here we are at Pesach-time and now apparently there are only four kinds of sons. Wise ones, Simple ones, Wicked ones, and those who are too young to know. Now I am sure that I am not the first CEO of a Jewish not for profit to talk about the four sons in a Pesach newsletter. The thing is, looking over our community (and across the JCA database) I think Haggadah severely short-changes us on the number of different kinds of sons (and daughters of course).

In this job, I meet them every day. To the famous seder four (and to be honest I’m yet to meet a wicked one, so I reckon there’s only three), I would add: The curious child. The anxious child. The uninvited child. The disconnected child. The seeking child. The contented child. The competitive child. The intellectual child. The musical child. The sporty child. The communal child. The introverted child. The extroverted child. The wealthy child. The struggling child. The special needs child. The gay child. The straight child. The religious child. The ba’al teshuva child. The atheist child. The little-bit-too-far-to-the-left on Israel child. The little-bit-too-far-to-the-right on Israel child. The dog-loving child. And so many more.

All the sons and daughters spinning ‘round the world, as Peter Allen put it (long before it had anything to do with flying kangaroos). Only unlike the Qantas kids, our sons and daughters will be spinning towards their families and friends, and as the world gets older and colder, it’s good to know where their journey will end – around a seder table.  And it is around your seder table, or perhaps when the really little ones are out looking for the afikoman, that maybe you could have a different discussion around the four sons.

The story of the four sons is really a story about generational responsibility. It is a metaphor that asks in a confronting way, unless each generation steps up to the plate (in this case a plate with a burnt shankbone, some parsley and an egg), who will ensure that this precious Jewish community which has lasted millennia, will be sustainable, vibrant and secure (OK, so the JCA mission statement isn’t actually in the Haggadah text, but it should be).

We are about to publish the annual Source Magazine. In it are listed the donations large and small of thousands of members of our community. Thousands also choose to give anonymously. But the fact is, the average age of a JCA donor gets a year older every year. And that is largely because in families across NSW and the ACT, the sons and daughters have not taken up the habit of contributing annually to our community through JCA.

This year, when considering your contribution to our community, we’d like you to consider your son or daughter’s first donation – be it $10, be it $20 or be it $30. It’s the start of letting them know how good it feels to give.  We’d love to be able to thank them for their contribution to our community, and to be able to count them as sons and daughters at our great communal table.

Speaking of sons and daughters, the family of Samantha Khavin must be bursting with pride as she returns from her Leadership Development Program as Vice President of AUJS.  Samantha travelled to Berlin, New York, Washington DC, and Israel during her AUJS Leadership Development Program journey in 2014-15 as the recipient of the JCA Millie Phillips Jewish Education Fund LDP scholarship. You can read her story here.

The team at JCA wishes you Chag Sameach and a Kosher L’Pesach.

Dan Grynberg
CEO

Pesach ad for nl

Lest we forget our ANZACS and our Survivors

So by now you will have received an invitation to our community’s commemoration of the centenary of ANZAC, which is being coordinated by JCA Executive Committee member Garry Browne AM (because he doesn’t have enough on his plate!). The event will be at the Great Synagogue on Sunday, 3 May. Through the magic of Trove I found a copy of Rabbi Cohen’s Pesach sermon from 1916, the first time the sacrifice at Gallipoli was marked at the Great Synagogue:

“We now pay our first annual tribute to the brave sons of our country who made that shore a place ever-sacred for Australians. Our hearts strain with love and longing towards that distant strand, and those remote waters because they enshrine a most precious deposit, the remains of the lamented sons of our congregation who took their share nobly, and paid their price promptly for the renown which they brought for the name of Anzac.”

It really is impossible to overstate the devastating impact WW1 had on the young nation of Australia. It is estimated that the lives of one in 10 men aged 18-45 were cut short. The forest of War Memorials that dot every suburb across Sydney and every country town is the visible scar of that pain. I remember when I was at school in the 70s and 80s an old digger would come to hear the bugle on Anzac Day. He seemed so old then, a veteran of the First World War. And yet here we are, 100 years after Anzac and there is now nobody alive whose heart “strains with love and longing”. There is nobody who feels the pain of loss at Gallipoli. Anzac has receded into history.

I was thinking about that when I received another invitation, to another commemoration – for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

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We are so very privileged to still have with us today those whose hearts strain with love and longing. And yet it is only a matter of time until – unthinkable as it is – our Shoah, joins the ranks of historical tragedies which are marked, and remembered, but not personally felt. And I’m not sure we quite know how to deal with that.

One thing which is clear is that the generation who established the Sydney Jewish Museum, as difficult as that must have been – and painful, were clearly visionaries. I feel that every day I look out my window in the building next door and see busloads of schoolkids from all over Sydney (including this week a group of girls in hijabs) coming to our museum, to learn our story, and the most important universal lessons of respect and conscience and courage.

I actually grew up with the Museum. My mum did the original oral history, and back then we only had one computer and she would sit late into the night transcribing interviews, which I must now admit was more important than beating the high score on Tetris. She recently moved home and found a shoebox full of audiotapes – very unpolished interviews with survivors. I’ve been listening to them in the car (because that’s the only place I can listen to audio cassettes these days). What strikes me as I listen to these voices, most of whom are of people who have passed away, are the hearts strained with love and longing.

We were so lucky as a community that these oral history projects, and the Spielberg Shoah Foundation recorded these testimonies. And to have an institution as fine as our Sydney Jewish Museum to house them. And to have our JCA to support that museum so that it can keep its doors open. One wonders what oral histories could have been recorded by the families of the “lamented sons” lost at Anzac.

Eva and Ibi

Eva and Ibi (photo credit: Henry Benjamin)

Our community in action story this week features Eva and Ibi and Flore – survivors whose stories will feature in this year’s Board of Deputies Shoah event.  You can read more here.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Grynberg
CEO

P.S.  There will be another opportunity for our community to tell its happier stories, thanks to a wonderful initiative by Waverley Council celebrating our rich history and contribution to the community: “Eat, Pray, Naches”, see the flyer below. Submissions close April 17.

Eat, Pray, Naches

Facing a Lynch mob against free speech

Much has been written on the different cultural and philosophical legacies we have inherited from the classical world of Jerusalem (“revelation”) and Athens and Rome (“reason”). And there is no greater classical temple in the modern world than the University, dedicated as it is to dialogue (an Athenian philosophical inheritance) and rationality (thank you Rome). No doubt by now you’ve all seen the graphic video of the Lynch mob, demonstrating not so much in favour of a free Palestine, but against free speech, certainly no dialogue or rationality there.

Professor Lynch of course has form, and regardless of whether or not Sydney University chooses to respond to the letters of complaint (if you haven’t already done so, read Peter Baldwin’s that appeared on JWire), and over 5,000 signatures of protest, the least it could do is to drop the words “Peace” and “Studies”, from the name of Prof. Lynch’s shop, and rename it the “Centre for Conflict”, because that seems to be its sole interest and expertise.

Colonel Richard Kemp

Colonel Richard Kemp

 

The catalyst for this debacle that made international headlines was the invitation extended to Colonel Richard Kemp to speak to students about the ethical dilemmas of military operations in recent conflicts.  As stated in his letter to the Dean of Sydney University after the incident, his intention was to engage students and present his practical experiences as a British military commander and stimulate a discussion.

 

While Colonel Kemp supported peaceful demonstration and free speech and debate he went on to say that “unacceptable in any respectable university is the curtailment of an invited and approved speaker’s freedom to speak and engage in legitimate academic discourse such as I experienced at your university”.

Across town, at what was once the hotbed of anti-Israel campus activity, Macquarie University was showing how to foster civilised debate and discussion. The occasion was the visit to Australia by Professor Tessa Rajak, to deliver the annual Sir Asher Joel Foundation Oration. Sir Asher Joel played a key role at JCA in it’s early years and took over as Chairman of the Appeal Committee in 1988 and we are proud nearly 50 years later to be able to collaborate with the Foundation he established to help Macquarie Uni students join archaeological digs in Israel. Professor Rajak is one of the world leading experts on Josephus, a Hellenised Jew who infamously crossed over from Jerusalem to Rome, and her oration was on Masada (which we really only know about thanks to Josephus’ account). Of course, Josephus wrote other things too, and one of the last things he wrote was “Against Apion” which is basically a two volume defence of Jews and Judaism against all manner of irrational hatreds and conspiracy theories peddled by Apion and others (including what is probably the world’s first blood libel). Thanks must also go to Dr Gil Davis, a member of our community, who gave up a lucrative career as a real estate agent in Artarmon to become an archaeologist and Director of Macquarie’s Program for Ancient Mediterranean Studies (if he ever does go back to flogging houses he will be able to offer unique pre-purchase building inspection reports).

AUJS Gathering at UNSW earlier this month

AUJS Gathering at UNSW earlier this month

This week, we salute the work of some of the unsung constituents of JCA, including the Fund for Jewish Higher Education (FJHE), the hard working young men and women of AUJS, and our partners in exciting programs like that at Macquarie University, who are all doing so much to defend Jerusalem against those who do not even respect the philosophical tradition of Athens and Rome.

Coincidentally, on Wednesday night CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff was part of a panel discussion on justice and forgiveness.  You can read his story here.

Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Grynberg
CEO

Other than the aqueducts, what has JCA ever done for us?

Every week we feature stories of the impact of your philanthropy through JCA in our community. So over time you could be forgiven for thinking that JCA is an organisation which is only interested in collecting funds and distributing them as effectively as possible to areas of communal and innovation. But sometimes, we are in a position to give rather than just receive. So for all those who ask, “other than the aqueducts, what has JCA ever done for us?”, this week we have an incredible smorgasbord of offers:

If you are a budding Jewish social entrepreneur, we’re taking applications for this year’s LaunchPad, which will be held on the Mornington Peninsula on 17-19 May. We were overwhelmed with the quality and wonderfulness of applications last year, so it’s great to be in a position to offer that again. A huge thanks to our friends at the Australian Jewish Funders, and our international partners in the ROI Community, and also for our own Shalom Institute for stepping up to the plate. For those who want to know more about what’s in store, check out the video from last year’s LaunchPad:

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Amanda Joske – LaunchPad 2014

You might recall that we might have accidentally sent the LaunchPad application email last year to the entire JCA database (and not merely those younger members of the community for whom it was intended) – which resulted in more than one nonagenarian emailing back to see if they could get with the program. Well this year, understanding that there is untapped social entrepreneurial energy and creativity in more than one or two people over 36, there will be two LaunchPads running side by side: LaunchPad Y (for 22-35 year olds) and LaunchPad X for those 36 and up (there is apparently, no upper limit!). There’s more information on our website including a link for applications, which close on 20 March, so make sure to click through, or send the link to someone you know who should. In addition, our community in action story this week written by Brando Srot, Director of Young Adults and Families at The Shalom Institute will inspire you to go no further, and apply immediately.

If you are in Year 10 this year, well then you won’t be reading this email, so we can say whatever we like about you. But if you know someone in Year 10 this year, we have an offer too good to refuse. Through incredible generosity via JCA, huge discounts have been made available for all manner of end of year educational programs in Israel. These funds were deployed last year in our dayschools to great effect, and will be available again this year. The great challenge, and opportunity, is to reach out to the students enrolled other schools. To this end, BJE (which has for many years run the fantastic Emet program with the renowned Alexander Muss High School in Israel) is offering discounts of up to 80% for students who enrol now. So please pass this on as soon as possible to anyone you know with a kid or grandkid in Year 10, whether they are at Rose Bay or Reddam. Cranbrook or Caringbah. St Ives or Sydney High.

BJE Emet

Masada sunrise photo credit: Amy Sue Neumann, BJE Facebook page

Also, watch this space, because big things are happening in our community when it comes to incredibly generous philanthropists donating funds to subsidise community teen trips to Israel.

You might recall how last year we were privileged to be the local presentation partner for the inspiring film: Beyond Right & Wrong.  Well, the team behind the film loved our JCA family so much, they’ve invited you all to a panel discussion with filmmaker Lekha Singh and IRA bombing victim Jo Berry (featured in the film) together with Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. The panel will be moderated by ABC’s James Valentine, and promises to be a fascinating discussion about forgiveness and justice. You can find out more here.  To book please email the JCA office at events@jca.org.au

If you can’t make it, you can still watch the film online for free here, and believe it or not a small amount will be donated to JCA.

liorsuchard

Speaking of entertainers giving to JCA. Israeli mentalist, Lior Suchard (think Uri Geller, without the spoons, or the clock stopping thing) will be performing at the Opera House from 5 – 10 May. We watched his videos and thought he’d be great for a JCA event, especially the trick where he knows in advance what is written in sealed envelopes (could come in handy with pledge cards). But it turns out he knew in advance we were thinking that, so timed his trip just a bit out of sync with our campaign. So clearly his mentalism doesn’t extend to the vaguaries of the communal calendar.

The promoters (including co-chair of JCA’s GenGage, Lance Kalish) are still keen to partner with JCA, and are offering tickets at a discount, and will donate back another $10 per ticket booked with the following code. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to make it, or even if I will, but Lior already knows.

Finally, it has been a busy week in the building, and we can hear the wheels spinning and cogs cranking in the UIA offices above our heads. Our partners in communal philanthropy have been working so very hard and we’ve heard that their events have been a spectacular success.  Kol Hakavod!

Shabbat Shalom, but then you knew that I would say that, or at least Lior did.

Daniel Grynberg
CEO

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COMMUNITY IN ACTION – LAUNCHPAD – WHEN MAGIC HAPPENS!

This week’s community in action story is written by Brando Srot, Director of Young Adults and Families at The Shalom Institute – What happens when you assemble 21 Jewish change makers and innovators from various countries for 5 jam-packed days of professional training and development? Magic. Yes, that’s what happens – magic! Read more here.