While Bigots Rant, There’s Always Babs

Barbra-Streisand-2So every week I reflect on the JCA mission and how we are tracking, not just on the fundraising (we’re tracking well, but still have a way to go), but on the big mission – ensuring our community is sustainable, vibrant and secure. And this week I can report to you, on each of those goals. And also get a Barbara Streisand plug in. Read on.

On sustainability, the Allocations Committee, comprising Louise Thurgood Phillips, Howard Ware, Phillip Wolanski AM and Anna Green (ably supported by JCA’s head of strategic planning Alain Hasson and co-ordinator George Davey) have been diligently and respectfully meeting with each JCA member organisations asking all manner of probing questions on your behalf. Rest assured, the team also congratulates our constituents on their successes, focuses on future successes, and seeks opportunities to assist with particular projects. They look at where JCA can better facilitate cooperation between constituents and across sectors. They talk honestly about long term challenges for some, and succession planning for others.

It is very interesting to watch this process, which, by the way, has been developed over the past 50 years by so many smart and communally committed people. And in so many ways, in every meeting, I hear someone from the Allocations Committee say, in effect: “we are the representatives of the donors”. And yes, the process is rigorous to ensure your generous donations to our community – via JCA – are in safe, thoughtful, and strong hands.

family day picmonkey collage1On vibrancy, you need look no further than the photos on our Facebook page from last Sunday’s JCA Kids Music Festival. Over 1,300 people aged between 9 days and 90 years (with a fairly heavy skew to the bottom end of that scale), literally “rocked up” to Randwick Racecourse to revel with Rick Recht. (There’s a tongue twister for you).

This is the fourth year we have run this family event and it gets bigger and better each year. A huge thanks go to Elyse Chiert and Rachel Swartz for the thought and creativity and love they put into this wonderful celebration. Thank you to their Family Day committee – Tal Allen, Justine Saidman, Tiffany Marcovitch, Candice Mervis, Emily Fisher, Lauren Placks, Naomi Rothman, Lee Adler, Sharon Adler – shown here in the bright t-shirts we could’ve sold hand over fist on the day, they were that popular. Thanks also to the many young volunteers, who enthusiastically helped wherever they could. And, of course, to the JCA team for all of their hard work behind the scenes and on the day.

family day picmonkey collage2By the way, I was back at Randwick Racecourse on Wednesday – with about 800 of you – at WIZO’s Major Function for the year and sat next to Rachel Swartz, whose mum, Gloria Newhouse co-chairs WIZO. All I could think was how, other than Rachel and I, there were probably only a dozen people in the hall who had been at both racecourse events. And what a picture of vibrancy that WIZO/JCA Randwick venn diagram was. Mazal Tov to Anat Vidor, and the WIZO team, for a great event and for their communal leadership.

And speaking of women in leadership, this week also saw the first JCA Jewish Women in Leadership breakfast, hosted by Kelly Bayer Rosmarin at CBA. Around 50 leading women in our community, including the CEOs of JCA member organisations, were inspired hearing from Dr Kerry Schott AO, who was thoughtfully and generously questioned by the AFR’s Jemima Whyte on all manner of topics relating to leadership. But really for me (being only one of three men in the room), the highlight was hearing Louise Thurgood Phillips’ ‘story’ and why community is so very important for her, and why JCA in particular. There was a wonderful feeling of strength and support in the room and very promising survey results from our guests.

Jewish Women in Leadership picmonkey collage1On security, it’s been a bit of a mixed week. Certainly, all these events went off without a hitch. And our huge thanks to the volunteers of the CSG who make sure we are safe while we are inside rocking with our kids and WIZO-ing.

But one matter of real concern was yesterday’s DPP and NSW Police decision not to proceed with charges against Ismail al-WahWah, the local head of Hizb ut-Tahrir for the anti-Semitic rant wherein he was filmed calling for violence against Jews. Us.

Now I’m pretty much a free speech guy. And I often am on the other side of the debate on things like 18C, but it’s pretty clear that in order to have a functioning tolerant multicultural democracy, one needs to have pretty clear rules about incitement to violence. Certainly, that’s what my grandmother, who grew up in Germany in the 1920s and 30s tells me, and she speaks with the clarity and authority of a survivor. She told me what happened last time somebody stood on street corners and called on people to “rid” the world of the Jewish “hidden evil”, and I am disinclined to ignore her, and her experience.

Apparently, the “the NSW Police Force has investigated the complaint thoroughly and found that, at this time, it is not possible to identify who uploaded the footage in question or charge him or her for uploading the offensive material.”

Anyone else agree this is quite literally a cop out of epic proportions?

So perhaps you might like to write to your local member of parliament (who for many of you, also happens to be the attorney general) and suggest that, notwithstanding the fact that we don’t know who the cameraman was, the Logie for Racist Rant of the year should go to Ismail al-WahWah, and perhaps the NSW Government could do something to ensure our community – and every other Australian – is not subjected to such incitement to violence.

If you want to experience a bit of what free speech and civilised debate looks like, there are still spaces available for sessions at this weekend’s excellent Sydney Jewish Writers Festival, brought to you by the Shalom Institute (a JCA member organisation).

So there you go, bigots ranting, JCA, PJ Library & Shalom Baby Kids Music Festival, JCA’s Jewish Women in Leadership, WIZO’s event, the writers fest – and JCA continues the work of ensuring a sustainable, vibrant and secure community.

But still no Babs. So what gives?

Well, if you can get down to Woollahra Oval #2 tomorrow at 1pm (walk there OK, it will do you good, and be in keeping with Shabbat) the annual Barbra Streisand Cup will be contested between Maccabi and The Convicts (an all gay team). Good luck lads! Have fun. If you’re closer to UNSW, then you can catch our own George Davey, captain of the 3rd Grade Mosman Whales in their semi-finals.

GO, Whales. GO, Maccabi! GO, Us!

Shabbat Shalom,

Dan, CEO

P.S. If you are looking for even more vibrancy, check out our newest event: a cooking class – “Quick, Delicious and Healthy” – which will result in a vegetarian meal and dessert! Of course, however good the recipes on the night, remember you don’t make friends with salad.

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JCA’s Two Step Guide to Releasing Your Inner Jewish Rock Star

seuss-021209Regular readers might recall this time last year when we published a list of Yingloshen or “English words that could, might, maybe become Yiddish” (think, “far-fetched”, “far-flung” or “bedraggled”). We even held a Thermo-Clock competition, which was won by Gerry Myerson for his creative efforts with “Spatula” as you’ll see below:

English: A small implement with a broad, flat, flexible blade used to mix, spread and lift materials including foods, drugs, plaster and paints.

Yiddish: (Spatchele) a diminutive along the lines of “Moyshele”, and simply used as a term of endearment.

Usage: “To think, my little spatchele is become a doctor!”

Last Sunday a gaggle of spatcheles (Gerry help me, what is the collective noun for a group of spatcheles?) got together at Shalom College to rehearse for their starring roles as back-up singers to visiting Jewish Kids rock legend, Rick Recht. Think our very own School of (Jewish) Rock.

By the way, is anyone out there related to Jack Black? It would be so great to get him out here for next year’s festival – make sure to check out the Heavy Metal take on Chad Gadya he pulled out to get his kids into Hebrew School.

Anyway, when I heard from Shalom Baby director, Elyse Chiert, after rehearsals she was psyched:

“The rehearsals were AMAZING. The show is going to be AMAZING. Everyone is PUMPED!! See you Sunday!”

One of these Jewish rock stars will be at the JCA/Shalom Baby/PJ Library Kids Music Festival this Sunday.

One of these Jewish rock stars will be at the JCA/Shalom Baby/PJ Library Kids Music Festival this Sunday.

So, like I said about Family Fun Day last year, if you are a spatchele aged between zip and 10, or a parent or loving uncle or aunt, or grandparent of such, then STEP 1 to releasing your inner JEWISH ROCK STAR is to get your tuchis to the JCA, Shalom Baby, PJ Library Kids Music Festival!

There simply is no better place to be this Sunday morning. If you haven’t pre-booked, no problem, dude – tickets ($40 per family) will be available at the venue, the Oaks marquee at Randwick Racecourse. The fun starts at 10am rain or shine.

STEP 2 is to cut the rug and enjoy – show our kleyne kinder what ‘real’ dancing is. Alternatively, I’ll see you at the silent disco if your inner Jewish rock star needs some peace and quiet from the tiny groupies.

And if our Kids Music Festival isn’t your scene, luckily for you B’nai B’rith (also a JCA member organisation) is also putting on an entire day of ‘Jewish Culture and Heritage’ (all event flyers are below). You’d have to work very hard to be bored on Sunday – something no Jewish grandmother could ever condone, so don’t.

By the way, we should have another competition for words that don’t exist in English, but also happen to sound Yiddish (it is a very specific target market this one). So to kick things off I offer: “Beviggled: The state of being awestruck or transfixed by something truly horrific, like a car crash or train wreck”. I think the first person in history to be beviggled was Lot’s wife, and that didn’t turn out so good. So if you have any spatcheles nearby, get them to avert their eyes – and ears –  and be beviggled by the single most disturbing thing you will see this week. Let’s just say, there’s not a shred of authentic Jewish-ness (or dignity) to be found in this Wiggles attempt at Shalom Aleichem. Oy, is the word…

Thankfully, wherever you find yourself this weekend, there is no excuse not to dip into to a bit of genuine Jewish music, culture and heritage.

Shabbat Shalom,

Dan, CEO

P.S. Next week, the perfect place to recover from the Kids Music Festival will be the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival (brought to you by the Shalom Institute, a JCA member organisation and hosted by Waverley Library). Each year the festival manages to attract a fascinating, top shelf line up of Australian and overseas Jewish authors. Kol Hakavod to festival director Michael Misrachi and his team, which includes an army of dedicated volunteers. See you at Waverley Library next!

P.P.S. And as if we weren’t already spoiled for choice, the Israeli Film Festival is also on. Don’t miss it.

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And the Irish Jews too…

So a few weeks ago I was invited by Rabbi Danny Yaffe to a gathering at the Great Synagogue described as “Young Jewish Adults Meet & Greet with the Leaders of the Jewish Community”. I felt quite flattered, until I realised I was part of the second group mentioned.

Be that as it may, I rocked up and I must say it was great to meet and greet a whole bunch of 20-somethings who were genuinely interested in our community, and working out ways in which they can fit in, take part, help out, and generally find their place – and hopefully become a leader of the Jewish community themselves.

But truth be told, I don’t think I met a single person who had any real sense of what JCA is or does. Or how remarkable and special it is. And how important it is, especially for the institutions they hold dear (there were a fair few folk involved with AUJS in attendance, which receives a pretty significant amount of support through JCA and the Shalom Institute each year).

I was very patient, but it is hard when you meet and greet a young Jewish adult and you say,  “I’m CEO of JCA” and they look at you blankly.

Liam O'Callaghan manning the phones during JCA's recent phone campaign.

Liam O’Callaghan manning the phones during JCA’s recent phone campaign.

That’s exactly what happened when I met Liam, who seemed nice enough but genuinely had never heard of JCA. Now, Liam didn’t have a South African accent so I figured he’d grown up locally (or at least had not gone to Masada or Moriah), which made it even more depressing that he hadn’t heard of JCA.

So I asked him, did you grow up here? How can you have not heard of JCA? To which Liam replied that he was from Gosford. Now I know we do have a small but strong Central Coast community, so I dropped a few names (you get to play a fair bit of ‘Jewish Geography’ in this gig), and again, Liam looked blank.

Then he explained that his name is Liam O’Callaghan, and he grew up in a Catholic family in Gosford, which is lovely, of course, but somewhat confusing as he was at an event for “Jewish Young Adults to Meet & Greet” people like me.

At that point, Liam put me out of my misery and told me his story. Which in a nutshell is this: Liam had never met a Jew until he arrived at Sydney University and made some Jewish friends. He shared with them an interest in politics, current affairs, and what he now knows is something called tikkun olam.

As Liam became closer to his newfound Jewish friends and AUJS, he started to explore his own roots, and lo and behold, discovered that his great-grandmother was Jewish. Whereupon his new Jewish friends said, “so you know that makes you Jewish, right?” To which Liam’s first reaction was: “Get outta here”. But it was his second reaction which counts, and that was to sign up for AUJS.

Liam is now the treasurer of Sydney Uni AUJS and sits on the USYD Student Representative Council where he is at the frontline of combatting anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and a flow of invidious BDS activity. I found this online article which features his work on campus:

Liam O’Callaghan, Treasurer of Sydney University AUJS, believes that the endemic of ‘new anti-Semitism’ is bred from ignorance. Having only discovered his Jewish roots last year when digging through old family records at his Nan’s house, O’Callaghan wasn’t aware of the struggles that Jewish people face until he became immersed in the religion himself. “Jewish students feel victimised, they feel that their voices aren’t heard, that don’t have the opportunity to speak their minds and to rationalise what is really a very grey issue,” he said.

Since becoming involved in AUJS and advocating for Israel on campus, O’Callaghan has already been subject to anti-Semitic slurs. When telling people of his newfound Jewish faith, he was met with varied responses.

Perhaps most memorable was that of his friend, the head of the Autonomous Collective Against Racism: “oh, now I like you less.”

Lost for words, O’Callaghan stared at him blankly in confusion. “I didn’t know going in… people will insult me, call me genocidal, call me all these different things and then just claim that they’re not anti-Semitic?” he said.

Liam now attends shul at the Great Synagogue, and after we spoke, he took the next step in his Jewish communal life and made a small contribution then and there to JCA. Liam may be may be a very popular name amongst Irish, but it has become quite popular in Israel too because in Hebrew Li-Am (ליעם) means “I have a People.” And too right in this case.

Sam Zweig.

Sam Weiss.

So it was really special on Tuesday night to welcome Liam to JCA’s offices to help out with our telephone campaign. He joined several others from AUJS, including Sam Weiss, who featured in our 2015 campaign video this year (and is in our blog banner above), and whose mellifluous voice proved irresistible to almost every single donor he called – watch out Richard Mercer, there may well be a new Love God in town.

Also from AUJS was Iris Vayzer, who graduated from Masada College in 2013 and is now doing a law and communications degree at UTS. Being community-minded, she joined AUJS and is their events coordinator for the UTS chapter. Iris also takes part in JewishCare’s Big Brother Big Sister program. Basically, if there’s a way she can help, she’s ready to join in and give back.

Iris Vayzer.

Iris Vayzer.

So when the call came from Elenore Levi (AUJS national vice-chairperson) to help with phone campaign, Iris put her hand up. She wasn’t entirely sure for who, or what, but after hearing about JCA and our work as the fundraising body for 22 other Jewish organisations, she actually donated herself on the night. Now that’s community minded.

And sitting side by side with Liam and Sam and Iris were stalwarts like Pat EvansLew Levi, Graham de Vahl Davis, John Temple, Michael Segerman, and Sam Zweig, all of whom may very well have clocked up over 100,000 phone calls between them in their careers as JCA volunteer callers.

august phone campaign picmonkey collageSo Liam, welcome to the Hotel California:

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave… it to others to ensure our community is sustainable, vibrant and secure.

OK, so maybe the Eagles didn’t sing the last bit of that lyric, but they should have.

By the way, the phone campaign was very successful with many thousands pledged by generous members of our community.

So this week we give a special thanks to every single person – young and old – who came out to call and help raise funds for our community this year. And in particular, Gosford’s own Liam O’Callaghan, who made the move to Wagga by the Sea, and we are so very glad to have him.

Shabbat Shalom,

Dan, CEO

Professor Irad Malkin from Tel Aviv University.

Professor Irad Malkin from Tel Aviv University.

P.S. In stark contrast to the difficult situation faced by members of our community at Sydney University, very positive news this week from Macquarie University, where Professor S Bruce Dowton has awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Visiting Fellowship 2015 to Professor Irad Malkin, Chair of Mediterranean History and Culture at Tel Aviv University.

The Fellowship is reserved for only the most eminent, globally celebrated scholars. Last year Professor Malkin also won the Israel Prize for history, which is commonly known as Israel’s Nobel Prize. The community is invited to attend his public lecture, ‘Societies in Transition: Ancient and Modern Perspectives’, on 2 September at the university. Kol Ha’Kavod and Mazel Tov to Dr Gil Davis who is the director of the Program for Ancient Mediterranean Studies at Macquarie University, and a longtime JCA supporter and partner.

P.P.S. And for the very, very young in our community, have you booked your under 10 child or grandchild for our Kids Music Festival at Randwick Racecourse, Sunday, August 23rd? It will be a terrific day out and even if it pelts down with rain as it’s all under cover. Click here to book and see the flyer below. Pre-booking, which comes with a free lunch box for your child, closes soon.

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And by the way, there is A LOT happening for our community that Sunday from sunrise to sunset, thanks to the B’nai B’rith Day of Jewish Culture and Heritage. Click on the ad below to see more detail and get ready to clear your schedule. We’ll make sure to send the flyer to Liam, so he can find out more about this wonderful world he’s cast his lot with.


A community funeral today, SBS on Tuesday, and a Japanese diplomat who disobeyed official orders 70 years ago…

Holocaust survivor Leon Slucki, who passed away this week,was saved by the Japanese consulate Sugihara Chiune, who issued transit visas against orders from Japan.

Holocaust survivor Leon Slucki, who passed away this week,was saved by the Japanese consulate Sugihara Chiune, who issued transit visas against orders from Japan.

Long-time readers will recall last year’s Kosher Kobe Kiddush and the Sydney visit of Keisuke Sugihara, great-grandson of the Japanese Consul and Righteous among the Nations, Chiune Sugihara.

Well, I was thinking about Keisuke on Tuesday night while watching a very moving episode of SBS’ excellent Insight program, which featured the descendants of a number of key people from WW2, including the great-grandson of Stalin, who appeared to have inherited the madman gene, and Niklas Frank, whose Nazi father Hans Frank, oversaw the murder of millions in Poland. How much better to descend from a hero than a villain, I thought.

George Grojnowski on SBS' Insight program.

George Grojnowski on Insight.(Photo SBS.)

Anyway, as bizarre and tortured as those guests were (respectively), I think everyone should watch the show over the weekend, if only to see some wonderful representatives of our community; in particular, the always composed and compassionate George Grojnowski and his magnificent wife, Ella. Both are tireless supporters and workers assisting JCA, the Sydney Jewish Museum, and our community. It’s no wonder we featured George in one of our earliest editions of the newsletter.

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Deborah Ziegler on SBS's Insight program.

Deborah Ziegler on Insight.(Photo SBS.)

Other communal faces that popped up on the screen included Deborah Ziegler, who guided Niklas Frank through our Museum, and talked about her grandfather, who escaped Treblinka where he had been sent to die, ultimately by Niklas’ father. And I saw Hakoah President George Farkas, whose father John was Raoul Wallenberg’s right hand man in Budapest.

Then the phone rang on Wednesday morning with Keisuke announcing that he is back in Sydney for a few weeks. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up…

And then on Thursday we posted on our Facebook page the following request from the AJN:

“DO A MITZVAH: A 95-year-old Holocaust survivor with no family has passed away and a minyan is required for his funeral at 12.30pm on Friday at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney. Carla is happy to help any Jewish men over the age of 13 who can attend but needs transport.”

Would you believe, the survivor in question, Leon Slucki, like my grandparents, was saved by Keisuke’s great-grandfather…

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”, and yet here we are 70 years later, with Debbie and Niklas, and Keisuke and Leon, with lives still linked.

As I write this, it is touching to know that at 12.30pm today, all indications are that there will be many from our community, including students from Masada and Moriah, who will attend funeral and say kaddish for the late Leon Slucki, who had no family…except for all of us.

Is there any other community in the world that does things like this?

The cycle of life is such that while we lay one member of our community to rest, we also shine the spotlight on the young – babies, children, young families. A pulsing, vibrant community is a microcosm of the cycle of life.

If you would like to feel part of our large, extended family, then make sure you come along to the Kids Music Festival, which is brought to you by JCA, Shalom Baby, and PJ Library. It’s a fantastic day out for families and the under 10 set. American Jewish musician Rick Recht, who travels the world, will feature, as will the Israeli percussionists the Junkyard Beats. Plus, there will be lots of other fun to be had, including ‘Einsteinz’ music sessions for the little ones, Clamber Club obstacle courses, climb on toys, baby play areas, the JCA Rock Star photo booth, story reading corner with PJ Library, school arts and craft tables, jumping castle, silent disco and our very own ‘Kidchella’ chill out tent.

You can pre-book your tickets now and ensure your child receives a lunch pack supplied by Amaze In Taste (because we can’t have the little ones going hungry). And if you want to have a chat about things communal or JCA, or our weekly newsletters, or anything else, I’ll be near the silent disco (gotta get one of them for home).

I look forward to seeing you there.

Shabbat Shalom,



P.S. As I sit watching the Australian cricketers collapse – again, Maccabi have sent through this wonderful photo (below) of the two teams that competed in the first interstate Jewish cricket competition, and I reckon anyone of them could have top scored at Trent Bridge last night.

1925-Maccabi_2015-04-23-0003There will no doubt be many more classic photos like this, and other fascinating tidbits of Australian Jewish sport, in Maccabi’s 90th Anniversary Pictorial Book which you can order online here.

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Around the Community in 12 CEOs

Not exactly around the world in 80 days but around the community in 12 chief executives - thanks to the CEO lunch.

Not exactly around the world in 80 days, but around the community in 12 chief executives – thanks to the CEO lunch of JCA community organisations, including Maccabi NSW, Masada College, JewishCare, Montefiore Home, Emanuel School, Moriah College, BJE, Wolper Hospital, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Shalom Institute, CSG, Mt Sinai…

So we had some more folk popping bye this week to admire the tents. There’s really nothing quite as fun as showing off to a visiting Melbourne macher the wonderful thing we have going here with our cohesive, collaborative community through JCA. And we got a chance to do that on Wednesday when Sam Lipski (former editor of the AJN, and now CEO of the Pratt Foundation) joined the CEOs of the JCA member organisations and shared a bite to eat, good news and challenges, over our quarterly lunch at the Monte (thank you again to Robert Orie for hosting us all).

First up, we (JCA staff) got to tell the CEOs about the campaign to-date, and the news this year is good (having raised nearly $10m so far – but if you haven’t contributed yet – we are still quite some way from our target of $13.65m, so feel free to chip in. Every dollar and every donor really does count). One of the big successes in this year’s campaign has been the increased effort and involvement of all of our 22 constituents, sending emails (did you get a few of them?), putting up signs (remember the smiling girl?), and having their board members and volunteers and students help out at every one of our functions.

Maccabi NSW basketballers and swimmers are on a plane to Dallas, Texas for the JCC Maccabi Games 2015.

Maccabi NSW basketballers and swimmers are on a plane to Dallas, Texas for the JCC Maccabi Games 2015.

And then we got to whip around the room, which was effectively a tour of our Jewish community in 12 CEOs.

We heard from Mick Vasin about Maccabi’s new Year 7 camp, and the upcoming celebrations of 90 years of interstate sport between Vic and NSW. (If you want to know who won the inaugural interstate Jewish cricket match in 1925 – as Sam seemed keen to know – read my postscript.)

Wendy Barel told us that Masada was relieved to have sold the Lindfield site and now the whole school will be together at St Ives. Phil Roberts from Mount Sinai, was super excited about their newly opened Feuerstein Centre catering to kids with cognitive and other challenges, and John Hamey just couldn’t stop beaming from the Moriah boys’ big win in the soccer. And Anne Hastings shared with us that their new Kleinlehrer Family LINC building had opened that very morning and kids were flowing through the doors with big eyes, their mouths wide open, and loving what they saw.

Vic Alhadeff gave us an update of where the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is at with the complaint lodged regarding the anti-Semitic hate speech of a Lakemba local Hizb ut Tahrir bigot. On the other hand, Vic also noted that as we sat at and ate together, so too did a group of Jewish and Muslim women – also in Lakemba – as part of the Board’s Shared Table project.

Hilton Immerman of the Shalom Institute was still on a high after another successful Graf Oration, where visiting Professor Boaz Ganor delivered some sobering but clear-eyed thinking on Islamic extremism. As always, David Rothman’s CSG update gave us all food for thought and reminded us why we are always so grateful to see the many CSG volunteers.

Y2I funds trips to Israel for Jewish Year 10 students.

Y2I funds trips to Israel for Jewish Year 10 students.

Rachelle Schonberger and Robert Greenfield from BJE were excited about the upcoming Y2I Community Endowment campaign (watch this space), but seemed even more excited to have the CEO of the Pratt Foundation in the room as our BJE has been increasingly successful in attracting Victorian participants to its Emet Israel Experience. They offered to drive Sam back to his hotel. Very slowly…

Richard Spencer (who we can tell will be sad to hand the reins of JewishCare back to Claire Vernon when she returns from her sabbatical), told us about some of the challenges facing his organisation in a world of diminished government funding and the new world of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). But on a positive note, he advised us all that JewishCare had been successful in receiving additional funding from the German Claims Conference – and to that end if anybody is aware of any survivors of the Shoah who might require a bit of extra assistance (especially as they age and their circumstances change) then please contact JewishCare, who are ready to help.

Wolper Hospital.

Wolper Jewish Hospital is a specialist medical and rehabilitation hospital set in the quiet, tree-lined streets of Woollahra.

Finally, John Tucker advised that Wolper Hospital is tracking well with all of their beds full almost all of the time. Wolper will not be requiring an allocation this year (again), and John Tucker advised that the Wolper Foundation will shortly be making additional grants to health related projects in the Jewish and General community. Which really is wonderful for the entire JCA family.

And that was just one week in the life of the JCA family – a pretty busy and spectacular bunch of tents. Oh and some of the family members couldn’t make it, like the ACT Jewish Community (who keep suggesting we host the lunch in Canberra), the Burger Centre and COA, and of course the Fund for Jewish Higher Education, which to be fair, was too busy preparing for last night’s tribute dinner to mark the retirement of Professor Suzanne Rutland (which was why Sam Lipski was in Sydney in the first place). On behalf of us all, Mazal Tov and huge thanks to Suzanne for her remarkable contribution to Jewish education and academia.

So without wanting to get too biblical, at the end of the CEO lunch we heard the same thing from both Richard Spencer and Sam Lipski:

“Hine mah tov, uMah-Nayim, shevet achim gam yachad.”

 “Here is something good, and pleasing, constituent organisations that sit together in unity.”

Well OK, so David’s Psalm 133 perhaps didn’t quite cover the redrafted JCA Trust Deed, but you get my drift.

Shabbat Shalom – and now the cricket scores from 1925…



P.S. As I sit here watching Australia fold like a house of cards – again – I assume it is not the second test you are interested in. Through the magic of Trove, we see that a brave team of Jew South Welsh cricketers (I made that up), travelled down to Melbourne to over the summer in 1925. They were all “triers” – here’s the evidence:

Jewish cricket 1925 We are all triersUnfortunately, despite their efforts, and a strongly worded editorial in the Hebrew Standard endorsing their trip (definitely worth a read – the issues are the same 90 years later) the match played on the Fitzroy Cricket Grounds on January 1 “resulted in a win for the home team”. As if our boys had a chance, having to play on New Year’s Day after a banquet at the Kadimah Hall, a picnic to Warrandyte (where apparently “the River Yarra duly appreciated and admired.”)

According to the press: “’Day Free’ was written for the 31st but is safe to say every member of the team had something to do to fill in the time. There were numerous private functions held in addition to those on the official syllabus.”

The words of one correspondent to the editor of the Hebrew Standard following this first interstate Jewish sporting competition prove both prophetic and relevant to this day:

“12 Collins Street, Melbourne.

Sir. — The recent visit of the Jewish Young Men to this city marks an event in Australian Jewish life. Eighteen cricket representatives of your State played interstate cricket with our men and distinguished themselves by their conduct and gentlemanly bearing. On our part we took them to our homes and entertained them as best we couJd and I believe, to our visitors complete satisfaction.

This League issued the invitation. It represents five clubs comprising over seven hundred members. (Words fail me to express gratification at the result. Our Clubs have been revivified and stimulated as a result of the visit. Unbounded enthusiasm prevailed here during the vacation and I can only express appreciation at what has been a memorable event in the social history of the two States. Not the least important function was the attendance of both teams and executives at the Melbourne synagogue where Rabbi I. Brodie delivered one of his characteristically powerful addresses on ’The Jewish Religion and Sport.’

This visit of your men to us is historic— more — it is prophetic. Would that we seniors would take a lesson and show that in Australia that we Jews are one, that Melbourne and Sydney Jewry are quite close together and that miles matter nothing. Even more than that all the Australian Jews should be federated under a Federal organisation. To Mr. Einfeld the manager of the team and for H. Solomon the captain are due especial thanks. We have no complaints — we want a return of these visits. I commend the action of the Maccabean Hall committee for its enterprise and trust that they realise, as we do happily, that these interstate visits are so necessary to the welfare of the Jewish youth as any other institution — be it educational, social or communal — for the preservation of our individuality and a bulwark against assimilation.

Yours etc.,

D. ROSENBERG, 8/1/25. President.”

P.S. Do you want to join our team? JCA is hiring!

Database Administrator

Bar Mitzvah Tragic

Remember Us program Ryba Bandt

Peter Ryba (left) said goodbye to his younger brother, Gregory, in 1938, when he left their home in Poland to study in England. He never saw him again. Justin Badt of Philadelphia, right, ‘twinned’ for his Bar Mitzvah to honour Gregory Ryba through the Remember Us program.

This time last year we wrote to you about Bar mitzvahs, Brass Plaques and Bomb Shelters (which you should revisit if only for the photo of George and Lester), and my experience of going back into the world of bar mitzvahs for the first time in 30 years thanks to my son. So here we are one year later and the first, gentle tink, tink, tink on the tin roof of barmitzvahdom has become a raging summer storm which has swept all away in a flash flood. Every weekend is filled with bar and bat mitzvah extravaganzas. And as cool as the kids’ parties look today (we’re a long way from the Goodman Hall, Toto), I’m certain that in 30 years’ time they will look back at the photos (and video, and photobooths, and fridge magnets, and flickerbooks) and get the same kitsch cringe we all do.

There just is something inherently kitsch about the bar mitzvah party (or maybe kitsch in Australia began in my generation – my dad and uncle wore their very un-kitsch school uniforms to their bar mitzvah parties). If you need to be reminded, feel free to borrow my copy of Bar Mitzvah Disco.

Which reminds me of crazy idea #457 for a JCA fundraiser next year, think: “My Big Fat Jewish Bar Mitzvah”. The way I see it, with the loss of the Goodman Hall, and the King David Room at the Hakoah Club, the B’nai B’rith in Yurong Street is the last of the great bar and bat mizvah venues of Sydney still standing, and we’re about to lose it. Seems a good idea for a big bash.

Plenty of tragic here. From Bar Mitzvah Disco by Roger Bennett, Jules Shell and Nick Kroll, published by Crown Publishers, 2005. www.barmitzvahdiscov.com

Look familiar? From Bar Mitzvah Disco by Roger Bennett, Jules Shell and Nick Kroll, published by Crown Publishers, 2005. http://www.barmitzvahdisco.com

We can all bring out our tragic photos, and remember a time when to be a kosher caterer in Sydney you had to be Hungarian and have a surname starting with “G”. We can try to get the band back together (anybody know where Kathmandu is these days?). If we can’t, I’m happy to throw in my tape of ‘1982 with a Bullet’. Who has a tape deck? I bumped into Max Lemberg recently at the Monte and I’m sure we could coax him out of retirement for one last shake of the Blue Box. Certainly our friends at the JNF would be happy.

So as kitsch and tragic as the bar mitzvah party must be, the actual rite of passage itself, of course, is something far different. And at its core is something very spiritual and sublime (are you reading this, 12-year-old-son-of-mine?). And I was reminded of that this week catching up with Tom Levi.

Tom is an ex-JCA board observer (he served on our Building and Capital committee) and has returned from a stint overseas and got in touch to say he was back in town and wants to get involved. (Another example of how great our Board Observership program is for the training and engagement of the next generation of communal volunteers and leaders – thank you Jonathan Gavshon). Tom is also the grandson of Peter Ryba, who together with his wife Edith, are longstanding JCA supporters whose generosity and philanthropy will help to ensure our community is vibrant and secure, and thanks to the JCA endowment fund they have established, sustainable, well into the future.

I asked Tom if his grandfather was OK, because I hadn’t seen him around for a while, or at any of our campaign events in June. And Tom explained that was because Peter had gone to Philadelphia to celebrate his brother’s bar mitzvah. I was confused because I knew that Peter’s brother had perished in the Shoah. And Tom explained that when he was in Yad Vashem a few years ago he filled in forms with the names of all of the members of his family who were killed, including Gregory Ryba.

A world away, Justin Badt, a bar mitzvah boy in Philadelphia was ’twinned’ with Gregory Ryba through an international program called “Remember Us: The Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah Project”. The enterprising boy did a bit of research on Gregory, found the form submitted by Tom, and wrote to Peter – out of the blue – inviting him to his bar mitzvah, where they would together light a candle and say kaddish for Gregory.  I can’t really do the full story justice, but there is a wonderful write up in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

I spoke with Peter earlier today and he told me that he found the Philadelphia bar mitzvah incredibly moving, and was welcomed by a Jewish family half a planet away with warmth and love.

And so to bring this bar mitzvah riff full circle, we read this week of Croatian Auschwitz survivor Branko Lustig, who donated to Yad Vashem the Oscar he won as a producer of Schindler’s List (he still has the one for Gladiator). Branko, now 83, celebrated his bar mitzvah at the age of 78 at the gates of Auschwitz, where he was sent as a 12-year-old boy. If you have time, I recommend watching this excellent mini documentary produced by filmmaker Topaz Adizes for the New York Times.

Peter, Gregory, Justin, and Branko, remind us all of how precious our communal rites of passage are. And I for one will remember this, as I ferry the kids from party to party… And by enrolling my 12 year old son in the Remember Us project.

Shabbat Shalom,



P.S. On the larger theme of matching the right people and making lasting, powerful connections: JewishCare’s ‘Big Brothers Big Sisters’ program creates meaningful, monitored mentoring matches between adult volunteers (Bigs) and children ages 7 through 17 (Littles) living with disadvantage and adversity, who are hungry for friendship, guidance and acceptance. Here’s the program’s great new video.

Do not try to teach the cows German; they would rather be milked in English.

Jewish migrants arriving in Sydney in 1939

Jewish migrants arriving in Australia in 1939. Federation of Australian Jewish Welfare Societies/National Library of Australia

Sometimes we can forget that Jews live in parts of Sydney west of South Dowling Street. We were reminded of this thanks to an email received by the Sydney Jewish Museum from one of our community members living in the north western suburbs:

… I am a resident of Castle Hill. Additionally I and my wife are Life Members of Parramatta Synagogue. I have been a Past President of the Synagogue, and as a person who grew up in the area have some knowledge of the historical importance of both the Synagogue and residences of the surrounding area.

It has come to my attention today that Chelsea Park House at Baulkham Hills is to be put to auction on Saturday 25th July 2015. Chelsea Park originally consisted of 100 acres of farming land and was owned by The Jewish Welfare Society [today known as JewishCare] in the years prior to the outbreak of WW2. Various subdivisions occurred which has left a site area of 1813 sq metres.

Chelsea Park was a place where Jewish immigrants escaping the terrors and humiliations of Europe were sent to help them establish themselves and to learn farming techniques so that they could become a part of the agricultural industry that was in need to feed Australia during WW2. Chelsea Park was subsequently taken over by the Armed Forces and used, I believe as a hospital and also a mapping base.

Indeed, through the magic of Trove, we discover that the men were taught to “milk, kill, handle a horse, and other farm animals, and to operate farm implements.” One assumes that they didn’t milk, kill and handle the same horse.

Sydney Morning Herald 10 January 1939

Sydney Morning Herald, 10 January, 1939

The refugee women learned “Australian methods of cooking, butter and cheese making, washing and laundry work, which, in many cases, she finds different from the methods employed in her native country.” Those of us who are children and grandchildren of those women know how confronting they found learning “Australian methods of cooking”, and in many cases their husbands and sons never made it to the washing and laundry bit.

The farm was dotted with signs with useful reminders to the young Jewish refugee apprentice farmers, such as: “Do not try to teach the cows German; they would rather be milked in English.” And “Sing or laugh in any language you like, but ONLY SPEAK ENGLISH.” And so our polyglot multicultural roots became literally tongue-tied. Remember that next time you try to pronounce a Hebrew “Resh” with your flat Australian “R”.

The property was purchased by Mutual Farms Ltd, with funds donated by the local Jewish Community and a significant amount contributed by the Joint Distribution Committee out of New York. So we contacted the indefatigable Eva Fischl a past-President of JewishCare and now head of The Joint in Australia, and she has asked us to try to find anyone who ever milked a cow (in English), or collected eggs at Chelsea Park?

The land was sold by the Jewish Community in 1949, and I guess some of the capital has been preserved and recycled into the wonderful facility we have today in Saber Street, Bondi Junction.

Chelsea Farm today.

Chelsea Farm today.

Anyway, as this week’s newsletter is the view from the West, if you are in the Castle Hill or Parramatta district and want to inspect the property, contact Centurty 21 Castle Hill (maybe JCA should negotiate a commission). I’m sure even for those from as far away as the Eastern suburbs it might make an interesting excursion.

You could also drop in on the Castle Hill Cemetery, which still has an active Jewish section. And, of course, you would be welcomed with open arms by the shammas at Parramatta shul (where they add a special prayer each week, thanking God for not making eels kosher). For those who want to know more about Jewish life west of South Dowling Street get in contact with Julian Leeser from our own NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. (In fact, all members of the Sydney Jewish community are invited to attend a Shabbat dinner at the Parramatta synagogue on October 23 – to learn more or book contact Lynda Ben-Menashe via benmenashe@nswjbd.com.)

Grete Menkes and Elsa and Otto Philippsohn

Grete Menkes and Elsa and Otto Philippsohn (photo credit: Sydney Jewish Museum).

The story of Chelsea Park Farm is one small story of our past. Still, it demonstrates how special and unique our community is.

It reminds us that we have been in the business of looking after each other, and those who have come to join us, for so very long. And how the strategic and foresighted investment and recycling of capital has helped us to grow into the strong, independent – and yes – sustainable, vibrant and secure – community we know today. Even if we are, sadly, monolingual.

So think about that as you enjoy your Shabbat dinner prepared with Australian methods of cooking tonight.

Shabbat Shalom,



P.S. Speaking of looking after each other, Dr Lesley Andrews who runs the Hereditary Cancer Clinic at Prince of Wales Hospital, has been in touch to advise of the work she is doing with the support of UNSW and our Wolper Jewish Hospital, which hopefully will lead to a community-testing program for faults within the breast and ovarian cancer genes (BRCA 1 and 2 genes) which are sadly commonly seen within Jewish populations. Please take a moment to complete the survey she is currently conducting.

P.S. And another reminder about JCA/PJ Library/Shalom Baby’s Family Day on August 23rd at Randwick with Jewish rock star Rick Recht – a day of fun and music earlier generations could not have imagined. Book here to attend.

music festival poster copy copy