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…

Dan

CEO

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,

Dan

CEO

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,

Dan

CEO

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

Now It’s Personal

As fun as it is to write this newsletter each week, our community and JCA and its member organisations are, of course, made up of many voices. Over time it is our plan to include a variety of perspectives and people. If you’re a budding communoblogger get in touch, especially if you know what a communoblogger is because I just made that up, and not even Google knows.

Anyway, as a first new voice, I’d like to introduce you to JCA’s new head of marketing and communications, Alicia Mayer Beverley. Take it away, Alicia:

Now it’s Personal

It was in late November 2011, a few months after relocating from the Gold Coast that my partner and I drove around St Ives in search of a school for our boys.

My son Joseph with young Jewish Mexican Gerardo Porteny Backal, who the JCA brought to Australia. Gerardo spoke to our day schools and following his talk at Masada, Joseph applied and became an ambassador for his global gender equality initiative.

My son Joseph with young Jewish Mexican Gerardo Porteny Backal, who the JCA brought to Australia. Gerardo spoke to our day schools and following his talk at Masada, Joseph applied and became an ambassador for his global gender equality initiative.

I remember this particular Sunday drive like it was yesterday; we had driven past the St Ives shops, turned on to Link Road, looking here, looking there and suddenly my partner called out, “Hey, I think I just saw Hebrew!” So we did a big circle, looped back around and sure enough, there was the Masada College sign.

We went home, looked at the website, and immediately downloaded the prospectus. A Jewish education was something I never had. In fact, despite ‘feeling Jewish’ and loving everything Jewish, for a variety of reasons,  my only real connection to my heritage was through my maternal grandparents, and my grandfather, in particular.

Popa, as I called him, took me to shul whenever I was in town. I remember my legs dangling from the pew. It was on one of these visits that Popa leant over and whispered to me: “A Jew goes to temple to sit next to another Jew.” It wasn’t until I was staring at the Masada website, filled with images of smiling Jewish children, boys wearing kippot, that his words hit me with full force. Being a part of strong, connected Jewish community feeds our soul, and I knew this is what I wanted for my children, and for myself.

Long story short, within a week or so the boys were enrolled. That first day of school, with my two sons in the Masada College uniform and each wearing a school issued kippah, I thought I would faint with happiness. All I could think of was my precious grandfather, long departed, and how his heart would have burst with joy to see his great-grandsons honouring our faith and embarking on a journey of Jewish values.

My older son Adam at the Kotel last year, thanks to JCA's Israel program for Year 10s, Y2i.

My older son Adam at the Kotel last November, thanks to JCA’s Israel program for Year 10s, Y2I.

Now, several years later, my sons are both deeply a part of Masada’s school life and community. My oldest boy went to Poland and Israel last year, and my youngest son will go later this year.

I’ll never forget texting my son in Israel, after he had been there for a few weeks, and asking if he was homesick.

“Mum,” he said, “how can a Jew be homesick in Israel?” I sat holding my phone feeling grateful and overwhelmed that my son could have this powerful, uniquely Jewish experience.

Behind all of this – the fact that my sons have a Jewish day school to attend, and can take a trip of a lifetime to Israel with dozens of other kids their age – JCA has played a key role, ensuring the funding flows like life-giving blood to member organisations like Masada, and now to the new Y2I program, which helps Year 10s at both Jewish and non-Jewish schools connect with our sense of Jewish peoplehood and our past and future, together.

These experiences have given my sons an entirely different future, and most certainly a deeper connection to being Jewish. And me too, for that matter. Being a part of the Masada family has connected me with other Jewish families and I cherish these relationships and our shared history.

Now, with several years here in Sydney under our belt, we are settled and actively looking for ways to give back – enter JCA again. After reading one of CEO Dan Grynberg’s weekly newsletters, I emailed and offered to volunteer my skills in writing, marketing, communications, really whatever was needed.

My great-grandmother Ida Mayer Cummings with the incredible Rabbi Magnin, who served Wilshire Boulevard Temple (previously Congregation B'nai B'rith) for 69 years.

My great-grandmother Ida Mayer Cummings with  Rabbi Magnin, who served Wilshire Boulevard Temple (previously Congregation B’nai B’rith) for an incredible 69 years. Our family helped build this congregation, the oldest continuously active temple in Los Angeles.

After a few emails and phone calls back and forth, we agreed on how I would use my skill set to help JCA. And again, I remember that day like it was yesterday because the date was the yahrtzeit of my great-grandmother, who spent 29 years as the president of a Jewish fundraising organisation in Los Angeles, and devoted a lifetime to helping that community.

Now, in a full circle that I could have never predicted, I am the head of marketing and communications for JCA.

It is my only hope that I can help explain what JCA – Jewish Communal Appeal – means to our community – how the millions of dollars in funding it raises annually through the enormous generosity of our community, literally changes lives.

If you have ever been a recipient of JCA’s fundraising through one of its 22 member organisations, you probably wish to give back however you can. One of the easiest ways is to visit our website to learn more and then spread the word about JCA’s family of organisations. And of course, give what you can financially.

The need for Jewish communal funding is rising, while donor numbers are dropping. We can all do our part – and perhaps even help a family, just like ours, whose lives you change forever.

___________

Thank you Alicia. And another thing our readers can do is to follow @jcatoday on Twitter and our active Facebook page.

Ida Mayer Cummings is presented with a portrait by her brother Louis B. Mayer and others to celebrate her many years in service to the LA Jewish Home for the Aged.

Ida Mayer Cummings is presented with a portrait by her brother Louis B. Mayer and others to celebrate her many years of service to the LA Jewish Home for the Aged.

One thing Alicia neglected to mention is that the Mayer in her name is the same as that of her late great-grand-uncle Louis B. Mayer, whose sister, Ida Mayer Cummings almost single-handedly raised the funds necessary to establish and run the Jewish Home for the Aged in Los Angeles, and who legendary entertainer Bob Hope described as “the only woman he knew who could reach down the phone and grab a man by the lapels.”

Luckily, Alicia doesn’t phone potential donors at 1am, as Ida was known to do if she felt they should be involved. Though her commitment to community and philanthropy is clearly genetic.

Looking forward to sharing many more new voices and perspectives, and hearing from all of our great communobloggers.

Shabbat Shalom,

Dan, CEO

P.S. Talking about families, remember to book for the JCA, Shalom Baby, PJ Library Kid Music Festival on August 23rd. This is a fun and memorable day for the whole family. Great for creating happy kid memories. To buy tickets online, click here.

P.S. Did you miss our recent communal events? You can catch up by video. Here’s our Communal East and Awards Night, which featured Markus Zusak as guest speaker. And here’s our Communal North event at Chatswood, which featured our own Ian Reichman and our international guest speaker Gerardo Porteny Backal, shown above.

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

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

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

Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishkenotecha Yisrael . . .

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

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

This is what they had to say about our tents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom,

Dan, CEO

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

Vale Fred Seskin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg, CEO

www.JCA.org.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ian Reichman

Ian Reichman on Tuesday night.

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

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

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

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

Gerardo Porteny Backal Tuesday night.

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

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

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg, CEO

Lauren

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

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

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

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

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

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