JCA’s Night to Inspire inspired 1100

August 16, 2009 by Henry Benjamin
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More than 1100 members of Sydney’s community packed the Hordern Pavilion for the JCA’s “Night to Inspire”.

And inspired they were.

The evening started with the introduction of Gold Medal winners from the recent 18th Maccabiah in Israel followed by an inspiring talk from JCA president, David Balkin.

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To see and hear what he had to say, simply activate the video below

Bobby Seger - every little bit helps

Bobby Sager - every little bit helps Photo: Henry Benjamin

The highlight of the evening was an address given by high profile American philanthropist, Bobby Sager.

Sager, who brought his family to Australia, including his parents so they could “kvell”, told the hushed audience about his experiences in living with disadvantaged communities around the world including such hot spots as Rwanda, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the West Bank.

He said that communities like Sydney take the “services provided for granted but somebody has to pay the bills.’

He told of meetings with the Dalai Lama with whom his family has been involved for nine years and of the great deal of time spent with the Tibetan community. He said the Tibetan leader tells his people of how the Jewish people suffered a similar fate as them…thrown out of their homeland, forced to live in a diaspora for 2000 years and compelled to perpetuate their culture…and how they had regained their homeland giving others, such as the Tibetans, hope for the future. He said: “That is why nine years ago my relationship started with his Holiness as I thought that as a Jew, it was time to help another people suffering a similar fate”.

Sager then told of his visit to Rwanda in an attempt to discover how the Holocaust took root without awareness of the warning signs. He said that UN chief Kofi Annan and President Clinton did see the warning signs in Rwanda…but nothing was done. Sager has introduced micro-economics to the country helping women whose husbands had previosuly fought against each other work together enabling them to “start to understand one another as human beings.”

Sager went on to to talk about his establishment of the Young Presidents Organisation’s Chapter to offer assistance to Palestine. He said he did that as a Jew to help Israel. Although he agreed to disagree about many matters with the Palestinians, he said that two of his West Bank friends attended his son’s Barmitzvah at the Kotel and had recited a prayer for peace. He made it clear that it was not right that between opposing factions there is no point in discussion as there is “no-one to talk to.” He said he has people to talk to and does so even though it can be complicated. His approach is to engage.

He talked of visiting Pakistan following the catastrophic earthquake as a result of which 100,000 died. He took thousands of blankets to the country but was asked why a Jew was doing this in an Islamic country. He answered “That’s what Jews do. That’s what we are.” Working with many Islamic communities, Sager had no hesitation in letting them know his religious affiliations and reinforcing the fact that a Jew was offering them economic assistance.

He has visited  troubled Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe.

Commenting on the list of the world’s great leaders Sager said  it very sparse citing Nelson Mandela as one of the few.

He then showed a series of photographs of children taken in many of the world’s trouble spots accompanied by music played by “my good friend, Sting”.

Sager swung the topic back to the JCA by emphasising the value of the community. Sager is a man who has invested a fortune in improving the lot of under-privileged communites throughout the world. He asked the Sydney Jewish community to invest in itself.

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