New Leader for Canberra Community

November 20, 2011 by J-Wire Staff
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Professor Kim Rubenstein has been elected president of the Canberra Jewish Community.

Professor Kim Rubenstein

Manny Waks

The ACT Jewish Community has held its Annual General Meeting at which more than 70 community members attended.

The AGM received in-depth reports on the community’s range of activities and financial position.

Outgoing president Manny Waks reported on a successful year that included a number of new initiatives and milestones.

Manny Waks, who will be returning to Melbourne this week, told community members that he was “humbled and privileged to lead this community over the past year” and wished the community and the newly-elected Board well in all its future endeavours.

Waks told J-Wire that, “I am going to take some time for reflection after what has been a very busy and fulfilling year as President. I will then focus my energies towards the Capital Jewish Forum to develop it even further in terms of the scope and breadth of our activities and reach. We look forward to another successful year for the CJF.”

The newly-elected President, Professor Kim Rubenstein, told community members of her vision. She stated she will be guided by three principles during her Presidency “Inclusion, Nurturing and Growth”.

Professor Rubenstein reinforced that the ACT Jewish Community should be proud of being an inclusive community – and this should be promoted far and wide. She also acknowledged the potential for growth, aiming to attract more people and families to play an active role in and to ensure the ACT Jewish Community caters for the many needs of Jews living in Canberra.

Professor Rubenstein has served as the community’s Vice President over the past year.  She is Professor and Director of the Centre for International and Public Law at the Australian National University, and also Convenor of the ANU Gender Institute.

The president’s report:

2010-11 Board of Management:

Executive:

President: Mr Manny Waks

Vice President: Professor Kim Rubenstein

Immediate Past President: Dr Anita Shroot

Treasurer: Mr Peter Taft

Secretary: Mr Rob Cussel

Assistant Treasurer/Secretary: Dr George Rothman

 

Board members: 

Mr Bill Arnold

Mr Alan Copeland

Mr Ilya Leydman

Ms Gracie McNamara

Mr Garry Sturgess

Mr Peter Wise

The Board of Management met on the first Wednesday of every month (excluding January and on one other occasion). Attendance at the meetings was high, as was the quality of discussion. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the commitment of the Board and thank all members for their contribution.

Communication

Over the past year we launched a reinvigorated website (www.canberrajewishcommunity.org).

Our email newsletter Grapevine goes out to our community members and friends in Canberra to keep them updated of information and events.

We have revamped our monthly HaMerkaz magazine, which now reaches most of our members through electronic means, thereby saving us considerable resources. I thank our dedicated Editor, Robert Cussel, for his outstanding work

Representing our community

At a national level I have represented our community as a Vice President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ). I also represented our community in numerous meetings with government and embassy officials, JCA, ECAJ and others.

I represented the community at this year’s Australia Day celebration at The Lodge. I attended the annual Chanukah event hosted by the Australian Defence Forces, which was arranged by the ADF Chaplain, Rabbi Ralph Genende. I also had the opportunity to attend the Embassy of Israel’s launch of the magnificent miniature display at the Cockington Green Gardens. I also attended the Serbian Orthodox Community’s Saint George Day celebrations. I facilitated and attended an ECAJ-NSW Jewish Board of Deputies event in Sydney featuring the Turkish Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Oguz Ozge.

In February I represented the Community at the official opening of the Mikvah, which has been built by Chabad of the ACT. I was pleased and honoured to have been asked to make a speech on behalf of the community, and I say more about Chabad below.

I should note that several Board members have represented our community in a number of forums, for example, Anita Shroot attended an NGO meeting on human rights on behalf of the ECAJ.

Outreach

Throughout the year a number of community members have engaged with hundreds of visiting school children and adults to the Centre, fostering an understanding of Judaism. We have also been active with our interfaith relations activities, including through the Christian-Jewish Dialogue Group meeting. We have also been involved in the establishment and maintenance of a meditation garden next to the Canberra Hospice. This year we also had volunteers at an information booth at the annual Multicultural Festival. Thank you to all those involved.

Financial support

We are indebted to the Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA) for their ongoing financial support. Their contribution allows us to maintain our Centre and to provide essential services to our members. At the time of writing this Report we are awaiting the allocations for the next year. Most notable, this year we have requested additional funds to allow us to appoint a senior staff member to ensure the smooth running of our Centre and to enhance our services and programs. Moreover, the JCA is in the process of considering establishing a new major capital work fund for mid-size organisations like ours who may not be in a good position to effectively undertake a major appeal. We are hopeful that this special fund will be established soon and we expect to reap its benefits.

Staffing

Our staff hours have increased substantially over the past year, due mainly to increased funding from the JCA, specifically for the purpose of establishing a youth and young adults programme. We have held a number of events for this demographic. As a result we have seen an increased level of interaction between young Jews in Canberra and our community.

Educational programmes

Our educational programme has maintained its continued success. We have expanded our Sunday School programme and we now offer classes for students until the age of 15. Moreover, we now have a class dedicated to the Israeli community. I would like to acknowledge the UPJBE for their ongoing financial support for the Sunday School programme. We also continue to offer a range of adult educational initiatives.

The Library Committee has been working hard in a number of areas. Most notably, they have been in ongoing discussions with the Makor Library in Melbourne in its transition to the new Lamm Jewish Library of Australia. We look forward to maintaining and even enhancing this relationship for the benefit of our community.

After receiving numerous reports of alleged antisemitism at schools in the ACT, we have commissioned a study into this matter with the financial support of the ACT Government (supplemented by our own contribution). Associate Professor Danny Ben-Moshe has recently commenced this study. We look forward to receiving his findings in due course and we will take action as appropriate.

Social activities

We have maintained a high level of activities through our social and interest groups associated with our community. Examples include the Jewish Historical Society, National Council of Jewish Women, Lunch and Lecture, Grumps, the Capital Jewish Forum, singing and dancing groups, among others.

Awards

The Hollander-Selinger Prize, encouraging young community members to contribute to our community, was awarded to Sam Dixon on Chanukah 2010. It was an outstanding event, attended by the Jewish US Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Jeffrey Bleich, who lit the Menorah.

This year we founded the Shroot Volunteer of the Year Award, which has been kindly endowed by Anita and Alan Shroot upon the Board’s recommendation, in recognition of an outstanding, long-time volunteer to our community – essentially an individual selected by the Board who felt best epitomises the Shroots’ selfless, dedicated volunteerism. The inaugural winner was Sylvia Deutch who has made a significant contribution to our community in so many areas over many years. The Award was presented at a special event honouring all of our volunteers and welcoming our new members.

Jewish Care

Jewish Care has improved and increased its services thanks mainly to our community care worker. I would like to acknowledge and thank Jewish Care NSW, which has provided ongoing support through training and mentoring.

I should note that several members of our Jewish Care Committee are accredited Pastoral Carers to the Canberra hospitals, while Bill Arnold has been appointed by the NSW Department of Corrective Services as Chaplain to Jewish prisoners in Goulburn, Cooma and Junee prisons. Prisoners are visited at least once a month. Bill is also a Board member of the Pastoral Care Council of the ACT.

I wish to thank the Jewish Care Committee and all the volunteers who work in this important area.

Religious services

Both the Orthodox and Progressive congregations have had a busy year with regular services and a range of events. I thank all the volunteers for providing regular kiddushim after Shabbat services. A new Orthodox women’s service has also commenced with its first meeting on Chanukah organised around a Bat-mitzvah ceremony for the five girls who undertook the Matan Bat-mitzvah programme. All Chagim were celebrated with a meal or social events. I wish to thank everybody who coordinated and helped.

Finances/Administration

Throughout the year we have been discussing a number of options to supplement our existing income sources. The parking arrangement with the Department of Finance has been of great benefit. Additional options are still being examined. I should note the contra agreement we established with Forrest Inn whereby we provide them with advertising for complimentary nights at their hotel.

On an unfortunate note, we lost a significant amount of accounting data due to an IT failure. This has caused us to re-assess our back-up procedures to insure against a future occurrence.

Special events

There was an impressive turnout for the community’s farewell event for Eli and Shuli Yerushalmi – a great indication of the admiration the community held for the former Israeli Deputy Chief of Mission and his wife.

The community held a special Kiddush honouring the 90th birthday of one of our founding members, Earle Hoffman OAM. It was particularly great to see members of the Progressive congregation joining the Orthodox service, epitomising the unified purpose of the community so fervently expressed and encouraged by Earle from the outset. In his honour we established the Earle Hoffman Library.

Throughout the year the community held a number of events including Yom HaShoah, Kristallnacht, Yom HaZikaron (in conjunction with the Embassy of Israel), Yom Ha’atzmaut and a commemoration for the late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

On this note I would like to mention the great relationship we have with the Embassy of Israel more broadly and we look forward to maintaining and fostering this relationship.

Major events at the Centre

The Australian Association of Jewish Studies 2011 Conference was held at the Centre in February. I was the Conference Convenor and Anna Hueneke was the Academic Convenor. Almost 60 academics, students and interested individuals from Australia and around the world attended the conference.

In November last year the Centre also hosted the Union for Progressive Judaism International Conference, which was an immense success. Thank you to all those involved in both of these conferences.  The Australasian Union of Jewish Students also held its annual Political Training Seminar in Canberra using the Centre for part of its activities.

Throughout the year we have been privileged to host a wedding celebration, as well as numerous Bar- and Bat-Mitzvahs.

Chabad of the ACT 

Besides from congratulating Rabbi Dan and Naomi Avital on achieving the opening of the Mikvah, which will benefit the entire Jewish community in Canberra, I took the opportunity to share with the audience at the opening, the uniqueness of this year – it marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the ACT Jewish Community and the 40th anniversary of the founding of the National Jewish Memorial Centre in Forrest, which has been providing services and opportunities for Jews within the ACT. I also noted that the community looks forward to continue to maintain and develop our relationship with Chabad of the ACT for the benefit of the entire Jewish community.

On this note I would like to state that the current relationship between our community and Chabad of the ACT is very positive. There has been mutual cooperation and I expect this to continue.

Summary

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our many dedicated volunteers and staff. Put simply, we could not undertake the work that we do with their support and assistance.

This year marks the 60th anniversary since the founding of our community and the 40th anniversary since the establishment of the National Jewish Memorial Centre. To celebrate this occasion the community held a Gala Dinner, which was an immense success. Leading up to the Dinner we also had a community forum with interstate distinguished guests. A sincere thank you to all of our guests and volunteers for their incredible support and assistance.

Overall we are in a solid financial position and I commend the Board for its prudent approach in dealing with expenditure. I will defer to the Treasurer for a more detailed financial report.

As I see it, one of the major challenges facing our community is our ability to cater to the changing demographic. We have been witnessing a steady increase in young families, including many with an Israeli background. I believe that we are well placed to deal with this development which will require the Board’s ongoing attention. Some of the other major challenges include the maintenance of our ageing building and providing adequate services to our ageing members. I have no doubt that the incoming Board will tackle these and other issues effectively.

After nearly three years in Canberra I will be returning to Melbourne with my family. It has been an honour to lead this unique community and to be actively involved in a number of areas throughout my time here. As the Immediate Past President and with my attachment to our community, my guidance and assistance will always be on offer. Moreover, I intend to continue leading the Capital Jewish Forum from Melbourne, which will see me coming to Canberra occasionally. In the meantime, I wish the community ongoing success in all its endeavours.

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