“We Are All Sydney” inaugural graduating class

June 7, 2017 by Community newsdesk
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18 women from almost as many communities graduated in June from the first-ever “We Are All Sydney” community leadership program, initiated and run by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Lynda Ben-Menashe [c] with participants

In attendance were over 90 people, including the graduates, their families and workmates, Chairperson of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW Peter Doukas and representatives of the Department of Social Services, which supports the program.

“We Are All Sydney” is a first for the Jewish community and for Sydney itself, bringing together emerging women leaders from the Jewish community and other ethnic, faith and NGO communities and organisations. It is modelled on the hugely successful “We are all Brooklyn/Queens/The Bronx/Manhattan” programs that have been run for over 20 years by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

The aim of the program for the Jewish community is to share with leaders from other communities the learnings it has gathered over 2, 3 or more generations here as a very small minority immigrant community, first as convicts then in various waves as refugees from persecution, war and genocide.

“Perhaps the most famous saying of one of the most famous rabbis, Rabbi Hillel, was “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am ONLY for myself, then what am I?” The Jewish community sees it as both a moral duty and a logical undertaking to try to give back, and strengthen the social fabric of this city. It is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do, for the benefit of all,” said NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ vice president Lesli Berger.

The graduates of the program, from Aboriginal, Afghani, African-American, Anglo, Burmese, Chinese, Ethiopian, South Sea Islander, Iranian, Iraqi, Jewish, Lebanese, Sierra Leonean and Syrian backgrounds, were identified as leaders by organisations that care deeply about the future of Sydney: the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, the Barnabas Fund, CORE Community Services, the Mandaean Women in Australia, Parliament on King, the Salvation Army, Settlement Services International, the Association of South Sea Islanders Port Jackson and Sydney Alliance.

Participants undertook a four-month leadership development program facilitated by academics and other professionals, and most of them also interned in Jewish organisations which provide services similar to their ones in the organisations they serve in themselves. Going forward, the group will meet on a monthly basis to work on joint projects, undertake further training seminars and deepen the bonds of friendship they have developed.

“Stronger, more connected community leaders can only build a stronger, more connected Sydney and this is the intended legacy of the program,” said Lynda Ben-Menashe, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Community Relations & Policy Manager.

Participants added: “Leadership is more about working with people rather than having power over them” and “I would recommend this program to others because it provides skills and techniques to look at challenges from different perspectives. It also builds self-confidence, wisdom and introspection.”

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