A chat with new UJEB president Gabi Crafti

May 21, 2019 by  
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Becci Krispin sat down with the new UJEB President Gabi Crafti to hear about her role and her thoughts on Jewish education in Melbourne.

New UJEB president Gabi Crafti with her children Rafi and Josie

BK: You are the 3rd female President of UJEB. What has been your involvement with UJEB to date and what do you hope to achieve in this role?

GC: I joined the UJEB Board about a year and a half ago, just before my eldest child started prep. I’m very proud to be the third female President, and I hope that going forward we’ll continue to have a lot more balance in leadership. UJEB went through a difficult period when the government pulled religious education out of schools. We’ve gone through a period of recovery and rebuilding, and have now emerged from that challenge. As President, I hope to show the community that UJEB has adapted to a brave new world. My main aim is to help our organisation to continue delivering the excellent programs and initiatives that it does for our kids. I hope we keep punching above our weight.

BK: You’re a mum of 2 small kids (and UJEB participants), a barrister, founder of the Jewish Professional Women’s Network (JPWN) and now President of UJEB. How do you manage to juggle all of these roles?

GC: Well, as a friend of mine likes to describe it, it’s managed chaos! The truth is, I have a lot of energy, and I also have a lot of support. I have a great partner who really understands that I’m at my best when I’m doing a lot and trying to do it all effectively. He really encourages me to be like that and makes it possible. I’m in a great partnership and everything that I do I really credit to both of us.

I also have to say that I don’t always manage the juggle. Some days the wheels fall off, and you just have to accept that’s how it is today. But I do enjoy all of it. I love my kids, I love being a barrister, I’m passionate about the JPWN and I’m super passionate about UJEB. I would never give up any of my roles because I love them all too much!

BK: What are your thoughts on Jewish education in Melbourne and UJEB’s future role?

GC: It’s clear that UJEB has an increasingly important role to play. The cost of Jewish education is beyond the reach of many in our community. I’m an advocate for the Jewish Day School (JDS) system: I am a product of this system and I had an incredibly positive experience. But I also understand that in reality, it’s unmanageable for many families, for either part or all of their school journey. This is where UJEB comes in, keeping kids outside the Jewish schools connected with their Jewish identity and community.

UJEB has fulfilled this important role for more than 120 years, providing inclusive opportunities for students in government schools to learn about their religion, culture, heritage and language. UJEB’s challenge is to continue along the path of providing the very best in Jewish education that it can for these kids, and this is where I think we are making huge strides. Itzik (Sztokman, UJEB’s Executive Principal) has been absolutely pivotal in taking UJEB from being an organisation that rolls out Religious Education (RE) for half an hour per week, to something completely different. Itzik has brought his wealth of experience in both formal and informal education to bear at every level. The initiatives and programming that he has rolled out are so imaginative and engaging, that we are now pushing into spaces that we haven’t been in before in really creative ways. That’s what I’m really proud of, and that’s what I see as UJEB’s continuing and developing role in Melbourne.

BK:  Do you expect to encounter any difficulties in your new role as President?

GC: No (laughs). Of course, there will be challenges. Our main challenge is servicing our enormous growth and expansion. We don’t receive any government funding and rely entirely on fee-for-service and the goodwill, kindness and generosity of the Jewish community in supporting us. My challenge as President is how to demonstrate to those with means in the community that supporting UJEB is a great value proposition. Ultimately, I’m confident that I can meet this challenge because UJEB is a product that sells itself.

I also really want to thank Tony Fell, our previous President, who has taught me so much in preparing for this role. Tony has a wealth of knowledge about UJEB, and he brings so much of his professional experience to the table. He has been helping UJEB for many years. I’m really pleased that he is continuing on as Vice President, and will remain very active in that role. I think he and I are a great team. The Board is also really cohesive and supportive, and that’s a credit to Tony.

BK:  Do you have a message for our community?

GC: Take a really good look at what we’re doing these days. We’re not the UJEB of old. We’re a completely different UJEB to the one you may have thought you knew. We are doing and achieving great things. I invite the community to get right behind us and support us, because we are the organisation that is going to keep Jewish kids in our community connected to their Jewish identity, like no other.

Becci Krispin is the Communications Officer at the United Jewish Education Board


One Response to “A chat with new UJEB president Gabi Crafti”
  1. Becci Krispin says:

    To donate to UJEB’s Annual Appeal, please visit https://www.ujeb.org.au/donate/
    or call 95236844.

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