Big Weekend for JCA

August 13, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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Sydney’s JCA held two successful fundraisers over the weekend featuring keynote speakers Olympic champion Alisa Camplin and London suicide bombing survivor Gill Hicks.

J-Wire attended the Sunday night function at which Gill Hicks spoke.

Peter Philippsohn pic: Giselle Haber

More than 350 people packed the John Leighton Hall in the Scientia Building on the campus of the University of New South Wales which also housed the Camplin event the previous evening.

At both functions a novel approach was initiated with Saturday night MC JCA vice-president Michael Graf  and Sunday night M.C. president Peter Philippsohn asking all present with family in any of the Montefiore Homes to stand, working their way through all the organisations until every single guest was standing…a surefire indication of how the JCA constituent organisations affected the entire community.

Peter Philippsohn spoke on the shrinking number of children attending Jewish day schools pointing out that the birth rate was increasing.

Philippsohn took the room on a journey featuring many of the activities of the JCA family but focusing on the women…

Here is what he had to say..

Tonight we feature women of all ages, each with a story. Each in her own way has given and still gives to community. We are privileged to welcome our inspirational guest speaker Gill Hicks and her partner Karl Falzon.

And of course – welcome and thanks to every person inside and outside this room – all our hosts and CSG people who have worked so hard on our behalf– you are the family and friends who make our lives richer and more secure.

Thank you for making the choice to come tonight to stand up to be counted as a member of this great community.

William Jennings Bryan said “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

We are always faced with choices. We face them in our home, in our job and in our community.

JCA too is faced with choices.

As the planner for the community, we are facing many issues which cannot be ignored. Choices must be made. We must accept the responsibility and make the decisions.

There are currently 3,300 kids attending Jewish Day Schools. That number is 100 less than the peak in 2001. In that time, our births have increased from just over 400 annually to nearly 500. That increase cloaks the drop from over 60% of kids attending Jewish Day School to now closer to 50%. The only school showing an increase in enrolments is Kesser Torah. As has been well reported, this year, the number of Jewish kids starting at Year K at Bellevue Hill Public is almost the same as the number starting at Moriah.

The reasons are also well known. The cost of Jewish Day School education is now moving out of the reach of more and more of our young families who also have changing priorities.

What is the choice? Do we as a community put extra resources into enhancing the Jewish studies available to the 50% of kids outside the Jewish Day School system? If we do this, are we undermining the Jewish Day School?

Your JCA is working with the schools and BJE and BPJE to assess the best solution for the community. This will be a balancing act between quality of education, demographics, capacity and cost.

I recently was confronted by a donor who wanted to withdraw his support of JCA because JCA would not fund his favourite project. If we had a process, whereby all donors to the JCA could nominate which constituent should receive their donation, what would become of the organisations which don’t tug on the heartstrings?

The Board of Deputies does invaluable advocacy work and promotes relationships with political parties, with the media and with interfaith groups. It’s these relationships which help derail antisemitic initiatives such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which manifested itself inside Marrickville Council and outside Max Brenner.

What is the choice? If JCA was a fundraiser that allowed everybody to direct their donations, would the organisations which pull less strongly on the heart-strings such as the Board of Deputies or Communal Security get adequate funding to continue their work in ensuring our safety.

Provision of care in our twilight years is an issue which will one day face all of us. We have many strong organisations which provide a vast range of aged care services. But the mix and nature of services required and delivered is constantly changing.

For our elderly, what is the choice? Where to go for advice?

Your JCA has facilitated the creation of a website and phone service which will provide one-stop shopping to help the elderly and their carers get advice on which of JewishCare, COA Sydney, Montefiore or Wolper is the best point of entry. In addition, B’nai B’rith Retirement Villages have not only become part of gatewaynsw but have also recently become the 22nd constituent of the JCA.

Where does the road to Jewish continuity start? It starts in the home and it starts with the very young. As mentioned before, almost 500 Jewish kids are born every year.

For our young, what is the choice? Do we wait until they start at school or preschool or can we support them at an even earlier stage.

Your JCA together with the Shalom Institute has teamed up with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation in the US to bring the PJ Library program to NSW. Any Jewish family with children aged between 6 months and 6 years can sign up to receive a free book or CD on an age specific Jewish theme. Books like Sammy Spider’s First Shabbat, Ella’s Trip to Israel or Joseph had a little Overcoat are automatically mailed to their homes every month. Almost 700 families have already signed up.

These are some of the many choices which face us. Choices which need a collaborative approach. Making right choices can best be done by an organisation which can harness our community’s intellectual and financial resources. That’s our JCA.

And our future is our choice.

The options you are presented with when you are young determine your future. Our community makes that future available to the next generation. I now have the pleasure of introducing you to two young ladies who will share their journey with you.”

Shayna and Cayci Levitt pic: Giselle Haber

At this point, Philippsohn introduced 17-yr-old twins Cayci and Shayna Levitt who live in St Ives and who found themselves the only Jewish pupils at Hornsby High. They told the room of the support they had received through the Jewish Board of Education through which they maintained contact with the community.

Philippsohn continued: “Tomorrow our time, we come to the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. All the competitors have prepared, practiced and given of their best during these past two weeks.

For us in our JCA organisations, we are similar to our Olympians. There’s preparation to ensure that we are suitably equipped. There’s constant practice and review to ensure the best results and service delivery and there’s a commitment to you, our community to give of our best and go for gold.

Similar to an Olympic Games, there are organisations involved in ensuring that we operate in the most effective way and that there are suitable events and services available to those that observe, participate and volunteer.

The only difference is that for our 22 organisations there isn’t a closing ceremony. We do this – today, tomorrow and forever.

Tonight, we are going to do something a bit different and I’m going to ask you to stand with me. Tonight, I’m going to ask you whether you are part of our Communal team.

Do you realise how many of US are touched by JCA and our member organisations?

If you have a parent or family member, who is one of the 800 living at any of the three Montefiore Homes or B’nai B’rith Retirement Villages or who is receiving home care from Monte, CoA or JewishCare, please stand up and remain standing.

If you have ever walked through the door of the Sydney Jewish Museum and stood with some of the 17,000 students, nearly all non-Jewish, who every year hear one of our Holocaust survivor guides tell their story, please stand up and remain standing.

If you or your children are one of the 3000 who play sport with Maccabi or have participated in the Maccabiah Games – the world’s third largest Athletics event – then please stand up and remain standing.

If you have had a child or grandchild attending any of our Jewish Day Schools or participating in the BJE or BPJE programs, please stand up and remain standing.

Now finally, if you have ever walked into a synagogue in the last year and been approached by a CSG volunteer, please stand up and remain standing.

Those who are not yet standing, please stand – because you too have been touched just by walking through the door. Here tonight – we have a large team of CSG volunteers whose job it is to protect our lives as well as our way of life.

Look around – nearly every day we are all touched by JCA and its 22 member organisations– often we don’t even realise how.

Now, as this room becomes dark, the screen blank, the chairs empty,

– imagine you are alone. No one to turn to.

As long as we have our community, this will not happen.

We are all part of our local, communal Olympic team.  Together we can go faster, higher, stronger. Tonight we ask that you stand with all of our community by rethinking and increasing your donation.

Then, together, we can go with confidence, with security and with faith in our future. Ensure not one of us ever stands alone.

At JCA, we believe that it’s important to recognize people who volunteer to give back and make a difference.  These people change the world – each in their own way, giving to our community through years of service, never aspiring to reward or recognition.


Peter Philippsohn and Eva Fischl pic: Giselle Haber

The first time the shofar is mentioned in the Bible is when the Israelites gathered at Mt. Sinai to receive the ten commandments.  The “voice of the shofar sounded exceeding loud”.  It was and still is a call to assemble or an alarm.

The Shofar Award created by leading jewellery designer Jeff Einstein is given for outstanding service to the Jewish Community of NSW where the recipient is still currently serving the community.

The woman receiving this award is a legend in our community – under her leadership the organisation made enormous strides in terms of service delivery and public profile. From a relatively small migrant focused organization, JewishCare has become the major service provider for the NSW Jewish community, helping 4,000 each year.

She has served for almost 15 years as President of JewishCare. In that time JewishCare has extended its services to encompass victims of Domestic Violence, those suffering from Mental Health issues, supporting those with disabilities and enriching the lives of Holocaust survivors.  She has even led a delegation to Argentina to assist their Jewish community during their economic crisis.

What makes her stand out from others is the longevity and intensity of her commitment.  JewishCare and the community became a major focus for her life as she related in a unique way to the clients and staff. She became very much part of the caring fabric of JewishCare and our community overall.

When she arrived in Australia over 60 years ago, JewishCare (or the Australian Jewish Welfare Society as it was then called) was there to help her and she has repaid that debt many times over.

Eva Fischl – kol hakavod – it gives JCA great pleasure to present this award.

Eva continues her service to our community.  After having originally been brought to Australia from war torn Europe by the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian organisation – The American Joint Distribution Committee, Eva now is their Australian president. ”

Dalia Ayalon Sinclair pic: Giselle Haber

“The Hal Goldstein Lifetime Award for outstanding service to the Jewish Community of NSW” was presented to Dalia Ayalon Sinclair.

Philippsohn said: “This award in memory of one of the founders of JCA and the JCA’s longest serving president recognises a senior member of the community whose service spans a minimum of 25 years. The recipient may or may not be currently actively serving the community.

Our reward recipient tonight was the first Israeli President of NCJWA NSW Div. She is a unique individual who has always given of herself in voluntary positions over a long career. She has shown a commitment to raising awareness about social justice issues and making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

She has served as a bridge builder between those who may seem to have little in common thus working to bring about harmony, acceptance, respect and an understanding of “the other”. She has been an outstanding leader and mentor and activated volunteers to answer community needs through NCJWA programs as well as fundraised for the Jewish, wider Australian community and Israel.

Some of her key communal initiatives are the NCJWA Mum For Mum program to provide support for mothers of new babies who are socially isolated and at risk of suffering post natal depression. To date this program has provided free support to over 120 mothers from 15 different cultures and faiths.

Gill Hicks pic: Giselle Haber

She also initiated Pink Sunday, an annual event- to raise awareness and funds to support women and families affected by breast cancer. This was extended in 2010 with Queen St Pink Week to engage the whole Woollahra Community to promote awareness of breast cancer and support Breast Cancer Network Australia.

This is just snapshot of the work she is involved in communally – there is so much more.  She continues to work for the community through her position as Immediate Past President of NCJWA NSW Division as well as holding the position of Vice President of National NCJWA….a well-deserved mazeltov for all your work for our community.”

I referred to a “snapshot” of Dalia’s work for community.  Dalia is also a consummate artist manipulating intimate digital images with the same intensity which she has brought to her work for our community.

The evening concluded with an address from Gill Hicks, an Australian from Adelaide who was severely and permanently injured in the London bombings of July 7, 2005 – she was standing only feet away from the suicide bomber on the Kings Cross train and miraculously survived. Tragically though, Gill lost both her legs from below the knee. Her injuries were so severe that she was not expected to live.

Her entire story, from surviving a terrorist bombing, to leaving her career in Design and the Arts to dedicate her life to exploring ways of building sustainable peace, mostly through projects and initiatives via her charity, M.A.D.(making a difference)for Peace is truly admirable and humbling.

During the evening STeve Gluckman announced the establishment of Sababa Lagumba…a camp for young Jews between 16 and 23 with disabilities…


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