Hakoah: No premises…but renew your membership!

September 18, 2009 by Henry Benjamin
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Phil Filler, president of Sydney’s Hakoah Club has told club members to renew their membership…despite there being no physical club premises.

The current club will shut its doors on November 4 after a 30+ year presence in Bondi.

old_club_picFiller sent a long letter to the clubs 6500 members yesterday explaining the Board’s position and the hiatus period the club will enter as the hunt for new premises continues. He told J-Wire this morning: “The Board is currently working on a couple of sound propositions but there is no way we can make any announcement until pen is put to paper and the contract secured. It may take a little time. We will not compromise the membership by accepting second-best.”

The full text of Filler’s letter to members follows:

Dear Members
I write to you at a time of change. The cycles of generational, economic, societal and
political change are constantly revolving. Conscious of this, the Hakoah Board has
moved to place Hakoah into a position that takes advantage of the opportunities that such
cycles present, rather than be a victim of change.
I am in fact referring to the sale of the Hall Street site in 2007. This action has placed
Hakoah in a strong financial position and has provided the opportunity to plan for the
future rather than watch a considerable asset become a casualty of changing times.
Like to many of you, Hakoah Club is dear to my heart. I have breathed Hakoah from a
young age and it has been a centerpiece in many important moments of my life. Whilst
the community also holds Hakoah dear to its heart, it has been patiently waiting for a
more relevant offering that it can take advantage of and support. An offering that reflects
changing trends, needs and desires of the community. Even though only a small number
of our large membership is active, I am confident in my judgment of their loyalty as they
wait patiently.
In addressing and managing this transition, the Board has been mindful that a diminishing
segment of our membership continues to rely on Hakoah as a home away from home and
it is because of their decades of loyal support that we are here today. Having
acknowledged this and despite all initial efforts of preservation rather than change, the
current Hakoah model has not worked since 1997. With this in mind, I am confident that
most members possess a similar unselfish view as I and would prefer a community club
that is viable into the future rather than a facility suiting a small group of members for a
relatively short time.

Phil Filler

Phil Filler

So, the million dollar question: What is happening to Hakoah? Firstly it is important for
me to confirm that Hakoah will cease to trade at Hall Street on the 4th November 2009.
The current owners of the site, Toga, have advised the Club that they will be commencing
demolition works imminently and no further extension to our lease has been provided. As
a result, it is unlikely that an immediate transition to a new venue will occur and instead a
hiatus period will commence.
This said, it is not Hakoah’s intention to discontinue as a club and we will continue to
search for a suitable home that will provide a viable future both economically and
socially. Hakoah will not distribute its assets to charities. Hakoah will not accept second
best and establish a new site as a result of pressure to achieve a seamless transition.
So, the two million dollar question: What is Hakoah doing? Hakoah has been tirelessly
searching and researching for not just merely a new site but a new concept to ensure both
suitability and sustainability. I am sure that a segment of the membership would be
pleased if we had accepted one of over 20 sites that we have seriously considered to
enable continuity. However this would be a short-term irresponsible fix and would
squander our unique position. We will not accept a short-term non-viable solution.

On this matter, it is important that you are now made aware of what had been the major
focus of your Board up until June 2009. The sensitive nature of this project that
previously prevented us from disclosing it no longer exists. Hakoah Club was in the final
stages of securing the White City Tennis Club site. It is important that I expand on this so
you can get a feel for what we are seeking to achieve, but more importantly, you should
be aware that this is no longer an option. A legal case between the former occupier and
the current owner resulted in our inability to secure the site. This was unexpected and
extremely disappointing considering the timing, the uncounted hours and the opportunity
it presented. Regardless it rendered our position powerless.
Please let me expand on the concept. White City Tennis Club is in close proximity to our
existing club and membership. It consists of over two hectares or twenty three thousand
square metres and is bordered by Maccabi Tennis Club and sporting fields owned by
Sydney Grammar. This site would have fulfilled our vision of a comprehensive
community centre providing facilities for all age demographics. A social club with
restaurant, lounges, entertainment, meeting rooms, child play equipment and function
facilities looking out towards Rushcutters’s Bay, a branded gymnasium including indoor
basketball/netball/cricket/volleyball and futsal courts, Olympic-sized swimming pool
suitable for water polo, swimming lessons, school carnivals and other uses, tennis courts,
cricket nets, bowling greens and communal offices. It is a concept designed to bring our
community together in one place.
This was and continues to be our vision. Even though it may no longer be at White City,
we are currently exploring other possibilities that could include the majority of the
aforementioned facilities. I can assure you that the resolve to accomplish our goal is
unwavering and every effort will be made until it is achieved for the benefit of future
So, for the three million dollar question: Should I renew my Hakoah Club Membership?
The simple answer to this is yes. Membership fees have not increased for over 20 years
and have in fact decreased in some new categories. The financial contribution that
Hakoah derives from these fees does not even cover half of our annual security costs so
in no way is this a revenue drive. The generous benefits that we have provided have made
membership an attractive investment to members. This said, it is important for the
community to show support for the club via this undertaking and for those of you who
have had continuity of membership for many years why let it lapse now? Hakoah will reemerge.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, our loyal members, for your support
and wish you Shana Tova.


One Response to “Hakoah: No premises…but renew your membership!”
  1. paul says:

    What a terribly sad and sorry saga this is turning out to be.
    Mr Filler battles hard to defend his bumbling Board which has managed to sell the club’s premises without securing another place to meet.
    And the preposterous idea that White City is “in close proximity to our existing club” is insult to elderly members who have enough trouble getting to Bondi.
    This debacle is fast becoming a major scandal that looks more and more like it needs some very serious investigation:

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