Melbourne couple honoured for supporting JewishCare

March 4, 2010 by Jonny Ucko
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Decades of service to the community received recognition when Jewish Care honoured Don and Sonia Marejn with its inaugural award for outstanding philanthropy at its recent Gala Dinner.

l-r Don Marejn, Bruce Rosengarten and Sonia Marejn

Awarded for “extraordinary financial and personal contribution to the community,” Bruce Rosengarten, President of Jewish Care, recounted how as a young couple leaving war torn Bialystok for Australia, Don and Sonia had to nominate an address on their suitcases. “With their entire families decimated in the Holocaust, the only address they could cite at their distant destination was that of Jewish Welfare in Victoria.”

Thanking Jewish Care, Mr Marejn told the guests at Leonda, “Being able to write down that address gave us some security and comfort during an otherwise traumatic time.  More important than the material help was the feeling that there was someone to turn to.”

In accepting the award, Mr Marejn explained that caring for the elderly residents of Jewish Care was an opportunity which he and his wife cherished because the opportunity to care for their own parents, had been so tragically denied them.

“Nearly 60 years on and the Marejn’s have spent their lives giving back to the organisation that was their lifeline when they landed on these foreign shores, significantly contributing towards Jewish Care’s ability to provide a home and nursing care to elderly residents at Montefiore Homes Community Residence, Mark and Dina Munzer Community Residence and Gary Smorgon House,” Mr Rosengarten explained.

Modest and charitable in equal measure, Mr and Mrs Marejn allowed their generosity to be publicized in the hope that it might encourage others to do the same.

Mr Rosengarten said Mr and Mrs Marejn’s  contribution had been long standing and significant and had made a difference to the lives of hundreds, even thousands of people in need in the Jewish community.

“Their selfless dedication and generosity truly embodies the spirit of ‘My Community. My Choice’  –  the message at the heart of Jewish Care. “

“Jewish Care belongs to the community – each of us owners and stakeholders. With ownership comes responsibility. We each play a role in ensuring the care of those in need,” Mr Rosengarten said.

The Dinner’s Patron, David Smorgon OAM, called on the community to champion Jewish Care’s 2010 Annual Appeal in support of people in crisis in our community.

David Smorgon

Smorgon said he was “honoured to be the Patron of Jewish Care” and stressed the organisation’s vital role in responding to 5,000 people in crisis that call each year.

“Our Jewish community is a representation of the wider community with all of its issues. Yes, we do have poverty, domestic violence, drug and alcohol issues and even homelessness in our own backyard,”  Smorgon added.  “Jewish Care is at the forefront of helping people to meet the challenges they face. Jewish Care now needs our support.”

The Gala Dinner launched Jewish Care’s 2010 Annual Appeal with donations and pledges on the night totaling several hundred thousand dollars.

Bruce Rosengarten, President of Jewish Care commented, “I am heartened that so many of our supporters have chosen to increase their donation, having understood the enormity of the care we provide.”

Speaking before a capacity crowd of 400 people, Mr Rosengarten said this year’s target of $2.5 million was “absolutely critical to enable us to continue to provide support services to our community.”

“80 people in our community face homelessness every month;  2,000 households in our community survive on less than $249 per week;  one in five adults struggle with mental illness; one in 10 Jewish Victorians over 65 are affected by dementia and  one in three families have experienced some form of family violence. These are not just numbers – these are lives of people in our community.”

“Our neighbours, our friends, our families, our community,” Rosengarten continued. “Anyone,” he pointed out “…can be hit by crisis.”

As Manager of Community Support Services, Lorraine Raskin’s heartfelt presentation helped bring to light the range and complexity of the calls which are received by Jewish Care on a daily basis and how the organisation impacts on individual lives.

The organisation estimates 30,000 people in the Victorian Jewish community are affected by the services it provides.

The evening provided an opportunity for the community to be addressed by Jewish Care’s new Chief Executive Officer Bill Appleby, who commenced with the organization on 1 February. “I am excited by the potential, the mission and the human spirit at Jewish Care,” he said.

Appleby made reference to the upcoming holiday of Purim,  “ whose hero figures represent faith, determination and the courage to stand up for one’s convictions.”

“I will be standing firm in my resolve and have courage in my convictions,” Mr Appleby continued, “ … to ensure that Jewish Care’s services continue to evolve to respond effectively to the changing needs of our community.”

Bill Appleby and Bruce Rosengarten also extended their appreciation to David Smorgon and the organising committee of Annette Smorgon, Jasmine Dindas and Karen Goldenberg for their “time, effort, commitment and dedication in making [our] Gala Dinner a tremendous success.  Their involvement with Jewish Care is a model of support and partnership which we hope will have a ripple effect on our entire community to support the important work that we do,” Mr Appleby said.

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