Robin Margo Named Chairman of the New Israel Fund Australia

May 9, 2011 Agencies
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Robin Margo S.C., a former Rhodes Scholar and the immediate past president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, has been named as the inaugural chair of the New Israel Fund’s Australian branch.The new organisation, to be officially launched in June, has issued a media release. J-Wire publishes it in full…

Robin Margo Photo: Henry Benjamin

Robin Margo, a Sydney-based barrister, has served in several leadership positions within the Jewish community, most notably as president of the New South Wales Jewish community from 2008-2010.
He remains actively involved in the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Council for Jewish Community Security (NSW) and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the roof body of Australian Jewry.
He also acted for Jeremy Jones, past president of the ECAJ, in a long running legal battle against Holocaust denier Fredrick Töben.
The NSW Government awarded Mr Margo its Community Service Volunteer Award for 2010 in recognition of his role in strengthening understanding and promoting mutual trust between the NSW Jewish community and diverse ethnic, cultural and faith communities in NSW, especially Muslim communities.
As a student leader in South Africa, Mr Margo was an active opponent of Apartheid, and was denied a passport for many years. He was eventually allowed to migrate to Australia in 1977.
“NIF strives to promote the vision of Zionism that is contained, indeed promised, in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, namely ‘equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex’,” said Mr Margo.
“NIF supports a Jewish democratic state and pursues those Zionist ideals by working to increase social justice in Israeli society. We have been encouraged by the way NIF’s values seem to resonate with many in the Australian Jewish community, including many of its younger members. They are similar after all to what we all wish for Australia.”
Mr Margo’s deputy is Melbourne-based Ric Benjamin, the immediate past president of Jewish Aid Australia, which was founded in 1994 in response to the humanitarian crisis in Rwanda, to mobilise the Australian Jewish community in the pursuit of humanitarian relief, poverty alleviation and social justice for disadvantaged communities in Australia and overseas.
Mr Benjamin, JAA’s president for 11 years, stepped down in 2009, and is now CEO of VicRelief Foodbank, an independent charity that delivers food to people experiencing hardship through a network of more than 480 registered community organisations.
He is also a former president of the Australian Zionist Youth Council. “As a Jew and a Zionist I am proud of the principles of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (healing the world) that are involved in my humanitarian work at Foodbank. To me, NIF Australia’s support of welfare agencies in Israel is a natural extension of the way I judge the strength of any society – by the value it places on supporting the most vulnerable in the community.”
Also on the NIF Australia board are Mandi Katz, Irving Wallach and Liam Getreu.
Mandi Katz is a former Victorian chair of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students. A former lawyer, she now works in financial services and has been active in Jewish women’s issues. Her husband, Ashley Browne, is a former editor of the Australian Jewish News. They have three teenage children, who attend Jewish schools in Melbourne.
Irving Wallach, the son of Holocaust survivors, is a former head of Betar Zionist youth movement and former chair of the Zionist Youth Council of NSW. During his student years he fought against the anti-Israel campaigns of the Australian Union of Students.
He has also served as National Secretary of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, Secretary-General of the World Union of Jewish Students in London, board member of Mount Sinai College, board member of Moriah College, and as a Deputy, Honorary Secretary, and Executive Member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.  A barrister, he is married to Ronni Kahn, the founder of Oz Harvest, and has a daughter.

Liam Getreu is the immediate past president of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students and will provide a link with young people supportive of NIF and its values. He is a graduate of Bialik College and Habonim Dror youth movement, a former president of the Australian Zionist Youth Council and was AUJS president in 2010.
The New Israel Fund works only within Israel. Over more than three decades, it has provided in excess of $US200 million to more than 800 amunatot (NGOs), all recognised by the Israeli government.
NIF is widely credited for the role it has played in building Israeli civil society, promoting rights for women, the disabled, the GLBT community and minority groups, and for furthering religious pluralism and equality and democracy for all Israelis.
Organisations funded by the NIF have made many significant contributions in helping Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, become a fairer and more just and inclusive society.  The following are a few examples only out of a very long list.
One grantee, The Coalition for Affordable Housing, this year successfully lobbied for housing projects in Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Ra’anana for Israelis with limited financial means.
Another, Tebeka, successfully defended the right of Ethiopian Jews to equal participation in Israeli schools.
The leading human rights organisation in the territories, B’Tselem, seed-funded by NIF, was acknowledged recently by the Israeli government for assisting the IDF to improve its procedures for urban warfare designed to minimise civilian casualties.

Naomi Hazan

The NIF’s current president is three-time Knesset member and former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Professor Naomi Chazan, and one of its international board members is the Australian-educated academic and former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk.
The Australian branch will be officially launched in June by Professor Chazan, who is being brought to Australia by NIF in conjunction with the Union for Progressive Judaism.
She is scheduled to speak to Jewish audiences at Limmud Oz in Sydney on June 12 and 13 and at Glen Eira Town Hall in Melbourne on June 16, as well at various Progressive synagogues in Sydney and Melbourne.
She will also speak at the Sydney Opera House on June 19, The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on June 14 and the University of Melbourne on June 16.
“Attempts by some in Australia and overseas to denigrate the NIF have failed to dent the enthusiasm we are seeing for the establishment of NIF in this country”, said Mr Margo.
“These attacks are ill conceived, based on selective or demonstrably incorrect facts, and ignore important context and other relevant facts,” he said.
“More fundamentally, they miss the point of what is required to realise the vision of inclusion, pluralism and diversity in the Declaration of Independence. We welcome open, rational, civil debate about the fulfillment of the Zionist vision and the strengthening of Israeli society. And we look forward to constructive discussions about these issues, which will be prompted by Naomi Chazan’s visit in June.”
NIF also has branches in America, Canada, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. NIF Australia has been in development for more than a year.
“The new Australian branch will add to the strength of our growing organisation,” said NIF’s CEO Daniel Sokatch.
“My visit there last year impressed me with the depth of commitment the Australian Jewish community has to a strong Israel and to equality and justice for all Israelis.”

Peter Wertheim, the Executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry told J-Wire: “The Committee of Management will meet later this month. The NIF Australia is not on the agenda but it is likely to be discussed.”


6 Responses to “Robin Margo Named Chairman of the New Israel Fund Australia”
  1. Paul Winter says:

    Prof Nathan Cherny should stick to palliative medicine about which he might know something and to avoid politics where he consistently demonstrates his ignorance every time he writes.

    Posturing about steadfastness to the Zionist dream isn’t worth a tinker’s dam. The reality of Israel is that is external enemies, its internal Arab fifth column and its internal Jewish enemies, who identify with the European Left, want to terminate Jewish self-determination. The NIF is supporting those enemies whom some politely describe as post-Zionists.

    Those Jewish enemies of the Jewish state have a contempt for the Israeli democracy. They have been rejected by the electorate, so being “high-minded”, this superior, arrogant self-styled elite sinks to ever greater depths of lies, manipulations and insults to undermine the state which fails to meet their, oh so lofty, ideals; they would rather kill the Jewish enterprise of Israel than allow it to continue on a path that their delicate constitutions find distatsteful.

    No state is perfect. If the NIF mob wants to improve humanity, they should concentrate on the sadistic , misogynistic, totalitarian, corrupt, murderous, tribal, religious fanatic Arabs around and among them. That they don’t, exposes their hypocrisy and their alignment with Israel’s enemies and the enemies of the causes to which they pretend to be allied.

    The problem is that in NSW we somehow managed to allow Margo, a person who is anything but a supporter of Israel – in my books – to be its representative; one cannot be a Zionist and support a group that funds Israel’s enemies. I support Israel, so NIF funds my enemies, because it is foolish to think that if Israel is attacked, Jews outside Israel are secure. I support Israel, because I value and respect its ideals, its wonderful people who even tolerate the social dregs who support NIF and because they are a people of which I am a member.

    As for the comment about anyond going to Israel… Please spare me. Not everyond can go to Israel or anywhere else for reasons of family,age, finances, etc. That arrogant argument ignores the support Zionistic Jews in the Diaspora extend to their people in Israel and alienates them; perhaps that is the reason an NIF supporter advances that.

  2. NIF - NO WAY! says:

    Nathan Cherny:

    1. I live in Israel. I, too, would like Israel to live up to the standards promulgated in its Declaration of Independence. However, attacking Israel as an “apartheid” state, accusing it of “War crimes”, and endeavouring to boycott its products, is not a rational solution to promoting the “equality, justice democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of speech” you cite. To the contrary, such rhetoric and activities undermine efforts at sane debate and legitimate discussion.

    2. The sources cited by NGO Monitor show that, unfortunately, the activities of the NGOs mentioned are not isolated incidents. To the contrary, those NGOs are highly partisan, and their so-called “human rights” agendas are really politicized attempts to undermine the right of Jews to live in their land in peace. You can attack NGO Monitor all you like, but it is not the issue under the discussion. It is the groups themselves, and all NGO Monitor has done is to highlight the words and deeds of those groups.

    If NIF wants to fund groups that promote women’s rights, religious tolerance, etc., then so be it. But when it funds group dedicated to the eradication of Israel as a Jewish state and the rights of its citizens to live without fear of mortar attacks from Gaza, then it has crossed a very red line.

  3. gary says:

    This is great news.

    Good luck to Robin and the NIF Australia team.
    It is about time that we have an NIF presence in Australia.

    where do I sign up?

  4. Nathan Cherny says:

    Why does the NIF denigrator (NIF-No way) feel he/she needs to hide behind a veil of anonymity. “NGO Watch” is a right wing front with no academic legitimacy that uses a strategy of selective quotations and misrepresentation to delegitimize the important work of many of the the NGO that work to promote civil society and equal rights for all citizens in Israel. Supporters of NIF like myself are proud Zionists and are proud of the contribution we make to promoting an Israel that stands up for the promises made in our Declaration of Independence: equality, justice democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of speech.

    Mr Anonymous, if you wan to argue the point ,come here to Israel to argue it here with me.. in the meantime find yourself the courage to stand personally behind your diatribes.

    Prof Nathan Cherny, Maccabim, ISRAEL

  5. But Robin has form says:

    How quickly we forget, Robin Margo was more concerned with changing the culture of the Board of Deputies to the left than representing the community so NIF may be the best place for him. Please see quote from Robin himself during his campaign for Wentworth

    “I have changed culture of the NSW JBD during my presidency; bringing in more Jewish members of the Left and more young people; creating space for freer expression of all view on Israel and Palestine,‚ the leaflet reads.”

    I think the point is that Robin knows full well what NIS is doing and that’s why he has agreed to head it in Australia.

  6. NIF - NO WAY! says:

    Does Robin Margo not know about the virulently anti-Israel NGOs that NIF funds? Several of them use demonising rhetoric, such as referring to Israel as an “apartheid” state, and supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli products. All this information has been documented in detail by NGO Monitor – see

    Despite changes to the NIF funding guidelines, ostensibly aimed at preventing anti-Israel groups from being funded, the guidelines appear not to have made any difference… See

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