Standing Up book will inspire you to stand up

April 5, 2017 by Henry Benjamin
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An inspiring new book about Jewish Australians who have stood up to tackle social injustices and make the world a better place has been launched by David Gonski at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Aunty Madge, Hilton Immerman, Melanie Schwartz, Gary Samowitz and David Gonski               Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

The book Standing Up us published by Stand Up and features outstanding Jewish individuals, humanitarians, philanthropists, and social activists of our time. Stand Up is an organisation through which Australian Jewish community pursues social justice including engaging with refugees and remote Aboriginal communities.

The Sydney Jewish Museum is running an exhibition featuring 13 of the outstanding photographs in the book whose subjects faced the lens of Woodrow Wilson.

Hilton Immerman           Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Subjects in the photo exhibition attending the launch were Melanie Schwartz, Hilton Immerman, Gary Samowitz, Aunty Madge and David Gonski.

Aunty Madeline “Madge” McGrady, an elder from the Boggabilla community spoke about her experience with work the Stand Up has done in her district.  She said she fights every day of her life to get the “kids out of the communities and go to the city to go school and encourage every young person to go to university.”

Stand Up CEO Gary Samowitz explained that the book features interviews with 23 people “we thought were doing amazing things to improve the world”. He said that most of the interviewees are Jewish but also included Aboriginal and Sudanese leaders.

Talking about the organisation he said: “We work with refugees helping them learn English, find jobs and flourish in their new country. We also empower Indigenous youth to fulfil their potential.” He added: “Jewish values implore us to do this kind of work.”

Samowitz said that the words “you were strangers in the land of Egypt” is mentioned 36 times in the Torah and “we need to feel empathy towards the ‘strangers’ among us today such as refugees and asylum seekers”.

Well-known businessman David Gonski who numbers amongst his many  corporate positions he holds chairman of the ANZ and Coca-Cola Amatil said that he finds philanthropy a personal matter but

David Gonski                               Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

would share why he chose to become an interviewee for the Stand Up book.

He said he is philanthropic “for my own reasons”.  He told a story of the time he was in the outback town of Lightning Ridge when he witnessed a small plane landing from which stepped out a team of dentists. He watched them repair the teeth of a young boy who had been injured in a sports accident. When the boy’s mother recognised him she asked him if he is the man who financed the dental service. He told the gathering in the Jewish Museum that when he told her he was,  “she gave me the biggest hug…this is what philanthropy is about. It is about feeling you have done something.”

Gary Samowitz

He added: “Philanthropy has allowed me to involved in much wider things I could do.”

He continued: “I feel very strongly that we are at a precipice in this world. The “haves” have got lots and the “have-nots”  are getting less. Unless those of us who have do something not only will be losing out on our personal experience but we endangering the future of the “haves”.

“Philanthropy is personal. You do it for whatever reason you wish” he added.

He said that you could be philanthropic for self-aggrandisement, because you want to be part of a community or to right wrongs.

David Gonski gave his reason for being included in the project. He said that setting an example is paramount saying “perhaps it will inspire others to do the right thing”.

He was himself inspired by a major philanthropist.

David Gonski added: “We will not be recorded for not standing up for not being a mensch in this world.”

Gary Samowitz concluded the evening quoting: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” He encouraged the audience not to rely on people like David Gonski to improve the world alone, but that we all have a responsibility to be upstanders, and not bystanders.

The book Standing Up is on sale at

The exhibition at the Sydney Jewish Museum is currently open.




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