Times of change – JCA

December 1, 2014 by Henry Benjamin
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Sydney’s JCA has a new president as Peter Philippsohn ends a four year term and passes the baton to Stephen Chipkin.


Stephen Chipkin and Peter Philippsohn   Photo: Giselle Haber

Stephen Chipkin and Peter Philippsohn Photo: Giselle Haber

In an emotional address to representatives of most of the 22 constituent bodies which receive funding from the JCA, Philippsohn made reference to how the activities of some of them had impacted on his personal life citing the financial  help given to “a penniless refugee from Hitler’s Germany” by JewishCare’s forerunner Australian Jewish Welfare, the organisation of 1969 Let My People Go camping by The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies,  the contribution from the  JCA in 1981 which helped found Mount Sinai College and the dignity shown to his mother as she approached the end of her life in 1999 in the Wolper Jewish Hospital.

Philippsohn said: “Without our local Jewish community, I would not be here; I would not have met my wife; educated my children nor cared for my mother.”

Former lawyer and banker Stephen Chipkin will assume the presidency of the JCA on January 1 and has been working closely with Philippsohn to ensure a smooth transition to the top role of an organisation which currently raises $13 million plus bequests to assist in funding the NSW Jewish Community’s constituent members’  needs.

Speaking of the community Philippsohn said: “The welfare of the community comes first. If we do not take a communal perspective on issues, then there will be no community for any of our entities to service. Today, JCA provides a place where the leaders of our 22 major local Jewish organisations can gather, exchange ideas, and develop collaborative thinking. We share funding, we share resources, we share knowledge and we share the passion.”

Philippsohn admitted to J-Wire that the JCA has changed over the last couple of years and now plays a role beyond that of pure funding. He said: “I am proud that we have become a more involved JCA and a more human JCA. We can no longer only be for our 22 constituents. In JCA, we have the planning expertise, the financial strength and the access to the best intellectual capital in our community. And, most of all, we have the trust of the community. JCA has changed. We now plan and act on behalf of all of our community.”

Speaking of the future Philippsohn said that succession was a vital element in planning ahead. In his speech he mentioned: “In conjunction with the Board of Deputies, 21 out of 22 JCA constituents have embraced term limits for our boards. If we do not embrace renewal in our communal leadership, we will wither on the vine.”

J-Wire asked Peter Philippsohn to name the highpoint of his time as president. He has no hesitation in earmarking the Observership Program which seeks to place younger members of the community in positions which prepare them for future community involvement at leadership level. He said: “The Observership Program brings some of our brightest young talents on to the boards of almost all our JCA members and many organisations outside JCA. In two short years, 25% of these young leaders have stepped up to serve as full members on our communal boards. Observership has changed the demography and most of all the gerontocracy of our communal leadership. No longer can JCA or the leadership of any organisation hide behind the paternalist position of ‘we know best.’ Today we must listen and JCA does.”

Speaking about JCA’s involvement with special donor projects, Philippsohn said: “We have entered into collaborative relationships. Donors have realised that the marriage of their financial capital with JCA’s human capital can make an even bigger difference. Through the JCA the Millie Phillips Fund will finance a $250 subsidy per child  enabling a new generation of Jewish children to go to their first ever youth camp this summer.

Incoming president Stephen Chipken said of his predecessor: “Leadership without ego is difficult to find. Peter is a selfless leader…always putting the community ahead of his own interests…a leader who actually makes us feel good. He has given 34 years of monumental commitment to our community which began with his becoming the founding president of Mount Sinai College. His personal journey tracks the development of JCA as he has seen the emergence and strengthening of most of our community organisations.”

Chipkin referred to the disastrous effect the GFC had had on the community pointing out that JCA under Philippsohn’s leadership had raised enough funds “to keep the wheels of our community turning”.

J-Wire asked Philippsohn if the JCA was working more with community as well as fund-raising would cause and demarcation problems with The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies.

He replied: “Not at all. The Board of Deputies concerns itself with political and security issues and is the public face of the community. Media is not our role. Our role is community building…and of course fund-raising.”

The meeting was also addressed by host Richard Scheinberg and long-time friend of Philippsohn NAJEX president Charles Aronson.






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