Victorian Jewish Bushfire Relief Appeal wraps up

August 2, 2022 by Naomi Levin
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The Jewish Community Council of Victoria has distributed more than $3 million raised by the Victorian Jewish community in the aftermath of the Black Summer bushfires in 2019/20.

Michael Quinn, Judy Fetter (JCCV CEO), Ian Davis  (Victorian Jewish Bushfire Relief Appeal organising committee member) and Daniel Aghion (JCCV President).

The JCCV is the administrator of the Victorian Jewish Bushfire Relief Appeal conceived by philanthropist and businessman David Smorgon who was joined by Ruth Alter, Ian Davis and Fiona Geminder.

Together, they rallied the Jewish community to dig deep to support Victorians affected by the worst bushfires in Australian history, according to the 2021 Australia State of the Environment report. The Jewish community responded, raising more than $3 million.

Over the past two and a half years, the JCCV has worked closely with the appeal’s allocations committee to ensure the money was directed to boost opportunity, and morale and offer goods and services to those most affected by the fires.

At last night’s JCCV Plenum, the community was invited to hear about some of the recipients of funds from the appeal. Also in attendance was Michael Quinn, Victorian President of St Vincent de Paul Society, which was one of the JCCV’s key delivery partners for the appeal.

Judy Fetter, CEO of the JCCV, told the plenum: “Visiting Mallacoota in May 2021 and Cudgewa in May 2022, to see firsthand the impact our Jewish community has made to individuals and communities devastated by bushfires, was very meaningful.

I met with people who had lost property and livelihoods and children who had witnessed the terrifying forefront. Their resilience was inspirational and I was so pleased the Jewish community could offer them a helping hand.

The JCCV worked with a number of key service providers on the ground to prioritise where the Victorian Jewish Bushfire Relief Appeal could make the most impact.

“More than 50 per cent of the appeal was directed to educational focussed programs,” said Mrs Fetter. “The St Vincent de Paul Society, in particular, worked closely with the Victorian Jewish community to ensure educational support was delivered in a timely manner.

This included funding a school counsellor at Mallacoota’s only school, providing scholarships so students of affected families could transition from school to tertiary education and building new playgrounds to bring a sense of adventure and community back to devastated areas.”

Around a third of funds went towards rebuilding efforts, including restoring the community hall in the northeastern Victorian town of Cudgewa, where 15 houses were lost in a community of only 300 people. This project brought a renewed sense of community spirit to Cudgewa and surrounding towns.

Funding was provided to support the regeneration of wildlife across large swathes of the Upper Murray Region and to support the recovery of wildlife.

In a bid to help in the mental health recovery and boost community spirit after the bushfires and pandemic, funding was provided to sustain the Man from Snowy River Bush Festival in 2021, which has been celebrated in Corryong since 1963.”

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