JCA’s women are worth more than rubies, pearls and coral

Each week as you open this newsletter, or read this blog (by the way, thank you for doing that) you fall under the gaze of members of our community. And this week, you are being smiled upon by the faces of our granddaughters and daughters, mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. The women of our community. Your community. And we’ve gone and pinked up the website, all for International Women’s Day.

Clara Zetkin

Clara Zetkin

Luise Zietz

Luise Zietz

International Women’s Day was first proposed as a holiday in 1910, by two German women, Clara Zetkin and Luise Zietz (neither of whom were Jewish, though that was a subtlety lost on the Nazis). International Womens Day first celebrated in 1911, as a “global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.” And one year later, the International Council of Jewish Women was established (being the roof body for our own National Council of Jewish Women, and similar organisations representing Jewish women in 34 countries).

ICJW has consultative status at the United Nations as a non-governmental organization with the Economic and Social Council, and maintains permanent delegations in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Paris. ICJW is also represented at the Council of Europe, the European Women’s Lobby, the International Council of Women, the World Jewish Congress, and many other international and regional organizations. And since May last year, has been presided over by our very own Robyn Lenn OAM.

Dr Fanny Reading

Dr Fanny Reading

It would be remiss on International Women’s Day to talk about NCJW and not mention Dr Fanny Reading, who the Australian Dictionary of Biography describes as “A practical visionary, who did much to establish women as a distinctive force within the organized Australian Jewish community, linking the old idea of charitable service and fund-raising as appropriate areas for female endeavour with the newer, feminist-inspired goal of female participation in communal policy formation.”

In any event, long before there was IWD, ICJW, NCJW and the sea of other three and four letter initials with a “W”, Jewish communities around the world have celebrated the political achievements of women, and one woman in particular: There is only one Jewish festival in the annual cycle where we celebrate the exploits of a heroine, rather than a hero. And there is only one of our holy books (or in this case scrolls) where the name of God is not mentioned. This week as our kids struggled with what to wear for Purim (life was so much easier when everyone went to Hogwarts) we took a moment to remember Esther, a Jewish woman whose smarts and strategic thinking saved the day.

She was the archetypal, Eshet Chayil, which is Hebrew phrase you hear every Shabbat, and also sadly everytime we bury one of our women. The term usually translated with the cumbersome, “Woman of Valour” (which is better than the King James Version, which describes the woman in Proverbs 31:10 as a “virtuous wife”. As they say, history is written by the winners, and in Elizabethan England, other than Elizabeth, the winners were all men). The phrase, literally means a physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally strong woman.

Interestingly for translators and commodity traders we find it impossible today value such women. You may have seen translations which suggest that the Eshet Chayil is worth more than rubies. Others think pearls. And our South African strong women may look to coral in compensation. Of course all of these valuations seem incredibly anachronistic in the 21st century.

For us at JCA, the equation is pretty simple. On this day when we celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women, past, present and future, we salute and thank  the many strong women who have done so very much to enable JCA to succeed in its mission of keeping our community sustainable, vibrant and secure. Just like Esther, and Fanny Reading before them. Our community in action article this week features four of these women who contribute to our organisation, each in a special and different way.


From left to right: Jill Segal AM, Rose Temple, Lauren Placks, Jami Kochan


Chag Sameach, and Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Grynberg

PS If you do nothing else this IWD, make sure to check out the Jewish Women’s Archive which as their mission says, “documents Jewish women’s stories, elevates their voices, and inspires them to be agents of change.”


Biz hundert azoi ve tsvantsik

Imagine being an Ephramite, about 3,000 years ago. You’ve just been thumped in battle by the Gileadites, and they are in hot pursuit. You are making a desperate dash for safety across the Jordan River (which probably had a bit of water in it back then) when you are confronted at the ford by yet more Gileadites. They are not sure if you are friend or foe, so they have you say the word “shibboleth”, and because you can’t say any word with a “sh” sound, you utter “sibboleth”, and are found out. And put to death. Along with 42,000 of your countrymen. Such is the blood-soaked history of one of the more interesting words classical Hebrew has bequeathed to our English language.

In our time, shibboleths are much less lethal, and yet equally as effective at determining who is in and who is out. You can tell when a person arrived in Sydney (or how old they are) by the name they use for the tower above Westfield in the city. Centrepoint. Sydney Tower. AMP Tower (that was shortlived), and no doubt sometime soon Westfield Tower.

Likewise in our community, you can tell certain things about a person – especially their age – when they refer to the Australian Jewish News, as the Australian Jewish Times (as it was for so many years). Though given the number of birthday cards I sign for JCA donors who turn 100, there are probably a fair few people around who still think of the paper as the Hebrew Standard.

Well last night I went to the 120th birthday party of our newspaper, and even though they are not a JCA member organisation, I think it is pretty clear that the Australian Jewish News is a remarkable and important piece of communal infrastructure. If there was any doubt, last night we were presented with a commemorative book celebrating the 120 years and I can promise you that it will be fought over across dinner tables for many a Shabbat. Get yourself a copy. And buy one for your uncle.

It seems a bit superfluous at someone’s 120th birthday to wish them, biz hundert un tsvantsik (you should live to 120). And the AJN is 20 years past the much more practical Yiddish advice: Biz hundert azoi ve tsvantsik (Live till 100, like a 20 year old). So rather than lots of words, we thought we would share with you the following pictures, which are on the walls of our otherwise very drab JCA boardroom. You can see that the partnership of JCA with the AJN spans many decades:




















Looking back at those early campaign covers got us thinking. We are due for our first Thermo-clock competition for 2015 – for the first person to identify any of the children in these pictures. Of course if any of those kids all grown up, is reading this, we might have to find an even more special prize.

Speaking of 100’s, our Chairman of Marketing Garry Browne is involved in another centenary event – 100th Anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli – a special commemoration event will be held at The Great Synagogue in May.  See the flyer below for more information on getting involved.

slouchfor newsletter


Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Grynberg


This week’s community in actions story is one that spans over a decade and will continue to span two lifetimes.  Jonno and Dave met through JewishCare’s Big Brother, Big Sister program – this is their beautiful story.

Jonno and Dave - then and now

Jonno and Dave – then and now

Not so wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

When I was growing up there were four TV channels. And when SBS arrived (only it was called “Channel 0″), there were 5. Friends from South Africa tell me we were lucky and they had only one channel, and even that was pretty limited. And yet TV played a central role in our culture and lives.

If you rocked up to school in 1984 for the start of a new week, hadn’t watched Countdown on Sunday night, you might as well have stayed at home.And woebetide you on Wednesday morning if you were not up to speed on what had happened to Bea, Lizzie and the Freak the night before.

Even as recently as a decade ago you could have a conversation with someone at work about what was on TV last night. Around a proverbial water-cooler, though usually it was in the tea room. But that doesn’t happen anymore. Nobody watches TV. And if they do they are watching one of hundreds of channels. At different times. When babysitters arrive at my home they don’t even turn the TV on. They just ask for the wifi code. There is nothing to talk about around the water cooler, because everyone is watching season 4 of whatever, in their own time, on some tablet, with earplugs.

I have thought of this for some time as a metaphor for our Jewish community. It used to be so simple. There were a limited number of channels to chose from (JCA, UIA, Moriah, Central, Temple Emanuel, the AJN, the Great, etc.), and we could all discuss the morning after what we had shared the night before. But our Jewish world is different now. We live in a multi-verse of channels and information, and like my babysitter we just want the wifi code. We have at our fingertips and on our screens and in our ears the entire world of Jewish, and secular information. It is all bespoke, particular and individual. And so very often we find it hard to have that same sense of being part of something bigger. Part of a Jewish collective experience.


Community members comfort each other outside the synagogue in Copenhagen

And then events happen which shatter that individual bubble. And suddenly we are all riveted to the same channel. Grasping for news. Struggling for clues and cues to help us understand. That happened this weekend past with the horrific events in Copenhagen. Once again I am lost for words, as no doubt are you.


I have stood guard outside a shul, as have most of the members of my family, and yours, and literally thousands of men and women and boys and girls in our community, and all week I could think of nobody but Dan Uzan. I am a Dan, and so was he. And as we now know after our Martin Place nightmare, we can no longer tranquilise ourselves with the nostrum “it can’t happen here.”

I’m not sure if you have supported JCA in recent years, there are many readers of this newsletter who have not, and certainly you will know many people who have not. But surely it must be apparent to all that we need to invest in our own security, and the way you can do that is through JCA. And the way you can help us, is to help us to raise the funds required to ensure that our CSG gets every resource it needs.

I was bending my mind back – to when there were only four TV channels – and I was remembering those long Sunday afternoons when kids had no choice but to watch hours and hours of re-runs and old movies (before the invention of VHS). And there was always a Danny Kaye movie, or Kaminsky as my grandmother would remind me – another Jewish Dan. And I was thinking of Danny Kaye singing Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen  in the movie of Hans Christian Anderson and how sad that song seems this week. Denmark, which for all us had only ever been known as the one European country which defied the Nazis to save its Jews, became yet another place on this planet where a Jewish future is in jeopardy.

So when I went to look for the youtube link, I stumbled across this wonderful video of Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong singing ‘Oh When the Saints’. For some reason the video of a Jew from Brooklyn singing a gospel tune with a black man from New Orleans (albeit one who had a fair bit of yiddishkeit) makes the world seem just a little bit better. You really should watch it.

We Jews don’t believe in Saints per se (except for a fair few south of the border who worship St Kilda), and I can’t imagine any will be marching in any time soon. I found this explanation from Rabbi Apple (who used to program the channel at the Great):

Jews do not have saints in the Catholic sense of being a person who has performed a miracle. What Judaism reveres are giants of the spirit whose lives have been devoted to living for God and His Torah. No-one needs to make official application to have such people canonised. It is the people as a whole, and history, which grants them their status. There are also people who have sacrificed their lives for God and Judaism. We do not allocate the term “saint” to such individuals though we call them k’doshim and speak of their Kiddush HaShem.

I will say kaddish this Shabbat for the Kiddush HaShem of Dan Uzan, a man who sacrificed his life for God and Judaism, and all too tragically yet another of our European Kedoshim.

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg

In this week’s community in action segment it is appropriate to hear from David Rothman, CEO of our Communal Security Group honouring the memory of  Dan Uzan. Click here to read.

Dan Uzan's funeral

Dan Uzan’s funeral


The task is too heavy, you cannot do it alone

Last Saturday, thanks to the deeply ingrained trop training of Max Lemberg, I was able to sing at least the first part of Parshat Yitro, on the 32nd anniversary of my Barmitzvah. Now I’m sure most of the commentary you’ll have got on Yitro would have been about the money shot: When Moses comes back down the mountain with the 10 Commandments. That bit of the story worked big time for Charlton Heston, less so for Christian Bale (who was banned in Egypt for being too Zionist), and probably best for Mel Brooks.

But the bit you may not have heard much about happens before that…

Moses is visited at work by Yitro, his father-in-law, an intimidating experience at the best of times, let alone after you’ve just lead 600,000 people through a parted sea. Moses is a bit stressed, having to lead the fractious Children of Israel all alone, and even though he isn’t even Jewish, Moses’ father-in-law proceeds to kibitz, and offers Moses a bit of aitseh:

“The thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone … seek out from among all the people capable men who fear God, trustworthy men who spurn ill-gotten gain. Make it easier for yourself by letting them share the burden with you. If you do this — and God so commands you — you will be able to bear up; and all these people too will go home unwearied.” (Exodus 18:17-23).

So, on Monday evening, the JCA Executive met for the first meeting of the year and commenced its deliberations with “Something Jewish” and I was allocated the responsibility of giving the drosha.  I shared the above, which felt very appropriate, considering the capable and trustworthy men and women of the JCA Executive Committee who share burden of leading this community. And thanks to the efficient chairmanship of Stephen Chipkin, all managed to go home unwearied.

I was thinking about Yitro’s advice last night, as David Gonski AC launched the 2015 Observership Program.  Following David’s spellbinding presentation, a trainer from the Australian Institute of Company Directors explained to the Observers that directors (both on corporate boards and not for profit boards) have two basic duties: to act in good faith, and to avoid conflicts of interest (or as Yitro would have it, to be trustworthy and to spurn ill-gotten gains). I doubt anybody else in the room was thinking of the week’s Torah portion as required reading for a course for budding not-for-profit directors. And they certainly weren’t humming its laining.

In a week where we have been appalled by the abuses on children committed by some in our community, and read of terrible malfeasance in Jewish charities abroad it seems more important than ever for our community to be concerned with good governance.

JCA is at its core a fundraising organisation. It is hard to talk about governance, because it is not sexy (apologies to any audit partners reading this), and it has the potential to be divisive. It certainly is not an emotional heart-string to pull when seeking donations. But it is clear that governance (through the serious work of our Allocations Committee, and Building and Capital Committee and Board of Governors, and many other parts of the organisation), is one of the major advantages JCA provides our community, and our member organisations. And through our Observers we are training new and diverse sets of eyes and ears, and brains and hearts, to serve on our boards, to bring critical and new perspectives to deliberations. And to ensure the continuity we all seek – and maybe even a little bit of creative discontinuity. I wish this new group of future leaders all the best for their journey this year and hope you find it as inspiring and educational as those that have gone before you.

Vale Erica Turek

Vale Erica Turek

I’m signing off on a sad note, in terms of board directors in the JCA family, yesterday I attended the funeral Erica Turek, who in the course of her life since coming to this community was, first a client, then an employee and finally a board member of JewishCare. I did not know her well, but I think she would have loved seeing 25 capable and trustworthy young people stepping up to take their part in helping to lead and shape our important communal institutions.

Shabbat Shalom,

This week’s story is one from JewishCare’s 2014 Observers and their experience in the program.  They had the privilege to sit on the board with Erica.  Creating future leaders in our community will ensure that it continues to go from strength to strength.  Click here to read.


Sign up for preseason training – are you on the team?

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have personally experience antisemitism in Australia. And I only need one finger to recall a time when I felt physically threatened for being a Jew. That was in the early 1980s, in the bleachers of the ES Marks Field (named after Sydney’s first Jewish Lord Mayor and former President of our very own Australian Jewish Historical Society).

I remember the old man with the leather satchel, crying out: “Soccer Welt, Soccer Welt” in some indistinguishable mitteleuropean accent, as he crunched his way through the discarded peanut shells. Football was still soccer, and soccer was still wogball.  And we, small number of loyal Hakoah supporters, were surrounded by thousands of “ethnics” chanting: “If you want to kill a Jew clap your hands”. And as the debris began to fly, a smaller contingent of recently arrived English bovver boys, with skin heads and Doc Marten boots, took up positions between us and the angry mob. After that we didn’t go to the soccer for a while.

For some reason that memory came to mind, watching Frank Lowy AC take to the dais on Saturday night to receive the AFC Asian Cup, magnificently won by our Socceroos – a cause for celebration by all Australia and Australians.

Frank Lowy congratulates a beaming Tim Cahill.

Frank Lowy congratulates a beaming Tim Cahill. (picture credit Brett Costello – The Australian)

How far football has come in this country, and how wonderful that a game which used to divide our nation is now such a unifying force. (Other countries in the Asian Football Confederation still have some way to go. So after a summer which started in the Lindt Café and ended in Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Casher, it was nice to be able to remember that history moves in both directions.

The reinvention and reinvigoration of Australian soccer, under the visionary leadership of Frank Lowy, stands as a model of what we can achieve in our community and with JCA, if we are able to harness, “the extraordinary depth of talent and energy in our community, its intellect, its spirit, its resources and its heart” as JCA’s new President, Stephen Chipkin, wrote last week.

Stephen also identified that the great challenge and opportunity is for us to find ways “to be more creative and interesting, to deepen engagement with things Jewish, to include all the Jews of our community whatever their affiliation or Jewish connection and to become more philanthropic.”

Well to this end, as the new football season starts, we are holding selections for our team. The good news is that we’re much less picky than Ange Postecoglou, and we are prepared to have a much deeper bench. Hundreds deep if we can, or even thousands. We are presently planning a year of events, engagement, fundraising, and hopefully even some innovation. And we need you, and someone you know.

We need people who are passionate about our community, who are willing to communicate that passion to their friends and neighbours and relatives. We need people with ideas that need funding. And people with funding that needs ideas. We need people to thank people. And people to be thanked. We need people who are champions of causes and organisations we can help to support. And causes and organisations that are looking for champions. We need people with special skills. And people who just turn up when needed and help out. We need people who want to think, and people who want to do. We need young people and old people and middle people too. We need people who are willing to ask other people to contribute money to help sustain our community and make it thrive. And people who can make that contribution themselves.

If you know any of these people, please get in touch. 2015 promises to be a great season, and we’d love to have you on our team. Actually we need to have you on our team. Because our team is your team.

Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Grynberg, CEO

p.s. We also need to start recruiting for our youth development squad. There are some very promising players identified in the back to school photos. Click here to view. Anyone wishing to help them learn how to be a part of our community team is also welcome to apply.

schools collage

Welcome to JCA 2015


Stephen Chipkin, President, JCA

We are ennobled by Hillel’s optimistic maxim: “Whosoever that saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world”.

Sadly, the recent terror and deaths at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney and at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher in Paris, remind us of Hillel’s counterpoint: “Whosoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world.”

We are all feeling that. Our civic body and soul, the fabric that holds us together have been wounded.

David Leser, in his memoir To Begin to Know was reflecting on the Bali bombings when he described grief as a time when “we share our common humanity most strongly. We have less to hide, less to defend, and so we allow ourselves the possibility of being more open to the pain of others, to the pain of the world.”

As Jews, we understand deep historical pain. We shouldn’t (but we do) reflect on what the world’s reaction might have been had the only recent victims been the four pre-Shabbat shoppers at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket. That is not a helpful thought, but it does remind us, as history reminds us, that when the Jewish community is damaged, broader society is damaged too. If we are the figurative “canary in the mine” testing the quality of the freedoms and values of our society, then our health should be of concern to all.

Operating from a position of fear and looking inward is not productive or sustainable. We need to look outward from a position of strength, from a standing of self-belief. Our Jewish community has a place of real prominence, value and strength. We can and should build proudly upon that.

In becoming President of JCA on 1 January 2015 I follow in the path of the other exemplary leaders of our community that have travelled before me. I want to acknowledge and thank my immediate predecessor, Peter Philippsohn, for his 4 years of selfless work and leadership. He has been a unifying force and has helped make our community more cohesive. He has provided a sound platform on which to build. I am honoured to take on the role.

In my recent conversations with members of our Jewish community, particularly the younger, I have been struck by their shared desire to connect and their willingness to play a role in making this happen.

Finding ways to be more creative and interesting, to deepen engagement with things Jewish, to include all the Jews of our community whatever their affiliation or Jewish connection and to become more philanthropic are all part of that. Harnessing the extraordinary depth of talent and energy in our community, its intellect, its spirit, its resources and its heart is the opportunity ahead of us.

Success will not be just for us. It will also be for our children and their children. Importantly, it will be for the benefit of our wider society too.

I look forward to working with Daniel and the JCA team together with our community – the 22 member organisations and their leadership as well as our broader community, including volunteers, donors and recipients of our support.

We all have a shared interest in building a secure, vibrant and sustainable Jewish community, based on strong Jewish values.

I look forward to being on that journey with you.

Warm regards and Shabbat Shalom,

Stephen Chipkin


Serafima Lapteva with husband Moissei Fidler

Serafima Lapteva is a resident at The Montefiore Home in Hunters Hill.  Together with her husband, they attended their first couples dinner.

 Click here to read her story about a magical evening.



The Thing About Charity

Charity is a personal thing.

Having been involved in raising money for many worthwhile causes over the years, I know both the joy and struggle involved and the passion we have for our favourite organisations.

Many years ago, when I was a young parent, passionate about a cause, I approached JCA, along with a group of people for a loan to start a Jewish Day School in Sydney’s South East. Some thought this was a crazy venture – but we had the demographics and projected enrolments to back up our case.  JCA were able to recognise that there was a need in this area and we were granted a $10,000 loan.  Now, Mount Sinai College stands proudly in Maroubra, educating students who are becoming valuable members of our community.

iStock_000014218389XSmallAs the President of JCA today, I wish I had the flexibility to offer funding to the many people who approach us with dynamic and exciting ideas.  Unfortunately, today’s reality is different to what it was all those years ago.

Fundraising has changed since the GFC.  Pre GFC, the annual donations to JCA increased steadily. After meeting the gap between what our 22 constituents had and their needs, there was money left for special projects.

Recent additional asks range from helping kids with disabilities to telling and saving the history of our community.  I sit with passionate people who tell me the story of what they want to start or have already started. My communal brain asks “Is there a need for this service?” “Is there already a communal organisation that covers this need?” “Do these people have the commercial experience to put the infrastructure in place?” “Have they got the right level of governance in place?” And most of all, “What will happen to those in need if they can’t get funding?”

My heart and head say, we need to make this happen, how can we do it? But, we don’t have the money. We can’t fund these start-ups from somewhere else in the community because we are already asking other organisations to stretch their resources to the maximum.

If we had bottomless financial resources, my answer would be a resounding “yes” to all the forward-thinking ideas and programs which would strengthen and build our community. Today, our solution is to introduce these innovators to people we know have the capacity to assist or to recommend an approach to one of the JCA managed endowment funds.

What saddens me is that sometimes when we have had to say no, the people that have approached us for funding walk away upset and turn their back on JCA.   Our inability to fund everything is not a personal decision by our Executive or Allocations Committee, nor should it be taken personally.

We won’t say to CSG, don’t protect their families. We won’t say to JewishCare or Montefiore, don’t support their elderly and vulnerable. We won’t say to the Jewish day schools or BJE don’t educate their kids.

That’s not the way a community – our community works.

And I ask the people who have been unsuccessful in their request for JCA support , please don’t turn your back on us.  The absence of your support weakens all of the 22 constituents who are the mainstays of our community – our community suffers.

Peter_Philippsohn_OAMIf JCA has been unable to support your passion, please find it in your philanthropic heart to give to both – your passion and your JCA.

Peter Philippsohn OAM is the President of JCA.  He is contactable via email.

To donate to the 2013 Community Campaign and get your pre-30 June tax deductible donation click here.