I admit: I was so wrong and had completely missed the point

Denise Meyerson collage

Huge thanks to Denise Meyerson, who has generously given of her time and more to take a very special (top secret) role at each of our campaign dinners and events.

You might recall a year ago I somewhat controversially confessed to not having attended a JCA event for nearly 20 years. This is what I wrote then:

It’s not that I had anything against the events per se, but there always seemed to be a reason not to go. I didn’t like the speaker. None of my friends were going. My wife thought perhaps the 10 year old was not yet ready to babysit his siblings. There was paint drying somewhere that needed watching.

My general attitude was “please, just tell me where to send cheque”. (right now, our younger readers are asking, “what’s a cheque?”).

But I was so, so, so wrong and had completely missed the point.

And now as CEO, with JCA’s 2015 campaign in full swing after a successful start last week, it is one of my happiest duties to attend every single event we host. And every single one has been energising and interesting. A huge thanks this week to our fantastic fundraising team of Lydia Vesely, Lara Levin, Di Odze, Terry Katz, Ashleigh Levett, Rose Temple, and Kylie French, led by the indefatigable Sharon Philippsohn, all of whom have put in incredible hours to make sure everything runs just right. Enormous thanks also to our volunteer leaders, especially president Stephen Chipkin and vice president Michael Graf, who have spoken with such clarity and candour about the challenges and opportunities we face together.

But wait, there’s more. Huge thanks to Dr Denise Meyerson, whose role in these dinners and events is TOP SECRET and if you’ve already attended one, you’re sworn to secrecy.

Back to me missing the point about our dinners and events a few years back… There was one this week that really made me think about everything that makes this community great. Here’s what happened:

We had two dinners planned for one night so we decided to combine them. Some of our guests had recently moved to Australia with school-aged kids – recent enough to remember the food on the Qantas flight over from Jo’burg. So naturally, we mixed them with a group of grandparents, most of whom had arrived in Australia as young children, or been born here to refugees, and survivors of the Shoah.

Regardless of how they came to be in the room together, everyone had two great things in common: Dover Heights (in its humble, and high class incarnations), and a love of our local Jewish community. And that’s all everyone needed to connect over the dinner table. If you had been observing the table, you would’ve thought they had known each other forever. At one point, the gracious hosts looked at me nervously, wondering if the new found friends might settle in to see the sunrise.

And last night, one of our hosts told her own story about being embraced by this community of ours, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It made me think of all the events I had been invited to – for 20 years – and had declined, and really, I had no idea what I was missing.

And before you know it, this campaign will come to a close. I really don’t know how politicians do it – their campaigns last for months and months (some say years). But one of the joys of the communal calendar is we only have a few weeks to wine and dine (OK, not so much wine, but plenty of dine), and raise the $13,653,245 we need to keep this community running. And then, thanks to our ‘spiritual calendar’, the only thing that could possibly trump the communal calendar, we get Shabbat off – so we can reset and recharge for another week of essential JCA fundraising and engagement.

And this Shabbat we will be thinking and taking stock of the first few days of our 2015 campaign. We have had such a wonderful series of dinners. With many more to come and larger events, and smaller ones. And younger ones. And older ones. And some for women and some gamblers. And every single one of them for people who care about our community, and want to come together to share their dreams, and fears, and hopes, and priorities.

If you haven’t found a seat at one of these events, please contact one of our fabulously friendly staff on 9360 2344 and they will find you a place so that you can enjoy our big Jewish family.

It is customary for a charity CEO to write to you at this time of year, and say “We Need Your Support”. But that really doesn’t apply at JCA. We are a unique charity, in that we are all contributors and we are all recipients. And if you are reading this email, you don’t even need me to tell you that. The fact is “We Need Our Support”, and without wanting to get too cute, “We Support Our Need”.

It’s pretty simple really. Even the 12 year old (who has started babysitting, thank God) gets that.

Shabbat Shalom, and thanks to all of US for OUR support.


P.S. You will have seen signs popping up all over Sydney with a cute kid imploring you to “Donate Now!”. There was an audible groan in the office when I suggested a Thermo-clock for the person who emails through the most photos of themselves in front of different signs (hint, there are 19 for you to collect), so sadly, there will be no Thermo-clock for the winner. Unless you really want one…

P.P.S. What are you doing on Tuesday, June 16th? See your invitation below to join us for a very inspiring speaker.

Gerardo Porteny Backal event invitation