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President's Report

President's Report

11 April 2011

PRESENTED TO PLENUM

I met with Attorney General, Rob Clarke, Hyder Gulam (Pres. ICV) & Sheik Ramy, conducted the JCCV Strategy Day, attended a B’nai A’kiva tribute to heroes, Luncheon with Kevin Rudd and the Premier’s dinner to honour the Governor General and I was interviewed by Chanel 10 regarding the survey results about racism and antisemitism... Click here for a complete list.

MAZEL TOV

I take this opportunity to wish Hilary mazel tov on the marriage of her daughter, Sarah.

EXECUTIVE

Braham Goldberg has resigned from the Executive as has Lindsey Joffe. We thank them both for their hard work and dedication over many years.

I am delighted to say that Nina Bassat has joined the Executive and assumed the position of Vice President.

OFFICE RELOCATION/GRANT

Discussions have started with Anton Block (ADC), Gab Aghion (fit out) and Jason Goldberg (draftsman) regarding the layout and set up of the new premises and I am in the process of having drawings and costs prepared. This will assist in finalising the grant documentation. We are still optimistic of being in the new premises by July/August 2011.

LION FM

The situation at Lion FM continues to deteriorate. The issues of governance and accountability appear very serious and adequate steps hae not been taken to resolve issues surrounding membership, the lease, loan agreements and the like. Furthermore, the Committee has rejected all offers of mediation or alternative dispute resolution.

Complaints have now been made by interested community people to ACMA and the Registrar of Incorporated Associations. It is unlikely that the dispute will be easy to resolve and there are serious concerns that the licence will be lost.

WORK WITH POLITICIANS

The Politicians tour and lunch that was co-hosted with the Zionist Council of Victoria was very successful. 13 Liberal party backbenchers attended together with a number of community leaders and the politicians displayed great interest in learning about the Jewish community. I addressed the group as did Sam Tatarka at the lunch held at BW and I then accompanied the politicians on their tour of St Kilda Shule.

Anton Block, Chairman of ADC and I met with the Attorney General on 24 February and in a very productive meeting discussed the BDS campaign and police response, the need for legislative intervention regarding youth alcohol, levels of antisemitism and a range of other issues. I note the State Government have now announced they intend amending legislation in relation to youth alcohol in line with our recommendations. Anton and I also met informally with Andrew McIntosh, Minister for Corrections. Both Ministers have accepted invitations from me to attend Shabbat dinner. The meeting with the Attorney General was followed up (at his instigation) with a meeting with Helen Szoke during which similar issues were discussed.

I have also met with the Police Minister’s senior advisor and the attorney general’s advisor to discuss police responses to BDS issues and other antisemitic incidents.

VISIT OF MATAN VILNAI, MK – MINISTER FOR HOME FRONT DEFENCE – 28 FEBRUARY 2011

We, together with the ZCV and the ZFA hosted a leadership briefing with Matan Vilnai MK. The Ambassador was also in attendance.

VICTORIA POLICE

Identity Motivated Crime

Following numerous discussions with VicPol and community members, we have instigated a community register for identity related crime. This register will be sent to VicPol once a month so our figures can be tallied to ensure appropriate action and response. All affiliates have been notified of the register and the community action in writing and the general public via the Jewish News. We have also arranged with the Shules through COSV, PJV and RCV to ask congregants to report all identity related crime to the police and CSG. I implore the Shules at peak times such as chagim and simchas to remind the community to report all hate identity related crime to the Police and to CSG. Please do not decide whether the crime is reportable but direct all incidents to CSG. We need an accurate picture which includes all incidents of identity motivated crime.

Meetings with Simon Overland

The meetings were very productive. We discussed the level of incidents/threat, generally, the police reaction to the BDS campaign and the serious problems with the manner in which police were handling demonstrations, some GLBT issues and the changes being made to the police Multicultural Advisory Unit. This Central Unit is likely to be closed down and the multicultural work of the police is to be decentralised. There was a push to write letters complaining about this change. However, I am not sure the change is negative and there may well be significant improvements by having a regional multicultural officer. I ensured Simon was aware that we had not written any letters criticising the restructuring of the MAU and he was appreciative of this fact. Interestingly, when I discussed this matter with Helen Szoke, she agreed entirely with my assessment and approach. Simon Overland was also given a briefing on CSG on 24 March 2011.

YOUTH ALCOHOL PROJECT

The YAP project is progressing very well and we were able to issue a MR linking in to the State Government’s announcement about legislative reform as we had also been pushing for laws to prohibit parents supplying alcohol to kids other than their own.

GLBT

The GLBT reference Group now hopes to hear from some more school principals, collect some more date re mental health issues and suicide rates and then prepare a report that will be released to the community. Prior to doing so, we shall seek input/submissions from community members.

CSG

Simon Glynn was here for 5 days at the beginning of March. He attended the UIA Gala dinner, met the office staff, the Advisory Board and a number of other community leaders.

BDS CAMPAIGN

The BDS campaign continues to develop momentum. The last demonstration on 1 April, 2011 was again at Melbourne Central but this time as Jericho was closed (moving location), the protestors targeted Max Brenner at Melbourne Central and the QV Building. There were about 150 protestors and a higher rate of violence was exhibited. Although police personnel were hit and shoved, there were no arrests. A report has been prepared for relevant State Government Ministers. In addition, David Southwick MP addressed the issue in State Parliament when on 7 April 2011 he stated:

'I rise to speak about a protest which was held in Melbourne Central shopping centre last Friday, where extreme groups, largely comprised of left-wing students, attempted to threaten and intimidate retailers selling Israeli-made goods as part of a disgraceful and racist Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, campaign. This global campaign, which carries the endorsement of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Greens, is an appalling effort 5

by the extreme left to attack Israel through consumer-led sanctions, with the aim of hurting Israel's economy and small businesses here in Victoria for having the audacity to sell Israeli products.

The retailers here in Melbourne suffered financial loss owing to the need to close, and their staff were intimidated and denied the right to work while the leftist anti-Israel fanatics rampaged through the public shopping centre. This is even more concerning when it appears that this group is determined to cause mayhem and in some cases violence. There is now talk that this group is not only threatening businesses that sell Israeli products but businesses that are owned by members of the Jewish community.

Given this local disgraceful activity in Melbourne and the current turmoil in the Middle East, it is disappointing to hear that on this day the Labor Party, through the member for Thomastown, seeks to create a Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Palestine friendship group. I know that Melbourne's Jewish small business community will not be threatened, intimidated or prevented from trading as a result of the actions of this extreme element in our society”

As a result of the stance taken by the Greens in the NSW State election, the BDS issue received a fair bit of coverage in the daily press. Amongst the articles written was an excellent piece by Michael Danby in “The Australian” which I am sure will go a long way to helping people understand this issue.

Anti-Apartheid week was held on campus during the last week of March with little activity.

ECAJ

We have received a letter from the ECAJ requesting an increase in our affiliation fees. It is said that the increase will keep Victoria in line with the other states, particularly NSW. We shall invite the President of the ECAJ to address us on this issue.

INTERFAITH ACTIVITY

Alma Community House

The issue surrounding the Alma Community House and the use of a room for a weekly Muslim prayer service attracted a lot of publicity. Unfortunately, there were some who wished to portray it as a Jewish v Muslim issue and others who wished to develop and highlight the issue as showing a dispute within the Jewish community. I saw it as a permit/planning issue and therefore played it down at every opportunity. The Jewish Christian Muslim Association (JCMA), under our imprimatur issued a very appropriate media release as did the B'nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission and I am pleased to report that the permit issue has been finalised.

Members of the Darfur Community

I have been contacted by members of the Melbourne Darfuri community who wish to develop some ties with the Melbourne Jewish community. They also want some assistance dealing with Darfuris who are in Israel and who would like to be resettled. I have raised the matter with the Deputy Ambassador of Israel, Meir Itzchaki and we will ascertain exactly what the Darfuris want and see if anything can be done.

Uniting Church

Recently an article appeared on the Friends of Palestine website that appeared to be a letter written/endorsed by the Victorian and Tasmanian Synod of the Uniting Church. The letter embraced the BDS Campaign and was anti-Israel/antisemitic. We wrote to the Uniting Church requesting a meeting and a response as to their knowledge of the article and their endorsement of it. They have since responded that we are welcome to meet with them and that although they were not aware of the posting, the contents are within the public domain. We are formulating our response and shall arrange to meet with them. 

Meeting with new president of ICV

A very productive meeting was held with the new President of the ICV, Hyder Gulam and Sheik Remy. Very encouraging discussions were held and it is hoped that our 2 Executives will hold a joint supper function in the near future.

FUNCTIONS

Fed Square hosted a luncheon for our community to which some Presidents and Executive Directors were invited on 24 February. It was a wonderful opportunity to see how Fed Square can work in with our community and hopefully a number of community occasions can now be given some prominence in Fed Square.

On 4 May, we will be holding a Patrons briefing session.

On 15 May, we will be holding the annual interfaith dinner with the Catholic Archdiocese if Melbourne

Arrangements are well underway for the Yom Hashoah Commemoration Evening on 1 May.  Tickets available from the JCCV office.

On 8 May, the annual Memorial Service will be held at the Melbourne General Cemetery at 2.30 pm.

Consideration needs to be given to the future of Chanukah in the City.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

The first session of the networking program which has been developed for the professional community leadership was held at ACJC, on 9 March.  Assoc. Prof. Mark Baker spoke on “Embracing Dissent”. It was an excellent morning.

ORGAN DONATION SUBMISSION

The Victorian Government has requested a submission from the JCCV on identifying and assessing possible options to increase organ donation within the Victorian Jewish community. We have written to affiliates and the Rabbinical Council of Victoria to canvass their opinion. According to Orthodox Law organ donation is permissible within strict halachic guidelines and the JCCV believes that generally, speaking, wherever individuals believe it is acceptable, they should be involved for the overall good of our community. We are keen to canvass opinion as to how this can be achieved.

STRATEGIC PLANNING

The JCCV conducted the first of its strategic planning and visioning workshops on March 27th using the services of Joel Barolsky. The meeting was planned around alternative futures for the JCCV and the outcomes of the executive and affiliate surveys. I would like to thank all of you that participated in the surveys as they have provided us with comprehensive responses. In summary, it appeared that most affiliates felt we were doing a good job in terms of advocacy and representation but we need to improve our marketing and communications with affiliates as to our role and services offered. The executive survey and discussions showed that we work across a very broad range of areas as a roof body and we need to consider options in relation to the range of activities and funding. We shall hold a second workshop on 22nd May during which we shall finalise objectives and operational aspects of the plan. We shall then discuss the results at plenum.

John Searle

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