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JCCV Annual Report

JCCV Annual Report

21 November 2011

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As I sit down to write this report, I naturally reflect on the last three years, the term of my presidency, which has been very full and I hope very productive for our community. When I assumed office, I set out certain goals that I believe have been met. We have made headway in reaching out to those within our community who were not so connected, we have tackled some serious issues within our community, we have significantly increased the credibility of the JCCV and we have significantly enhanced the ‘value add’ for our affiliates.

Whilst this report will focus on the last 12 months, regard should be had to the fact that many of the projects I shall refer to were in fact implemented over the full three years of my presidency.

BDS

Without doubt, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel) campaign, which is continuing to develop momentum and for which there have now been eight demonstrations in Melbourne, has been one of the biggest issues we have had to deal with this year. The campaign of demonstrations commenced in December 2010 and at that stage involved rallies that began on the steps of the State Library and then converged on a Jericho stall located within Melbourne Central.  Over the following months, the Jericho stall ceased to operate and the focus of the demonstrations became the Max Brenner shops within both the Melbourne Central Complex and the QV Shopping Centre. The format of the demonstrations has remained largely the same. The protesters gather on the steps of the State Library and then converge firstly on the Max Brenner shop within Melbourne Central and secondly on the Max Brenner shop located within the QV Centre. At each of the Max Brenner shops the protesters demonstrate wildly, harassing shoppers, staff and patrons of the centres and forcing the temporary closure of the Max Brenner shops.

The demonstrators use a fallacious link to apartheid South Africa to suggest that Israel is apartheid and its products, academics etc should be boycotted. The Australian BDS movement is part of a global campaign to delegitimise and demonise the state of Israel.

Demonstrations have continued to grow in number. To date, neither the Police nor the shopping centre management have been successful in keeping the demonstrators from trespassing on private property.

As a result of representations I made to the Police, larger Police numbers have presided over the most recent demonstrations and indeed, at the demonstration on 1 July 2011, 19 protesters were arrested for the offence of trespass. These protesters became known as the ‘Max Brenner 19’ and subsequently breached bail conditions, by reappearing at a later demonstration. This further offence led to another court appearance and they are currently awaiting trial on charges of trespass and breach of bail.

It is clear that the demonstrations are causing a good deal of frustration to the Police and Centre Management (not to mention shopkeepers, patrons and members of the public who are attempting to quietly shop) but it remains to be seen precisely what action will be taken to ensure the trespassers do not enter the private properties constituted by the Shopping Centres.

Fortunately, there is bipartisan political condemnation of the BDS rallies, with such condemnation having been declared on several occasions in the State Parliament.  David Southwick MP has been particularly helpful in assisting me to deal with these issues and our community should indeed be thankful that we have bipartisan political support on this issue.

Initially, the BDS demonstrations received no media attention and the goal of the JCCV (working closely with the ECAJ, the ZFA, ZCV and AIJAC) was to ensure so far as possible that the issue did not receive media attention. This tactic has worked remarkably well, although at the time of dictating this report, the BDS movement was forming an alliance with the Occupy Melbourne group and so hope to further increase their numbers and gain additional publicity for their cause.

Another issues arising out of the BDS demonstrations that we had to deal with was the frustration felt by some members of our community and particularly the youth.  Nevertheless, it was clearly in our community’s interests not to organise counter-demonstrations and Sam Tatarka, president of the ZCV, and I addressed a number of sessions with youth leaders to frankly discuss the community approach, which was endorsed by the youth leadership.

Sam Tatarka and I have briefed Mr. Peter Ryan MP, Minister for Police, and Mr. R. Clarke, Attorney General, in relation to the BDS rallies and I have also provided a number of briefing papers and had several discussions with the Acting Police Chief Commissioner, Ken Lay.

There is no doubt that all of these people have been genuinely concerned with this issue and our community has been assured that there will be appropriate responses to continued BDS activity.

It was also fitting that the JCCV was a participant in the pro-Israel rally held on 4 September, 2011, which was organised by the Young Liberals. The JCCV was also represented at an event in support of Israel organised by the Young Labor Movement held at Max Brenner, South Melbourne on 31 August 2011.

WORK WITH POLITICIANS

I have continued to work closely with a number of our State politicians, ensuring that the viewpoint of our community is put forward and taken into account whenever relevant.

In April 2011 a Politicians’ tour and lunch that was co-hosted with the Zionist Council of Victoria was organised by David Southwick. Thirteen Liberal Party back benchers attended together with a number of community leaders. My address to the politicians was very warmly received and I then attended a tour of St. Kilda Shule with them.

I have also met during the year with the Premier, Deputy Premier, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Attorney General, the Minister for Multi-Cultural Affairs, the Minister for Corrections, Crime Prevention and the Establishment of an Anti-Corruption Commission, the Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Attorney General and numerous other politicians, both Members of the Government and the Opposition, and the heads of many other organisations such as the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, the Victorian Multi-Cultural Commission etc. All meetings have been very cordial and, more importantly, have provided an opportunity to raise serious matters and provide submissions on a range of issues, which have been well received.

I have also had the pleasure of hosting numerous politicians (and leaders of other communities) for Shabbat dinners. These always provide an excellent opportunity to exchange views on a range of issues in an informal atmosphere, whilst providing a wonderful insight into some of Judaism’s most beautiful traditions.

In conjunction with the ZCV we have continued to hold Politicians luncheons, which again provide a less formal environment in which issues of concern can be discussed.

The annual Yom Ha’atzmaut Cocktail Reception, which the JCCV and ZCV co-host, is yet another opportunity for our community to engage with politicians and other decision makers on issues relating to our community and to Israel.

In addition to these events we have, where appropriate and again in conjunction with the ZCV, organised briefing sessions to be given to MPs, the most recent being given by Neil Lazarus, which touched on the Worldwide BDS Movement and the Palestinian vote for Statehood at the United Nations.

PUBLICITY

We are continuing to significantly develop our reach into the public domain. We now regularly provide media releases to the Australian Jewish News, Galus Australis, J-Wire and the general media outlets. These releases are regularly picked up and featured, and through the course of the year I have been contacted by many media organisations requesting interviews or comments upon specific issues.  More importantly, we have (with much hard work from Jo Silver) developed our e-bulletin, our Facebook page and Twitter. These are all essential means of communication, particularly with the younger members of our community. We now have a Wikipedia entry (thanks to Michelle Coleman) and I have no doubt that our name is far more widely recognised than in the past.

As at the time of dictating, the Community Radio Station Lion FM, which lost its licence in the middle of the year, is optimistic that it will soon be able to broadcast again, albeit courtesy of airspace which it is to “rent” from another station. It is hoped that all governance issues that were the subject of complaints about Lion FM will be overcome and that Lion FM will grow to be a radio station that is truly representative of our community.

VICTORIA POLICE

Throughout the course of this year and indeed the course of my presidency, I have had a significant number of meetings with numerous members of the Police Force. One of the most significant developments arose out of my meetings with Assistant Commissioner Jeff Pope. As a result of those meetings and my submissions, our community is now able to provide Victoria Police with a monthly record of all anti-Semitic incidents, which will be accepted by Victoria Police. This puts an end to the discrepancy between the figures of anti-Semitic incidents collated by our community and the figures of reports made to the Police.  My thanks go to the ADC and CSG who are assisting in the compilation of the monthly statistics.

It is hoped that the statistics will be used by the Police to re-educate their officers in relation to racist crimes in the same way as police officers were re-educated in relation to issues of domestic violence.

Prior to Simon Overland’s resignation as Chief Commissioner, I met regularly with him to discuss issues relevant to our community such as the level of threat, incidents, response to incidents and the Police handling of the BDS campaign.  There was also some concern during the year as to the changes that were mooted for the Police Multi-Cultural Advisory Unit and the Security Intelligence Group. I have more recently met with Ken Lay, the Acting Chief Commissioner and again, the meetings have been very productive. In addition to discussing the issues mentioned above with Ken Lay, I also discussed issues arising out of our Youth Alcohol Project, the GLBT Reference Group and the sexual abuse claims. Ken Lay addressed our Victoria Police/Jewish Community Supper on 7 July 2011 and his address was very warmly received. All in all, the event was very well attended and was an excellent event.

SEXUAL ABUSE CLAIMS

Unfortunately, our community was hit by claims of sexual abuse in the schools, although the allegations seem to centre around one school in particular. The issue has attracted significant media attention and to date the Police have arrested two individuals, although there are ongoing Police investigations and there may well be further arrests. We can certainly expect significant media attention when matters come before the Courts. It is essential that our community understands such behaviour will not be tolerated and that the only appropriate course of action is to ensure all allegations of sexual abuse are reported to the appropriate authorities.  The JCCV has played its part in ensuring everybody understands this message by issuing appropriate media releases and also coordinating a seminar to which members of the community were invited to participate. We have also been liaising with associations such as the RCV, ORA, the ECAJ and the Taskforce Against Family Violence so as to ensure a strong and united message is presented to and on behalf of our community.

GLBT REFERENCE GROUP

The GLBT Reference Group has been working consistently for a significant period of time, both informing itself and attempting to assess the level of vilification/discrimination within our community. The GLBT Reference Group Report was released a few weeks ago. I see it as tremendously significant that for the first time in the history of our community such a report has been released. I am hoping that it will contribute to the adoption by all of our community members and organisations of a sufficiently informed attitude so that we can ensure there are no further episodes of discrimination or vilification of GLBT people. I wish to publicly thank all of the people who assisted in the preparation of the report and commend the report to all of you.

CSG

CSG continues to perform a vital role in our community. Were it not for the dedicated office staff and volunteers of CSG, I am certain that many of our community members would be reluctant to attend the number of community events they do attend. It is the CSG personnel who allow us to freely enjoy our events in an atmosphere of safety.

Thanks must also go to the CSG Advisory Board, the members of which continue to quietly yet effectively assist in raising the funds necessary to allow the CSG to operate so successfully.

As we know, Amit Bar Giora completed his service at CSG earlier this year as did David Michelson. David had worked for the CSG for more than seven years and throughout that time displayed enormous dedication, support and assistance to everyone involved with CSG. I thank both Amit and David for their enormous contribution.

Simon, our new head of CSG, commenced on 4 July 2011 and he has settled into the role well and is performing admirably. I have no doubt that Simon will continue to make a very valuable contribution to the CSG and our community for many years to come. I also welcome Justin Lipson to the staff of CSG. He too has already proved to be a valuable asset to the CSG and is ably assisting Simon, Dave Friedman, Dan Goodhardt and Adrian Goldberg.

FUNCTIONS

During the year we have had a tremendous range of exciting functions, some new and some annual events. Unfortunately, Chanukah in the city was washed out last year and so we have regretfully decided to no longer hold Chanukah in the city although we will be holding an exciting Chanukah event in December where we aim to bring Chanukah to the wider community right here in Caulfield. 

The State Politicians Forum, the Community Awards Night, the Federation Square Luncheon for community organisation employees were just some of the exciting functions we hosted during the year. However one function that stands out was the community tribute to Helen Shardey that was held on 21 February 2011. In an extraordinary show of collaboration and cooperation, 29 organisations participated and about 180 people attended the event to say “thank you” to Helen Shardey for the enormous contribution she had made to our community and all Victorians during her 14 years as a State MP.

Our Yom Hashoah commemoration and our Yom Ha’atzmaut Cocktail Party were both phenomenal successes this year, each of them providing a wonderful window into our community for non-community members.

Another function that must be singled out for special mention was the brunch we held with representatives of the Indian Jewish community. This represented an extraordinary opportunity to engage with members of the Jewish Indian community who to date, had virtually no affiliation with the broader Jewish community.  We were able to introduce the Indian Jewish community members to a range or organisations and I have no doubt that they will now more easily assimilate into the broader Jewish community.

It is also worth mentioning the tribute to Marsha Thomson event that was co-hosted with NCJWA (Vic) Inc. This was a wonderful event that paid tribute to Marsha who has been a fantastic role model for Jewish women. The event also signified again how important it is for community organisations to work collaboratively to ensure a fantastic outcome

VOLUNTEER FAIR

Another tremendous initiative displayed by the JCCV during the year was the Volunteer Fair held in February 2011. This allowed a significant number of our youth to attend presentations put on by a large number of our community organisations who could ‘display their wares’ to the youth. Each and every organisation was able to attract some new volunteers to assist with their important work, and I hope the Volunteer Fair becomes an annual and growing event.

YOUTH ALCOHOL PROJECT

The YAP continues to provide a very valuable service to the parents of our children and the children themselves. The YAP continues to run in-house education programs at virtually all of our community schools, where invaluable information is passed onto and lessons learned by both parents and the students. Forums with parents continue to be held and it is hoped that over a period of time the incidence of alcohol abuse by the young members of our community will decrease. My thanks must go to the project manager, Debbie Zauder and the representatives of the many organisations and other people who have assisted on the Youth Alcohol Project Committee. This has been another extraordinary example of how community cooperation can yield big dividends for us all. 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

The networking program for our professional community leadership that has been developed has been very well received. All participants come away from the sessions having enhanced their network of colleagues and gained valuable knowledge from the specialist presenters. There is no doubt these sessions will not only link our community leadership but also facilitate networking amongst colleagues and ensure our community capability and effectiveness is increased.

STRATEGIC PLANNING

Throughout this year the JCCV embarked on some serious strategic planning. Clearly, an organisation that remains stagnant will, over time, diminish its relevance.  With this in mind we initially polled our affiliates and received valuable feedback.  The feedback was then drawn upon in two strategic planning and visioning workshops held by the JCCV executive using the services of management consultant Joel Barolsky as facilitator. The result of these sessions is that we have been able to rethink our strategy, redefine the roles of our executive members and reposition ourselves to ensure we continue to provide the best possible leadership for our affiliates, the community generally and all individuals within our community.

ECAJ

The transition from Robert Goot to Danny Lamm as President of the ECAJ was seamless and Danny has done a terrific job as president over the last 12 months.  He is ably supported by Peter Wertheim, the Executive Director, and the ECAJ has been successfully dealing with serious issues such as Shehita, BDS and the Palestinian Vote for Statehood in the United Nations.

JEMP

Thankfully JEMP has not been required to activate recently but it is always ready to spring into action on behalf of our community if needed. In this regard, I must thank its Executive Officer Danielle Dyskin and the members of the technical committee, David Michelson, Ronnie Figdor, Danny Elbaum, Frank Gaensler, Andrew Litwinow, Simon Glynn, Justin Lipson and Saul Midler. Without their hard work and dedication JEMP would not be in a position to so readily assist our community if required.

COUNCIL FOR JEWISH EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS

The JCCV is in the process of taking over the administration of the CJES from UJEB.  It will be necessary to confirm that each of the members is indeed entitled to membership and then ensure their accounting records are up to date. In the meantime, I thank UJEB and particularly Jeffrey Greenberg for the outstanding job he has done administering this fund up to date.

INTERFAITH ACTIVITY

During the year we had interfaith activities and dinners with an enormous range of communities including the Anglican community, the Catholic community, the Muslim community and the Croatian community to name but a few. The Jewish community is continuing to play a significant role in interfaith activity in Victoria and following the release of our Guidelines for Interfaith Activities our opinion, input and advice is constantly sought from a range of Government, NGO and private sector groups.

PATRONS

My thanks must go to the patrons of the JCCV, without whose support much of the work done by the JCCV would simply not get performed. I single out Jack Gringlas whose initiative and determination established the patrons group and thank him for being chairman of the patrons until he recently stepped down so as to facilitate the in-flow of new blood in the form of Simon DeWinter. I have no doubt Simon will contribute enormously to the JCCV in this role.

RELOCATION/GRANT

I was delighted to announce in 2010 that we had received a grant from the Victorian Multicultural Commission to facilitate our co-location with the ADC. Whilst we initially thought we may occupy the ground floor space in Beth Weizmann, currently occupied by Makor, it has now been determined beneficial to considerably expand our current office location to provide for our own additional staff, the ADC staff and a boardroom area. Plans are well underway to facilitate this expansion and it is hoped that our new home, which we look forward to sharing with the ADC, will be completed by approximately April 2012.

APPOINTMENT

On 23 August 2011 the Attorney General announced my appointment as Chairperson of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Equal Rights Commission. The appointment was made in the knowledge of my Presidency of the JCCV and my other communal positions. There is not considered to be any conflict of interest. Indeed, I am hoping to be able to serve the Jewish community as well as the wider community in this role.

OFFICE STAFF

As you will recall, I sadly had to report in April 2011 that Geoffrey Zygier had resigned as Executive Director of the JCCV.  Geoffrey had provided tremendous support for the JCCV over the duration of his employment and the circumstances surrounding his resignation brought sadness to us all.

Michelle Coleman commenced as Executor Director on 4 July 2011. She has settled in remarkably well and already the JCCV together with our community is benefiting from her considerable knowledge and experience.

Michelle heads up an office that comprises enormously hard-working, dedicated and passionate people. Hilary McMahon has been with the JCCV for more than 20 years and I don’t believe there is anything about the JCCV that she does not know. She continues to be an incredible resource. Jo Silver performs a wonderful task, always going about her duties quietly yet efficiently, and all of the office staff are superbly backed up by the efforts of Julie Batty, who also quietly just gets the job done.

CONCLUSION

It has been a very busy three years but I believe an effective three years for the JCCV and for out community generally. I could not conclude the report without making reference to the Zionist Council of Victoria with whom we continue to work very closely on a range of issues. We shared a wonderful collaborative relationship whilst Danny Lamm was President of the ZCV and it has been a delight to work with the (not so) new President, Sam Tatarka. I owe Sam a vote of thanks for ensuring his organisation continues to cooperate so fully with the JCCV. It is clear that his major concern is also the welfare of our community. I also want to thank Jane Rapke, who commenced as Executive Director of the ZCV in June 2011 (taking over from Ginette Searle). Again, it has been a pleasure to work with Jane who has always been concerned to ensure that our community is represented in the best possible way.

I must also thank the members of my Executive who have worked individually and collectively to ensure the success of the JCCV during the course of my presidency.  Without their contributions, it is clear the role that I have played would have been significantly hampered.

I now turn to the office staff, namely Michelle Coleman, Hilary McMahon, Jo Silver and Julie Batty. I have at the conclusion of a number of functions and events during the year forgotten to pay tribute to the hard work that they each perform to ensure the success of each and every event. However, more than that, the enormous dedication commitment and willingness to serve above and beyond the call of duty shown by each and every one of them is the main reason why the JCCV continues to be able to punch well above its weight.

As I finally reflect on the last three years, I believe the contribution, which the Jewish community as a whole and each of our affiliates has made to the JCCV, has been enormous. This too has contributed to the JCCV’s ability to be so influential and effective over such a wide range of issues. I was fortunate that the JCCV was in an excellent position when I assumed the presidency. Frankly, I believe it is still in an excellent position, continues to serve our community well and continues to make an enormous contribution to the Victorian community overall. I have no doubt that our community stature and well being will be further enhanced as community organisations continue to support one another more effectively and collaborate and cooperate more fully.

My final thanks must go to my family. To Ginette, Rebecca, Jake, Ellie and Jessie who on so many occasions in the last three years have undoubtedly wondered where I was or when I would be coming home. I thank each of you for supporting me, for offering me guidance and counsel when needed, and for making it so easy for me to fulfill my duties as President. There were no complaints about the time away from family duties and for that I am truly appreciative. It is often said that behind every man’s success is the support, advice, devotion and love of a wonderful woman. I know in my case that is certainly true and I am truly grateful for always having Ginette by my side.

It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the Jewish community in the capacity as President of the JCCV.

John Searle

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