IN her swansong appearance as president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) on Tuesday night, Victoria’s multicultural leaders paid tribute to Nina Bassat and welcomed incoming president Jennifer Huppert.
As Bassat wound up her three-year term, Chin Tan, chair of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, quipped that she displayed “crazy brave” qualities in her outreach to a rainbow of faith and cultural communities, increasing understanding between all Victorians.
Plaudits flowed from Nail Aykan, executive director of the Islamic Council of Victoria, and Abeselom Nega, a board member of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
From within the Jewish community, Zionist Federation of Australia president Dr Danny Lamm observed that “when a tzaddik leaves a city, it loses some of its splendour”.
Zionist Council of Victoria president Sam Tatarka said Bassat trod “a sometimes fine, delicate line, with aplomb, grace and menschlichkeit”.
For JCCV executive director David Marlow, “Nina has been the most inspiring boss I’ve ever worked for.”
The JCCV president drew fond farewells from Progressive Judaism Victoria president Brian Samuel, from Doron Abramovici of the LGBTI Reference Group and from MPs David Southwick and Marsha Thomson, co-chairs of Parliamentary Friends of Israel.
In her farewell address, the Polish-born Holocaust survivor who has been JCCV president twice, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and continues her work in the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia, was stoic. “Bassats don’t do public and emotional,” she declared, but shed a tear thanking her husband Bob and her family for their support.
Bassat emphasised the JCCV’s close ties with Victoria Police through the CSG, particularly as anti-Semitic incidents spiked during the Gaza war. She recounted heartfelt police tributes after the murders of three Israeli teens in the West Bank and the Jerusalem synagogue massacre.
She said the JCCV was also active in helping prevent the repeal of Section 18C of the federal Racial Discrimination Act, which would have limited the law’s curbs on vilification.
Within the Jewish community, “a cultural shift in thinking” has driven the roof body’s initiatives in protecting children from sexual abuse, said Bassat. And parental involvement is making a difference in combating young people’s liquor abuse through the Youth Alcohol Project.
New at the top, Huppert, the JCCV’s immediate past vice-president, and a solicitor who was a Labor MP in Victoria’s upper house, described the Jewish community as “vibrant, diverse, sometimes fractious, but always wonderful and embracing … I look forward to a really exciting three years”.
Nina Bassat (left) and Jennifer Huppert. Photo: Peter Haskin