Campaign raises the alarm

Allanah Zitserman. Photo: Giselle Haber

THE edgy theme for JCA’s 2018 annual campaign was “Dangerous Ideas”, but large crowds at events in Sydney’s north and east were in safe hands, as movers and shakers representing a broad spectrum of Jewry were steered by renowned futurist Phill Nosworthy into a discussion about the challenges facing the NSW and ACT Jewish communities.

A sellout audience of 350 at the campaign’s North Shore gala dinner at the Concourse in Chatswood on May 24 heard insights from Ukraine-born acclaimed filmmaker and former refugee Allanah Zitserman, who pondered how Jews like her – intermarried, mostly secular and living away from Jewish hubs – could still find a rightful place within Sydney’s Jewish scene.

“I am still one of you, just a bit different, just a bit dangerous,” she said. Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO and author of The Anti-Israel Agenda, Alex Ryvchin said the biggest danger for the Jewish community is “apathy and the shrugging of shoulders” in the context of the ever-present threat of anti-Semitism.

Tamar Krebs shed light on “causing disruption” by being both a rabbi’s wife and a successful entrepreneur in the Australian aged and dementia care space.

“With the support of my husband, I transitioned into business and to redefine what a rabbi’s wife could do,” she said.

Another 900 people heard award-winning poet, filmmaker and New Yorker Max Stossel deliver his cleverly constructed poetry about the ramifications of technology, including social media, at the Hordern Pavilion on Tuesday night.

Speaking about Holocaust memory being under threat, award-winning author and Holocaust historian Mark Baker said that creating rituals is imperative for passing on the memories and stories of survivors to future generations.

Reflecting on the evening’s theme, JCA president Stephen Chipkin said it can be all too easy to take the “halcyon times” of Jewish life in Australia for granted, but that would be dangerous.

“Our community is complex, and to ensure it remains resilient, we need to look after it,” he said.

“We need to deal with challenges differently,” referring to the findings of the Gen17 survey, which will help shape planning and strategy for JCA and its 23 member organisations.

“It’s clear we need to be much more inclusive so that all Jews, from the religious to the secular, can deepen their Jewish connection.”

He added the next generation is the key. “The most dangerous idea of all is that each of us does not feel personally responsible for the future of our community,” Chipkin said.

SHANE DESIATNIK