IN 2009, Gary Samowitz had bought a one-way ticket from Sydney to Israel, with a place awaiting him in a Masters program at Hebrew University.
But then he received a phone call that would ultimately change his path.
Stand Up (formerly Jewish Aid Australia) was looking to hire their first CEO, and Samowitz, then 26, was encouraged to apply.
A short time later, he was on a flight – to Melbourne – not Tel Aviv. “I loved the idea of combining Jewish identity programming with social justice,” Samowitz told The AJN. “It was just the dream job.”
Almost 10 years later and with immeasurable positive impact achieved, Samowitz has decided to stand down from the position.
“Organisations need renewal, fresh leadership and opportunities for upcoming leaders. It is time for a new challenge for the organisation, and for me,” he mused.
Samowitz reflected on his decade at the helm, listing his work with Sudanese refugees, the relationships established and fostered between Indigenous elders and Jewish children, and the publication of Stand Up’s Haggadot as some of the highlights of his tenure.
“I’ve been excited to work in the education space in order to put social justice on the agenda, to engage and inspire the community to not be bystanders.”
Samowitz also paid tribute to his team of 18 staff and 150 volunteers. “I am most grateful for having a job where I’m excited to come to work each day, and to work alongside people who inspire me to be better,” he said.
But Samowitz will stay on until June to assist with the handover of the role to the right person – “someone with the energy, passion, and skills to lead into the next exciting chapter” – while he considers his next move, “most likely in the not-for-profit space”.
“I will volunteer, and my kids will volunteer with Stand Up for many years to come,” he assured.
“This is definitely not the end of my relationship here.”