Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Australian Reform Zionist Association Inc. (ARZA) held at 8 p.m. on Thursday 25 November 2021
Annual General Meeting 2021
Meeting open 8pm
Minutes taken by: Alex Knopoff
J. Loewy Irons
B. Meijer Verbrugge
B. Rosen (Shanghai)
C. Tzivah Batya
P. Wilton (Auckland)
Mavis (Beit Or v’Shalom)
3. Adoption of the minutes of the AGM held on Tuesday 17 November 2020
S. Silberberg moves minutes, H. Shardey seconds. Minutes accepted.
4. Matters arising
5. Message from ZFA (Jeremy Leibler)
It is with great pleasure that I extend warm greetings on behalf of the Zionist Federation of Australia to ARZA Australia on the occasion of its 2021 Annual General Meeting.
The COVID-19 pandemic and continued lockdowns in Victoria and NSW certainly had an enormous impact on all of our activities. After 73 years, Israel’s very right to exist is still questioned and, apart from the global pandemic, the threat of terrorism in Israel remains real and constant. The conflict with Hamas terrorists in Gaza in May presented challenges both on the ground in Israel, and for Jewish communities around Australia with increased antisemitism and threats to the local Jewish community. It was encouraging to see the community come together for solidarity rallies, to demonstrate that members of the
Australian Jewish community desire peace between Israel and its neighbours.
Locally, Jewish communities around Australia face a number of challenges, but we nevertheless continue in our efforts to nurture and cultivate a sense of being Jewish that celebrates our rich traditions and proud values, and that will inspire and sustain future generations of Jewish Australians. Despite ideological differences across the community, there is clear consensus on many important issues, including our absolute commitment to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, the need to advocate for and ensure religious equality in Israel, and to oppose discrimination against minorities. The ZFA has worked hard to ensure that all streams of Judaism have a place around the table, and we will continue to express our views on issues to the Israeli government to ensure that all Jews feel at home at religious spaces in Israel too.
The worrying increase in terrorism around the world – including in Australia – has reinforced the need for the Australian Government and major institutions, such as universities, to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. That antisemitic incidents spike during periods of Israeli–Palestinian confrontation shows that much more education is needed about what constitutes legitimate criticism of Israel and what constitutes racist attitudes about Israel. The working definition is a tool to provide that education, and the ZFA was pleased when the Prime Minister announced last month that Australia would be adopting the definition.
I wish to acknowledge the close cooperation between the ZFA and ARZA on a number of issues relating to the local Jewish community and Israel and I look forward to continuing the close and productive relationship between our two organisations. I congratulate President Helen Shardey and her executive on another successful year in office and for your efforts in representing the voice of Progressive Zionism in Australia. Let us hope that the coming year will bring health, peace and happiness to the Jewish people and all of humanity.
6. President’s Report
The last two years over the Covid pandemic have been challenging and difficult for all Jewish organisations. We have all striven to ensure continued support and involvement in those organisations representing our core Progressive Jewish and Zionist beliefs and values.
I thank our community for the way in which it has demonstrated its unfailing belief in the values of equality, pluralism and Tikun Olam. For the support that has been shown to the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) and the Australian Reform/Progressive Zionist AssociaLon (ARZA). We only maintain our strength through this level of support and involvement.
ARZA Australia was most successful last year in reaching its 2020 goals and building its membership to ensure the maintenance of the mandates it held for the World Zionist Congress. Unfortunately, the congress had to be held virtually. The Reform/Progressive movement in other parts of the world was not as successful in maintaining its mandates. This had a detrimental effect on positions the Progressive/Reform/Conservative Coalition was able to achieve in the World Zionist Organisations and institutions.
ARZA Australia has maintained a strong relationship with the world body ARZENU and its president Rabbi Lea Muhlstein through online board meetings and communications. We thank her and the ARZENU CEO Dekel Houmash.
During the year 2020-21 ARZA put a moratorium on the payment of ARZA membership fees in recognition of the financial burden of Covid and the need for ARZA to maintain its membership for the World Zionist Congress. This year from the end of June 2021 ARZA has re-introduced membership fees in consultation with Australian Progressive congregations. We look forward to our balance sheet being reflective of this come 2022.
The frequent level of communication to the Progressive movement has continued throughout the last two years with articles in relation to Israel and Progressive Judaism on a near weekly basis being sent to congregations through the UPJ News and Drash, emailed to the more than two and a half thousand ARZA members and posted on the ARZA Australia website and Facebook page.
The topics for communication have been many and varied. They include: the new Coalition Government in Israel and some of its achievements, issues of gender segregation in Israel, reform to Kashrut, the future of civil marriage in Israel, the phenomenon of Sinat Chinam – baseless hatred, the election of Rabbi Gilad Kariv to the Knesset, the work of IRAC in the Israeli High Court, the Israeli budget, the adoption by the Australian government of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and many other interesting topics.
In closing I would like to bring attention to two projects ARZA Australia is looking to promote. The first is the participation of the Progressive Movement in the Israel Taglit Birthright program providing a ten-day educational tour of Israel for those 18 to 26 years of age. This program has been financially supported by Gandel Philanthropy, offering the program free of charge to participants. ARZA and the Progressive movement would have to be accepted as local organisers and find funding for that activity. The program had to be postponed because of Covid but hopes to resume in 2022.
The second program ARZA Australia is seeking to promote, is the twinning of Australian Synagogues with Israeli synagogues and the introduction of programs to better educate Australians about Israeli life. For example, the Beit Haam program which runs successfully in Canada.
Finally, I thank the ARZA Australia board: Sue Silberberg, Steve Denenberg, Tony Leverton, Alex Knopoff, Cassandra Barrett, Lior Kalisse, Rabbinic Adviser Rabbi Fred Morgan and Ex Officio members Sefi Shalam, Noa Abrahams, Michael Sacks and David Knoll. I also thank the UPJ board and the Assembly of Cantors and Rabbis for their ongoing support, advice, and encouragement.
C. Heard – Helen has done an outstanding job keeping us all informed succinctly. Providing quick and meaningful reads.
P. Bliss – Shlichot program has increased tremendously in past year by almost 30%, delighted that WUPJ delivered a substantial grant. ARZA & UPJ should be thinking about how they will help fund the shaliach program post February 2023.
H. Shardey commends Sefi for his hard work and involvement in the Jewish community and suggests board training for Netzer leaders so they are better prepared when they enter the next stage of leadership in the community.
H. Shardey moves her report. D. Knoll seconds. Report accepted.
7. Treasurer’s Report & appointment of auditor
This report covers the financial year 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.
ARZA Australia is a not-for-profit organisation, affiliated to the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) and the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), that works to represent and promote the views and values of Progressive/Reform Jewish Zionists who want to help ensure that Israel lives in peace and security and that it is the democratic and egalitarian society described in its Declaration of Independence.
ARZA undertakes to use its best endeavours for the realisation of a full and free religious life for all Jews in the State of Israel. ARZA also works to strengthen the Progressive Movement in Israel, Australia and worldwide.
ARZA continually looks at expanding our membership numbers within Australia and, through our world parent body ARZENU, promoting Progressive Jewish values and ideals at the international level with the World Zionist Organisation – founded by Theodore Herzl in Basle, Switzerland in 1897.
The 38th World Zionist Congress was held on Tuesday 20 to Thursday 22 October 2020. ARZA representatives participated in this via online links. Mazeltov to ARZA President Helen Shardey for appointment to the World Zionist Organisation’s General Council as an ARZENU representative.
Membership of ARZA is open to any Jewish person who subscribes to the principles of Progressive Judaism. Membership may be gained in two ways: 1. direct application / renewal, and 2. application / renewal associated with annual congregational membership payments. The latter is our preferred approach. We are, of course, most appreciative of the continuing co-operation with synagogues who support us in this way.
Our membership number last year stands at 2,676 and is in the process of being updated.
4. STATEMENT OF FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE FOR THE YEAR ENDED 30 JUNE 2021 Result:
The Statement of Financial Performance for the year ended 30 June 2021 shows a net surplus for the year of $21,193. This compares with a net surplus of $34,339 for the year to 30 June 2020.
This decrease came about because of an Executive decision in June 2020 to waive ARZA membership fees for the 2020/21 financial year. Residual membership fees of $16,800 were received from congregations, compared with $53,080 in 2019/20.
Our financial performance was underpinned by the receipt of unbudgeted income (ARZENU grants and ZFA election reimbursements) together with a decrease in expenditure.
Income for the year came primarily from ARZA membership fees collected on our behalf by congregations. The timing of this fee income reflects the differing financial years that congregations work to and their timetables for membership fee collection and passing on to ARZA.
ARZA also received income from Grants ($10,132) and Other income ($2,364).
- Grants received were from ARZENU (2 grants), being reimbursement of ARZA costs associated with reviewing processes and compiling the
membership rolls in preparation for the WZO delegate elections.
- Other income represented the reimbursement of a part of ARZA’s capitation levy charged by the Zionist Federation of Australia in preparation for a WZC delegate audit (which did not eventuate).
Expenses for 2020/21 ($8,159) reduced from the 2019/20 level ($18,830).
In 2019/20, Affiliation Fees was our largest expense item was Affiliation Fees. This item reflected two expenses – affiliation to the Zionist Federation of Australia and payment of a capitation fee to the ZFA, covering the preparation, conduct and audit of organisations’ membership rolls.
In 2020/21 we recorded just the affiliation fee to ZFA ($605).
This year, our three largest expenses items were: website, accounting fees and advertising and marketing.
Website costs represented regular updating by our consultant, Uptime Computer Services, of the existing website and Facebook page (including posting articles and videos), together with associated expenses, membership list updates and mailouts.
Accounting fees represented our bookkeeper fee (Bookkeeping.com Pty Ltd), the Financial Statement audit fee, and financial system management fee (MYOB).
Advertising and marketing costs were for New Year greetings, with the UPJ, in the Australian Jewish News ($528) and an advertisement in the SZC (South Australia) calendar ($100).
Statement of Financial Position:
Our bank balance at 30 June 2021 was $130,374 (30 June 2020 – $110,631).
At the end of the financial year there was a Current Liability of $308. This represented an accrual for an invoice from Uptime Computers, the company that handles our website and related updates.
We have again been most fortunate to obtain the services of Janet Henrie, Immediate Past President of Adelaide’s Beit Shalom Synagogue, as financial assessor, and Debra Arnold CPA RCA (Director, Third Sector Management Solutions) as independent auditor of our accounts for this financial year. I am deeply indebted to both for their professionalism, patience and persistence in ensuring our financial activity is correctly reported. It is of significant help to us. Debra’s report, together with the Statement of Financial Performance, is attached to these documents.
I take this opportunity to record my sincere thanks and appreciation to them for their technical support and sound advice. I am delighted to report that Debra Arnold is agreeable to being appointed ARZA Auditor, and Janet Henrie financial assessor for the financial year 2020/21.
Our accounts have been soundly managed over many years by Fran Freiman, Bookkeeping.com Pty Ltd, in Sydney. I am deeply grateful for her continued professional assistance.
And finally, I take this opportunity to express my thanks to our President Helen Shardey and to all my fellow Board members for their support, advice and guidance.
T. Leverton moves that the audited financial statements be adopted. P. Bliss seconds. Reports accepted.
T. Leverton moves that Debra Arnold be appointed as auditor for the 21-22 FY. H. Shardey seconds. Motion accepted.
Thanks to all synagogues who have supported ARZA membership registrations by including on their invoices, particularly those who have adopted an opt-out method.
P. Bliss asks what membership numbers are, to our best knowledge numbers are similar to last year (2676) which is good. May change with reintroduction of fees.
H. Shardey comments that due to changes in invoicing system we have lost approx. 700 members but hope to reconnect. C. Heard offers to do an endorsement to
J. Irons says that TBI has given members a button on Shulcloud to join ARZA, suggests this method may work well for other synagogues.
8. Appointment of honorary solicitors
S. Denenberg moves that Norbert Schweizer be the honorary solicitor for 2021-2022. H. Shardey seconds. Motion accepted.
9. Election of members to the Executive Committee
President – Helen Shardey
VP – Sue Silberberg
Treasurer – Tony Leverton
Secretary – Cassie Barrett
Ordinary members – Avishai Conyer & Ayal Marek
10. Other business
R. Aviva notes that website doesn’t have an easily accessible donation button.
Meeting closed 8:33pm.