It is with pleasure that I report on the activities of ARZA Australia to the Annual General Meeting for the 2019-20 year, being held on November 17, 2020.

I was delighted to be elected President of Australia’s Progressive Zionist organization at its 2019 AGM, and at the same time also elected as Vice President of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ).

My predecessor, Steve Denenberg had devoted more than a decade to ARZA Australia both as President and CEO. He has continued as the Immediate Past
President and been very active and supportive in that role. I thank him for all his support and assistance.

In building the new board, ARZA was fortunate that some experienced board members remained on the board providing expertise in financial reporting (thanks to Tony Leverton) and Membership list building (thanks to Philip Levy, who has also been a Vice President). We were also fortunate to recruit some new and young members to the Board, with 40% now being under the age of 35 years. We are most fortunate that the Netzer Mazkir, Lior Kalisse has joined our board as an Ex Officio Member along with the Netzer Shaliach Sefi Shalam. It has been a pleasure working with them. They have joined Sue Silberberg, our other Vice President in forming a sub-committee to look at ARZA Australia’s role in the community going forward. A new member of the board, Alex Knopoff from Adelaide took on the role of Secretary and has done a great job. Our thanks go to her.

As you probably know, ARZA Australia is the Zionist/political arm of the UPJ. At a planning weekend of the UPJ held in Sydney in February 2020, an agreement was made that moving forward, the UPJ, ARZA Australia and the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors (ARC) would work together in mutual co-operation and communication. This was done to ensure that the Australian Progressive Movement as much as possible speaks in unison with one voice in support of Eretz Israel and our Jewish beliefs.

With the World Zionist Congress planned for October 2020, the Australian Progressive Movement hoped to maximize its voice in Israel in support of Pluralism and equality in the Jewish Democratic State. To this end ARZA Australia moved to encourage all Progressive Jews to join as members to ensure the four mandates held by ARZA at the 2015 World Zionist Congress would be maintained.

ARZA successfully participated in the Area Election Committee and maintained the current number of WZC delegates, with a 30% increase in membership numbers making ARZA the largest Zionist organization in Australia. It was disappointing that the congress could not take place in person, but through the hard work of our world body, ARZENU, we were able to participate in the proceedings and a wonderful pre congress program provided by ARZENU. We now look forward to a gathering in Israel in 2021.

Through the tireless efforts of Philip Levy, our retiring male Vice President from Sydney, ARZA now has a comprehensive membership list. This means we can provide a weekly communication to all ARZA members and members of UPJ Congregations.

It is published in the UPJ News and Drash and emailed to ARZA members. It forms the basis of regular posts to the ARZA website, Facebook and Twitter. Statements on key issues such as annexation, normalisation with Arab States, gender equality, equality in Israel for the varying streams of Judaism and other issues are published, often jointly with the UPJ and ARC.

ARZA Australia has now established a sub- committee which is in the process of examining our role in the community going forward. With an increased membership and good relations with Zionist roof bodies, such as the Zionist Federation of Australia, State based Zionist organizations, our world roof body ARZENU, the World Union of Progressive Judaism and the World Zionist Organization, we look forward to broadening programs of interest to our members.

We welcome any suggestions from our members in relation to what you would like us to consider providing and how you view our current communications. Currently our work is only done by volunteers as we decided to put a moratorium on fees until next June because of hardships caused by Covid 19. However we are grateful to our partner, the UPJ for including our weekly communication in the UPJ News and Drash.

Finally, I thank the ARZA Australia Board, our members, the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors of Australia and New Zealand and the Union for Progressive Judaism for your ongoing support, assistance and encouragement in the continued growth of ARZA Australia.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

ARZA President, Helen Shardey