Dear Friends,

Thank you for joining us for the AGM of the Australian Reform Zionist Association – ARZA.  I am particularly pleased to welcome so many representatives of the congregations as well as the WUPJ and the UPJ.


I also offer thanks to the traditional owners of this land – the Nyoongar people.


The past year has been a time of great change and transition for the organisation following the UPJ decision to make ARZA totally independent.


We are grateful for the one-off grant of $15,000 from the UPJ to enable the continuation of the organisation’s administrative functions while other sources of funds to enable ARZA to function effectively in its various roles, both locally and in the international arena are found. This funding ceased at the end of June 2016.


At the last AGM, held in Sydney in November 2015, long-serving and dedicated worker, Barbara Ford, stepped down as President after completing her term and then agreeing to act as Acting President for another year.  Barbara has been, and remains, an outstanding representative of all that Progressive Zionism stands for and we owe her a massive debt of thanks and appreciation.

For a number of reasons, it was mutually agreed to end the previous custom of the President’s of the UPJ and ARZA to attend each other’s Executive Committee meetings.  This has been replaced by regular meetings between the 2 presidents and the Executive Officer of the UPJ, in order to share information and discuss matters of mutual concern. I believe that we should review this situation over the coming weeks and determine how best the 2 organisations can positively and effectively work together.

Further to protracted discussion regarding the proposed amendments to the Constitution, the changes were approved at the last AGM and have been implemented following the approval of the Honorary Solicitor.

In order to maintain the administrative functions and activities of the organisation, for a short time I provided the administrative work for the organisation, in addition to fulfilling my voluntary role as President.

In July 2016, it was a significant boost for the organisation when I was able to step aside and for us to appoint Sandy Hollis to take over the administrative role and share administrative responsibilities with other members of the Executive Committee.

In November 2015, 4 ARZA delegates and 8 deputies attended the World Zionist Congress meetings in Jerusalem. ARZA provided funding to each of the delegates.  However, no other people volunteered to be deputies and, as a result, we enlisted the partners of some of the delegates to be deputies – but with no funding.  I raise this as some people have suggested that we did fund them and that this is a form of nepotism.  I challenge those people to examine all of our financial and other records and to “put up” or “shut up” as they have drawn this lie out from our last AGM to this Gathering.

Regarding the WZC, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of the role that ARZA plays as a member of ARZENU other than to say that as part of the largest coalition in the WZO we were able to ensure the acceptance of a wide range of Resolutions to promote democracy and pluralism in Israel; to combat cronyism and corruption in the National organisations; and to combat discrimination and anti-democratic measures, in this, the Parliament of the Jewish people.

The various ‘backflips’ and other changes in the behaviour and policies of the WZO and the Israeli Government subsequent to the overwhelming approval of these resolutions at Congress is a source of immense frustration.

However, it is also an important reminder that we, and our colleagues in IRAC, the IMPJ, as well as ARZENU and the WUPJ, must maintain our presence and strength in this institution if we are to ever achieve religious pluralism in Israel and the full recognition of Progressive Judaism around the world.

In addition to our vital role in the WZC and, as you heard in the greeting from Danny Lamm, ARZA is an important and respected part of the ZFA.

For understandable reasons the ZFA supports every decision of the Government of Israel. However, we don’t always agree and we must continue in our role of expressing our concern over decisions that the Government makes that are anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian.

Just 2 small examples of this are that we received unanimous approval for a resolution for the ZFA to call on the Government of Israel to implement the Declaration of Independence.  And next week, the ZFA Biennial will consider a resolution put forward by us, for the Government of Israel to implement the promise made by Prime Minister Netanyahu to provide a permanent egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel.


Regarding the WZC, I am pleased to report that ARZA was recently most ably represented by Sandy Hollis at the ARZENU and Va’ad Hapoel meetings in Jerusalem just last week. She, and Barbara Ford, were also at the WOW Rosh Chodesh Service where the participants were attacked and the Police didn’t intervene.

Moving on…

It was pleasing to note the attendance of a number of ARZA representatives at the last AGM, held in Sydney, and to note that since then we were able to recruit additional members to the Executive Committee and thereby ensure representation of every State where our movement has a presence and it was particularly encouraging to have our first ever representative from Queensland, Hila Jacobi – and it is wonderful that Hila has been able to join us for this meeting, and for the conference.

It is my hope that WA will also provide a new representative to follow the wonderful work done by Helen Bryant over many years and, more recently, by Maree Findlay.

Unfortunately, since our last AGM, our Vice President, Caryn Granek has had to take a leave of absence but we hope for her return in the near future – and it is fantastic to have her with us today.

During the year we also reluctantly accepted the resignation of Western Australia representative, Maree Findlay, on health grounds.  We offer our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for her support and assistance, and our very, very best wishes for her return to full health.

In April 2016 we were able to benefit from a visit to Australia by our friend and ally, the Chair of the WZO’s Diaspora Committee, Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman.  As well as promoting ARZA in numerous addresses and forums, one outcome of her visit was an agreement for us to receive high quality educational material from the WZO about Israel and Zionism, as well as about the Holydays and important dates in the Jewish calendar. We have subsequently distributed the material to the UPJ congregations and hope that they will integrate it into their own educational programs.

Regarding membership of ARZA, in years preceding the potential WZC elections many congregations charged different annual subscriptions on our behalf.  However, in the pre-election membership drive we uniformly reduced it to $10 per person in order to maximise the number of members i.e. people eligible to vote.

This was incredibly successful and we ended up with more than double the number of members of the next group, Mizrachi.  However, in order to retain consistency and to overcome the significant drop in the budget that resulted from the separation from the UPJ, we subsequently asked all congregations to increase the membership subscription to $18 for all full fee-paying adults, excluding Netzer members and concession members.  We are grateful that all but one of the leading congregations has instituted this and we are hopeful that all will implement in their coming financial year.

Despite our drop in income, and our reluctance to compete with our congregations and the Progressive Trust for funds and donations, we have maintained our financial support for the Jewish Identity program run by Netzer Olami for all Shnat participants and we have also provided support for special programs run by Netzer Australia as well as grants to enable people to attend this conference.

Further, thanks to the generosity of Sandy Hollis, who is doing the work of Administrator on a voluntary basis, we have been able to create a new position of Coordinator of Social Media and Community Presence for ARZA.  We created this part-time position in discussion with the leadership of Netzer, and we do hope that we will be able to appoint a Netzer boger to the position commencing early in 2017.

During the past year we have developed the ARZA website as a central source of information and news relating to Israel, World Jewry and particularly the fight for religious pluralism.  During the year our social media reach was extended via the creation and maintenance of the ARZA Australia Facebook page.  The Facebook page seeks to promote positive stories about Israeli innovation and humanitarian activities, as well as sharing stories from Israel and around the world that should be of interest to every Progressive Jew.

We really encourage every Rabbi, President and congregation to “Like” the ARZA Australia Facebook page and receive regular updates on key issues.

Other activities during this year have included:

•Articles sent to every congregation for their newsletter;

•Daily update of ARZA’s Facebook page;

•Regular update of the ARZA website; &

•Involvement in the ZFA.

As part of a discussion about how Progressive Jews around the world can maximise their influence in matters of pluralism and inclusion in Israel, discussions with the President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, has resulted in him offering his personal and organisational support for our work over the coming months, and even the possibility of him visiting us sometime in the not-too-distant future.

As we will hear, our Honorary Treasurer, Philip Levy, describes the financial situation as “satisfactory” for the maintenance of the current level of activity by ARZA Australia.

However, if we are to make some real impact on the Progressive community, and especially its knowledge of key issues in Israel and the importance of a strong presence in the WZC, we will have to seek additional funds and resources.  It continues to be our hope that we will be able to work closely with the UPJ, and especially with the larger congregations, to share resources and bring some outstanding speakers and scholars-in-residence during the coming year, including Anat Hoffman.

I offer a massive “thank you” to my predecessor, Barbara, for her continuing advice and support.  I thank the Honorary Officers, Caryn Granek & Sandy Hollis (Vice Presidents of Victoria and NSW respectively); Philip Levy (Honorary Treasurer); and Adam Hofbauer (Honorary Secretary) for their wisdom and support.

I also offer my heartfelt appreciation to the other members of the Executive Committee for the donation of time, knowledge and enthusiasm that they bring to this vitally important organisation, including Eric McDonald (ACT); Hila Jacobi (Queensland); Maree Findlay (Western Australia); & Lesley Rosenthal (South Australia) as well as the fantastic Head of Netzer Australia, Shira Appelboom and our wonderful Shlichim Uri Levin (Victoria) and Dudu Gotleib (NSW).

I also thank every person who is an ARZA member as they provide us with the sole means to pursue our vital work.

In conclusion – to the Rabbonim and the he leaders of the UPJ congregations – I ask you to consider the following:

•Members – we can only help to “keep the bastards honest” – both here and in Israel – from a position of strength.  We need your help to make sure that every member of your congregation over the age of 18 is a member of ARZA and that the default position of your congregation is that, unless they consciously “opt out”, they will be a paid member of ARZA.

•ARZA Shabbat – plan a Shabbat where one of our senior representatives can address your congregation;

•Use and acknowledge the educational material that we distribute from the Jewish Agency and WZO;

•Consider sharing Scholar-in-residence visits with us – including the potential visit by Anat Hoffman in 2017;

•Appoint an ARZA liaison person to ensure that the information your members receive comes from you rather than “somebody” in Sydney or Melbourne.

•Also, please consider recruiting people for our Executive committee. We would be delighted to have a representative from each congregation.

Finally, please consider how you can provide either financial assistance or “help in kind” to support the work of ARZA.  

We do not want to undertake an independent fundraising program because we don’t want to compete with the UIA Progressive Trust or the fundraising efforts of each congregation!

I am particularly pleased to be able to report that the Moetzah has agreed to provide a representative to join the Executive as an ex oficio member.

With their support; plus the continued enthusiasm of the current members of the Committee, together with some increased support from the UPJ congregations, it is my hope and belief that we can continue to grow in number and in the influence that we bring to the WZC; to the Zionist Federation of Australia; and in making Progressive Judaism stronger.

Thank you