President:                                  Steve Denenberg

Immediate Past President:        Barbara Ford

Vice President:                          Caryn Granek (Victoria)

Vice President:                          Sandy Hollis (NSW)

Honorary Secretary:                  Eric McDonald (ACT)

Honorary Treasurer:                 Philip Levy (NSW)

Committee members:

Lesley Rosenthal (South Australia)

Hila Jacobi (Queensland)

Dudu Gotleib (NSW Community Shaliach)
Uri Levin (Victoria Community Shaliach)
Joel McCarroll (Mazkir, Netzer Australia)

Rabbi Adi Cohen (Moetzah representative)

Rabbi David Kunin (Moetzah representative)

Honorary Solicitor:

Norbert Schweizer, (Schweizer Kobras Pty. Ltd)


ARZA Australia has three “core” activities as the Political Zionist arm of the Progressive movement in Australia.  The first is as Australia’s Progressive representatives in the World Zionist Congress (WZC); the second our representation in the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA); and the third is to promote and inform Progressive congregations in Australia about relevant events and activities in Israel, particularly with regard to religious pluralism and equality. Despite the fact that the time between World Zionist Congress (WZC) gatherings is usually a quiet period, the past year has been a time of some activity for ARZA Australia.

One of the key changes has been our move to total reliance on the work of volunteers with regard to the administration and operation of the organisation.  This has meant that we have not had to undertake fundraising to provide funds for salaries or administration and have relied totally on the modest membership subscriptions that members pay as part of their Synagogue affiliation.  While this change has not affected our influence and work in the WZC or the ZFA, it has had an impact within the congregations.

It has also meant that our ability to undertake additional activities and promotions has been restricted, particularly within the UPJ affiliated congregations.  Consequently, the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome has occurred, resulting in a significant reduction in membership, particularly in congregations which moved ARZA membership from an “opt out” to an “opt in” payment system within their subscription renewal.  Most particularly, ARZA membership in the key congregation of Temple Beth Israel, Melbourne, has reduced by 75% over the past year due to an administrative concern.  I am pleased to report that we are working with the leadership of TBI in order to address this worrying drop in numbers and revenue.  As you will understand, the impact of such events is a major concern that we hope the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) and its member organisations will help us address.

However, we have also been advised that from next year Temple David, Perth, will no longer collect any funds for ARZA, relying on individuals to join directly. This will almost undoubtedly also result in a significant drop in membership numbers and fees.

These actions place ARZA with the choice of virtually ceasing to operate or starting to raise funds and resources from the same people who are the members of the congregations that supposedly share the same goals and values as ARZA.  If the congregations really cannot see the benefit in having the representation and activism described in this report it is quite clear that the future of Progressive Zionism in Australia is bleak.

I take this opportunity to ask the Presidents and Board members of each congregation to speak with me or another ARZA representative in order to discuss the situation and consider how we can turn this into a mutually supportive and beneficial situation.

In addition to not undertaking independent fundraising during the year ARZA has provided support to the UPJ and the UIA Progressive Trust and we are delighted that the most recent campaign resulted in an increased amount being sent via the World Union for Progressive Judaism to assist and support the work of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC).  The guest speakers, Professors Tzvia & Rafi Walden, were inspirational and personify all that ARZA believes in and works for.

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 we are part of the largest coalition there and we continue to succeed with issues such as the acceptance of a wide range of Resolutions to promote democracy and pluralism in Israel; to combat cronyism and corruption in the National organisations in Israel; and to combat discrimination and anti-democratic measures within the WZO, which is 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 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 and increase 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.

It is a scary, but real, fear that if we lose these battles in the WZC it will only be a short time before Reform / Progressive Jews, particularly in America, withdraw their support for Israel and for Progressive Judaism locally. As such, we emphasise the need for each Reform or Progressive congregation to work closely with the UPJ and ARZA and encourage their members to support this important work.

Locally, for understandable and historic reasons, the Zionist Federation of Australia supports virtually every decision of the Government of Israel. However, ARZA often doesn’t agree with these decisions and when this does occur we take the opportunity to express our concern over decisions that the Government makes that are anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian.

Our initial approach is always to inform the ZFA of these issues and to seek their support, having them speak out on these issues on behalf of the entire community.  In this regard I pay tribute to former President, Philip Chester and current President, Danny Lamm.  On a personal level they may not agree with the views held by Progressive Jews but during my involvement in the ZFA they have always supported and promoted our stance on key issues, particularly when the issues relate to democracy, equality and the fulfillment of the Declaration of Independence.

During this time it was agreed that the Presidents of the UPJ and ARZA would not take up the ex oficio position on the Board of the other organisation.  While reducing the number of meetings to attend, and the irregular meetings between the Presidents have been amiable and positive, I believe that this is reducing the important need for greater communication and coordination between the organisations, and should be considered by the incoming Boards of both organisations.

I take this opportunity to repeat our previous requests to the UPJ leadership and the Moetzah:

  • Members – we can only “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 a potential visit by a key person during 2018;
  • 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 “help in kind” by encouraging people to volunteer and support the work of ARZA.

With such support, plus the continued enthusiasm of the current members of the Committee, together with some increased support from the UPJ congregations, it is my 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.

At this time I offer thanks to the Honorary Officers of ARZA.  Our Immediate Past President, Barbara Simon, is now providing tremendous administrative support on a voluntary basis, including managing a revamp of the website, for which we are most grateful.  I offer special thanks to our Honorary Treasurer, Philip Levy who has done a magnificent job over a number of years, and has always ensured that our finances kept in good order.  In accordance with our new Constitution Philip is completing his term as Honorary Treasurer and I thank him wholeheartedly for all that he has done.

I also offer my appreciation to Vice-President (NSW) Sandy Hollis who, due to other pressures, has decided not to re-nominate to the Executive. Thanks to each of you for your support and enthusiasm.

I am delighted to report that our other Honorary Officers, Vice-President (Victoria), Caryn Granek and Honorary Secretary, Eric McDonald remain in position and I thank them for their continuing support.

Also to the other members of the Executive Committee for their gift of time, knowledge and enthusiasm to this vitally important organisation, including Hila Jacobi (Queensland); Lesley Rosenthal (South Australia) as well as the fantastic Mazkir of Netzer Australia, Joel McCarroll, and our wonderful Shlichim Uri Levin (Victoria) and Dudu Gotleib (NSW).  We offer great thanks to Netzer Victoria’s Shaliach, Uri Levin, who has completed an outstanding shlichut.  Last year we welcomed Rabbis Adi Cohen and David Kunin as representatives of the Moetzah and we strongly hope that we will benefit from their involvement and wisdom over the coming weeks and months.

I truly thank each and every person who is an ARZA member as they provide us with the sole means to pursue our vital work. 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;
  • Attendance at the WUPJ’s Connections conference in Israel in April;
  • Active participation in the ARZENU Executive Board, including heading the Advocacy Committee and as a member of the Nominations Committee; &
  • A complete overhaul of the ARZA website.

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/or other resources to achieve our goals.  It continues to be our hope that we will be able to work closer with the UPJ, and especially with the larger congregations, in order to share resources and to bring outstanding speakers and scholars-in-residence during the coming year.

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.

Steve Denenberg




This report covers the financial year 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017. The year ended with a surplus of $15,778, which was well over the break-even budget. The main contributor to the surplus was that we budgeted $15,000 to employ an administrator but in fact nearly all our administration ended up being done on a voluntary basis, mainly by Barbara Simon.

A significant decision in 2017 was to raise membership fees. Previously set at $10 per person, we felt that an increase to $18 per person per year would have little effect on our members, but would have a big effect on our income. It did, with membership fee income rising to $35,259 compared with $19,934 the previous year. This increase also reflects a very active effort to recover fees paid in 2016 but not yet sent on to ARZA from the synagogues.

The improved fee result, however, was still below our budget due to a drop of about 70% in ARZA members from TBI in Melbourne. The President has commented in his report how important it is that we have the full support of all synagogues in collecting fees. We do not have the resources to bill members directly, and this would be an expensive and unnecessary function to add to our administration.  It could well also be detrimental as many may feel that they are being asked for money by “yet another” organisation.

Expenses for the year were mainly on or below budget. Apart from administration, we saved money on representation at the WUPJ in Jerusalem by sending only 2 delegates against our budget of 3.

Our grants were below budget. Netzer Olami was, as normal, our biggest grant recipient. We do have capacity for more applications to support activities in line with our ARZA objectives.

Setting up and running the data base, website and on-line communication systems is turning out to be a higher on-going expense that we anticipated but these are essential to our administration and communication with our members. It will continue to be one of our major running costs at around $4,500 per year.

Our financial administration is outsourced to a bookkeeping firm and is efficient and economical and costs us only $670 per year.  For the future we should not have to rely on the goodwill of committee members for our administration and we may well have to employ someone on a part time basis, with particular emphasis on a regular members’ newsletter.

The computer system has now been considerably upgraded to make this possible. We are indebted to Barbara Simon for her huge efforts on this project.

Overall, we are in a sound financial position and able to plan some ambitious activities for 2018.

I would also like to thank Mr. David Robinson for his ongoing support in reviewing our accounts in lieu of an audit.

Philip Levy

Honorary Treasurer