Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Australian Reform Zionist Association Inc. (ARZA) held at 3:30 p.m. on Friday 8 November 2019 at the Ibis Hotel, Adelaide, South Australia.
- Attendance: List attached
- Apologies: S. Kaminsky; P. Levy; B. Simon; C. Granek
- Adoption of the minutes of the AGM held on Thursday 15 November 2018. Moved, N. Kochen, Seconded D. Knoll. Approved.
- Matters arising: None.
- President’s Report: S. Denenberg reported the following:
“Good afternoon. Special welcome to Andrew Keene and members of the current ARZA Executive, including Joanne, Helen, Tony, Nancye, Sefi and David. Special thanks to Andrew for the wonderful presentation that explains the complexities and importance of the WZC and the need to support ARZA. Although I have been a member of ARZA since 1986, and a supporter during my time as CEO of Emanuel Synagogue, it was only when I accepted the role of Executive Director of the UPJ that I, unknowingly, accepted the role of Administrator of ARZA – and the UIA Progressive Trust.
A little odd I know. However, as my belief in the importance of both these organisations was strong I happily accepted both roles and even now I maintain my support for the work of both organisations and encourage everyone to support them. Following my departure from the UPJ and after the Strategic Plan that removed ARZA from the UPJ, I was happy to continue to work for the organisation in a voluntary capacity and, in particular, to provide support to then President, Barbara Simon. I take this opportunity to once again pay tribute to her, especially for the many achievements that occurred under her leadership. One of them was to introduce limited term of office for office holders, a most important development for the organisation. However, at the end of her term Barbara remained in place as we could not find a replacement. Eventually I agreed to take on the role of President while she continued to provide endless support as Immediate Past President. As I will now take on that role – she can finally let out a massive sigh of relief and, hopefully reflect on her contribution with great satisfaction.
The importance of the work of ARZA was made very clear just this past week when our delegation of 3 – including Helen Shardey, Cassandra Barrett and me – participated in a meeting of the Va’ad Hapoel (Working Party) of the Executive Committee of the World Zionist Congress in Beer Sheva and a ARZENU Shabbaton in Jerusalem. Overall, it was a most successful event and a reminder of how much we can and do achieve as part of an international movement. This is a really important matter as we now prepare for the elections leading to the World Zionist Congress to be held in October next year. It also led me to reflect on the overall impact of my time as President of ARZA Australia.
It has to be said that the time for me in this role has not been either easy or necessarily pleasant, even though we have achieved much and are truly respected and valued within the World Zionist Congress, in ARZENU, and within the Zionist Federation of Australia. In fact, it was this experience that made me realise that during my term of leadership of ARZA this positive feeling has been similar within every organisation I worked with – bar one. Unfortunately, that one organisation was the UPJ. However, rather than dwell on the reasons for that situation or to dwell on the special challenges that this presented I want to focus on and celebrate the future and to express my belief that the change in leadership in both organisations will completely alter this situation and the relationship between the two.
It is my hope that there will be an immediate return to the President of ARZA being an active and present member of the UPJ Executive, and visa versa. It is my firm belief that this coordination is essential for the creation and development of a united Progressive movement that can be particularly effective in advocating for a secure and inclusive Israel; in strengthening and growing a strong and united Progressive movement in Australia; in supporting the vital work of Netzer, both here and in Israel; in providing effective education about Israel and Zionism; in sending a large and strong delegation to the World Zionist Congress; and in providing an articulate and effective Progressive voice within the Zionist Federation of Australia.
It was wonderful to be able to represent our country and our community and to feel the genuine affection of our colleagues and the grudging respect of our opponents. During the Va’ad Hapoel voting process we had some significant victories, including a reaffirmation of the central role of the Declaration of Independence in all Zionist activities, and especially its insistence on equality of conscience, religion, language, education and culture. [This is particularly relevant as our opponents sought to focus on the new Nations Law, which excludes many minority groups.] We also succeeded in calling on the Government of Israel to remove barriers to Aliyah, including non-Orthodox conversion.
I take this opportunity to thank all those who have helped, supported and worked with me over my 12 years of involvement with ARZA, and particularly my predecessor, Barbara Simon and former Treasurer Philip Levy – to da. And also to those here, in Israel, and around the world with whom I have worked closely in order to achieve our shared goal of an inclusive and democratic State of Israel living in peace and security with its neighbours.
The coming months will be a time of great challenge and excitement for ARZA, both locally and with regard to the World Zionist Congress. Our special guest Andrew Keene explained the importance of this in greater depth when he addressed you.
However, I just want to emphasise the importance of us maximising the strength of our organisation by recruiting as many potential voters as possible, in order to retain the current position of our global body, ARZENU, as a member of the strongest faction in the WZC, and to increase our ability to support social justice and religious pluralism in Israel. I believe that with the support of you, the leadership and the Rabbonim, the incoming leadership of ARZA can achieve even greater successes. I offer them my total endorsement, support and wishes for hatzlacha raba – great successes. Thank you”
- Treasurer’s Report. T. Leverton reported the following:
This report covers the financial year 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019. I was honoured to be elected as ARZA’s Honorary Treasurer at the Annual General Meeting on 15 November 2018, and the necessary account management changes were effected in March 2019.
ARZA Australia is a not-for-profit organisation, affiliated to the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ), 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 is looking 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 World Zionist Organisation, whose platform is the Jerusalem Program ( http://www.wzo.org.il/The-Jerusalem-Program ), is dedicated to instilling the centrality of Israel, and Jerusalem its capital, deep within Jewish consciousness, encouraging the return to Zion, fashioning an exemplary society in the Jewish state, expanding Zionist education including Hebrew language instruction, settling the land and combating antisemitism.
Our membership levels affect our influence in determining the relative size of ARZA’s voting power within our World Zionist Union – ARZENU – and the Union’s influence at the Zionist Congress. The overall structure of ARZA’s finances is simple. Each member pays an annual membership fee of $18 a year. ARZA survives almost solely on its income from membership subscriptions. That’s why our relationship with the Union for Progressive Judaism, and the goodwill of UPJ congregations, is so important both to our continuity and also to the level of influence Progressive Zionism has at each Zionist Congress.
“The World Zionist Congress is the supreme ideological and policy-making body of the World Zionist Organization. It convenes once every five years in Jerusalem and brings together over 2,000 Zionist activists from around the world (750 delegates and twice as many alternates). This gathering represents the entire political and religious spectrum of the Zionist movement.”
The 38th Congress is expected to be held in October 2020. Our income is used mainly to fund our core activity, to represent the Australian Progressive Zionist view at the Zionist Congress, including at the Va’ad Hapoel (World Zionist Organisation General Council), which are held each year in Israel Our representative/s must attend in person, and this becomes a significant annual cost.
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 this co-operation with the 10 synagogues who support us in this way.
When Congregations send out their membership renewal invoices we ask that there be two opportunities to encourage support for ARZA. The first is by having an “opt-out” provision in congregational membership subscription invoices for the payment of ARZA annual subscriptions ($18 for an individual, $36 for a family). The second is to have the following paragraph, or similar, added to the congregation’s communication to members:
“This Congregation supports the work of ARZA, the Australian Reform Zionist Association, and encourages you to join, or renew your annual membership with ARZA. It is an affiliate of the Union for Progressive Judaism and works at the international level to promote and encourage Progressive Jewish values and ideals at the World Zionist Organisation.
For more information about ARZA, please click the link to it here: http://arza.org.au/ . For information about the World Zionist Organisation, please click the link to it here: http://www.wzo.org.il/ .”
STATEMENT OF FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE FOR THE YEAR ENDED 30 JUNE 2019
The Statement of Financial Performance for the year ended 30 June 2019 is available on the ARZA website and in hard copy at this AGM. It shows a surplus for the year of $6,717 against a deficit of $4,856 for the year to 30 June 2018. This improvement came about primarily because of an increase in income of around $10,000 from higher than expected affiliation fees received.
Last year’s Treasurer’s Report noted:
“… ARZA’s fee income is entirely dependent on the enthusiasm and support of the synagogues. This has varied widely over the years. From a peak of nearly $50,000 11 years ago in 2007, we reached a trough of $17,500 in 2018. At this rate ARZA will not be able to function for many more years. We need a stable income of around $35,000 to achieve our goals.”
Whilst we have not yet reached that income goal, the performance these past 12 months has significantly improved, thanks to supportive publicity through UPJ, continued advertising and more regular communication with UPJ congregations. Calendar 2019 saw a re-energising of interest in ARZA, and indications are this heightened interest is continuing into the 2019/20 financial year. This is very encouraging, especially with the Zionist Congress elections coming up in 2020.
The importance of our membership is not primarily financial. Our membership numbers directly give us our voting strength when matters are debated at the World Zionist Congress. Until recently, we have had significantly more members than other organisations, and hence a strong voice backed by our numbers. If our numbers fall, our influence falls accordingly. Currently our voting rights are based on a membership of around 4,000, the number when voting rights were last allocated. But at present, a fee income of $30,000 Indicates around 1,700 financial members. Our email list of 1,400 reveals perhaps 2,000 people (many emails go to one address where there are probably two adults) and we are building a Facebook following of around 200, and a smaller number on Instagram.
It should be possible to continue to rebuild membership numbers, and this will be a priority for the incoming committee. The active support of the synagogues from the bimah, their newsletters and their membership invoicing systems are vital, as is the ongoing support from the UPJ and its Executive.
Our two largest expense items over the year were wages and grants.
Until 3 years ago, ARZA was administered as part of the UPJ, and office running costs were absorbed by their small and very efficient paid staff. Following a strategic review by the UPJ it was decided that ARZA should run its own affairs. During the year we continued to employ Bec Szabo for one day a week for most of the year to set up more effective communications with our members and the wider community. Bec worked on website review, advertising, membership database management and associated support services. We are grateful to Bec for achieving so much and providing the President and Executive with this support.
Our next most significant cost is to support the Progressive Jewish Youth movement. During the year we provided grants for Netzer Olami ($5,000) and Netzer NSW ($2,000) – a total of $7,000. Whilst this was less than the total spent in 2018, it reflected the Executive’s desire to exercise caution, having regard for the previous year’s overall results.
We have administrative costs, including updating, operating and protecting our web site and email system, and this year they came in at under $2,000. A similar sum was spent on the reimbursement of travel and conference attendance expenses. We outsource bookkeeping at the modest cost of $550 a year.
Our accounts are not audited as it is not mandatory at our size, but we have been fortunate to again obtain the services of former UPJ President and Treasurer David Robinson, to conduct an independent review. It is of significant help to us. His Audit Report is attached to these documents. This is David’s last year as Independent Reviewer and I take this opportunity to record my sincere thanks and appreciation to him for his generosity over a number of years. His technical support, sound advice and hours of pro-bono work are deeply appreciated.
ARZA will be looking for an Independent Reviewer in the coming year. We would be most grateful for any expressions of interest from suitably qualified and experienced persons within the UPJ’s Progressive Jewish community. I also take this opportunity to express my thanks to Philip Levy, who stepped down from the role of Treasurer, a position he held for the previous five years. I am indebted to Philip for his support, advice and guidance in handing over the administration of ARZA’s accounts, as well as his ready willingness to advise and assist where needed on an ongoing basis.”
“That the Treasurer’s Report be received and the Financial Statement be approved.” Moved: T. Leverton, Seconded: B. Samuel.
- Appointment of Honorary Solicitors: S. Denenberg sought approval to seek the reappointment of Norbert Schweizer of Schweizer Kobras as Honorary Solicitor. Approved.
- Election of members to the Executive Committee: S. Denenberg reported that in accordance with the Constitution all positions, excluding the Hon. Treasurer as he has served 1 year of a 2 year term, are vacant. As only one nomination has been received for each position the following were appointed:
President – Helen Shardey.
Vice Presidents – Sue Silverberg (Vic); Philip Levy (NSW).
Immediate Past President – Steve Denenberg.
Hon. Treasurer – Tony Leverton.
Hon. Secretary – Alex Knopoff.
Ex oficio members:
Mazkir and Shaliach of Netzer Australia.
David Kunin (Moetzah representative).
- Special Business:
President Helen Shardey spoke of the recent visit to Israel and called on all members of the UPJ to support ARZA Australia. She offered thanks to Steve for his 12 years of service to ARZA and for the friendship and support he offered during the visit to Israel. She presented him with a Havdallah set as thanks from ARZA and the UPJ.
There being no further business the meeting concluded at 4:00p.m.