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ZFA Plenary Conference 2013

A day of dialogue, discourse and reflection

On Sunday 11 August the Zionist Federation of Australia held its Plenary Conference at NCJWA House in Sydney.

Over one hundred people representing affiliates, community leaders, Zionist youth and student leaders and professionals converged to discuss the developments and direction of the Australian Zionist movement.

ZFA President Philip Chester said “The Zionist movement is at the heart of everything important happening in this community”. Chester discussed several of the ZFA activities including the establishment of Hayabit Home for Hebrew Language and Culture, the success of a dedicated Russian speaking shlicha, the introduction of Israel Programs follow up coordinators and the partnership with Telfed to provide enhanced services for Australian olim.

The keynote address was given by Dr Ruth Calderon, member of Knesset and a secular Talmudic scholar. Calderon discussed “The Big Synagogue called Eretz Yisrael” and the connection of all Jews around the world to a common culture and Jewish identity.

“Judaism is a religion and Judaism is a nationality and a culture”, said Calderon. She also provided a unique perspective on a range of issues including the connection between social protests and Jewish renewal, civil unions and Haredim completing national, army or community service.

Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, Rabbi of Ohel Ari Congregation in Ra’annana participated with Dr Calderon in a panel session on religion and state. Rabbi Neuwirth said: “There is an opportunity to create dialogue amongst all denominations in Israel based on a common language of Judaism.”

Both Dr Calderon and Rabbi Neuwirth agreed that “Judaism belongs to everyone”.

A vibrant interactive discussion about synergies, relationships and challenges of the ZFA and its affiliates was presented by Gilla Liberman, President, WIZO Australia; Steve Denenberg, Executive Director, Union of Progressive Judaism; and Sam Tatarka, President, Zionist Council of Victoria.

Harold Finger, National Chairman of UIA, examined the challenge of reengaging young members of the community. “We must ask ourselves, what can we do to reinvest Israel in the hearts and minds of our children?”

His Excellency Ambassador Yuval Rotem provided an interesting briefing on the current Middle East situation for the last time before completing his outstanding term as Israel’s Ambassador to Australia.

A formal farewell hosted by a number of communal organisations was held for Ambassador Yuval and Miri Rotem.