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The Arava Australia Partnership farewells Chair Tamara Bruce

Last week, the Arava Australia Partnership farewelled its former Chair, Tamara Bruce in an intimate gathering at Spot On Ripponlea in Melbourne. Tamara has been an integral part of the committee for almost 18 years and has served at its helm for the last five. Her farewell, which had to be delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis was one of the first face-to-face community events for the AAP, and indeed the ZFA as a whole, in almost a year.

The event was well-attended by leaders of the Jewish community and volunteers and friends of the AAP. The heartfelt speeches and the warm vibe that enveloped the room is a testament to the strength of the AAP and the value of people-to-people activities. Stacy Hayman, AAP co-ordinator summed this up when she said “I am not going to say goodbye to you tonight as everyone here who is part of our partnership family understands that no one ever leaves the partnership as it becomes an integral part of your personal story and the Arava will always be your home away from home.”

Addressing the crowd, Tamara credited the achievements of the partnership to the collaboration and relationships between professionals and volunteers on both sides, from the team at the ZFA to those at the Central Arava Regional Council. Reflecting on her time she said, “It has been a most rewarding journey and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to express my love for Israel and commitment to the Jewish people in such a tangible and practical way, and to be able to call the Arava my home in Israel.”

Tamara also thanked Jack Smorgon AO for the support from the Jack and Robert Smorgon Families Foundation for their contribution and support of the partnership over the years. Addressing Jack directly she said, “Jack, our long bus and taxi rides together in Israel gave us the opportunity to talk about so many aspects of our lives. Your great love for Israel… has guided the important contributions you have made as a highly respected leader in the Jewish world.”

The partnership is so much more than just committees and meetings, and through its involvement in a diverse range of projects in tourism, health, education, business and the arts, the Arava has grown its scope of local endeavours as well as growing its tangible relationship with the Australian Jewish community. As ZFA CEO and long time partnership committee member Ginette Searle said: “At the core of the partnership is people to people engagement – the development of personal relationships that are themselves emblematic of the connections between Israel and the diaspora…., our communities have forged bonds that go beyond collegiality and cooperation –transcending to friendship.”

The event was concluded by incoming Chair Karen Winter, who referred to the AAP’s key priorities, including programs to connect Jewish leaders, Jewish student collaborative science projects, the Arava International Film Festival, shared creative, cultural and educational mifgashim.  But she summed up the essence of the AAP beautifully when she declared, “Tamara, your voice will always remind me that building the small bridges, the personal connections, are the key –  Kol haolam kulo, gesher tzar me’od (all of the world is a very narrow bridge).”

The AAP is part of the Partnership 2Gether(P2G) program of the Jewish Agency and the Zionist Federation of Australia that promotes people to people relationships through cultural, social and educational programs. P2G is part of a global network of over 45 Partnerships that aims to be the central network for the promotion of connection between Jewish communities and developing Jewish Peoplehood.

For more details about the meaningful volunteering opportunities with the AAP please email Stacy Hayman or Karen Winter – arava@zfa.com.au