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Minutes of the 2019 Plenary Conference

25 August 2019
Central Synagogue, Sydney NSW Australia

Jeremy Leibler welcomed everyone to the 2019 Plenary Conference and acknowledged the traditional owners of country

Jeremy commended AZYC and AUJS for taking the initiative to put forward the resolution at last ZFA executive meeting that ZFA commence major events with a welcome to country.

Jeremy thanked the professional staff of the ZFA for their service to the organisation and the Australian Jewish and Zionist community. He acknowledged Shayndle Loewy, Gili Gafin, Emily Gian, Dana Cohen, Becky Kiper-Fox, Sarit Braver, Sebastian Inwentarz, Hallely Kimchi, Stacy Hayman, Anna Maylis, Shlomit Weidenfeld, Melanie Perch, Jason Fraenkel and Moriah Ben-David for all their hard work over the past year. He particularly thanked CEO Ginette Searle – acknowledging Ginette’s outstanding dedication and capability without which the ZFA would not be able to achieve what it has.

Jeremy welcomed the shlichim and thanked them for their work.

Jeremy personally acknowledged support of the Office Bearers – particularly the Presidents of the State Zionist Councils and Treasurer Ben Simon.

Jeremy welcomed Plenary Keynote Speaker, Professor Gil Troy.

Year in Review presentation

A visual presentation celebrating the 2019 activities of the ZFA was shown to the conference.

Treasurer’s Report

Treasurer Ben Simon presented the summary of the ZFA financial position to the conference. He noted that copies of the audited accounts are available on request. The budget in development for 2020 will allocate resources in line with the new strategic plan.

Ben thanked Ginette Searle and CFO Gili Gafin for their continuous work on the ZFA finances.

President’s Report

Jeremy Leibler summarised the ZFA’s activities and highlights from the year so far. In particular he noted:

  • ZFA has developed a new strategic plan based on the three pillars of representation, advocacy and connection.
  • A revised mission statement has been endorsed, i.e.: “As the Australian Zionist representative roof body, the ZFA is committed to advocating for the State of Israel on behalf of the Jewish community in Australia and fostering a deep connection between Australia and Israel.”
  • ZFA activities such as Israel Programs – Masa and BRI, Habayit, Arava Australia Partnership, Advocacy and Diller Teen Fellows have continued to operate professionally and successfully.
  • Thanks to the ongoing generosity of Gandel Philanthropy and, more recently, the Alter Family Foundation, we will send a total of nine Birthright buses next year. Combined with Masa, that amounts to over 600 young adults to Israel every year. Jeremy acknowledged Gandel Philanthropy and the Alter Family for their support.
  • Together with Embassy of Israel, the ZFA is taking a high profile delegation of politicians to Israel in October. The following guests are confirmed:
    • Prime Minister John Howard OM AC
    • Wayne Swan
    • Alexander Downer AC
    • Dr Brendan Nelson AO
    • Stephen Conroy
  • The ZFA will be presenting the Jerusalem Prize to current PM, the Hon Scott Morrison MP in November. The event will take place in Sydney and the prize is presented together with the World Zionist Organisation, Department of Diaspora Activities and Zionist Council of NSW.

The Hon Dave Sharma MP – Member for Wentworth

The Hon Dave Sharma MP addressed the conference and reflected on his experiences living in Israel as Ambassador of Australia, the challenges Israel faces today both internal and external and the media’s portrayal of Israel.

Professor Gil Troy – The Zionist Ideas

Gil Troy addressed the conference in a fascinating keynote address covering Zionist thought, based on his book “the Zionist Ideas”. He discussed the complexities and diversity of the Jewish world, Jewish and Zionist identity, the future of the diaspora/Israel relationship and broadening the Zionist Tent.

Panel Discussion: Jewish Community Engagement – the Impact of Israel Experiences


  • Professor Gil Troy
  • Rachel Swartz, Y2I
  • Yair Miller, CEO UIA
  • Alain Hasson, CEO JCA
  • Noa Shaul, Chairperson, AZYC

Moderator: Jeremy Leibler

The panellists discussed a wide variety of Israel Program related topics such as:

  • Allocation of resources in the community and the differences between Victoria and NSW/ACT (JCA Model).
  • Impact of high school Israel Programs on the community, schools and individuals.
  • Differences in experiences on high school programs and gap year programs.
  • Drop in gap year numbers.
  • Funding Israel Programs vs investing in local Jewish Day Schools and assisting students with tuition.
  • Post Israel Program Engagement.
  • Over-saturation of Israel Programs.

His Excellency, Mark Sofer, Ambassador of Israel to Australia

H.E. Mark Sofer addressed the conference and spoke about the importance of ZFA and their work in the Australian Jewish Community, the increasing challenges and issues that Israel and the Middle East are facing and the Israel/Australia relationship.

Acknowledged and thanked Jeremy Leibler, Ginette Searle and the Zionist Federation of Australia for their support and assistance.

Acknowledgement of Harry Triguboff AO

ZFA acknowledged the generous support of Harry Triguboff AO for Russian-speaking Jewish activities in NSW. Mr Triguboff’s generosity has allowed the ZFA to run activities, events and continue the employment of the ZFA’s Russian-speaking Jewish Community Coordinator Anna Maylis. Jeremy Leibler paid tribute to and thanked Harry for his ongoing support.

Gil Hovav – Israeli TV chef, social commentator, great grandson of Eliezer Ben Yehuda

Gil Hovav addressed the conference and spoke about the life of his great grandfather Eliezer Ben Yehuda and the evolution / revival of the modern language of Hebrew.

Panel Discussion: The state of the states – challenges and opportunities in Zionist engagement in Australian Jewish communities


  • Richard Balkin, Zionist Council of NSW
  • Sharene Hambur, Zionism Victoria
  • Jeff Lin, State Zionist Council of WA
  • Ehud Hauben, State Zionist Council of SA
  • Jason Steinberg, State Zionist Council of QLD

Moderator: Philip Chester

The panellists discussed the following:

  • Gen 17 survey results – decreasing percentage of younger people identifying as Zionist.
  • Smaller communities impacted by lack of resources (example in Adelaide – closure of the Jewish school).
  • Opportunities to unify smaller communities together (example in Queensland – Gold Coast, Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville all coming together for events).
  • Challenge of retaining younger generation in small communities – many of them move away. Many who participate in Israel Programs end up moving when they return. Loss of future community leaders.
  • Challenge of bringing something unique and different to the community – speakers, events etc and widening the audience.
  • Challenge of engaging young adults post youth movement.
  • Challenge of funding for smaller states.
  • ZFA assisting smaller communities with speakers and events.

Zionist Salon – Professor Gil Troy – facilitated, interactive session

Discussions were facilitated by Professor Gil Troy who posed questions and topics relating to Judaism – religion and peoplehood, Israel, Zionism and Jewish Communities around the world. This session was open to the public.