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report from ncjwa australia. may 2013

2013 marks the 90th year since Dr Fanny Reading founded the Council of Jewish Women in Sydney. It expanded to become a national body, National Council of Jewish Women of Australia in 1929, promoting social justice, the advancement of women and community service involvement in the Jewish and wider communities. 

National Council of Jewish Women of Australia observes several special dates around its Sections each year, specifically Tu B’shvat in January and Council Shabbat  on  Shabbat Zachor, preceding Purim, also recognising International Agunah Day.  Celebrating Israel on November 29 and Founders Day/ Human Rights Day around December 10. 
The seven Sections of NCJWA are otherwise independent in their choice of events, projects and programs, holding in common their fundraising for the four Israel projects supported nationally by NCJWA: Ilan Foundation in Tel Aviv, Ethiopian women’s scholarships at Haifa University, Haifa Rape Crisis Centre and environmental projects coordinated with KKL/the Jewish National Fund. Micha, the society for the education of deaf children in Israel, is also supported by some NCJWA Sections. 
NCJWA has organised an Israel Tour for its members and friends in April /May this year to inspect each of the national projects supported by the organisation. A number of NCJWA members will also attend the ICJW Rosa de Herczeg Seminar in Jerusalem. 
As National President Di Hirsh OAM is very involved in the work of all Sections around Australia, and where possible visits Sections and represents the organisation. In February 2013 Di was honoured by an invitation to dinner with Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard, along with several Jewish members of the Australian Parliament. 
NCJWA Sections, widespread around the country, work at areas of local concern and interest: 
Brisbane Section hosted guest speaker Dr Navras Jaat Aafreedi from Gautam Buddha University in India, also a researcher in Indo-Judaic Studies and a Jewish-Muslim Relations Activist. Dr Aafreedi was the organiser of the first Holocaust Films Retrospective in South Asia, held in Lucknow, showing 24 films on the Holocaust. 

In April Brisbane Section hosts author Barry Levey to speak about his recently released book ‘The Terrorist’ – a look at the question of the West, Western liberalism and its creed of tolerance, being Jewish, the rise of Islam.                

Brisbane Section has conducted several fundraisers to support MICHA in one of its projects for children with hearing loss.

Canberra Section’s committee member Dr Barbara Butow who recently worked for WHO in Geneva, spoke to NCJWA members on WHO’s International Food Safety Authorities Network, about managing health risks and disease outbreaks caused by food contamination.  

Another NCJWA Canberra member Professor Kim Rubenstein was honoured by her inclusion in a list of One Hundred Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review.
                                                                                                                        In December 2012 the Canberra Jewish Community held a batmitzvah ceremony at which, as a result of an NCJWA Canberra initiative, all six batmitzvah girls undertook a small oral history project on notable NCJWA matriarchs. Canberra Section’s aim is to lift the profile of NCJWA and involve the girls and their mothers in Council’s work. A demonstration of the Jewish rite on erev Shabbat was part of an all-day program held by the Canberra Interfaith Forum during Canberra’s Multicultural Festival in February 2013. Canberra Section’s activities particularly targeted younger women in their community starting with a challah-making demonstration.

Gold Coast Section continues to fundraise both for programs in Israel and in Australia. The Section participated in the Chanuka in the Park with an NCJWA stall from which they donated twenty copies of Wesley World children’s books. They were also involved in the dedication of a new Torah at a local synagogue. At their AGM the guest speaker David Samson spoke about his work for the Israeli organisation Sar El which coordinates volunteer programs for visitors to Israel.
New South Wales Division
More than 200 people attended this year’s NCJWA Celebrating Israel on November 29 2012. A panel of experts spoke on ‘The Great Divide’ focusing on the 29 November 1947 Partition Plan and the situation over the 65 year since. The event was made even more relevant by the recent vote to grant the Palestinian Authority observer status at the UN.

How women of different faiths and backgrounds can bring about positive change was the focus of NCJWA ‘Human Rights and Founders Day’ event on December 10. The documentary screened, ‘Pray the Devil back To hell’ dealt with the actions  of Liberian women of all faiths influencing events that brought about negotiations ending the civil war in their country.
Also in December NCJWA NSW volunteers took part in packing birthing kits for women in Third World countries at an event organised by the Sydney University Nursing School.

January 2013 NCJWA’s Tu B’shvat function was combined with a ‘ thank you’ morning tea for volunteers. Guest speaker Nutritionist Dr Anne Lewinsky inspired with her address ‘The Tree of Life- How to revitalise ourselves and the planet’. JNF officials highlighted the long list of NCJWA/ JNF projects completed in Israel over the decades. JNF Tree Certificates were available for purchase.

In February NCJWA NSW launched its Jewish Women’s Book Club, speaker Jacquie Seeman addressing  the topic ‘With 51% of the brain power, how are women using  it?’. Relating to this topic a selection of books from NCJWA’s Rebbetzin Gottshall Memorial Library were consulted and discussed.
Later in February Council Shabbat at the Great Synagogue and Purim a fund raiser for NCJWA MUM for MUM program was a Sixties themed dinner dance.

On 6 March NCJWA NSW marked International Women’s Day with a talk ‘The Objectification of Women’. Speakers were social worker Laurel Ginges and Deb Malcolm from Collective Shout.
NSW’ s final pre-Pesach event was on 13 March, a Transcultural Turkish tour including  the Gallipoli Mosque in Auburn.
South Australia Section is a small group of elderly members who remain staunch supporters of Council. Many members attended the Saturday morning service at Beit Shalom Synagogue on 23rd February to wish a long time member of our Section Eva Tuckfieldmazeltov on the occasion of her 94th birthday. Eva commemorated her Bat Mitzvah Anniversary by reading from the Torah. This year, as Beit Shalom Synagogue is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, a number of members have taken up the challenge of commemorating their Bat Mitzvahs as part of the celebrations.
Victoria Section has been celebrating its 85th anniversary including a number of special events as well as the regular community service programs.
The Mum for Mum program is developing well, the successful Empowering Single Women’s program completed a course in creating effective relationships.

October 2012 Fundraiser Pink Ribbon Breakfast raised money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. 

November 2012 NCJWA Vic Section’s 85th Anniversary lunch speaker Professor Caroline Taylor AM spoke about her childhood abuse and how this impacted on her life and determination to see that victims receive justice.

A new writing group has begun a ‘10 weeks, 10 women, 10 stories’ series of meetings facilitated by author and teacher Nancy Sugarman.

2013 Interfaith Women’s Model seder was in conjunction with Jewish Aid, led by educator Frances Prince .

As a Stop The Traffik coalition member NCJWA(Vic) welcomed the announcement that Nestle’s entire chocolate range in Australia and New Zealand will now be UTZ Certified. 
NCJWA has initiated the “Alcohol, a Jewish Women’s Perspective” project. The main aims of the project are to:
1. Identify, record and analyse data relating to alcohol and women in Australia
2. Assess what the NCJWA can do to assist its members and community in relation to this issue.
NCJWA has met with Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s (JCCV) Youth Alcohol Project Manager, the CEO of Jewish Care and  a representative from the Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence. 
The second stage of the project began with a series of focus groups with members of NCJWA Victoria conducted by a NCJW Victoria member and an experienced facilitator. The results of the Focus Groups are currently being analysed. The next step will be the formulation of a questionnaire which will be distributed to all NCJWA.
Western Australia Section
2013 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the victims of the Holocaust. This day was commemorated in Perth on Tuesday 29 January at the Jewish Community Centre. Co-hosted by the UN Association of Australia (WA), the NCJWA, The Holocaust Institute of WA and the Jewish Historical & Genealogical Society of WA. Almost 60 people attended, including representatives of numerous Jewish and other organisations and religious groups.
NCJWA members are very cognisant of our affiliation to International Council of Jewish Women, ICJW material is regularly distributed to each Section and an ICJW column is published in each NCJWA Council Bulletin, three times each year. We are proud of ICJW work globally, particularly its strong work as an NGO at the UN.
Robyn Lenn OAM
ICJW Vice President, Australia.