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Press Release – 23 November 2006

State Zionist Council of Victoria Annual Assembly Press Release

Record number of delegates at State Zionist Council’s 68th Annual Assembly sees Dr Danny Lamm overwhelmingly return as President.

More than 250 delegates, VIPs and guests filled the Beth Weizmann auditorium on Monday, 20 November for the 68th Annual Assembly of the State Zionist Council of Victoria. The evening’s keynote address was given by the highly esteemed Vice-Chancellor and President of Monash University, Professor Richard Larkins, who spoke of his first visit to Israel this year, and the development of the university’s Centre for Study of Jewish Civilisation and its significance to greater education. The Assembly was also the first major communal function in the presence of Ambassador Naftali Tamir following his return to Australia.

The Assembly agenda was as jam-packed as the auditorium, which President Danny Lamm credited to Professor Larkins and the “…increasing engagement of the SZC with the community”. The evening’s proceedings began with a minutes silence for Israel’s civilians and soldiers killed by Hizbollah terror in the second Lebanon war. Dr. Lamm then noted and thanked the extraordinary representation and support of Israel and the community by both political sides. Federal and state politicians were present including Michael Danby MP; Marsha Thomson, Minister for ICT and Consumer Affairs; Helen Shardey, Member for Caulfield; Tony Lupton, Member for Prahran and Shelly Freeman, ALP Candidate in the Upper House.

Marsha Thomson brought greetings from Premier Steve Bracks, congratulating the community on its contribution to issues such as the racial and religious vilification legislation and referring to specific examples of government support for the Zionist community, most notably major funding for a new community centre at 304 Hawthorn Road. The Minister spoke of the extraordinary bonds the Victorian government has created with Israel via VISTECH fund, kicked off after visits by both Premier Bracks, with Tony Lupton and John Brumby to Israel. Minster Thomson has now herself personally contributed to the Israel-Victoria bond through an MOU recently signed with the Technion Institute in the areas of nanotechnology and ICT.

Helen Shardey, Member for Caulfield spoke on behalf of the State Opposition and Leader Ted Baillieu who she said had, “…come to know and understand the Jewish community.” The message also encompassed the Federal Government’s outstanding continued support of Israel and the community.

President Danny Lamm’s address focused on the significant challenges faced by the State of Israel in 2006, most markedly the kidnappings of Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the ensuing war which we are aware goes well beyond the month of conflict in the north and the SZC’s priority to show leadership in Israel advocacy activity. Dr. Lamm reiterated his offer made during the recent Lebanon conflict to all affiliate organisations to utilize the SZC, through office bearers, professional staff or shlichim, in a community hasbara effort.

Dr Lamm made special mention of the SZC launching its community leadership development program, facilitated by Professor Andrew Markus and the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash, which began in July this year, spanning a 10-week lecture series and additional specialized workshops, and will continue in 2007. Affiliate organisations have been and are again invited to nominate candidates for participation.

Israel’s Ambassador Naftali Tamir thanked Australia for the close relationship shared by the two nations, which translates into significant active support in international forums. When the UN General Assembly held an emergency session late last week regarding the shelling in Beit Hanoun, Australia was one of only six countries to oppose the draft resolution condemning Israel. Jerusalem and Melbourne are kilometers apart but are tied by close bonds, he said.

Additional greetings were provided by the Zionist Federation of Australia’s President Philip Chester.

The Chaim Weizmann Award was presented to Jeff Morrison, who stepped down as Treasurer of the SZC, Beth Weizmann Community Centre and Makor Library after 12 years in the position. In presenting him the award Danny Lamm described Jeff as the quiet achiever who worked tirelessly to achieve outstanding outcomes and whose insight extended beyond financial issues.

After more than 40 years on the SZCV Executive as Tourism portfolio holder and more than 60 years on the SZC Executive, Erwin Lamm was awarded the Community Volunteer Award. In accepting the award, Mr. Lamm said that Israel has made amazing achievements and it’s our task to make everyone aware of what these are.

Additional presentations included a School Community Volunteer Award presented to Leibler Yavneh College for their efforts in the lead up to the Yom Ha’atzmaut community celebrations for the last 3 years and Aliyah Mezuzah presentations by Avigail Zeiri, Aliyah Shlicha and David Walles, SZC Aliyah Chair, to 4 local soon-to-be-Olim all under the age of 30.

The keynote address by Monash University Vice-Chancellor Richard Larkins was a genuine tribute to Israel’s higher educational, research and hi-tech achievements in the face of difficult challenges, reflecting a deep understanding and appreciation of the country he visited for the first time this year. “The visit was a revelation”, said Vice-Chancellor Larkins, making the important personal comment, “The visit brought into stark relief something I had already been vaguely aware of before my visit, that is the global preoccupation with the Arab-Israeli conflict had led to neglect of the amazing technological developments in Israel especially in biotechnology and information and communications technology, but extending to all areas of science and technology.” VC Larkins met with the Presidents of Israel’s seven leading research intensive universities during the week-long AICC Academic Mission, where new opportunities for collaboration with Monash University were discussed. Part of the mission also involved exploring potential candidates for the research chairs available at the Monash Centre for the Study of Jewish Civilization.

Vice-Chancellor Larkins has been an important force in propelling the Centre forward since his first formal contact at a function with donors and supporters a week before he officially took up the appointment in September 2003. Quoting from that same function, he said the Centre’s rationale and vision remains as steadfast today as it was then, and since its creation in 1992. Now with further funding achievements by Centre Director (and Australia’s first full-time Professor of Jewish Studies), Professor Andrew Markus and Monash University agreeing to provide one dollar for every two dollars donated, the Centre is well on it’s way to fulfilling, “…the potential to be a major international centre for Jewish scholarship, education and culture and of Israel studies and it will be an exemplar of what Monash will be attempting to achieve across the broader field of human experience and endeavour”.

The evening’s proceedings concluded with the election of the following Honorary Officers: Dr. Danny Lamm returned as President; Ron Finkel and Sam Salcman returned as Vice Presidents; Robert Lissauer as new Hon Treasurer and Sharene Hambur as new Hon Secretary. New Portfolio Holders elected include: Zvi Civins – Education Chair, Eitan Drori – Hebrew Culture Chair, Aviva Feiglin – Public Relations Chair, Mark Chaskiel – Tourism Chair, Menachem Khoen – Trade and Investment Chair, Alon Casutto – Youth Liaison Officer, Sam Tatarka and Andrew Strum, both Executive members without portfolio.

The most significant resolution adopted by the Assembly was the confirmation of three organisations as new SZCV affiliates. The addition of Am Echad, the federation of Russian Jewish organisations; Friends of the Israel Firefighters Inc and the Australian Jewish Medical Federation now brings the total number of SZCV affiliates to 51, a testament to the truly inclusive, yet diverse spirit of Victoria’s Zionist peak-body.

To view photos click here.