Zionism Victoria Annual Assembly: Looking forward to a bright future

Zionism Victoria held its 77th Annual Assembly last Tuesday at Beth Weizmann Community Centre with over 200 Zionism Victoria delegates and community members in attendance.

The evening began on a sombre note as outgoing President Sam Tatarka recalled opening the 2014 Annual Assembly with a moment of silence for those killed and injured in the attack on the Har Nof synagogue. “Just a day short of one year later”, he said, “once again, we open our gathering on the heels of yet another heinous attack against innocents”. Tatarka asked for a moment of silence for those killed and injured in the Paris attacks and victims of terror worldwide.

After a video presentation of the activities of Zionism Victoria over the past year, the assembly received greetings from the Embassy of Israel by Embassy Spokesperson and Cultural Attaché Dorit Herscovici. Ms Herscovici praised Zionism Victoria and the other state Zionist councils noting that they serve as “the bedrock for mobilising social activism, charity work and the sort of acts of social cohesion that are critical to maintaining the rich fabric of multiculturalism from which Australia’s democracy draws so much strength”. She made special mention of Zionism Victoria’s engagement with youth and, in particular, the Zionist youth movements. “These movements are a dynamic and powerful source of Jewish identity”, she said. “This aspiration to put Israel firmly in the hearts of the next generation is inspiring”.

The keynote speaker for the evening was the Honourable Steven Ciobo, Minister for International Development and the Pacific. Mr Ciobo, member for Moncrieff Queensland, has visited Israel on an AIJAC Rambam Israel Fellowship program organised study tour. Mr Ciobo congratulated Zionism Victoria on 77 years of championing support for the establishment and development of Israel. He addressed the close relationship between Australia and Israel saying, “Israel and Australia share values. We share a belief in our people – that they are the foundation on which every aspect of our society is built and to whom all effort must be directed”. Ciobo elaborated on the strong connections between Israel and Australia in the political, social, economic and innovation arenas reminding the assembly that Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the United Nations partition resolution that led to the creation of Israel. “Economically, too, we have a lot in common”, he said. “We are both open, inclusive, future-focused societies, keen to embrace the 21st Century and all it has to offer. Thank you for the work you are continuing to do to build bridges between our two societies”.

The Assembly was an opportunity to farewell President Sam Tatarka and to welcome his successor Sharene Hambur. After an audio-visual presentation summarising, often humorously, Tatarka’s five years at the helm of Zionism Victoria, he thanked his family, mentors, community partners, Zionism Victoria board, supporters and staff. He also spoke about the need to engage our youth in meaningful ways so that Israel is as central to their identity as it has been for previous generations. “Our challenge”, he said, “is to tune them back in and to do so with the inescapable truth that Israel is NOT just about the conflict or the hopes, real or unreal, for its resolution but rather it is a nation of which we as Jews can and should be rightly proud as a leader and innovator in myriads of fields of science and the humanities that benefit mankind as a whole”.

Hambur was welcomed as President by Vice President Jeff Morrison. He noted her long and distinguished career in communal service and that she has been working closely with Tatarka closely over the past year to prepare for this leadership role. In her inaugural message, Hambur echoed Tatarka’s call to reach out to the younger generation and to re-engage with people who have become disengaged and disillusioned. “For many there are issues associated with Israel, be it in the political, social or religious area, that cause them concern, and they feel that they are unable to voice their concerns”, she said.  “We need to ensure that the Zionism Victoria provides a place where members of our community can discuss these issues in a safe and respectful way – the role of Zionism Victoria is to represent as wide a possible range of views”.

The Zionism Victoria Community Volunteer Award was presented to Edith Herman for her many years of dedication to the Zionist community, in particular the UIA and for her recent volunteer effort to share her extensive knowledge and expertise in database management with Zionism Victoria and the Lamm Jewish Library of Australia.

In addition to Tatarka, Zionism Victoria recognised and farewelled to two other members of the Executive: Karen Stock, who served four years as the Lamm Jewish Library of Australia Liaison and Liora Miller who stepped down after five years as Honorary Secretary and Public Relations officer. Miller’s young, fresh approach on community engagement, currency and relevance of Zionism for today’s community was of great benefit to Zionism Victoria, and her contributions are greatly appreciated.

Zionism Victoria is already gearing up and excited for another full year of Zionist engagement and interaction with the community.