About the Board
What is the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies?
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is the official elected representative roof-body of the Jewish Community in New South Wales, with 61 major communal organisations as its constituents. It is recognised by the NSW State Government, its agencies, the media and other ethnic and religious groups as the representative body of the Jewish Community and speaks on its behalf on all matters affecting the status, welfare and interests of New South Wales Jewry.
The name “Jewish Board of Deputies” originated in eighteenth century England, when the community established a parliamentary-style representative body under Cromwell.
Board's Immediate Past President Robin Margo S.C. (centre) and President Yair Miller (left) and Roma Shell (right) Honorary Secretary
STRUCTURE OF THE BOARD
The governing body of the Board is the elected Plenum of 147 Deputies, which meets monthly to consider issues of communal importance. Half of the Deputies are elected every two years by a general franchise, and half are appointed by the constituent organisations. The Plenum elects an Executive which conducts the Board’s administration.
The Board leads, speaks and advocates on behalf of the NSW Jewish Community.
A united NSW Jewish Community, adequately resourced, enjoying physical and political security as part of a harmonious, inclusive, democratic Australian society.
- represent and advocate on behalf of the NSW Jewish Community
- ensure the political and physical security of the NSW Jewish Community
- combat antisemitism and other forms of racism
- increase understanding of Israel and its centrality to Jewish life
- promote social inclusion of all segments of NSW society
- maintain the unity and cohesion of the NSW Jewish Community
- ensure continuity of a vibrant NSW Jewish Community
To view the Board's policies, click here.
Board's Chief Executive Officer Vic Alhadeff
The work of the Board is carried out by professional staff and the following committees:
EDUCATION: Initiates, facilitates and supports programs in Jewish and intercultural education for primary and secondary students, as well as networking and resource sharing between educators in the Jewish and wider communities.
Chairperson: Di Engelander
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE: Organises Holocaust educational and commemorative activities and awareness campaigns for the Jewish and general community.
Chairperson: Michael Jaku
SOCIAL JUSTICE: Articulates Jewish values in relation to human rights and social justice issues which arise from time to time within both the Jewish and general community; raises awareness with the Jewish community about such issues; and obtains and distributes information and, where necessary, organises activities in relation to Jewish people experiencing oppression or distress in any part of the world.
Chairperson: Professor Bettina Cass AO
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Interacts with the media, government and other institutional arms of the public and private sector; works to combat racism and antisemitism; monitors the press and electronic media and works to ensure the physical security and well-being of the Jewish community. Administers the Board's Speaker Service and keeps the Australian public informed of issues relating to Israel and the Jewish community.
Chairperson: Yaron Finkelstein
NON-GOVERNMENT RELATIONS: To build constructive partnerships with non-government organisations, interest groups, religious bodies, women’s’ groups, think tanks and other civil society groups in a manner that will assist the NSW Jewish Community in meeting its strategic priorities as determined from time to time by the relevant organs of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
Chairperson: Jeremy Spinak
MEMBERSHIP DEVELOPMENT: Encourages interested members of the community to support the Board’s work either by joining as a member, nominating for a general franchise deputy or working with the Board’s committees.
Chairperson: Kati Haworth
Yair Miller President
Robin Margo S.C. Immediate Past President
Yaron Finkelstein Vice President
Jeremy Spinak Vice President
Sam Zweig Honorary Treasurer
Roma Shell Honorary Secretary
Executive Members & Committee Chairs*
Professor Bettina Cass AO*
Jeremy Jones AM
Honorary Life Members
Robert Goot AM, S.C.
Prof Graham de Vahl Davis AM
Michael Marx AM
Peter Wertheim AM
Justice Stephen Rothman AM
David D Knoll AM
Executive Council of Australian Jewry Councillors
Robert Goot AM S.C. - Immediate Past President
David Knoll AM
Ian Lacey AM
Robin Margo S.C.
Jillian Segal AM
Representatives to the Council of War Memorial
Joy Balkind OAM
Dr George Foster
Consultants to the Executive
Joy Balkind OAM
Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence
Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins
Maxwell Einfeld, Brown Wright Stein Lawyers
Steven Heller, DFK Laurance Varnay
Honorary Returning Officer
Alla Pilman JP
Chief Executive Officer
Office & Information Systems Manager
NGR Relations Manager
Public Affairs Manager
The Board is located at: 146 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9360 1600; Fax: (02) 9331 4712
In case of after-hours emergency, please call 1300 793 274 (CSG).
The emergency number for JEMP is 1300 536 728.
ABN: 82 990 574 147
HISTORY OF THE BOARD
Establishment of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies
Until 1942, the NSW Jewish Advisory Board (founded in 1932 and composed of representatives of synagogues only) acted as spokesman for the entire Jewish community. In February 1942, with the war on Australia’s doorstep and European Jewry in deadly peril, the Advisory Board invited the other congregational bodies to form the first Public Relations Committee, which in turn established, in the same year, the Bureau of Jewish Affairs, whose main aim was to combat growing antisemitism.
Past Presidents honour former Director of the Board
However, in March 1942, an Open Letter to the Jews of New South Wales was issued over the signatures of 18 men who urged:
"Today, we are confronted with the fact that in Sydney there does not exist a Jewish Community in the true sense of the word. The control and administration of our people is concentrated in the hands of a few. There is a failure to admit to their councils’ representatives from among those Jews for whom they claim to speak. There has been an infusion of many fresh forces. Should not they, too, be harnessed to add fresh grist to the Jewish mill? The establishment of a democratically elected Jewish body, based on universal Jewish franchise, is the only means of awakening our people to the responsibilities and obligations that face them."
The Open Letter created a furore in the community. It was a revolt against the established order. In May 1942, the Advisory Board called a meeting with the representatives of the 18 signatories and communicated with every Jewish organisation in Sydney with a view to widening the representation on the Advisory Board.
It took another two years before a representative gathering of delegates of synagogues and communal organisations in June 1944 adopted the Constitution of the first NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. This provided for "full democratic representation under existing conditions". Preparations were also commenced for the first election. This took another seven months. By then the number of affiliated organisations had dropped from forty to twenty-three with 5,182 members registered.
Finally, after years of agitation, discussion and preparation, the first meeting of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies took place on 29 July 1945. The Bureau of Jewish Affairs was disbanded and its activities taken over by the Public Relations Sub-Committee of the newly constituted Board of Deputies.
(This summary by Yehuda Feher based on The Origin and Development of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, by Dr. G.F. Bergman, Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal & Proceedings Vol. VI, Part 8, 1970).
Note: It was in 1949 that the Board agreed to change the Constitution to allow 25 per cent of representatives to be elected by universal franchise and it was only in 1955 that the proposal of 50 per cent elected by the general franchise was adopted.
Since its establishment on July 29, 1945, the Board has had 15 Presidencies. The late Horace B Newman served two separate terms of office.
| Saul SYMONDS *
|| 1945 - 1952
| Horace B. NEWMAN *
|| 1952 - 1955
| Gerald de VAHL DAVIS *
|| 1955 - 1957
| Horace B. NEWMAN *
|| 1957 - 1967
| Gerald Y. FALK OBE *
|| 1967 - 1969
| Harry S. GOLDSTEIN OBE *
|| 1969 - 1973
| Maurice ALLEN *
|| 1973 - 1975
| Sidney MULLER AM *
|| 1975 - 1978
| Robert M. GOOT AM
|| 1978 - 1982
| Leslie CAPLAN AM*
|| 1982 - 1985
| Graham de VAHL DAVIS AM
|| 1985 - 1989
| Gerry LEVY AM *
| 1989 - 1992
| Michael MARX AM
|| 1992 - 1996
| Peter WERTHEIM AM
| 1996 - 2000
| Stephen ROTHMAN AM
|| 2000 - 2004
| David D. KNOLL AM
|| 2004 - 2008
| Robin F. MARGO S.C.
|| 2008 - 2010
Apart from maintaining informal liaison and relations with a wide variety of government departments, statutory bodies and other ethno-religious groups, the Board has a direct affiliation with the following organisations:
Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ)
The ECAJ is the national roof-body of the Jewish community in Australia. The Board became a constituent shortly after it was founded in 1945 and provided the organisation's second National President, Saul Symonds, who served from 1946-1948.
As the Jewish community's peak body, the ECAJ is charged with establishing, administering and implementing policy on issues of concern to the Jewish community at a national and international level.
The Board is represented on the ECAJ's Committee of Management by nine elected Councillors and its incumbent President, who serves as the Council's Senior Vice President.
By convention, the headquarters of the ECAJ rotates between Sydney and Melbourne every two or three years.
Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA)
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is a founding member of the Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA) and the Board's President is a JCA Governor, Executive Member and Member of the Planning Committee.
The JCA was established in 1967 as a single unified fundraising appeal and to enable an equitable distribution of communal funds. Of the Board’s 61 constituents 19 are members of the JCA.
The NSW Jewish War Memorial
The Board is represented on the NSW Jewish War Memorial by four Councillors who are elected annually. The War Memorial owns and administers premises which operate as the Jewish Community Centre, one of the community’s most valuable capital assets.
Opened in 1965, this three-storey office block houses many important communal institutions, including the Board of Deputies. Its large ground floor meeting room, known as the Benefactors Hall, is home to our monthly Plenum meetings.
The President of the Board is also the Honorary President of the War Memorial.
Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW
The Board first joined as an affiliate of the Ethnic Communities' Council in the late 1970s. Since then, it has remained an active constituent of the Council with representation at both the executive and senior management levels. Josie Lacey has presided over our interests there and contributed widely to the organisation's aspirations and achievements over many years.
The Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW is a non-government peak body representing thousands of people in ethnic communities throughout the State. It operates on a voluntary basis and is run democratically by its members. The ECC's primary roles are in advocacy, education and community development. It actively promotes the principles of multiculturalism and lobbies for the development of a culturally inclusive society in NSW.
The Council is involved in some of the most important issues relating to the welfare and status of ethnic communities. It has contributed to the establishment of organisations including the former Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW (now Community Relations Commission), the Federation of Ethnic Schools, the Association of Translators and Interpreters and SBS Radio and Television.
The Sydney Alliance brings together diverse community organisations,
unions and religious organisations to advance the common good and
achieve a fair, just and sustainable city. They do this by providing
opportunities for people to have a say in decisions that affect them,
their families and everyone working and living in Sydney. The Sydney
Alliance is a non-party political organisation.