The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is recognised by the NSW government, its agencies, NGOs, unions, the media and other ethnic, cultural and religious groups as the representative roof-body of the Jewish community. It leads, speaks and advocates on behalf of the NSW Jewish community, with 57 major communal organisations as its constituents.
The governing body of the Board of Deputies 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 general franchise and half are appointed by the constituent organisations. The plenum elects an Executive, which conducts the organisation’s administration.
Our goal is a united NSW Jewish community, adequately resourced, enjoying physical and political security as part of a harmonious, inclusive and democratic Australian society. More specifically, we work to:
- 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 the continuity of a vibrant NSW Jewish community
Until 1942, the NSW Jewish Advisory Board (founded in 1932 and comprising representatives of synagogues only) acted as the spokesperson for the Jewish community. In February 1942, with World War II on Australia’s doorstep and European Jewry in peril, the Advisory Board invited other congregational bodies to form a Public Relations Committee, which in turn established the Bureau of Jewish Affairs, whose main aim was to combat growing antisemitism.
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 Board of Deputies. This provided for “full democratic representation under existing conditions”. Preparations commenced for the first election. This took another seven months. By then, the number of affiliated organisations had dropped from 40 to 23 with 5,182 members registered.
Finally, after years of agitation, discussion and preparation, the first meeting of the 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 organisation.
(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: In 1949 the Board of Deputies agreed to change the Constitution to allow 25 per cent of representatives to be elected by universal franchise, and in 1955 the proposal of 50 per cent elected by the general franchise was adopted.
Policies and statements
Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ)
This is the national roof-body of the Australian Jewish community. The Board of Deputies became a constituent shortly after it was founded in 1945 and provided the ECAJ’s second 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 national and international levels.
The Board of Deputies is represented on the ECAJ’s Committee of Management by nine elected councillors and its incumbent president, who serves as the ECAJ’s senior vice president. The presidency of the ECAJ rotates between Sydney and Melbourne.
Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA)
The Board of Deputies was a founding member of the JCA, and the Board of Deputies president is a JCA governor, Executive member and member of the JCA Planning Committee. The JCA was established in 1967 as a coordinated fundraising appeal to enable an equitable distribution of communal funds. Of the Board’s constituents 22 are members of the JCA.
Ethnic Communities Council of NSW (ECC)
The Board of Deputies first joined as an affiliate of the Ethnic Communities’ Council in the 1970s. Since then, it has remained an active constituent, with representation at both executive and senior management levels.
The ECC is a non-government body, representing thousands of members of ethnic communities throughout the state. It operates on a voluntary basis and is run democratically by its members. Its primary roles are advocacy, education and community development. It promotes the principles of multiculturalism and lobbies for the development of a culturally inclusive society in NSW.
The ECC is involved in issues relating to the welfare and status of ethnic communities. It contributed to the establishment of organisations including the former Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW (now called Multicultural NSW), the Federation of Ethnic Schools, the Association of Translators and Interpreters and SBS Radio and Television.
NSW Jewish War Memorial
The Board of Deputies 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 NSW Jewish War Memorial – one of the community’s most valuable capital assets.
Opened in 1965, this three-storey office-block houses various communal institutions, including the Board of Deputies. The president of the Board of Deputies is also the honorary president of the War Memorial.
Association of Jewish Engineers
Australasian Jewish Medical Federation (NSW) (AJMF)
Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) NAT
Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust
Survivors and Descendants (AAJHSD)
Australian Friends of Magen David Adom (MDA) (NSW)
Australian Friends of Tel Aviv University (NSW)
Australian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Australian Jewish Historical Society Inc.
B’nai B’rith Council of NSW
Bondi Mizrachi Synagogue
Child Survivors Group – Sydney
COA Sydney Incorporated
Fund for Jewish Higher Education
Jewish Arts Incorporated
Jewish Folk Centre / Ha’moadon Ha’Israeli
Kehillat Masada Synagogue
Kesser Torah College (KTC)
Maroubra Synagogue (K.M.H.C.)
Mount Sinai College
National Council of Jewish Women of Australia NSW Division (INC) (NCJWA NSW)
Newcastle Hebrew Congregation
Newtown Synagogue Inc.
North Shore Synagogue
North Shore Temple Emanuel
NSW Association of Jewish Service & Ex-Service Men & Women
NSW Association of Sephardim
NSW Board of Jewish Education (BJE)
NSW Board of Progressive Jewish Education
NSW Jewish War Memorial Community Centre
Parramatta and District Synagogue
Southern Highlands Jewish Community Group
Southern Sydney Synagogue
Sydney Jewish Museum
The Central Synagogue
The Great Synagogue
WIZO NSW (Women’s International Zionist Organisation)
Wolper Jewish Hospital
Zahal Disabled Veterans Organisation Beit Halochem Australia (ZDVO)
Zionist Council of NSW
The work of the Board of Deputies is carried out by professional staff and the following committees:
The Community Relations Committee works 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 by the relevant organs of the Board of Deputies.
The Education Committee represents the different arms of Jewish education in the community – day schools, state and private schools, adult education, synagogues, universities and the Sydney Jewish Museum. Through the work of the committee, the wider education community is informed about Jewish education resource materials available to support relevant NESA syllabus documents and adult education programs.
The Shoah Remembrance Committee has two key functions – remembrance and education.The committee consists of a chairperson, five Deputies and co-opted representatives of affiliated organisations for which Holocaust remembrance is an important activity. The chairperson represents the Board of Deputies on the Committee of Management of the Sydney Jewish Museum. The committee is primarily involved with planning the commemorative events of Yom Hashoah and Kristallnacht.
The role of the Public Affairs Committee is to provide strategic advice and direction to the CEO and other professional public affairs staff. This is central to the Board of Deputies’ role as the voice of the NSW Jewish community to government, media, academia, think tanks and trade unions. The committee oversees a number of ongoing activities such as political briefings, luncheons, outreach events, Israel study tours, media relations and visits by overseas speakers.
The Social Justice Committee provides networking facility for the Board of Deputies for general community outreach and advocacy within the Jewish community on social justice issues.
Issues covered by the committee include: developing policies and protocols for Jewish organisations to ensure the protection of children and young people from abuse within Jewish community institutions; understanding and responding to issues of disability; mental health; ageing and carers; and associated services for members of the community; understanding the circumstances and needs of families, children and young people experiencing adversity and vulnerability in the Jewish community; housing and homelessness; working cooperatively with relevant community organisations in the Jewish community and consulting with welfare organisations in the wider community on these issues; cooperative Jewish and Indigenous activities.
Presidents 1945 – 2019
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 2008 – 2010
Yair Miller OAM 2010 – 2014
Jeremy Spinak * 2014 – 2018
Lesli Berger 2018 –
Lesli Berger – President
Cr Isabelle Shapiro OAM – Vice President
David Ossip – Vice President
Sam Zweig – Honorary Treasurer
Melissa McCurdie – Honorary Secretary
Other Executive members: Yaron Finkelstein, Michelle Filler, Joshua Moses, Dane Stern, Yosi Tal
Natalie Rubinstein – Community Relations
Sandy Hollis – Education
Danny Hochberg – Holocaust Remembrance
Eric Roozendaal – Public Affairs
Liam O’Callaghan – Social Justice
Honorary Life Members
Peter Wertheim AM
The Honorable Justice Stephen Rothman AM
Robert Goot AO, SC
Michael Marx AM
David D Knoll AM
Yair Miller OAM
Representative to the Council of the War Memorial
Dr George Foster
Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins OAM
Rabbi Gad Krebs
Auditor – Steven Heller, DFK Laurence Varnay
Honorary Solicitor – Stephen Cordell, Holding Redlich
Honorary Returning Officer – Roger Selby
Executive Council of Australian Jewry councillors (NSW)
Dr Avril Alba
Robert Goot AO, SC
David D Knoll AM
Yair Miller OAM
Jillian Segal AM
Vic Alhadeff – Chief Executive Officer
Mary Guth – Head of Operations
Lynda Ben-Menashe – Community Relations & Policy Manager
Suzanne Green – Education & Holocaust Remembrance Manager
Byron Danby – Public Affairs Manager
William Nemesh – Jewish Community Relationship Manager
Ydele Nathan – Events Manager
Romi Rutovitz – Communication Manager
Hila Tsor – Community Relations Officer
Ariela Shatari – EA to CEO
Calvin Stein – Online & Digital Manager
Irina Chersky, David Glaser – Accounts Administration