Investing in the community’s future

By Timna Jacks in The Australian Jewish News

Young leaders during a workshop at the AJF and ROI Community gathering in Melbourne on Sunday.

YOUNG Jewish voices from Melbourne and Sydney came together on Sunday for the country’s first Australian Gathering for Young Jewish Leaders, jointly hosted by the Australian Jewish Funders (AJF) and ROI Community, a global network of young Jewish innovators.

The day-long conference, attended by community leaders, educators, social entrepreneurs and activists, took place at the headquarters of social enterprise Small Giants, provided by the company’s CEO and chairman of Jewish Aid Australia, Daniel Almagor.

The conference offered innovators the chance to network, share ideas and collaborate on projects and initiatives for which they could apply for ­funding.

Among the issues discussed were low wages for professionals heading communal organisations and the merits of investing in leaders of the community. High school fees, higher pay for teachers and institutional elitism among funders and organisations that alienate young people and fail to meet their needs was also on the agenda.

Dr Andre Oboler, the CEO of Online Hate, a website for the prevention, mitigation and responses to online hate and creator of new social media campaign Joe’s Israel, was one of the various presenters at the conference.

Oboler has attended the ROI global summit in Israel on three occasions and said the local conference was the first step in providing young people with vital support. “There is a lot of stuff that is needed. There are a lot of great people here with great ideas and they need to be empowered.”

At the close of the conference, Sandy Cardin, president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, unveiled the “Dave Grants”, a new $20,000 fund provided by the AJF and the Schusterman foundation – the roof body encompassing the ROI Community.

The fund was named in honour of Dave Burnett, an Australasian Union of Jewish Students leader and ROI Community member who died in a tragic accident in Petra, Jordan, in 2008.

Aimed at supporting collaborative projects, the fund can only be accessed by members of Sunday’s conference and is open to increased funding if the quality of the submissions is high.

“In order to engage more young Jews in the community, we need to embrace new and innovative approaches, and we believe that the grants will empower these young activists to create change for themselves and for the broader Jewish community,” said Cardin.

AJF chair Debbie Dadon, who together with her husband Albert donated half of the fund, praised the new opportunity for leveraging vibrant, new initiatives.

“We are proud to be supporting this fund in Dave’s honour. We look forward to watching the seeds, developed during the day-long gathering, grow into projects that have great impact and relevance for young Jewish Australians.”

Adding to the announcements, Almagor told the audience the AJF would help support a crowdfunding website – an online platform where people can pitch new projects and source funding to kickstart their ­ventures.

Sydney-based former Habonim Dror mazkirah and coordinator for the New Israel Forum Tamara Newman, 25, said the conference provided an “empowering environment” and commended the grant for its “great ­potential”.

“It’s great to see community funders doing something new and different and taking a risk. It’s exciting to think that people can start a project and grow something and there will be support for them out there.”

Source: Timna Jacks,  ‘Investing in the community’s future‘, The Australian Jewish News, September 4th 2012