Sign In Forgot Password

   76th  ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING Presidents Address - 29th of August 2021

MAZEL TOV - RABBI GENENDE

May I begin my address by wishing a hearty Mazel Tov to our Senior Rabbi, Rabbi Ralph Genende OAM, on his appointment to the position of General Manager, Jewish Life- Senior Rabbi at Jewish Care, commencing November 2021.

This is a significant role that will enjoy the expertise and experience of Rabbi Genende, for the benefit of staff and residents of Jewish Care.

Contrary to predictions otherwise, despite our differences, I can say that over the last 3 years, Rabbi Genende and I developed an excellent working relationship. We both worked to the best of our ability to do good things for the CHC and our members. Our regular Friday meetings were productive and collegiate. I thank Rabbi Genende for his concern and contribution to looking to enhance the achievements and recognition of the CHC as the place to be.

I am sure you will all join me in expressing our gratitude to the Rabbi for his 14 plus years contribution at the CHC and wish him every success in his new position.

THE 3 YEAR PRESIDENCY -INTRODUCTION

This address will focus on outcomes for the term of my 3-year Presidency and the outstanding work of the Board.

The central question I wanted to address when I nominated for President in 2018 was- What do we need to do to connect with the Alphabet and Millennial generations and thus present a model that would encourage them to belong to the CHC and in so doing, secure a sustainable future for the CHC going forward?

The late Rabbi Dovid Yitzchok Groner used to say, that leaders who are not facing any criticism are probably doing nothing.

In order to get things rolling, the Board approved the engagement of Joel Gerschman to lead members of the Board and key staff in Strategic Planning days and separately, for the first time, an Organizational review. It was clear that if the CHC was to remain relevant and survive, this Board had to be a catalyst for positive change.

Of course, doing anything at all under the heading “change management” is often so challenging that understandably, members of an Executive or Board of Management are reluctant to take steps, that will more likely than not, result in push back                  

In my case, those who understandably are hesitant about a new way of operating, forward planning, and implementation, have argued that my change management vision and approach may have been right for business but not for NGO’s (non-government organisations) like the CHC.

I have to say that I wear that badge with Honour. The days of running a not-for-profit organization like the book of the month club, are I am afraid, long gone. The same challenges and imperatives including operational excellence and a great customer experience exist for a $1.5m turnover operation as for a $15m operation. It’s tough to please everyone and regrettably, decisions are often made that are not agreeable to all and sundry.

We do our best and accept the judgement of others. More often than not, history and hindsight can only determine whether the decisions made were valuable and enduring. Nevertheless, while starting at a low base, I took the view that with the support of the Board, the challenging task of reform and renewal had to get done and that required a change in strategy, direction, control, and management.

With the support of the Board, for example, we established an active Governance Committee. This was essential to focus on and consider in depth, corporate risk issues including financial management, policies, procedures, and regulations, working with children and other risk averse practices, and as such, introduce and action, relevant protocols. We introduced and invigorated modern systems and processes, with enhanced technology and better accessed and applied subscribed software such as shul cloud. We sought to engage human capital that would deliver the right people, in the right positions, at the right time, to achieve the right outcomes.

With the clock ticking, it was in my view, necessary and urgent in the short term, to examine, think about, design, plan, engage and operate a new model, if we were to establish the framework for a sustainable and bright future for the CHC and our members. 

AN UNFORSEEN DIVERSION

It is here that I divert to say that without warning, our plans were interrupted as our world was turned upside down in calendar year 2020 and is continuing in 2021, due to Covid-19.

The year 2020 was for me annus horribilis. In April my mother-in-law passed way and in November, my mother passed away. With family issues to address and the pressure of living in a world beset with restrictions and lockdowns, it was the worst possible time to be President of the CHC. In June 2021, my wife Betty and I celebrated 40 years of marriage. It was to a large extent due to her incredible support that I was able to carry out my functions as President during my 3 year term                                                       

Despite my personal journey of an emotional struggle during that year continuing into this year, I did not drop the ball in my role as President. At the same time, work continued uninterrupted with the wonderful support of Board Members to deliver a future of optimism for our members at large, despite you also having to struggle through the implications of Covid-19.

In July, August, and September 2020, with the amazing support of Rachel Mihalovich, I made contact with over 300 members to put the case to stay the course with the CHC. I must thank our members for your overwhelming financial support during this stressful period.

EVENTS

On a happier note, prior to Covid, and where possible during coved on-line, there were many and varied events over the period highlighted by our lecture series conducted by our in-residence world class speaker David Solomon. We also engaged Paul Forgasz to deliver informative and entertaining lectures. Lauren Norich did a terrific job organizing Mums and Bubs and Chanukah and Debbie Szental looked after the Tuesday Shmoosday programs. Rabbi Genende and a subcommittee organized the very well attended Babyboomers speaking engagements.

In terms of major commemorative events, the Yom Haatzmaut brunch was in 2019 celebrated as a dinner at Crown Casino with 480 members and guests in attendance. The additional reason for this upgraded event was the celebration of 75 years of the CHC. An outstanding commemorative book researched and authored by Yossi Aron, was launched, tracing the birth and progress of the CHC until 2018.

THE BOARD – A SHINING LIGHT

On behalf of us all, may I thank Honorary Secretary, Danny Gluck, who invested incredible hours, to establish and monitor, an elastic synagogue services attendance protocol, that adapted to regulatory variations, real time adjusted as necessary, in response to Coved 19 government restrictions. His efforts and energy were above and beyond the call of duty.

Treasurer Martin Meier’s input of incalculable hours and emails to deal with a myriad of issues around financial management and technology enhancements carries with it significant recognition. Thank you Martin for giving so much of your time for the CHC in a manner that preferenced the CHC over your own business.

Rodney Horin did an amazing job in leading the fundraising campaign and Dr. Mim Weisz despite numerous challenges took incredible ownership of the working with children compliance system and other governance measures.                                        

Dr. Issy Feldman was a tremendous support across many issues and in particular, medical advice. President Elect Dr. Howard Zeimer, together with Robert Weil and Barry Mond, ensured the smooth running of services in their capacity as Gabaim, including for the first time in the history of the CHC, covid 19 compliant outdoor services under various Marquis. Extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions and we adapted as necessary to deliver on regular services and special events like Bar and Bat Mitzvot services and celebrations.

I must also give thanks to Rabbi Genende and Dov Farkas who at times of synagogue lockdown and restrictions, kept the flag flying through on-line and fast track services. Further, Rabbi Heilbrunn, Rabbi Krasnjanski and Gedaliah Levin also continued to contribute throughout the pandemic crisis. Last but not least, our very good friend Danny the caretaker was as reliable as ever and was a magnificent contributor to helping us mange the CHC including catering events irrespective of the challenges of Covid.                                                         

Notwithstanding the impact of the pandemic on the financial position of the CHC and our members, with the assistance and drive of, in particular Rachel Mihalovich, Rodney Horin and Treasurer Martin Meier, we eliminated a structurally embedded bank debt, reduced uncontrolled debtors from $200,000 to nil and placed the CHC in its strongest cash at bank financial position in 20 years. 

To outgoing Board members, I thank them all, as we all should, for their extraordinary service for the benefit of the CHC and our members. We owe a debt of gratitude to all of them for their selfless contribution under the pressure of Covid during my 3 years as President.

DAILY MINYONIM AND SHABAAT/FESTIVAL SERVICES 

We often see members coming to a daily minyan to among other things, celebrate a family occasion or to say Kaddish for a yortzait. The daily minyan does not appear by magic.

I want to express my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to Rabbi Ronnie Figdor on behalf of everyone who attends or has attended the early morning minyan. Rabbi Figdor has for some years now taken the honorary role of creating an early morning minyan list and actively managing that list, to make sure we have a daily early bird minyan of at least 10 men.

I also want to thank Rabbi Heilbrunn who assists in the management of the daily Mincha/Maariv minyan.

Cantor Dov Farkas has been instrumental in providing innovative and colourful services, ably supported by the Shule Chevra choir led by Aron Max. With my encouragement, Dov this calendar year, also initiated plans for a highly skilled high holydays locally based in-house Synagogue Choir.

Separately, a significant effort in time, processes and solutions has been invested by the High Holydays sub-committee consisting of Rabbi Genende, Danny Gluck, Rachel, myself and Dov. It was formed to consider and creatively respond to variable Victorian regulations governing attendance by congregants for houses of worship. Our aim has always been to deliver flexible, designer, and meaningful time bound services. Sadly, we find ourselves in the same predicament as last year- under lockdown at the High Holydays time of the year. As the final fail-safe strategy, with Dov’s leadership and the input of the subcommittee, our engagement team has produced a magnificent set of prayer and other information booklets and publications which were posted to members this week. Services will once again be on-line, at times that are in accordance with Halacha.                             

YOUTH AND HINENI
Over the last 30 years in particular, various attempts have been made to engage with what is loosely termed Caulfield Youth. Various young adults have been employed under the title Youth Director. However, the role has been difficult to define because the CHC did not create its own movement, so the scope and activities generally were a reflection of the person who had that role. The other issue is that when we attracted a talented individual, they were limited in their time availability, restricted by studies at University or they received an opportunity to advance their career and accordingly, moved on to other roles.

Working with Rabbi Genende, we were able to recruit Sam Brygal who we saw as a great asset and create a more defined leadership position that encompassed demographic ages 5 to 17. The post Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah programs under the names Zohar and Zusha were a great success and very well run by Sam. The combination of Sam moving on to further his career and then Coved has put this on hold.


Parallel to that endeavour, for some years now, we have hosted Hineni as an independent Youth group on our premises.

With the support of Rabbi Genende and Martin Meier, discussions took place with the Hineni leadership about their ethos, possible synergies and collaboration.

I want to offer praise to those young people who do a terrific job in taking over leadership roles in Hineni from year to year and their enthusiastic desire to advance connectivity with many unaffiliated Jewish youth.
                                                                       
I hope that as the cloud of Covid clears, the new Board will support the Rabbinic Couple to advance the CHC’s relationship with Hineni as part of an outreach engagement strategy.             

 THE TRANSITION

I made it my mission to redesign our Organizational structure and systems and give effect to generational change. We transformed the previously described “administration team” to an “engagement team”. We searched for the best people to fill these positions including a qualified CEO.                                         

The Board supported my recommendation to employ Rachel Mihalovich as CEO.

The role of CEO requires an understanding of the framework of a Jewish. 

Organization, coupled with a deep knowledge of innovative and technology relevant administrative practises, to oversee our operations.

I can say unequivocally that the process of reform and renewal across all elements of the CHC could not have been achieved without Rachel Mihalovich. I am grateful and thank her as we all should, for her enduring work ethic, loyalty, and achievements over the last 3 years.                                                         

With the announcement of Rabbi Genende’s retirement as Senior Rabbi in October 2020, the Board authorized the conducting of a survey as to what members were looking for in a Rabbinic couple. The Board then appointed a Rabbinic Couple sub-committee (RCSC) of which I was a member, to conduct the process of advertising, identifying, interviewing, short listing and then recommending their choice to the Board for the positions.

 I thank the Chair of the subcommittee Mr. Richard Rogers who led a professional process and was ably supported by other committee members, Ruth Kurc, Barry Brott and Dr. Issy Feldman.       

The piece de resistance of the transformation of the CHC, was the unanimous vote by the Board to appoint and secure a 5-year contract with Rabbi Daniel Rabin and separately, Rebbetzin Sarah Rabin, a superb generational change rabbinic couple in a role designed for the ages and of course, the current and future membership of the CHC.

With the appointment of the Rabbinic couple, we have engaged two outstanding individuals that can deliver independently and as a proven team. They are connected to the emerging world of generations that make up gen x, and y, the millennials, gen z and gen alpha.

There is a lot of discussion about the recognition of the needs of women in society and in religious leadership roles. Under my Presidency and with the support of the Board, we have actually done something about it within the framework of orthodoxy. The appointment of Sarah Rabin under a separate contract with her own position description is I believe, an Australian if not a world first                                                            

I should also point out that there is essentially no constitutional barrier, other than word description, for the position of President to be occupied by a woman. The only condition to qualify to be President is to be Shomer Shabbat. There is a provision in the Constitution for the appointment of Gabaim by the Board to run synagogue services. This is a practical delegation that in my view facilitates the appointment of a woman President who is Shomer shabbat.

However, the advice is that the Constitution will need to be amended to include the feminine gender as eligible for candidacy of President. I will leave that for the new Board to ponder.

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM

In relation to the Constitution, there are important amendments that need to be made to update its provisions to comply with best practice in relation to the Incorporated Association Reform Act and good governance. In my view there are among others, five pressing issues that need attention.

Firstly, the Treasurer and financial contractor support the end of the financial year date, to be moved from 30 April to 30 June for easier financial management and compliance. The work this year of the Treasurer and support contractor under the guidance of our external auditors, proved that the audit and reporting obligations can be achieved with a balance end year date of 30 June.

The second issue is absolute clarification on the issues of Membership and Seat holding.

The third issue relates to modernizing and clarifying grievance procedures.

The fourth issue is child protection and working with children and the fifth, is the Code of Conduct. Separately and for the record, I have always supported maintaining recognition in some form, the founders of the CHC in the Constitution.  

Constitutional reform will be a matter for the incoming Board.

THE COMMUNITY CENTRE

The final challenge of my 3-year term that I set for myself as President was providing a fit for purpose premises that could house the ambitious plan for engagement and connectivity of all things Jewish, in modern Australia.           

In the year 2000, that’s 21 years ago, I put forward a plan to create a Community Centre. For posterity, I am attaching for history, the one-page organizational plan developed in the year 2000 to this report. It was in essence, a plan that centred around one objective: delivering a pathway for Jewish continuity for mainstream Melbourne Jewry.

It was at the time, a new way of thinking that unfortunately did not see the light of day. However, thanks to the work of Rodney Horin, Chair of the Redevelopment Committee, together with Rabbi Genende and Rachel Mihalovich in her capacity as Director Redevelopment, with the generous support of foundation donors, the concept was reignited in 2015.

When I took over as President in 2018, unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Rodney, Rabbi Genende and Rachel, the Jewish Community project had stalled.

I was driven to reignite the project. I firmly believed in 2000 as I do in 2021, that with the desperate situation around the issue of mainstream Jewish continuity, this is the most urgent of all projects needed to sustain mainstream Melbourne Jewry, to remain Jewish.

My position on this issue is fully elaborated in an article I wrote in this year’s Rosh Hashana booklet that just came in the mail to you titled, “Jewish Continuity, an Inconvenient Truth x 10”.

We only have to look at the USA and the decimation of Jewish continuity outside of Israel to realise Australian Jewry is not far behind and that the clock is accelerating to 5 minutes to midnight. It is I believe, the greatest challenge facing Jewry in the diaspora                                                                     

As the issue of Jewish continuity has sadly continued on a negative course over the last 2 decades and as it was always my dream 21 years ago to create a fit for purpose Community Centre, with the energy and expertise  of Rodney Horin and Rachel Mihalovich and the significant support of Rabbi Genende, the project was revived and reset with the clear objective of producing an outstanding design that would attract a permit and fulfill the needs of current and future generations of CHC members and the Melbourne Jewish community at large.

At the same time, the CHC’s dilapidated and unsuitable 70-year-old building housing the synagogue, was and is desperate for renovation. The other buildings really need to be replaced with a relevant modern multi-purpose building complex.

Despite all the odds stacked against us, we were able to achieve with the support of generous direct funding and the aide of 40 consultants, an amazing permit to erect a magnificent 21st century community centre and brilliant refurbished synagogue, which especially delivers wonderful seating for our woman members.

Recognizing the weakness of the CHC budget that relies heavily on seating subscription to operate and survive, a significant benefit would be to create new income streams to diversify and broaden our sources of revenue for future financial sustainability of the CHC. 

I want to sing the praises for the amazing contribution of Rachel and Rodney and advisors Reddan, that delivered an unprecedented building permit that is good till 2024.

It will now be up to the next and future generational Boards to deliver on its construction.                                                                          

THE INCOMING BOARD

The final piece in the puzzle that needed to be addressed was the makeup of the incoming Board of Management.

May I quote from one of my Mondisms, one that is a timely reminder of the need for change management and the process that allows it to happen.

               Leadership is not about exercising power;

               true leadership is about knowing when to give it up.

The outgoing Board consisted of persons in or about 70 years of age, a time when understandably, thoughts are more about retirement and family enjoyment than continuing public service. We had to encourage a shift, some would say a seismic shift in leadership, from the senior baby boomers to the alphabet generations.

Individual members of the outgoing board formed the view, that the CHC needed to be supported at Board level by a next generational aged based demographic group. I have assessed and publicly promoted that demographic as being the span from 35 to 52 years of age. In essence, they needed to step up to the podium to lead the CHC and take ownership of their future.              

Within the broad scope of the CHC seeking to serve our members and their families from the age of 9 months to 90 plus years, it was especially considered that a new leadership team at Board level would more relevantly relate in particular, to the needs of singles and young marrieds and of course the organizational engagement team and rabbinic couple in their roles.                                          

The proposed age demographic would be at ease, with modern challenges, including the rapid and continuous shift in connectivity via digital applications. In many other ways, they would be best placed to support the new similarly aged Rabbinic couple in their roles to serve members through their outreach and other work.

Given that the outgoing Board consisted mainly of persons in the around 70 years of age bracket bar one, that being Ruth Kurc, who I am very happy to see is the new Vice President, it was considered critical that the incoming Board should be in a position to take ownership of, and strongly progress, the medium to long term goals and future of the CHC. Indeed, as President and with the generous support and involvement of the Board, we produced a Strategic plan for the next 5 years. It has to be up to the new younger Board to own and  implement the Strategic Plan or otherwise determine the future direction of the CHC.

As a result, the outgoing Executive and Board needed to send a strong message that generational change at Board level was overdue, essential and had to commence now. Each Board member independently felt that the time was right to retire and make way for Board members consisting of the next generation.                                                                  

This presented an unencumbered opportunity for the next generation of congregants to step up to the podium and receive the baton from the outgoing board and work together to take over the mantle of leadership and responsibility, of delivering a sustainable future for the CHC.

This final act by the outgoing Board was I confess, a decision that attached risk. Would the many talented members of that demographic take up the challenge and nominate for the Board for the next 2-year term?

We sought to mitigate that risk by offering a continuing presence by making it clear that outgoing members of the Board would be delighted if invited to do so, mentor and/or be members of appropriate subcommittees. It would be a supporting role under the leadership of the new Executive and Board. Once a new President is elected, under the Constitution, I will automatically become the immediate past president. (IPP) This is an Executive and Board position. I reiterate my view, that by and large, this role is one of mentoring, providing guidance and advice where and when sought. 

I am delighted, as I am sure all retiring members of the outgoing Board are similarly pleased, that the new Board overwhelmingly consists of talented members that fit into the age demographic of 35 to 52. On behalf of all members, may I congratulate them for putting up their collective hands to lead the CHC        

Finale

So, there it is.

I am proud to say that despite the unforeseen intervention of Covid 19 and coping with personal family losses experienced in 2020, the goals that were set at the beginning of my 3 year term as President in 2018 with the generous and thoughtful input and support of Board members, have by and large, been achieved.

I pray that it will be reflected upon by future generations as a defining period, that hopefully will be remembered as one that took up the task of positive change for the benefit of future generations.

One final word - To adapt a quote for the ages, 

“Presidents never die, they only fade away”.

Shalom and Shana Tova, one and all.

David Mond

President

2018-2021

                                                                         

David Mond's Community Organisation Management Plan Circa 2000

Fri, 17 September 2021 11 Tishrei 5782