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David Mond: Speech Shabbat Beraishit 5779 CHC 6th October 2018 - “A Great Leap Forward”

15/10/18 14:19:41

Oct15

Thank you, our Immediate Past President Daniel Jenshel.

A very big welcome to everyone here today for what I have termed, the President’s Kiddush.

A special welcome to my uncle Rueben Mond, the first Mond to be President of the Caulfield Hebrew Congregation. Welcome also to members of our new Board who could be here today. I would ask that you all join me here, the new team that is the CHC Board.

Of note is that out of 11 elected positions, we have 7 new Board members including myself. There has never been such a major turnover of Board members under the current board size in one year. As a result, over the last 4 weeks, I have been doing some foundation building, having one on ones with each board member and working with Daniel Jenshel to facilitate a hand over, so the Board can hit the ground running. At the same time, this change in personnel at board level gives us an opportunity to review what’s working well and what could work better. It’s an opportunity to reenergize on our strategic intent, and to explore and implement processes that will help us deliver on our strategy.  I look forward to having all of us working together as a very strong united team, to deliver for all of our members and the Melbourne Jewish Community at large.

Now, please allow me to pose a question.

What do Adam and Eve, Nimrod, Noach and Abraham all have in common?

They all were Leaders. Some perhaps by celestial design; others by their actions.

Adam and Eve were the leaders of humanity. Despite the loss of the Garden of Eden, probably because they didn’t have parents to teach them the importance of avoiding sin, they were able to forge a life in a harsher unknown environment that required commitment and energy to survive. G-d commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. Perhaps it was more of a blessing than a commandment. Arguably, notwithstanding the trials and tribulations of subsequent generations since the creation, even they could not have envisaged planet earth with 7 billion people. Their foundation of the human experience on Earth was thus arguably, a success story.

Nimrod became the ruler of the known world. He is not remembered for improving humanity’s culture and values; rather, he decided to try to climb and fight G-d, building a tower to the heavens. G-d obviously worked out that he had too much time on his hands, so one common language became 70 languages and his plan however foolish was as a result, derailed.

Perhaps his legacy after all, is multiple languages and therefore the cultural diversity that developed across the world.

Then we get to my favourite biblical person, Noach. This Sedra which we read next week, happens to be my 53rd Bar mitzvah anniversary. For me, Noach stands out because he stood up as one person, against the many. At G-d’s command, he committed himself without question to devoting 127 years of his life to build a ship as big as a liner and in the face of constant public ridicule from a world that was filled with irredeemable evil.  Noach would no doubt be recognized today, as the first environmentalist, by saving not only his immediate family but the animal kingdom as well. Significantly, he was the only person in the Torah that is given the accolade by G-d as being a perfect and righteous man in his generation. Indeed, his values are represented by the 7 commandments that every human being on earth must observe, even today-otherwise known as the Noachide laws. Now that’s a Leader with a legacy.  

And then comes Abraham- the idol buster! In a world consumed with idolatry, it takes great courage to declare and spread the word that there is only one G-d. Aside from begetting Isaac and grandfathering Jacob, the founder of the Israelite nation, I think Abraham’s greatest legacy was that he showed us the importance of inviting all visitors and travellers into one’s home, by having openings at every side of his tent, so that any wayfarer could be welcomed and given rest and refreshment.

OK But what about us –are there areas involving leadership that we control in our daily lives?

I say that every person can be a leader of sorts. For example, at home in matters between husband and wife –“who is in charge?”

My wife Betty has no problem in reminding me in every way possible, who is in charge at my house. Now that’s Leadership!

Beside the relationship between husband and wife, there are many other areas of relationships that involve being a leader and showing leadership.

Prime Ministers and the Nation, Parents with their Kids; Employers and their Employees, Teachers and Students, so called role model Sport and Movie idols and their fans and the list goes on. There are so many relationships that require someone to be a leader and show leadership.      

And then there is the hardest of all- President of a synagogue and its Congregant members.

As the saying goes-2 Jews and 5 opinions. Indeed, as my mother constantly reminds me, we live in a world where there is no such thing as right or wrong –everything is just a matter of opinion and in Jewish circles, a never ending supply. Managing people’s expectations is itself a full time job. How does one create an environment where we stop talking in shadows about what’s wrong with this or that and instead, develop a level of openness, comradery and commitment that is forward looking with the aim of delivering on our strategic objectives? I say it’s through a strong commitment to listening to our members and showing leadership in living our values.

Of course, in the first instance we need to show leadership in our trajectory-not just by talking the talk but by doing the doing. By way of example, as President in waiting, I  immediately turned my mind to membership and seat ownership, as we need  to make Membership and belonging, certain and valuable.

I am also establishing a number of Board subcommittees and will be inviting members to join. I understand that going onto a Board can, in one’s personal circumstances, be a major commitment.

I would ask you then to in turn, at least consider contributing your energy and area of expertise to a subcommittee of your particular interest. We will be advertising among our members for applicants willing to join a subcommittee. I hope you and your member friends will give strong consideration to helping us get to where we need to go.

Other initiatives will also be introduced to improve the level of positive engagement with and between all of our CHC’s members and stakeholders.              

When we talk about any aspect of the CHC, we should be focussing on the future and daring to challenge ourselves. I firmly believe that we are right to have ambition and a desire for a new way of thinking and developing as a community, so we can deliver real outcomes for our current and future members. Indeed, when the feeling is, that things are not what they could be, that is the time when a Leader can be a force for change. It’s an opportunity to tap into the deeply held desire of every human being, to have a purpose in life and a longing for sustained success. 

Of course, every grand plan is not without risk. I have faith in Hashem’s Will that we should succeed in our endeavours, as long as we have a pure heart in our intentions, to deliver selflessly for the members of the CHC, and the wider Jewish community.

We still have a window of opportunity to build what I proposed 18 years ago, a Community Centre that would be capable of delivering to the next Jewish generation and beyond, the CHC, the place to be!

We can all show leadership by committing to its success, not just to the building infrastructure but also the delivery of sustainable operational and innovative best practice.

When it comes to the grand vision, how do I differ somewhat from others you may well ask?  You will find that people often just see what is there and in response to a query say “well, we’ve always done it that way”. My DNA has led me to look at a situation and see what’s not there and ask “why not?”

The story behind the new released movie titled ‘First Man’, has reminded me of the day President John F Kennedy, explained on the 12th September 1962, why he decided that the USA should even attempt to go to the moon. He said “We choose to go to the Moon, not because it’s easy-but because it’s hard and because that challenge is one we accept and one we are going to win!”

Kennedy even set a target of going to the Moon by the end of the decade. Remarkably, 7 years later, it was in 1969 that we heard those immortal words from Neil Armstrong, as we watched him take his first step on the moon- “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.          

I am certainly not asking you to follow me and the Board to the Moon and back-just open your minds and hearts to aiding me, the Board as well as the Rabbi, Chazzan, Operational staff and our Secretariat in any way you can, to be part of taking that giant leap, surpassing all that has occurred in the 75 year history of the CHC.

We can learn from past CHC Presidents and Boards, who were made up of post-war survivors and immigrants, looking for a better world in Melbourne. Despite their pain and adversity, they cleaved to their Torah based traditions and beliefs that were founded by European Jewry.                                    

Today’s biggest challenge is clearly to preserve the Jewish identity of the grandchildren and great grand-children of that pre-war generation.

So the time has arrived, a time to be part of something that can be a great legacy for all of us.

I believe that by holding dear our Torah values, adopting the lessons learnt from history, embodying self-belief in what we can achieve through commitment to our goals, and detailed planning and professional innovative best practice, we, the post-war baby boomers can deliver on this vision. We can and must be a beacon of light to the next generation and transform the CHC into a communal centre of excellence, delivering long term benefits for our current and future members and the wider Melbourne Jewish Community.

In anticipation, I thank you for your support.

Shabbat Shalom 

David Mond

Wed, 17 July 2019 14 Tammuz 5779