Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News December 2003

December 24, 2003

THE AUSTRALASIAN NAHUM GOLDMANN FELLOWSHIP

The Australasian Nahum Goldmann Fellowship, the thirteenth in the series of leadership training seminars organized by the Memorial Foundation since 1987, was held in Melbourne from December 9-17, 2003. The Australasian seminar was a follow-up to the very successful International Nahum Goldmann Fellowship organized by the Foundation in Australia in 2002.

The Australian Fellows from the latter program decided at the conclusion of the seminar to continue to meet, not only for maintaining contact with their Australian peers, but even more significantly, continuing to study together at mini-Nahum Goldmann Fellowship weekend meetings and exploring ways through which they could impact on Australian Jewish life.

The strong interest of the Australian alumni in expanding their activities was largely responsible for our decision to organize Nahum Goldmann Fellowship XIII in Melbourne.

 

Empowering the Fellows

The Australasian seminar was different in very significant ways from all our previous seminars. After consultation with Prof. Anita Shapira, the Foundation's President, and Mrs. June Jacobs, Chairperson of the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship Committee, we turned over most facets of the organization of the program to the Australian Fellows. We also created a partnership between the Memorial Foundation, the Australian alumni of the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship, chaired by Ms. Melanie Schwartz, an aspiring human rights lawyer from Sydney, and the Shalom Institute at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Ms. Lynda Dave, who had participated in Nahum Goldmann Fellowship X in Sweden and had subsequently served as coordinator of Nahum Goldmann Fellowship XI and XII, was appointed to administer Nahum Goldmann Fellowship XIII, together with Dana Dusheiko, also a former Fellow from Australia.

It is not often that Jewish organizations assign major leadership roles to the clients or participants in the programs in which they are involved. We did and it worked marvelously well for us because of Lynda Dave's excellent administrative skills and the sense of empowerment we had fostered in the Fellows in our earlier programs.

 

Advancing the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship Model

Our greatest success in the past was energizing Jewishly the individual Fellows who came from disparate and diverse Jewish communities all around the world. The first Australian seminar demonstrated that it was possible to energize a cohort of Fellows - not only individuals — from one continent and community to both study together and attempt to deal with the problems and challenges confronting their community.

The second Australasian seminar validated our new approach, increasing the critical mass of Australian Fellows who will hopefully impact on Australian Jewish life. Following the Australasian Nahum Goldmann Fellowship, the alumni of both the first and second Australian seminars met to initiate their discussions about possible mutual programs and activities. The alumni of the first Australian Nahum Goldmann Fellowship had last year already organized two mini-Nahum Goldmann Fellowship weekends. Another mini-Nahum Goldmann Fellowship for both groups is planned for April 2004.

 

The Community Connection

The positive supporting role played in our Australian enterprise by Australian Jewry's central communal body, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, further enhanced the potency of the program. When we initiated the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship in Western Europe in 1987, many Jewish organizations were either uninterested or unable to identify potential leadership or to co-opt them for leadership roles in their community after the Fellowship. During those early years we often reached out to young men and women outside the framework of organized Jewish life. Over the next decade, we became more and more effective in identifying and recruiting young men and women that were community based.

At the two Australian seminars we were able to assemble the largest and most promising cross-section of potential Jewish leaders from within the organized Jewish community. They were more educated Jewishly and more involved and committed to Jewish communal life than all previous groups. This was the result of the heavy emphasis placed on Jewish education in Australia, and the involvement in our enterprise at its very outset of the leadership of the Australian Jewish community, which helped create a favorable climate for the program.

I should like to cite the excellent cooperation of the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Jeremy Jones; and Nina Bassat, and Diane Shteinman, former presidents. Jeremy Jones and Nina Bassat were active participants in the Australian programs.

In this way, we have established a channel — current and future — for our Fellows to Australia's central communal body. Indeed, Jeremy Jones advised us that four Australian Nahum Goldmann Fellowship alumni are now serving as voting members of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. He has his eye, he also told us, on two other Nahum Goldmann Fellows for possible appointment to that body in the future.

There is no doubt that Australia has pointed us to the direction in which we should be moving in the future in our relationship with the host communities where regional Nahum Goldmann Fellowships take place.

 

Beyond Australia's Borders

A crucial element in the success of the Australasian Nahum Goldmann Fellowship was the participation of ten Fellows, more than 1/3 of the group, from South East Asia. These included six Fellows from India, three from Singapore and one from New Zealand. At the first Australian seminar, there was only one individual from India representing South East Asia

All the South East Asia Fellows were deeply involved in their communities. Heidi Miller Meyerson from Auckland is a contributing writer for a book on New Zealand Jewry and is currently helping to establish Auckland's first Jewish Multimedia Resource Centre. The three Singapore Fellows, Michelle Elias, a member of the local Iraqi Jewish community and a lawyer by profession; Naomi Pfau, an Australian expatriate who works as an executive at Hewlett Packard there; and Rachel Safman, an American academic who teaches sociology at the University of Singapore, are members of Gesher, a local group trying to bridge the gap between the local Orthodox, Reform and expatriate groups in Singapore.

The six Indian delegates, Saul Aptekar, Rephael Emmanuel, Annie Jacob, Meyer Moses, Levi Satamker, Shulamith Solomon and Elan Reuben, were deeply desirous to become more connected with world Jewry, expand and enhance their cultural contacts and resources and maintain their Jewish Indian heritage.

In the eyes of the Australian Fellows, Australian Jewry has not done its rightful share in supporting the neighboring Jewish communities in their part of the world. Two important resolutions were taken the last day by the Australian and South East Asian Caucuses. The Indian, Singapore and New Zealand Fellows agreed to organize a mini-Nahum Goldmann Fellowship weekend for their group and recruit other potential Fellows from their communities and others in South East Asia.

The Australian Caucus resolved to support the efforts of their South East Asian peers. Indeed, the Australian Fellows even raised funds from their Caucus for a welfare drive being organized in India, and presented their donations to their Indian peers at the concluding session of the seminar.

At that session, the Indian delegates took leave from us with a traditional Indian song of farewell, gifts for the staff and hugs and kisses all around. The connection established between the young leadership of the Indian Jewish community and their peers in Australia and South East Asia was one of the major accomplishments and moving highlights of the seminar. ۫۫۫۫

* * * * * * *

The highlight of the seminar for me was not the various elements of the seminar about which I have written in the past, the lectures by outstanding academics, which, like in the past, were of the highest order; the workshops on Jewish texts, Jewish identity, Jewish culture, and the mid-East, which were the most successful ever; the beautifully moving Shabbat experience; and the ceremony giving one of the women Fellows a Hebrew name on the last day of the seminar, which has traditionally been one of the emotional highlights of the program.

On Sunday afternoon, after five days of serious dialogue and debate about the themes of the lectures and workshops, we organized a picnic for the Fellows in Hanging Rock Park, a beautiful site several kilometers from the seminar. The Fellows, faculty and staff, "hanging out" in the American idiom, munched sandwiches, schmoozed, played cricket, or just lazed around on blankets, taking a break from the very intensive schedule and program of the seminar that usually characterizes the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship.

The group that afternoon looked to me like one extended family, similar to others picnicking in the area. Most remarkable, I thought, because the group had just met five days earlier, and most of the Fellows had not known each other before the seminar.

More than that, they were having "fun", a word usually not applicable to weighty Jewish endeavors like the serious learning in which we were involved, which, we are told, turns young Jews off. But not the Nahum Goldmann Fellows, while engaged in a deeply transformative experience, redefining themselves as Jews, they were also having "fun". Unbelievable! Perhaps this is the secret of the success of the remarkable Nahum Goldmann Fellowship enterprise.

Not so the Nahum Goldmann Fellows. While engaged in a deeply transformative and "re-Jew-venating" experience, redefining themselves as Jews, they were also having "fun" together. Unbelievable! Perhaps this is the secret of the success of the remarkable Nahum Goldmann Fellowship enterprise.

Warm regards,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President