Now is the time for stability and unity

Lesli Berger elected President of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
2018 Annual General Meeting
August 21, Sydney Jewish Museum Education Centre


Deputies I have been Chair of the Public Affairs Committee for the last 3 years and Vice President the last two years, since that time under Jeremy Spinak’s extraordinary leadership we have persuaded the NSW Government to introduce effective criminal racial vilification laws, a law our community has wanted to reform for over 15 years.

Deputies, we have also significantly improved our position with the NSW Labor party. It is no longer the case that Bob Carr and Shaoquett Moselmanne can simply have their way with the NSW Labor conference and push their anti-Israel motions.

I stand before you because I have always been a passionate Jew and a Jew who is very passionate about his community. I don’t pretend to be religious, but I am ethical in my conduct and have a very strong moral centre.

I have strong political, media and business experience. I promise you to be a strong but fair President.

I promise you we will renew our focus on engagement with our Deputies and members of our community and to that end we will always have a microphone available at our Plenums and we will constitute a Working Party to focus on improving our engagement.

My passion for the Jewish Community and my love for the State of Israel came about as a direct result of my family and in particular my late grandfather Michael Berger who was a Holocaust survivor and an ardent Zionist. He loved Israel despite its flaws as every good democracy is flawed and I share that passion as I know you do.

One of the lessons I learned from Michael is that forgiveness is critical. He never hated the Germans for what they did to him and his family, a life lesson I have learned because I choose not to hate anyone, even when I have felt wronged.

Deputies, as a community we face enormous political and security challenges.

We face constant security threats that our community must be appropriately protected against.

According to Ambassador Dore Gold, world Jewry faces the ugly headwinds of the rise of anti-semitism. What is happening in Europe and the British Labor Party all too easily could happen here and we must remain vigilant.

Just last week, we had a Muslim member of Parliament deny entry to our CEO Vic Alhadeff to a multi-cultural event and so far that member has received no sanction from his party.

We also heard Senator Anning’s vile speech where he referred to the “final solution” in relation to Muslim immigration, reminding our community of the horrors of the holocaust, a fate we would not wish on anyone. To their great credit, both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition condemned these vile comments.

The challenge for us as a community is how can we best address the ongoing political and security challenges we face in the context of the rise of extremism whether it be from the far left or the far right.

 Our purpose is to stop ANTI-SEMITISM, strengthen our SECURITY and strengthen our ties with ISRAEL.

 The first question: What are the main political challenges we face?

  1.  The need to maintain bi-partisan support for the State of Israel. Too often criticism of Israel is used as a pretext to delegitimise the world’s only Jewish state.
  2. The constant need to monitor politicians, community leaders and educators to ensure they do not inappropriately reference the Holocaust or even worse make anti-Semitic statements;
  3. The need to manage our relationship with the NSW Greens and ensure that their extreme elements are marginalised.
  4. The need to ensure that the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Policy receives no public support and that we shame all those who support this policy;
  5. The need to ensure our community has adequate burial space;
  6. The need to ensure our community receives appropriate security funding particularly for the CSG (The community security group). The NSW Government has not yet committed the funds our community so desperately needs.

Everyone in our community must play their part.
The second question: What can you do to help?

  1. Donate to the JCA, every donation counts;
  2. Encourage every member of our community to become an active member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, unity and stability are key;
  3. Follow the JBD’s Facebook page, like our posts and share them with your friends;
  4. Tell people you are Jewish – to know a Jewish person is to like a Jewish person
  5. If you are politically minded, join your political party of choice;

The third question, what can I as President do to help strengthen our community? We will focus on 3 key areas:

 1. Campaigning:

 (i) We will continue to professionalise the operations of the Board and use the resources of our community efficiently and judiciously;

(ii) We will improve our use of data and become the professional campaign headquarters of our community which has a grass roots focus;

(iii) We will strengthen our social media capacity;

(iv) For those who wish to delegitimize Israel, we will normalise Israel;

(v) For those who hate our community, we will humanise our community

2. Coalition Building:

 (i) We will continue to build coalitions with other like-minded communities and groups;

3. Our community:

 (i) We will strengthen our engagement with members of our community, Deputies and our Constituent organisations; and critically

(ii) We will mentor and develop the next generation of leaders of our community.

Deputies, I know you share my sentiments in wishing Jeremy Spinak and his family good health and happiness and every success in his treatment.

All of this work has begun under the capable leadership of Jeremy Spinak and Deputies, with your help, I promise to continue Jeremy’s extraordinary legacy and I am honoured and privileged to serve our community to the best of my ability.