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How Healthy is Your Body?

May 16, 2012 – 7:33 pm12 Comments

How important are umbrellas?

By Michelle Coleman
Your peak body that is. For Victorians, this is the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV).

Is it really ‘the voice of Victorian Jewry’? Does it truly represent 60 organisations and 65,000 Jews? Is it doing enough for our community? These are important questions to debate if we are committed to having a strong and engaged community whose needs are effectively championed within a wider multicultural Victoria.

Perhaps a good starting point is to define the role of a peak body. According to a comprehensive Industry Commission, a peak body must not only represent its members but provide much more:

“A peak body is a representative organisation that provides information dissemination services, membership support, coordination, advocacy and representation, and research and policy development services for members and other interested parties. ….. the peak council role does not involve direct service provision.”

Industry Commission (1995), Charitable Organisations in Australia. AGPS, Melbourne, p 181.

How does the JCCV measure up against these functional criteria?

Information dissemination services: Health check = 3 (on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent)
The JCCV offers two main communication services via email. What’s Nu is a weekly service filled with information and tips relevant to member organisations, while Jewish Community in Action goes out several times per year to approximately 10,000 individuals, keeping them informed about what’s happening in the Jewish community.

The JCCV plenum (the ‘parliament’ of the organisation) eight times per year is an opportunity not only for us to disseminate information to our members but also to listen to and debate the views of those in our community.

Given that the community numbers more than 60,000, the reach of the JCCV’s communications could be improved. We need to develop strategies to encourage more members of the community to subscribe. Let’s start now: if you’re not already receiving our e-bulletin click here.

Membership support: Health check = 4
Many peak bodies focus on representation at the expense of supporting their membership. While the JCCV may have been guilty of this in the past, this is not so today. The current executive and staff are focussing heavily on initiatives to support and provide development opportunities to our membership, including professional networking and development events, workshops for lay and professional leadership, and discussion groups for executive directors and CEOs.

The JCCV is also in the process of putting together a youth summit and a project to assist university students in combatting extremism on campus. The youth are our future and providing them with the support to grow into our next leaders is essential.

We are now providing good support services to our members. If we continue to grow and improve these, hopefully we will score a 5 in the not-too-distant future.

Coordination: Health check = 4
The JCCV coordinates the Community Calendar of Events, organises community events such as the Yom Hashoah commemoration and the annual volunteer awards night, coordinates with council for the special operation of traffic lights on Sabbaths and festivals, works with Victoria police to ensure the accurate collection of statistics on anti-Semitic incidents, and assists members in finding partners for collaboration on various initiatives.

Two Jews will always equal three opinions, but it’s reasonable to say that as a whole our community functions fairly smoothly. Little wonder then that other ethnic groups regularly tell us that the Victorian Multicultural Commission has advised them to model their community leadership on that of the JCCV.

Advocacy and representation: Health check = 4
The Victorian and Federal Governments, their agencies, the media and ethnic and religious groups have long recognised the JCCV as the representative body of the Victorian Jewish community.
The channels of communication between the JCCV and government, and the JCCV and various NGOs, are wide and open, with traffic flowing both ways.

Moreover, the JCCV’s advocacy is effective. For example, over the last 12 months we have successfully lobbied government against the BDS campaign and to preserve kosher slaughter.

While the JCCV’s member organisations are diverse, there are a number of significant organisations that for various reasons have chosen not to affiliate with the community’s roof body. We cannot claim to be fully representative while sectors of the community remain outside our umbrella. To them we say that we would be able to better represent you if you would come to the table. We believe that the security and welfare of our community is the responsibility of all.

Research and policy development services: Health check = 2
The JCCV does not provide comprehensive research services for our community. Research into various issues is being admirably led by Professor Andrew Markus of the Monash University Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation. The JCCV sits as an advisor on this project’s steering committee.

Nevertheless, with research in hand, the JCCV plenum has developed an extensive policy platform over the years.

The JCCV would be a more comprehensive and effective roof body if it were to provide research services for our community. Unfortunately, a lack of resources means this is not possible.


So to go back to our original questions, is the JCCV really the voice of Victorian Jewry? Does it truly represent 60 organisations and 65,000 Jews? We believe it does. Via our affiliates, we speak for the majority of our community and are recognised outside the community as the body to turn to for issues regarding our community. Our advocacy has been proven to achieve results and we are committed to continuing and indeed increasing our efforts on the community’s behalf into the future. We welcome your constructive feedback.

Is the JCCV doing enough for the community? Definitely not! There is so much more that we would like to do and could do if we were better resourced. To remain relevant, viable and effective, and to increase our efforts on the community’s behalf, we need the support of our community.

The JCCV is currently in the midst of our annual appeal. Your generous donation will ensure that all we do for you, for the organisations you value, and for our community can continue.

Michelle Coleman is the Executive Director of the JCCV.

Click here if you would like to donate to the JCCV. All donations over $2 to the JCCV Cultural Fund are tax deductible.

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  • You're kidding, right says:

    It’s very generous to mark your work an average of four out five. Why don’t you put the question of your efficacy to the community and see what mark they give you? Maybe because most Jews either have no idea who you are or if they do, couldn’t care less.

    So how can you claim to represent the whole community? You yourself pointed out that you have 10,000 people that you communicate with. Let’s assume that all 10,000 actually read your communications, that still leaves so the 5/6 Jews who have nothing to do with you? How do you represent them?

    And don’t give us this fantasy about saving us from having to eat treif or that Israel was in danger of being boycotted by any normal Australian. Sure you talk to members of government. It doesn’t mean you’re actually making a difference.

    As for your youth summit, you have got to be joking. Will that be as successful as your youth alcohol initiative? Boy did that work well at Puzza.

  • Geez says:

    To “You’re kidding, right”:

    1. I thought this was quite a creative piece of writing. It’s not meant to be an academic survey, but a plea to support the roofbody of Victorian Jews and, as such, it is a wonderfully written PR spiel.

    2. “Most Jews either have no idea who you are” – such is probably the case with many Jewish organisations that are relatively small and underfunded. I doubt many Jews have heard of the Bnai Brith Anti-Defamation Commission either, but that doesn’t negate the excellent work that it does.

    3. The JCCV through its wide number of constituent organisations is probably the most representative body of all Jewish orgs in Victoria. Okay, so there are always orgs that aren’t represented, and there are individuals who feel disenfranchised, but it’s still a pretty good model of democracy. Much better that many of the self-appointed Jewish organisations that exist elsewhere.

    4. It represents Jews who have no connection with the JCCV (and with the Jewish unaffiliated) by the activities it engages in that are of benefit to them, whether they appreciate or take advantage of those benefits or not.

    5. Eating treif and boycotting Israel are “fantasies”? How so? And what is wrong with taking to government and making the Jewish community’s voice heard?

    6. Youth summit – I have no personal knowledge of what the event involved, but it certainly sounds impressive.

    And before you attack me for my partisan view of the JCCV, let me state that I do not live in Melbourne and have never served in any capacity on the JCCV. Rather, I have seen the good work that JCCV has done and I believe it is important to defend those individuals who give their time and money to support a roofbody that has done so much good on behalf of Jews and Judaism in Victoria.

  • Geez says:

    And even if you, “You’re kidding, right”, do have criticisms, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and support the JCCV so it can do an even better job at representing the unaffiliated? As the article says, “There is so much more that we would like to do and could do if we were better resourced.”

  • Seraphya says:

    The problem is that the organizations that make up the JCCV mostly are small special interest organizations that don’t represent their own membership which isn’t active.

    Take one example that is generally thought of as having many members and being active, AUJS. It is really no more than 10 people that are very active in Victoria and the few hundred members they have are people that show up to certain events and have no commitment to the organization and certainly no representation as to what direction the leadership moves in. And this is a union which is though of as being representative.

    Then think about orgs like the JNF or the UIA, they don’t necessarily accurately represent the people who attend their fundraising events. The people want to give to Israeli causes and this is their avenue.

    Sure there is lots of political squabbling in many of the Jewish orgs, they are Jewish after all. But, it is almost always over petty egos rathre than what greater dream the people have.

    I don’t blame the JCCV or the organizations for the sorry state of affairs where most Jews, even those that are affiliated are only slightly involved. I blame the people. But I do think that the JCCV should look at how to get people actively involved rather than pat themselves on the back. Sure, people are busy and all, but if there were more ways to actively engage on a real basis then we wouldn’t be in this situation. And, no, I don’t mean getting people to collect blue boxes and man telephone banks.

  • I’d say a large proportion of the Melbourne Jewish community aren’t particularly interested in “membership” of anything Jewish and are disillusioned with the existing communal organizations. Many people view membership as an antiquated way of showing affiliation, and as Seraphya points out, AUJS is a great example of this. It’s not the JCCV’s job to reach out to all these disaffiliated people and ensure they are representing their interests. That is an impossible task, especially in such a diverse Jewish community. There will always be particular Jewish interest groups that will knock the JCCV no matter what.

    The readership of this online publication are a particular subset of the community (Frosh: time you did some research to get a better understanding of the reader demographics) and at a guess, they probably care less about JCCV than most.

    This self-assessment/appeal article is a creative way to try to engage with parts of the community that the JCCV have not been able to reach in the past, and for this they should be commended. Let’s hope the JCCV *listens* to the feedback and learns/responds accordingly so it can be *more* representative.

  • Jo Silver says:

    To subscribe to the JCCV e-bulletin or What’s Nu use this link – http://www.jccv.org.au/index.php?page=subscribe. I notice the links above take you to the actual articles.

  • letters in the age says:

    petting squabbling as they are Jews,,..


    Replace them with non-jews and you achieve better outcomes whilst having Jewish advisers to keep an overview on matters pertaining to the community

  • TheSadducee says:

    How were the 1-5 ratings assessed for the criteria in the piece?

  • Geez says:

    The Sadducee – didn’t you read what I wrote above? This isn’t meant to be a scientific, academic survey. It’s a well-written, creative PR piece. The “Ratings” assigned by the author are part of this.

  • Sydney Daniel says:

    This is the funniest piece I think I have ever seen.

    The executive director of JCCV giving us a rating out of 5 for everything JCCV does.

    In case you were wondering, and I know you are, I give this comment…

    2/5 for useful addition to the conversation
    5/5 for sarcasm
    5/5 for worth reading my comment

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Well done GA for removing the highly defamatory comments that were posted here over the weekend. Aside from being libellous, they were of no relevance to the subject matter of the article under discussion.

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