How Healthy is Your Body?
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.