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icjw president's report: may 2015

It is now one year since I became president of international council of Jewish Women and since each of you accepted your current responsibility

as a member of ICJW Executive.  I thank you all for the work you have contributed to our organisation during  the year.  I believe it is important to assess our work in the first quarter of this quadrennium, to reaffirm our priorities and perhaps  to consider broadening our  platform. As this meeting progresses we will have the opportunity to discuss our ideas. 

A quick word about my Organisational  workplace : The ICJW office in Sydney is functioning well, with much credit to our office secretary Dee Hart and  head-quarters secretary Liane Froneman who has developed the regular ICJW News  Sheet to a high standard as an information vehicle. Dee will continue  in her role, while Liane will hand the NS over to Dee and concentrate on other work such as the ICJW Newsletter, which we hope to print and distribute  around Rosh Hashana.  I also thank headquarters treasurer Adrienne Swarts for her regular attention to ICJW  financial matters in our office.  ICJW Treasurer Joan Goldberg is consistently in touch with me and we work closely on many questions and issues pertaining to the organisation.

And now a synopsis of  my activities as President in the past six months.

After the ICJW Executive meeting in New York in November 2014 I visited our Canadian affiliate National Council of Jewish Women of Canada , travelling  to both Toronto and Vancouver Sections. On both visits I was accompanied by NCJWC President Sharon Allentuck.  The Toronto Section held a special reception at its premises at which I met with local members and with Canadian politicians Canadian MP Mark Adler, and  MPP Monte Kwinter representing Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.  Also attending were DJ Schneeweiss  the Israel Consul General,  Michael Mostyn,  CEO Bnai Brith Canada and  Alex Stein the cantor of a Toronto synagogue.

The Vancouver Section was celebrating its 90th anniversary at a daytime community event in the bright modern premises of the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens.More than one hundred guests attended the function where a number of stalls showcased the ongoing projects and programs supported by NCJW Vancouver Section.

During each visit I was very pleased to meet many members of NCJW Canada .Our global organisation depends on the well-being and proactive capabilities of affiliates such as NCJWC to carry our name to their communities and to continue to energise International Council of Jewish Women.

 In March this year I attended the Commission on the Status of Women forum in New York. There were fourteen representatives from ICJW attending CSW, most of them members of ICJW Executive. For both Penelope Conway, Status of Women Chair and myself it was our first time at this huge NGO gathering of global women, rounding out our earlier experience of attending the regional forum in Geneva UN last November. Over a two week period in various venues close to the UN building there were more than four hundred side  events, with up to ten running simultaneously.  

Our first engagement was the International Women's Day Celebration March and Opening Ceremony at Times Square on Sunday March 8.  The new slogan  leading us towards the next fifteen years was introduced: Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.As ICJW President I was invited to CSW Opening Session in the UN General Assembly where several speakers included the UN Secretary General Ban Ki- Moon, Sam Kutesa President of the General Assembly and the current President of the Security Council. The Draft Political Declaration on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was accepted.

The Time is Now: Feminists working with Civil Society was the session organised by ICJW UN NGO representatives Fran Butensky and Joan Lurie Goldberg, jointly with Council of Organisations and Academia Mexicana de Derecho Internacional. The panel emphasised that grass roots feminists working with civil society will help advance women in the post 2015 world.

Education – the Power behind Empowering Women was the Israel side event jointly hosted by UN Women and UN Habitat, with opening remarks by Israel Ambassador David Roet and Secretary General of the Knesset, Ms Yardena Meller-Horovitz.  A useful booklet distributed at the event , ‘The Status of Women in Israel – Beijing+20 is available in the ICJW office.

Attending CSW 59 was a broadening and educational experience. It was inspiring to be among so many groups of women from a multitude of countries, all seeking greater equality for women and children, all working at major issues of importance in women’s lives today. It was upsetting that at the end of a fortnight of apparent camaraderie and goodwill amongst women the Commission adopted a political resolution, the Palestinian statement against Israel and its 'occupation’.

En route to the  Commission on the Status of Women in New York, I visited ICJW's newest affiliate , the Mexican Jewish Volunteers.

For my two day visit to Mexico I was hosted by VJM President Sonia Rusansky and conducted around Jewish Mexican organisations by Past President Lilian Grinberg. It was a very full but satisfying program and formed a most informative introduction to the Mexican Jewish community. I was fascinated by the history of Jewry in Mexico and had introductions to and meetings with several of the community leaders as well as visits to the wonderful facilities built by the various strands of the Jewish community.

I met the members of VJM at a meeting in a member's home and learnt about the work that each member has contributed to the community in Mexico. There were a number of different volunteer  activities including that taught to VJM by David Copperfield  the magician some years back.

M y final official activity organised by Lilian Grinberg was a special meeting of all presidents of Mexican Jewish women's organisations  to introduce ICJW to the community. Over twenty women attended, each was happy to speak about the work of her organisation and I answered many questions about the work of ICJW.I was surprised and delighted at their interest and their wish to be involved in ICJW activities. The president  of the combined Jewish women’s organisations asked me how they could become part of ICJW and I was somewhat taken aback –  our newest affiliate is the small Mexican VJM who are very proud of their affiliation to ICJW. I really didn’t tackle this difficult question yet, I suggested to our members that we will hope to see some of these organisations represented at open sessions of the Mexican regional meeting in October before considering their request.

While in Mexico I was pleased to visit and confirm the venue chosen for ICJW's Latin American Regional meeting and Executive meeting later this year. The meeting room we have booked is within the huge, well equipped Jewish centre containing the Jewish Sports Centre as well as an extensive library. We have booked  a suitable dining room in the centre. Since my visit the Mexican affiliate leaders are deciding the accommodation  . All attendees will be bussed back and forth to the meetings asMexico City traffic is shocking. For this reason we will begin meetings at 10am each day.

I hope that many Executive members will take the opportunity to come to Mexico to attend the ICJW  Latin American Regional conference and Executive meeting. In this quadrennium this will be the first of only two ICJW regional conferences, for despite the fact that ICJW has five geographical regions just two regions have a large enough number of countries within them to make a special conference - Latin America and Europe. European Regional Chair Liliane Seidman is organising the ICJW European Regional Conference in Madrid in November 2016 and will tell you something about it later in this meeting. 

Travelling from Sydney to this week's Executive  meeting, I had the pleasure of meeting with members of two ICJW affiliate organizations, Cooperation Feminine in Paris and League of Jewish Women in Manchester, UK. Later this week I will meet with London members of the League of Jewish Women at their Council Forum. I will send you a report on my meetings with the UK and Paris organisations, but I must say that the volunteer work undertaken by members of both LJW Manchester and Cooperation Feminine in Paris amazed and inspired me. Such visits remind me that as ICJW Exec members we sit astride our affiliate organisations, literally dozens of wonderful Jewish women's organisations , within which many thousands of fellow Jewish women give  their time, care and expertise as volunteers in their communities. 

Our position as Executive members of ICJW means that we speak as members of a global women’s body. Along with many of you I have spoken out on issues which are at the core of our priorities and reflect our principles.  In March, I participated in an International Women's Day event at the Baha'i Temple in Sydney, along with women representatives from the Muslim, Catholic and Baha'i communities. The topic was 'The role of religion in advancing gender equality' - which made it difficult to provide positive answers in our speeches. Later in the day we continued our discussion on a program for Australian ABC Radio National, which was  broadcast nationally in April.

I returned to Sydney last week from the ICJW May Executive meeting in Antwerp; while in the northern hemisphere I also made visits  to the League of Jewish Women,  our UK affiliate in London and Manchester and Cooperation Feminine, our French affiliate in Paris .

ICJW Executive Meeting - Antwerp, Belgium, May 2015

(See also the report with photos here) 

Thirty six Executive members attended the Antwerp meeting, with several Belgian affiliate members joining us for sections of the two- day meeting. Sixteen countries were represented at the meeting and the program gave opportunities for most Executive members to speak.

I am very grateful to the Council of Jewish Women of Belgium who were most hospitable and organised all details with care. Our thanks go to CFJB/ LJVB President Lucette Pilcer, her team Liliane Seidman and Nadine Iarchy, Eliane Sperling and special thanks to Mary Liling who hosted the welcome dinner and a second impromptu dinner in her family home. Several dignitaries including the Israel  Ambassador to Belgium and Belgian Jewish leaders attended the opening event. My thanks also go to ICJW Treasurer Joan Goldberg and PR and Communications Chair Eva Robey who handled many tasks, including the voice recording, timekeeping and photography responsibilities.

With apologies for closing o n a sad note, ICJW Life Member and dedicated member of our Belgian affiliate, Thea Zucker, passed away shortly after the Executive meeting in Antwerp. Thea had assisted in preparations for the meeting and very much wanted to be part of it, but unfortunately fell very ill just that week. We wish Long Life to Nadine Iarchy and her family on the loss of her mother.