New ECAJ president Segal gets to work

November 28th, 2019

The following article has been published in The AJN.

THE Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) will develop “a full program of activity” with a “focus on education” to counter rising antisemitism.

New president Jillian Segal, who replaced Anton Block at the helm of the roof body at its AGM last Sunday, told The AJN that with incidents becoming more serious in nature, “we need to take a great deal of action” to stem the tide.

“It is un-Australian, it is not what we’re about and it is not to be tolerated,” the businesswoman and communal stalwart said.

Noting that antisemitism happens when leaders “either expressly or non-expressly” allow it to take place, she said political and community leaders needed “to be very strong in their messages of condemnation”.

“We need bipartisan messaging,” she added. 

“We need business to say it’s completely intolerable in the workplace. We need academic leadership to say it’s absolutely unacceptable on university campuses. We need school principals and we need the heads of education departments.”

Segal cited the example of TAFE NSW, which established new protocols on racism following the bullying of a Jewish student last year, saying, “We want to see that adopted throughout all universities.”

She said that together with other communities, ECAJ will work towards the establishment of a national protocol to define, record and categorise hate-motivated crime.

Another major challenge Segal identified is the steady decline in Australia’s Jewish population which will affect advocacy and how communal funding is spent.

In terms of new ECAJ initiatives, she said the roof body planned to nurture future leaders through coordinating alumni of the various leadership programs in the community into one central group. “Give them additional leadership and training programs to keep them engaged and have some of them become active in political parties, have some of them active as advocates, have some of them active as communal leaders,” she said.

“We have an obligation to grow the leaders of the future.”

In taking on the ECAJ presidency, Segal said she was “conscious that many great communal leaders have come before me and worked hard to establish the ECAJ as the important roof body that it is”.

She paid “great respects” to her female predecessors Diane Shteinman and Nina Bassat who “blazed the trail” and said there needs to be more women in communal leadership roles.

Segal also paid tribute to Block for his contributions during his term. “He has carried the torch and provided a very measured and collegiate role as president,” she said, paying tribute to his establishing a Canberra ECAJ office and his focus on communal security.

She added that “the great strength” of ECAJ is its office, calling it “a first-rate team” and lauding co-CEOs Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin.