JEREMY Spinak, like those before him, received recognition for his tireless work for the community when he stepped down as president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) on Tuesday night.
But this week was something different.
In the presence of the Premier of NSW Gladys Berejiklian, Opposition Leader Luke Foley, former JBOD presidents and a host of communal leaders, Spinak spoke about his pride at being JBOD president, his love of the community and the difficulties he has faced in the past few weeks since being diagnosed with a rare cancer.
Unlike some former presidents of JBOD, the average punter in the NSW Jewish community probably wouldn’t know Spinak or recognise him if they bumped into him on the street.
While he has spent countless hours at meetings and functions representing our community, and he has made a huge impact, he has never sought the limelight.
He has worked behind the scenes to create deep and meaningful links between JBOD and members of the NSW Labor Party. According to Berejiklian, under Spinak’s leadership JBOD has “changed history and changed NSW for the better” by pushing the government to pass changes to Section 20D of the Discrimination Act to make it illegal to incite violence based on religion.
Spinak said he was particularly proud of creating dialogue with the Uniting Church, engaging with key ethnic and religious groups in NSW, facilitating former premier Mike Baird’s historic visit to Israel and helping organise a bespoke course on anti-Semitism for the editors of The Sydney Morning Herald following the publication of a cartoon that upset the community.
Spinak has been, and will continue to be, an asset to the Jewish community and NSW.
He noted in his final speech how lucky we are to have a Premier and Opposition Leader so supportive, because it’s not the case around the world.
The baton is now handed to Lesli Berger, who has been elected as JBOD president.
He has some big shoes to fill, but with the help of Spinak and other former presidents we’re sure he will be an outstanding leader for the community.