THE warmth in the room was palpable on Sunday evening at the Sydney Jewish Museum as communal leaders, interfaith representatives and politicians gathered to farewell outgoing NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) CEO Vic Alhadeff.
Paying tribute to the one-time AJN editor, who has helmed JBOD for the last 17 years, former JBOD president Justice Stephen Rothman said Alhadeff’s “respect for differences of view, his respect for people, and his love for Australia, the Jewish community and Israel are obvious”.
“He was so well liked and respected by both sides of politics that it is difficult to imagine someone with a higher reputation,” he added.
“That was Vic’s work – building a relationship with political leaders; with other communities; and representing our views in a way that was forthright, brought support and displayed its reasonableness.”
Last night we said a fond farewell to the long-standing @NSWJBD CEO, @VicAlhadeff as he embarks on the next chapter of his career & life! Vic, thanks for your leadership on opposing racism & your passion for social justice. #Mensh
We will miss you at @m_culturalnsw ???????? pic.twitter.com/keVqADpFdO
— Joseph La Posta (@Joseph_LaPosta) May 3, 2021
When former JBOD president Jeremy Spinak tragically passed away in 2018, Rothman said Alhadeff’s “stable and professional hand guided the community through it”.
Alhadeff described being influenced by his grandparents and 151 Alhadeffs from the island of Rhodes being murdered at Auschwitz; and railing against apartheid as a student and chief subeditor of The Cape Times in South Africa.
“It was connections with the darkness of the Holocaust on one hand and the inhumanity of apartheid on the other which – without my realising it – coalesced to shape my worldview,” he said.
Of applying to be CEO, he said, “I felt drawn to do whatever I could to advance social justice through the prism of the Jewish experience, and to combat bigotry in general and antisemitism in particular.”
In the role he said he had held to the “timeless injunction” from Pirkei Avot, “It’s not up to us to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it.
“This, above all, has driven me. The task of making this a better place to be Jewish. Of doing what we can to promote mutual respect across Australian society. Of making the world a better place.”