Magda in the House
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Magda in the House

A record 898 Jewish House supporters danced and dined at the Westin Hotel on November 30 for the not-for-profit organisation’s 25th annual gala dinner, hosted by Magda Szubanski.

Magda Szubanski hosting the Jewish House gala dinner in Sydney. Photo: Nadine Saacks
Magda Szubanski hosting the Jewish House gala dinner in Sydney. Photo: Nadine Saacks

A RECORD 898 Jewish House donors and supporters danced, wined and dined at Sydney’s Westin Hotel on November 30 for the not-for-profit organisation’s 25th annual gala dinner, hosted by comedian and author Magda Szubanski.

Guests were treated to an aerial acrobatics display, a live auction and giant raffle, groovy tunes by the Clarence Bekker Band, and a brief Irish dancing demo by Szubanski’s Kath and Kim alter ego Sharon.

Beyond the razzle dazzle entertainment lay a serious message of hope and inspiration about Jewish House’s ongoing work to help the most vulnerable people in society.

CEO Rabbi Mendel Kastel said 2016 has seen Jewish House “grow in leaps and bounds”, surpassing its initial target of helping 850 people in a calendar year.

Rabbi Kastel outlined key achievements, including 40 children and 12 primary schools signing up for the new JH Kids support program with the assistance of the Goodridge Foundation, and the launch of the Interventionist Program that assists drug and alcohol addicts and their relatives to negotiate a journey of recovery.

Other highlights were the new Standing Tall program, empowering and upskilling 14 domestic violence survivors; the Homebase Program that has a 90 per cent success rate in preventing homelessness; and the NSW government agreeing to double the number of supported crisis accommodation beds at Jewish House.

“Our work would not be possible without our supporters and donors – you are Jewish House’s most valuable assets, so thank you for digging deep,” Rabbi Kastel said.

“It’s particularly great to see so many young people here tonight.”

Szubanksi revealed she felt a close connection with Jewish House’s cause because of her experience working at a women’s refuge as a young adult, and also because of her family’s choice to hide Polish Jews from the Nazis, despite the risk of imminent danger.

“Jewish House is so groundbreaking in thinking of ways to keep people supported during their most difficult time,” Szubanski said.

Keynote speaker, domestic violence survivor Kay Schubach, revealed how lucky she feels to be alive, “But 70 women already this year have not been so lucky.

“The number one thing we can all do to fight domestic violence is to believe the person that has experienced it,” Schubach said.

The late Ricky Brisson – who devoted her life to helping thousands of children and supporting international orphanages – was named the winner of the inaugural Dennis Clifford Humanitarian Award. Her adopted sons, Steven and Adam, accepted the award on her behalf.

“Mum’s legacy will echo through the generations, transcending religion, race and culture,” Steven said.

SHANE DESIATNIK

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