Eighteen women from almost as many communities, including participants nominated by SSI, graduated on June 5 from a new community leadership program.
Pictured clockwise from top left: Anisa Shadieh on the knee of her mother Sarah, seated with other “We Are All Sydney” graduates, Lesli Berger, Lynda Ben-Menashe, Julie McCrossin, and Marcela Hart, SSI's Community Engagement Coordinator, with graduates Atra and Babel Korko.
Initiated and run by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, “We Are All Sydney” brought together emerging women leaders from the Jewish community and other ethnic, faith and NGO communities and organisations.
Participants undertook a four-month leadership development program facilitated by academics and other professionals. Many also interned in Jewish organisations that provided services of which they had some experience in their own organisations.
The aim of the program for the Jewish community was to share with leaders from other communities what it had learned as a small minority immigrant community, first as convicts and then in various waves as refugees from persecution, war and genocide.
Lesli Berger, Vice President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, said, “The Jewish community sees it as both a moral duty and a logical undertaking to try to give back and strengthen the social fabric of this city. It is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do, for the benefit of all.”
Lynda Ben-Menashe, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Community Relations and Policy Manager, said, “Stronger, more connected community leaders can only build a stronger, more connected Sydney and this is the intended legacy of the program.”
Trina Soulos, SSI’s Community Engagement and Capacity Manager, said “We Are All Sydney”, which was supported by the Department of Social Services, was significant for the way it supported women’s leadership capacity, refining their skills so change could happen in the community.
One of the SSI graduates, Sarah Shadieh, was accompanied by her family. Her daughter Anisa was proud to see her mother graduate and collect her certificate. When asked at school to write about a member of her family, Anisa chose her mother because of everything she had achieved.
“By supporting women like Sarah, we are supporting a generation of women to come,” said Ms Soulos.
The graduates of the program, from Aboriginal, Afghani, African-American, Anglo, Burmese, Chinese, Ethiopian, South Sea Islander, Iranian, Iraqi, Jewish, Lebanese, Sierra Leonean and Syrian backgrounds, were identified as leaders by organisations that care deeply about the future of Sydney: the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, the Barnabas Fund, CORE Community Services, the Mandaean Women in Australia, Parliament on King, the Salvation Army, SSI, the Association of South Sea Islanders Port Jackson and Sydney Alliance.
Another graduate identified by SSI, Atra Korko, said she liked how the program encouraged women to be leaders, to believe in themselves and to reach their goals.
It also helped them to understand different kinds of personalities and how women could best relate to one another, she said.
Ms Korko’s sister, Babel, said she appreciated learning about writing resumes, social media and how to use her knowledge to benefit an organisation.
Journalist and comedian Julie McCrossin gave a keynote speech at the graduation, where she spoke of leadership as being able to make a difference.
“Don’t help your children to be leaders, you be leaders,” she said, adding, “Education won’t get you leadership or influence; you’ve got to take it!”
One way to lead opinions and make a difference was through social media, she said. First you have to be clear about what your goal is, target the audience you want, and build relationships by finding out what your audience cares about.
The graduates intend to meet on a monthly basis to work on joint projects, undertake further training seminars and deepen the bonds of friendship they have developed.