18 Nov 2011
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition
John Searle is the outgoing president of the JCCV.
No regrets, just pride and gratitude
THREE years ago, I was elected president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV). While I’d been involved with that and other organisations for more than three decades, I nevertheless felt the transition to being the voice of the organisation that is the “voice of our community” to be a serious responsibility. Being required to fairly represent the multitude of opinions of our diverse community is perhaps “mission impossible”, and certainly a significant challenge.
Photo: Peter Haskin Top man: John Searle (centre) with Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu (left) and Zionist Council of Victoria president Sam Tatarka.
During this time, many people have asked me the burning question: “Why”? Now I am greeted with “Aren’t you happy it’s over?” or more positively “Are you glad you took it on?” These are all versions of the same question and point to the hesitation of many to take on voluntary leadership roles within our community, or in other not-for-profit endeavours.
For me, the why was never in question: I believe in the importance of our community being united, strong, respected and having self-respect. I am passionate about Jewish continuity and determined to play my role, in whatever way I can, rather than leaving the responsibility to others. The real questions were only where and how.
Without dedication, commitment and passion, without fire in your belly, you can’t be an effective leader in any field. Being a community leader makes you community property. You will – whether you want it or not – receive praise, advice, criticism and even abuse for decisions or statements you make. I take that as evidence that people care about the community, and that they also want to have their say.
Whatever I may have given through these past three years, I feel I’ve received so much more in return. There is a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that I, together with my organisation, have made a difference in a positive way, not just for people in our community but beyond as well.
On the way to the AGM in 2008, my daughter warned me in no uncertain terms that I was not to lose the election … particularly as I was the only candidate!
I smile at this recollection for two reasons. First, this year there is a contest for the positions on the JCCV. I see this as a great success. In the three years of my term, interest in and attention to the JCCV has increased both outside and within the community, and many good and talented people are keen to become involved.
Second, this memory brings into focus that date, the ideas, plans and visions I had. We have achieved much in three years, tackling difficult issues within our community and between our community and others. From GLBT, youth-alcohol and interfaith issues, to working with government, police and other organisations on matters such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, the JCCV is in the forefront of Jewish affairs in this state.
As I step down from this role, I do so with a feeling of great pride and gratitude to the community for trusting me to be your voice and your leader. I urge you all to take your ideas and use them for the community’s benefit – as a leader or volunteer in an organisation that fits your passions.