THE ACT Jewish community is trying to raise more than $6.2 million for a major renovation and extension of its property.
The development in Canberra will create a new space for the Progressive shul, extend the Orthodox shul, create a new Jewish museum and war memorial, and build a new playground and several multipurpose spaces that can be used by the federal Jewish bodies when they are hosting politicians or events in the nation’s capital.
According to the ACT Jewish Community’s Rabbi Alon Meltzer, the project has been the community’s dream for 65 years.
“When the community built the original centre it was meant to be a national Jewish centre but the funds ran out,” Rabbi Meltzer said. “Sixty-five years later the community is able to build a centre that is truly representative of Australian Jewry.”
The rabbi told The AJN that a small renovation would create enough space for the growing ACT Jewish community, but this is about a lot more.
“We’ve spent the last two to five years ensuring the community in the ACT is strong and viable, but now it’s time to put that in perspective.
“We have 17,500 square metres of land only 600 metres from Parliament. We have to utilise that as a home for Australian Jewry.”
He said the site can be used by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and other communal organisations that host politicians in Canberra.
“We can make this a home for the community.
“When our leaders meet with politicians they can do so in a Jewish centre, not in a hired hotel boardroom or somewhere else.”
ECAJ president Robert Goot and executive director Peter Wertheim said the capital works would deliver considerable benefit to the organisation’s national advocacy efforts.
“We envisage that an upgrade to the facilities of the ACT Jewish Community would enable us to hold regular events with federal parliamentarians and dignitaries in Canberra, and could serve as an additional professional base for visiting ECAJ staff and executives,” the pair said in a statement.
Stage one of the development will be put to tender next week and construction should begin before Rosh Hashanah.
Rabbi Meltzer said the response from the community has been extraordinary. “We’ve received strong early support from across Australia as well and we have $2.3 million, because this project resonated with anyone who is concerned about advocacy and a home for our people.”