New ZFA CEO charts future

Alon Cassuto – 100% Aussie, Italian and Israeli

“We are at an incredibly important inflection point for the Jewish community in the Jewish world,” says Alon Cassuto.

ZFA CEO Alon Cassuto. Photos: Peter Haskin
ZFA CEO Alon Cassuto. Photos: Peter Haskin

Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) CEO Alon Cassuto, who began in the position in January, knows he has taken on the role at a time of deep crisis.

“We are at an incredibly important inflection point for the Jewish community in the Jewish world,” he explained.

“Post-October 7 [the] world is profoundly different … We’ve seen Jews come under attack … and at the same time, we’ve seen Jews reawaken and feel a strong sense of emotional commitment to their Jewish identity and to Israel.”

But the lawyer and management consultant hopes he can bring his personal and professional background to bear on the critical issues facing the community.

“I have lots of different identities. I’m Israeli, I’m Australian, I’m Italian, I’m a father, I’m a cyclist; but at my core, my one central identity that underpins everything is as a Jew,” he said.

He said he was attracted to the role because of the depth and breadth of what the ZFA does – from sending 500 young Jews on Israel programs every year, supporting nine Zionist youth movements, and representing the community at the highest levels of government.

“There is endless scope for growth and impact,” he said.

His mother grew up as part of a long established Australian Jewish family, and his father had a similar background in Italy. Both made aliyah, met and married and had Alon, who grew up in Jerusalem spending summer holidays alternately in Italy and Australia.

From left: Alon Cassuto with predecessor Ginette Searle and his mother, Jane Rapke.

Central to Cassuto’s vision is the reaffirmation of Zionism – a movement he describes as “one of the most beautiful and profoundly impactful movements of self-determination the world has ever known”.

“It’s actually on us as Jews … to do better at explaining what Zionism is – reclaiming Zionism because Zionism is not a slur word. And if we allow others to turn it into a slur, that’s on us because we need to be able to own Zionism by knowing what it means to us,” he said.

He is firm in his belief that changes need to be made in the wake of October 7.

“I think the whole Jewish community is re-examining how it is set up to respond to what’s going on in Australia, because if we’re honest with ourselves, we were taken by surprise. We were taken by surprise by the level of antisemitism … and we were taken by surprise at how well coordinated the other side was, and what that demands of us is to do better and lead better,” Cassuto said.

As an example of the kind of initiative he believes is important, one of the first decisions he made in the role as CEO was sending a young leaders’ mission to Israel.

“We took 17 of the top young leaders from across the Jewish youth movements, AUJS and alumni of our Diller Teen Fellowship and we sent them to Israel as a representative group of our next generation of leaders. They’re all in their 20s and they are incredibly ambitious young leaders who have a profound impact on the movements and organisations they lead,” Cassuto said.

He believes that strong public advocacy is essential at this moment in Jewish history and the ZFA is making that a priority.

“We are a community that has always given so much to this country to Australia, and now we’re actually demanding a bit in return. We’re demanding that this country protect our way of life as Jewish Australians, protect our safety, protect our institutions, protect our freedom to believe what we believe and stand up for ourselves,” he said.

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