2019/2020 marked a time of growth and transformation for Jewish Care for the achievement of results under the ‘Transforming for our Future’ strategic plan 2018-2020. Commitments for this phase included the delivery of new services, supports and infrastructure in continuing to support and enhance the wellbeing of the Victorian Jewish community.

Jewish Care is proud to present the 2019/2020 Annual Report that provides an overview of the major improvements and transformational changes to the organisation, in addition to presenting key achievements and responses to the challenge of COVID-19.


It is with pride that I present my first President’s Report for the 2019/2020 year.

In my first year as President of our incredible organisation, I discovered the true meaning of Jewish Care’s four values: Respect, Community, Inclusion and Social Responsibility. The global COVID-19 pandemic pushed organisations such as ours into turmoil. It has been a time when leadership from the Board and executive towards the management, staff, volunteers and supporters has been crucial.

According to former US President Barack Obama, ‘We achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others and caring for those around us.’ Jewish tradition implores us to look after our own, making it our responsibility to care for those who are vulnerable. We are the sum total of our collective actions.

Last year saw three Royal Commissions into Aged Care, Mental Health and Disabilities. We hope that the Royal Commissions will result in great improvements in services and appropriate government funding across these three areas enabling all members of our community to live with dignity.


Golda Meir, Israel’s first female Prime Minister said, “You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity.”

Whatever you might be thinking about the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic, you’re probably not thinking large enough.

Our lives have already been reshaped so dramatically over the last eight months that it’s often difficult to see beyond the mere survival of our organisation. We’re bracing for the impacts of the recession post March 2021, with many government payments sunsetting. We are wondering just how long our once ‘taken for granted’ freedoms will last, and ‘if and when’ a third wave of lockdowns will commence, whilst all the time praying that our loved ones make it through this pandemic, particularly our elderly folk.

What this major health and economic crisis is forcing us to do, as individuals and as a critically important organisation, is think exponentially about its long-term impact. A year or two from now, the virus itself will likely have become a manageable part of our lives – effective treatments will have emerged and a vaccine will hopefully be made available, however, the impact of COVID-19 on our global citizenship will only just be unfolding. The massive disruptions we are already seeing in our lives are potentially just the first signs of a historic transformation. What will it mean for Jewish Care Victoria?


The most significant achievement by Individual & Family Support Services for the year was the effectiveness and speed with which the division was able to set up to service Jewish Care’s COVID-19 Helpline in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the launch of the Helpline in March this year, 4,385 individuals and families have been assisted with urgent and most demanding needs supporting them to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Another key highlight was the successful completion of a $3 million refurbishment project comprising 36 transitional housing units in St Kilda to those most vulnerable in the community.

Our seamless transition from the Kraus Building to the new Hannah & Daryl Cohen Family Building located in the Holckner Family Senior Living & Community Precinct was another important milestone in continuing to achieve better outcomes for our clients and the team through better collaboration, joint practice, easy access to services and cross program communication. The new environment has been both transformative in the way we offer services to our clients and innovative in the use of online platforms, particularly those programs and activities engaging youth during COVID-19.


This year has been important for our Residential Aged Care services in many ways providing opportunities to reflect, grow and challenge ourselves as we stamp our identity and presence in the Jewish community as a leading provider of Residential Aged Care services. In striving to provide the highest standards of care and to assure our elders that they are supported to live a fully independent and meaningful life here at Jewish Care, we embarked on a journey of transformations across our models of supports, services, amenities, infrastructure and our product offering.

“Growing. For our Community.” capital campaign was launched in 2014 with a commitment of $200 million to develop six new facilities in 10 years. As part of this once-in-a-generation project, we were delighted to announce the opening of the Hannah & Daryl Cohen Family Building located in the Holckner Family Senior Living & Community Precinct in April this year.

Ninety-six elders were moved into their new luxurious homes built on the Hand-in-Hand™ model of supports, encouraging them to become active participants in their supports taking into consideration clinical, cultural and conversational requirements. The three-tiered accommodation offering; Traditional, Classic and Choice, provided further flexibility enabling our elders to choose the most appropriate environment befitting their lifestyles. The new home features five-star amenities, winter gardens, open courtyards, ergonomically designed private ensuites, accessible kitchens, cinematic entertainment in their rooms and an opulent theatre; all within the nine-storey Hannah & Daryl Cohen Family Building. Most importantly, our elders are supported and looked after by a dedicated team of staff trained on Jewish Care’s very own, person-centred, Hand-in-Hand™ model of supports enabling greater independence, social connectivity and flexibility.


A new era dawned on Jewish Care’s Active Living Services with the opening of Gita Smorgon Family Active Living Centre at the Holckner Family Senior Living & Community Precinct and commissioning of Anne & Eric Active Living Centre adjacent to Gary Smorgon House.

These vibrant, bustling, light-filled spaces have created connection centres for the community to get together, while enjoying a range of allied health, social support groups, respite programs and wellbeing programs to support independent living. We were delighted with many clients accessing our services seeking social connections and activities, until they were profoundly impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. Some of the most frequented programs were art and craft groups, storytelling, current affairs, excursions, in house entertainment and exercise sessions, and we continued to deliver vital services during the lockdown period via online virtual groups and limited one-to-one services in people’s home, including our new podiatry service.


It has been a year of consolidation for Jewish Care’s Disability Services. By November 2019, all eligible clients had completed the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and we were operating as an NDIS provider.

With the introduction of the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission from 1 July 2019, our focus was on aligning our service delivery model and framework to that of the Commission’s Practice Standards. This in part prepared us for our successful NDIS Certification Audit in March 2020, which was the first time registered providers have gone through an audit process for the NDIS. It also enabled us to review how we as a provider had transitioned to the NDIS and where we could make improvements.

With a focus on improving our services, we commenced a review of each of our service areas and the changes to plan management and support coordination services have already resulted in improved response times and increased time spent supporting our clients.


What a year it has been. When the global pandemic hit our shores, things changed overnight at Jewish Care as they did across the country and globe. Our event calendar was full with dinners, lunches, presentations and more and as restrictions were enforced we had to cancel event after wonderful event.

The response from the community was extraordinary. When faced with crisis, our community stood up when most needed. Thousands in the community provided financial support, in-kind donations and their valuable time to support others in the community in serious need.


We are proud of our workforce and committed and invested in their growth and development. During the year, a range of initiatives were introduced to identify potential and capacity building in our employees. From a health and wellbeing perspective, the safety of our employees have always been a top priority and we delivered a range of health promotion activities, awareness programs around R U Ok? Day, SafeWork and IDAHOBIT and injury prevention activities to ensure a safe workplace environment for everyone.

November 2019 saw the organisation recognising and rewarding extraordinary staff and volunteers on their achievements and services. We also acknowledged our outgoing President, Mike Debinski, for his seven years of voluntary service to Jewish Care and for his dedication, guidance, leadership and tenacity, through which we have seen enormous growth, particularly in the areas of aged care, disability and social justice services. To our past Treasurer, Rohan Filer, who retired from the Board after nine long years, we thank him for his commitment and diligent service to Jewish Care.

Faced with one of the biggest global health challenges of our time, we adapted and made changes to our learning and development approach facilitating a safer pathway for engagement and communications via online platforms such as Zoom. We offered flexible working arrangements and 130 staff commenced home working within two weeks of COVID-19 spreading in Melbourne. We introduced a new Learning & Development Essentials program that combines statutory training with information on mental and physical wellbeing across Jewish Care and provided access to high quality employee assistance services to ensure employees mental health and wellbeing.