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?

As this report will show, 2019/20 has been a unique and challenging year. It was the year we delivered three significant capital projects that Jewish Care has been working on for many years. These new buildings allow Jewish Care to fundamentally change the way we support ageing in our community, providing the three promised best practice senior living precincts geographically located across our catchment. Nevertheless, we haven’t had the opportunity to celebrate and congratulate the many people involved in these amazing new buildings. Instead, like the rest of the country, we have been busy navigating the challenges and additional demands COVID-19 has placed on our organisation.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are at war. The difference to other wars is that it is happening here on our home soil and the enemy is faceless, insidious, indiscriminate and lethal.

The health, aged care, and community services sectors are at the frontline of this battle. Our sectors have been under enormous strain with an unprecedented demand for services crippled at its peak here in Victoria by diminished resources with well over 1,000 health and community service workers sadly having contracted COVID-19 and many thousands more furloughed due to close contact.

It is understandable that for many, this challenge has at times seemed intractable. However, at Jewish Care we have remained strong, hopeful and optimistic. With a bias for action, calmness, compassion and professionalism, we will find a way to manage through this – our human spirit will prevail.

Since March 2020 at Jewish Care, our focus has remained on:

  1. protecting the people we care for now;
  2. responding to the needs of our community, as individuals and families are adversely impacted by the effects of this disease and recession;
  3. continue to manage the day to day aspects of our organisation; and lastly,
  4. not to drop the ball on those critically important strategic deliverables.

Given this is an Annual Report, it’s important that I make note of just some of the key highlights of the 19/20 year. Jewish Care:

  • moved 93 eager elders across to our beautiful new Hannah & Daryl Cohen Family Building located on the Holckner Family Senior Living & Community Precinct in Windsor;
  • launched the Jewish Care COVID-19 Helpline in March 2020 and, by 30 June 2020, had already assisted over 4,300 people in the community;
  • grew our in-home support services from 280 to 368 Home Care Packages – nearly a 32% annual growth;
  • successfully achieved Rainbow Tick Accreditation in late 2019;
  • achieved reaccreditation through the Australian Childhood Foundation in 2019;
  • took 40 leaders from across the organisation away for two days to participate in the very valuable annual Ethos Retreat;
  • successfully attained NDIS accreditation for our disability services in April 2020;
  • completed the state-of-the-art Anne & Eric Smorgon Active Living Centre in Caulfield;
  • hosted Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President, from the NYC Office of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc. for an intensive two-day visit;
  • demonstrated outstanding achievements in Person Centred Active Support in our supported accommodation through our Latrobe University evaluation;
  • graduated 12 job ready non-executive Directors through our Yesod Board Foundation program’s 4th year and enhanced the program for 2020 in partnership with The Observership Program;
  • hosted a terrific “Preventing Violence Together Community Breakfast” together with Unchain My Heart and Glen Eira City Council;
  • completed the Smorgon Family Building at our new Senior Living Precinct in Carnegie; and lastly,
  • concluded a very successful Annual Appeal (COVID19 Crisis Appeal) campaign resulting in $4.25 million of much needed support.

I would like to acknowledge our Board and respective subcommittees who have worked tirelessly over the last 12 months, stewarding the organisation through these unprecedented times. I thank each of you for the support and guidance you have provided me in my role and for the confidence you place in me and my team each day. I would like to especially acknowledge our President, Susie Ivany OAM, for her leadership over the last 12 months – it certainly hasn’t been easy since she took up her role in November 2019!

With heartfelt appreciation, I wish to recognise the amazing work of our resourceful, capable and committed leaders across the organisation. What has been asked of you this year is nothing short of extraordinary. With a strong sense of purpose and unity, our leaders have been more than up to the task of managing the daily challenges presented to respond, protect and trade through these uncharted waters. Together, we have navigated some difficult terrain. It has made us stronger as an organisation and as a leadership group, and has amplified the importance of our work in the community. In my final year at the helm, I say with absolute confidence that the organisation is in good hands, given the quality of leadership we are blessed with at Jewish Care.

To our courageous staff, you inspire me every day, I sincerely thank you for your ongoing, selfless commitment to the support and care of our community during this once-in-a-century pandemic. This insidious and unwanted global hitchhiker has ripped through the Victorian aged care sector like a viral tsunami. Nevertheless, despite the clear and present danger, to your health and that of your families, you have remained committed to your work.

I also wanted to acknowledge the people who live in our homes, be it residential aged care or disability. They have all demonstrated great resilience, a cooperative attitude and remarkable patience with the various COVID-19 related restrictions and impacts through shutdowns. Their preparedness to give up many of their own liberties for the benefit of the collective is example to us all.

Lastly, I wish to extend my deepest appreciation to our volunteers, donors, organising committees, corporate sponsors and communal lay leaders. Your ongoing support of our work strengthens us to support the community.

The year ahead will not be without its challenges as we continue to respond to the consequences of COVID-19; we transition leadership at a CEO and President level and we seek out the opportunities afforded by the Aged Care Royal Commission. Despite these challenges, I am extremely confident that our resilience and resourcefulness, united by a strong sense of purpose, will equip us well to continue to provide much needed care and support for the Victorian Jewish community.

Thank you.

Bill Appleby