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Jul 09

Mancom Talk: Diane Fine on three community development projects

Community Development Project

By Diane Fine

In my brief contract with the shul as the community development worker I had some very exciting projects.

Based on several examples of educational projects at Progressive Shuls internationally I designed a model for our Contemporary Jewish Educational and Wellness Centre. The Centre will offer educational programmes in a range of spheres as well as activities to grow emotional and psychological well being. The activities of the Centre can be divided into the following categories: contemporary Jewish identity and thought; Progressive Jewish practice; Interfaith Affairs; academic support for scholars and students, and teacher enrichment programmes (tikkun olam); skills development programmes (tikkun olam); creativity; and wellness. The business plan is finalised and now we will look for funding to establish and run the Centre and to provide ongoing tikkun olam programmes.

The second project was to explore developing projects for our congregants. Almost 40% of our members are 65 or older and some of those who are not working become isolated and bored. As a result I initiated a fortnightly morning tea for seniors which Max Green has taken on as one of his many activities for Mancom. Hopefully this tea will grow into a social club which can go to the theatre or to music events in addition to being an opportunity for friendly teas. We have also discussed starting a bridge morning and various other possibilities.

My third project was working closely with David Fienberg to drive the project to optimise the value of our property. This began a number of years ago when Setplan did an assessment of our property at the request of Mancom. Their report took into account the usage rights of the property, the position, the amount of land, and what would be compatible with our shul. Over the last 4 years we have met with many potential investors but none has offered a serious option until now. We are now negotiating with one of the companies in the area to develop and use some of our underutilised offices, classrooms and meeting rooms. Discussions are in a preliminary stage and may or may not include shared usage areas, a long lease, and sufficient income from this to renovate the Janks Hall and surrounds. But all this will only be seriously considered if the numbers make financial sense and will significantly improve the long term finances of the shul. When we have clarity this information will be shared.

I also began building a profile of our members but this needs much more work.

Though my contract has now come to an end there will always be more to do. The vision for our campus is of a vibrant growing community offering a range of activities which will address the needs of all who live or work in the area – spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and creatively. The big tasks at this stage are to raise the money for the Education and Wellness Centre, continue the negotiations with possible property investors and increase the activities for congregants.