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Ruth Nissim reflects on her Maccabi NSW presidency

Posted: 27-Oct-2011 by Maccabi NSW

After four years leading our organisation, Maccabi NSW president Ruth Nissim hands over the reins to Max Futeran, who will guide us into an exciting era of Maccabi sport.

The new look Maccabi NSW executive is: president Max Futeran, vice-president Danny Hochberg, Kevin Fisher, Marlon Aronowitz, Lauren Ehrlich, Paul Laurence and Andy Singh.

Before her final AGM address, Maccabi News caught up with Ruth to reflect on her time in charge.

Picture: Ruth Nissim (left) shares a joke with Paralympics legend Louise Savage in 2010.

Tell us what you reflect on when you think back on the last four years ...

I think it’s been a strong committee, where, with the introduction of being part of the JCA, we have more of a profile.

I think we’re strong in the community. The JCA have said to us we’re the flavour of the month.

We’re a strong organisation; we cater for so many aspects of the community; from the young to the very old and from generation to generation.

Financially, we’re doing OK. We’re now looking at taking on some more staff. When I came on, we appointed Odile Faludi to revamp the newsletter, which has been a huge success. We get so many community organisations wanting to promote their organisations in our newsletter.

Things like the newsletter, the relationship we have with JCA, the relationship we currently have with Hakoah, the strength of our clubs – we’ve introduced four new clubs this year (triathlon, cycling, table tennis, karate, swimming is back), we’ve got Moriah.

The netball club is a phenomenal club; the basketball club are doing some amazing things; the rugby club, even though it’s one team, it’s a juggernaut; and the soccer clubs continue to do well.

One of the other things I’ve been proud of has been bringing Monash back into the fold. We lost Monash for almost 10 years. And they’re now looking to change their name back to Maccabi. Things like that mean a hell of a lot.

We need to be an organisation that is inclusive. And that’s brought us 200 more members.

The organisation has so much potential and has so many good people, it has a great future.

But you need a future that is prepared to embrace change. There is going to be change.

So what are some of the changes and challenges the organisation faces going forward?

One of the things that concerns me is that sometimes you go to meetings and there are people who have been around for 40-50 year – and I am one of those people – who say: ‘this isn’t how we used to do it’. But times have changed.

When I was growing up, Maccabi was your social club, your way of meeting people, to be part of Maccabi was an opportunity to mix and mingle. Now, with the strength of Jewish day schools, the emphasis is on the sporting side of it. It has encouraged a competitive element, which I don’t think is a bad thing, but we need to be conscious not to be competitive, at the expense of the ethos of the organisation and also not to exclude those who want to play or are only capable of playing at a social level.

I’ve heard people say when they were young they didn’t get competitive sport at Maccabi, so they went to play at other clubs. It would be lovely to be able to cater for that level now, but it can’t be at a cost to the organisation, its values and its grass roots – to connect the Jewish community through sport.

The White City development is the biggest opportunity we’ve got as an organisation. I can say hand on my heart we will have a home there and I hope it will be a home that will attract young people and provide facilities for them to play their sport.

What's been your biggest challenge?

The hardest thing for me has been managing parents’ expectations. I think we all want our kids to succeeds, but parents shouldn’t put some of the pressures they do on their kids. Sometimes, kids just need to be able to enjoy playing to a certain level. The difficulty of a big organisation like Maccabi is managing the expectations. We all want our kid to be the next Lleyton Hewitt or the next Susie O’Neill. Hopefully that does happen, but it’s the minority, not the majority. I’m not taking away the need to excel, but you need to manage expectations. I don’t deal with that a lot but it is a big part of the organisation.

One of the saddest points in my four years was when Michael Wrublewski passed away. He was a mentor to me, to a lot of people. He was larger to life; when he passed away, that was tough.

Do you have a highlight?

I’ve really enjoyed it. It does take a fair bit of your time and there are moments it has been difficult, with meetings, things like that. But I’ve been very lucky. We’ve had a cohesive and cooperative executive over the last four years; they’ve always stepped up if I couldn’t attend something. Generally, it’s been good.

Overall, what makes me excited is going to a presentation night when you see a kid walking up to get their trophies. That, for me, is what this organisation is all about. Getting kids out there, enjoying themselves, playing sport. That’s been my highlight.

I’ve had a great team of people who have worked on my executive. As I said in my AGM report, sport is all about teamwork. If you’ve got a good team, it’s the recipe for success. Success isn’t necessarily winning, it’s achieving, and I think the organisation is going to keep moving forward and growing.

What makes the organisation tick, and how are we placed looking at the next generation?

We’re successful because of the strong clubs we have and the strong executives we have. It goes down to the coaches that volunteer to coach teams.

We are unique, we have a huge network of volunteers. We provide opportunities at a local level, and national level and international level. Not many organisations can offer that.

The camps, the MAIL program, these initiatives, organised by Danny Hochberg, they’ve been great. And what I’ve always encouraged, which is something Mike Wrublewski taught me, is if you’ve got an idea, run with it. Give people the opportunity, like with the camps. We ran with it, we put it together. If it failed, it failed, but it succeeded, and is great for the organisation.

The MAIL program is not going to happen next year but it is all gun ho for 2013, which will have a program that will finish with the Maccabiah. The program will start in February 2013, they’ll start promoting it from February 2012, and it will finish just in time for Maccabiah, which is fantastic.

The camp, Joel Weiner did a fantastic job. There were 63 kids, and we’re hoping to make that an ongoing event.

North and Eastside competitions, we’ve named it the JCA Cup, that encourages more integration to the north, as does Michael America’s basketball ‘Americas Cup’.

Junior Carnival, we’ve got Justin Shelton, he’s taking the team to Brisbane. The Carnival in 2013, we’ve already started putting a committee together.

Final thoughts?

Things are moving. It’s a great organisation to be involved in and I think it’s exciting times for the organisation and I’m happy to still be involved – from the sideline!

We are lucky to have an organisation that caters for parents, kids and grandparents.

Maccabi is in your blood, you can walk away for a while, but you’ll always come back.

Carnival 2020


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