History of Maccabi Victoria All Abilities

The Basketball Program

Maccabi Victoria All Abilities has reached a milestone. It has been ten years since Jewish people with disabilities were first invited to come along and join in a structured sporting program. The program started in 2005 and was set up by a passionate and strong-willed group of mothers who have a child with a disability. They gathered together, headed by Loran Miller, and were determined to allow their children to have the opportunity to play a regular sporting activity.

The newly established ‘Dolphins ‘basketball team soon began playing. They would meet once a week at the local basketball courts, the Rec Centre on Maple Street in South Caulfield and commenced training with the support of school students, Kimberly Miller, Lauren Mandel and Jamie Zaidenberg. The team was coached for many more years by Kathy Hay, and, more recently, by Rubin Winograd.

The All Abilities Committee

After several years the program was taken under the wing of Maccabi Victoria, with the tremendous support of Russell Jaffe and Sharon Hamilton. Russell had sought the establishment of the Program together with Daniel Leighton from Jewish Care, the beginning of a long partnership between the two organisations. In 2007, Maccabi Victoria and Jewish Care came together to maximise their resources, skills and personnel in support of Jewish people of all abilities, especially in their involvement in sporting and recreational activities.  Access Inc also played an important role throughout the establishment of the All Abilities program, through their admirable efforts in the advocacy space. This was an incredible breakthrough in the history of the All Abilities project, as it enabled the group to be incorporated into a mainstream organisation.  Sharon worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that this program grew from strength to strength, taking on the Maccabi Victoria Board portfolio position and reporting to each Board meeting. The All Abilities Committee was set up with representatives from local council, Jewish Care, Access Inc (Deena Goldbloom was especially involved) and parents of a child with a disability.

Program Development

The committee met regularly to discuss the All Abilities project, and decided to expand on the programs offered. In addition to the weekly basketball training, other programs were initiated during the year. This included come’n’try ten-pin bowling, table tennis, soccer, football and lawn bowls sessions, with the support of the mainstream Maccabi Victoria clubs. Sharon and the committee also worked together to set up an annual fundraiser, the Tribal Dance event, supported by the Stonnington City Council. These events were open to all members of the community and encouraged everyone to come together regardless of age or ability. In 2011 and 2012, Sharon and the committee developed the inaugural All Abilities Holiday program. The three-day event hosted many people with disabilities of various ages, who joined in many different sports and activities.

The activities were strongly supported financially by the Theodore Herzl Club, who provided invaluable ongoing financial support. In addition, a significant one off grant from the Waverley Hebrew Congregation, (after it was wound up) also contributed to the success of the Program. Smaller grants from various municipalities were also received.

All Abilities Needs Analysis

In 2012, Nikki Burger (Sport Management Consultant) was approached by Russell Jaffe and Philip Sheezel from the Maccabi Victoria Sports Foundation, in collaboration with Maccabi Victoria and Jewish Care, to complete a joint project, known as the All Abilities Needs Analysis. This became the foundation for the growth of the All Abilities program in 2014. The study examined the experiences of people with disabilities, analysed the demographics of Jewish people with a disability, as well as considering the needs and requirements of the Maccabi mainstream clubs, providing recommendations on how to better support people with disabilities to participate in sport and recreation within the Maccabi infrastructure. A key recommendation as to raise funds to employ an Inclusion Coordinator, a step which, once implemented, has brought about massive changes and improvements to the All Abilities Program. Funds were primarily raised through strenuous efforts by Alan Synman, leading the way with his family’s own significant contribution.

The Project Launch

In March 2014, the All Abilities Needs Analysis and the broader All Abilities project was formally launched at the beautiful Mossgreen venue in Armadale. Russell Jaffe helped bring this evening to life, through his efforts in coordinating the keynote speaker, Richard Bernstein, to come across from the United States. Richard has been blind from birth and shared his life-long inspiring stories of success within the sporting space and as a lawyer.

All Abilities Inclusion Coordinator

Following the completion of the Analysis, Russell Jaffe,  spent hours behind the scenes putting together a submission to Sport and Recreation Victoria for funding. The grant was approved and, together with the private donations, enabled Maccabi Victoria to employ its first All Abilities Inclusion Coordinator, Lauren Mandel, at the beginning of 2014. Lauren came to Maccabi with experience in the disability sector, having coached the ‘Dolphins’ team and had been a disability support worker for various organisations. This part time position enabled the program to grow from strength to strength. Particular highlights of the past 16 months have been:

  • Growing All Abilities membership to nearly 60 members.
  • Offering over 20 inclusive programs to All Abilities members and supporting integration into mainstream program.
  • Introducing volunteer and paid work opportunities for members.
  • Creating an inclusive Junior Carnival with 28 members and volunteers.
  • Rollout of the Maccabi Australia Member Protection Policy, including Disability Inclusion policy.
  • Stronger collaboration with other Jewish Disability service providers and peak sporting bodies.
  • Successful grant applications and increasing funds to enable 2 year extension to the Inclusion Coordinator role.
  • Improved marketing and promotion strategies, via website, newsletter and Facebook.

In summary, the All Abilities Program, after its initial 10 years, is now a firmly established Maccabi Victoria undertaking. We have great belief that it will continue on for many years to come, improving and enriching the lives of members of the Jewish community with a disability. 

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