The AJF Board AND TEAM embrace innovation and opportunity. WITH A RANGE OF BACKGROUNDS AND SKILLS, COLLECTIVELY THE DEDICATION AND DRIVE IS INSPIRING AND IMPACTFUL.
Board of Directors
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SIMONE SZALMUK-SINGER, CO-CHAIR

Simone joined the AJF Board in 2016. Simone discovered the AJF when she attended LaunchPad 2015 as a participant. Surrounded by diverse Jewish changemakers, Simone was immediately inspired by AJF’s innovative lens on community and strategic approach to philanthropy. 

Simone is motivated by a strong sense of service to Jewish community and holds a number of leadership positions. She is Co-Vice President of Jewish Care Victoria and a Director of the Erdi Foundation. She is Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Jewish Women of Words, an online publication for Jewish women writers. Simone was formerly President of JNF Victoria and Australian National Vice President. For many years, Simone worked as a lawyer specialising in employment law.

As she is passionate about developing Jewish communal leadership, Simone is a mentor in several leadership programs and is a Senior Fellow in the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies Fellowship program. Simone has completed leadership training programs in areas such as adaptive design and women’s leadership and has attended the Harvard Business School where she studied Governance for Nonprofit Excellence and Performance Measurement for Effective Nonprofit Organisations.

Simone draws constant inspiration to lead, innovate and collaborate from the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who famously wrote, “Fight for things that you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

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JUSTIN GREENSTEIN, CO-CHAIR

Justin works in Financial Services, with a deep focus on risk management in the Digital and innovation space. More recently, Justin has co-founded a RegTech (Regulatory Technology) start-up which provides organisations with a digital tool to measure and monitor risk culture. Justin is very passionate about Jewish life and Jewish tradition and is excited about the opportunity to contribute to the future generation of Jews in Australia through the AJF. Justin lives in Melbourne and is married with two children (a three year old daughter and a one year old son). Justin loves travelling and being exposed to different cultures around the world. Justin joined AJF in 2019 as a Board Observer and is now a Director.

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BELINDA BARDAS

Belinda is Head of Philanthropy and Trustee at Victor Smorgon Charitable Fund (VSCF). The VCSF provides strategic investment to a range of, for purpose organizations, in the Australian Jewish Community, broader Australian society and Israel. Supporting a broad range of areas, including education, the arts, institutional development, and medical research.

She is Non-Executive Director at Victor Smorgon Group, a family office that has a strong focus on retail, property, agri-business, equities, and philanthropy.  As a mentor in residence at Launchpad Retreats since 2015, Belinda has built deep and long-lasting relationships with committed Jewish communal leaders, change-makers, and activists. Launchpad, a platform for Jewish community Innovation in Australia unites incredible change-makers, giving them skills, networks, and opportunities to connect, think, create and lead together. It is there where the magic happens and 14 innovative programs stimulating Jewish life have been seeded. 

Beyond this Belinda worked as a Fashion Retail Professional, at an iconic Australian brand, specializing in women’s fashion. Honing her business acumen, in business development, entrepreneurial vision, brand strategy, marketing and communication skills, the ability to recognize future trends, and the capacity to make decisions under pressure.

DEBBIE DADON AM

As Chief Executive Officer and Trustee of the Besen Family Foundation for 20 years before moving into her current role as Chair of the Besen Family Foundation, Debbie has developed an acute and insightful awareness of the issues and needs of local communities. Debbie’s philanthropic contribution has covered a broad spectrum of issues but her leadership has been particularly evident in the areas of intergenerational philanthropy and disability. A significant part of Debbie’s mentorship role in the Besen Family Foundation has been the sensitive task of guiding and nurturing the involvement of the third generation of the Besen family in philanthropy. 

Debbie’s commitment and contribution to the community is evidenced through her involvement in many organisations. The Australian Jewish Funders (AJF) is an organisation specifically aimed at inspiring effective philanthropy and strengthening community. A Founding Member of the AJF, Debbie held the position of Chair for 10 years. 

Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) is a global movement of communities connecting makers, designers, developers and engineers with people with disabilities to develop technological solutions for everyday challenges. Debbie first witnessed TOM in action in Tel Aviv in 2015 and then brought TOM to Melbourne for the first time in 2016.

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JEREMY DUNKEL

Jeremy Dunkel is a Director of Taurus Capital, a family office consultancy specialising in philanthropy, and a Non-Executive Director of Pengana Capital Group, an ASX-listed funds management company.  His accounting and finance experience includes working for Chemical Bank, Chase Manhattan, and Price Waterhouse.

He is a Director of Education Heritage Foundation, the Treasurer of the Moriah College Foundation And is a Member of the Steering Committee of Mosaic United.He also Chairs Y2i, an organisation that grants $5,000 vouchers to Year 10 students from NSW / ACT / QLD with at least one Jewish parent, to make participation in approved Israel-based educational programs affordable.

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NATHAN CHER

Nathan is a director of the Australian Jewish Funders. Nathan is the Victorian Chairperson of the ORAH Fund Allocation Committee. He has served on boards of community organisations and working groups, and together with his wife Camit, supports a wide range of charities and causes. He is a Tech Entrepreneur & Investor who has been a founder and director of a number of companies (listed and unlisted) in the areas of Technology, FinTech and Property.   He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.  He has a number of prominent investments in Israel such as MONETA CAPITAL, OURCROWD & TIPRANKS.

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ELI NOSSBAUM

Eli Nossbaum is a Vice President in the Credit Suisse Private Banking Division in Melbourne where he works closely with high-net-worth individuals, families and not-for-profit organisations advising on investments across multiple asset classes both in Australia and globally. Prior to Credit Suisse, Eli spent 4 years as a Relationship Manager with Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management. Eli holds a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Applied Finance from Monash University where he was awarded the Top Student Award for Corporate Finance. Eli is a member of Philanthropy Australia’s New Generation of Giving and is also a member of the Investment Committee of Jewish Care Victoria which includes responsibility for managing the organisation’s endowment and residential bond portfolios.

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BRAD SMORGON

Brad is an experienced entrepreneur, strategist, portfolio manager, and innovator from Melbourne, Australia. He is passionate about supporting for-purpose organisations and social enterprises by building networks and applying corporate skills and knowledge. He holds degrees in Commerce and Law from the University of Melbourne and lives in Melbourne with his wife Rachel and two sons, Oscar and Leo.

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LESLEY BER

Lesley Ber was born in South Africa. She attended a Jewish school and after school qualified as a Chartered Accountant, obtained a Diploma in International Tax, a Diploma in Governance of Not for profits as well as an MBA. Lesley has 15 years banking experience ranging from general banking internal auditing to specialist treasury bank auditing. She is an experienced structured financier and has implemented domestic and cross border lending structures. She has worked in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Australia in various other roles as well as having been a tax examiner for the South African Institute of Bankers. She has also lectured Accounting at a university level.

Lesley immigrated to Australia in 2010 with her two young children and a baby on the way. It was then that she decided to focus on her family and to take a break from corporate life. With her youngest child having started school, Lesley decided it was time to “give something back” and she began to devote her time and skills to the not for profit sector in her community. Specifically, the Jewish sector as Judaism has always been an important, guiding aspect in her life.

Having been raised in South Africa and being exposed, firsthand, to the suffering of the disenfranchised, among them women and children, Lesley is passionate about human rights and women’s issues along with the advancement of girls and women in our society. She is the Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee of the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (Victoria) Inc and a Board member of Emunah Australia.

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LAUREN PLACKS

Lauren Placks is an experienced and passionately dedicated charity and not-for profit community leader. For more than a decade, she has held leadership roles and maintained active involvement in various charities such as the JCA, Australian Jewish Fertility Network (AJFN) and the UIA. I have also been a Board Member on the Moriah College Foundation for the past 5 years and recently joined the board for Australian Jewish Funders (AJF).

After completing a Bachelor of Senior Education (Physical and Health Education) with Honours and running a successful personal training business, Lauren began raising her young family. Her time is now largely spent on her various roles and responsibilities within each organisation, with a focus on events, strategic planning and engagement and helping to encourage her fellow cohort to begin their own philanthropic journey, for example through her role as the chair of ‘Jumpstart Juniors’ for JCAs young family program. Lauren and her husband have also been a part of a giving circle for the past 4 years and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of this unique way of giving.

Board Observers
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SHAHAF SEGAL

Shahaf joins AJF as a Board Observer for 2022, as part of the Observership Program. Shahaf is a Director at KPMG where she leads Strategic Planning for Government & For-Purpose clients and organisations, along with serving as KPMG National Strategy Lead for the Education Sector. Bringing to bear analytical tools from her previous roles in Israel as a Board member in the education space, an Army Intelligence Officer, and a tech-focused investment banker, Shahaf works closely with executive teams and boards to help their organisation transform.

Being passionate about driving societal improvement, Shahaf leads KPMG Strategy’s pro-bono work and is the co-founder of Tel Aviv University innovation centre. Shahaf holds a Master of Business Administration in Finance, Entrepreneurship & Strategy (Summa Cum Laude). She enjoys the arts, travel, hiking and is an amateur pastry chef.

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JARED ENGELMAN

Jared joins AJF as a board observer for 2022 as part of the Observership Program. Currently, Jared is a junior doctor currently working at the Prince of Wales Hospital after graduating with first class honours in his Bachelor of Medical Studies/Doctor of Medicine from the University of New South Wales. His work affords him the privilege of meeting people from all walks of life and the opportunity to provide support to those in need.

Beyond medicine, Jared derives purpose from his involvement in community organisations aiming to promote equity and inclusion within society. As Co-Chair of Camp Sababa, a Sony Foundation camp for children with special needs and disability he supports social integration and fosters disability advocacy within volunteers. Jared is also a Co-Founder and previous director of the not-for-profit organisation Youth HEAR (Holocaust Education and Remembrance) where he advocated for tolerance, acceptance and cross-communal collaboration whilst developing skills in social entrepreneurship. Outside of this, Jared enjoys sports, loves to travel and is an avid reader of crime fiction.

Team
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TRACIE OLCHA

CEO

Tracie Olcha is Chief Executive Officer at the Australian Jewish Funders (AJF), a membership organisation of Jewish social investors. Tracie works closely with the AJF network, philanthropic foundations and a multitude of organisations throughout Australia, the US, Israel and Asia to promote strategic, effective philanthropy and support their journey towards impactful giving across the generations. 

She is all about empowering community members to create meaningful and relevant Jewish experiences for themselves and their peers and is the visionary behind LaunchPad – A Platform for Jewish Community Innovation. LaunchPad inspires grassroots community engagement and leadership, enabling change-makers to connect, think, create and lead.

Before joining the AJF in 2011, Tracie worked with a variety of Jewish organisations and was responsible for a myriad of projects including fundraising, marketing, major events and conferences. With a background in education, Tracie taught and held a number of leadership roles at Mount Scopus Memorial College and was education consultant for News Limited and the AFL.

Tracie sits on the International Council at Moishe House and is a Scholar with Our Common Destiny, a ground-breaking new initiative to strengthen global Jewry by linking Jewish communities all over the world to a shared set of ethics and values across religious and cultural identities. Tracie co-founded Mamilla, a six-month program that aims to unlock and activate the power of Jewish entrepreneurs and connects them with the start-up eco-system in Israel.

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TESSA ZAJAC

Director of Next Gen Philanthropy

Tessa joins the AJF team with a background in international relations, community development and program management. Tessa is passionate about growing innovative programs centred around next generation engagement in philanthropy. With Bachelor degrees in Arts (Global) and Science, majoring in International relations and Environmental Chemistry, and a Graduate Diploma in Psychology, Tessa brings a multidisciplinary approach to elevate social impact and unravel complex problems.

Tessa previously held international roles at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide in London, and at Centropa Budapest – a Jewish historical institute dedicated to preserving 20th century history in eastern Europe. She is excited to apply her multidisciplinary training and cross-cultural experience to a role that encourages effective philanthropy and positive social change. 

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REBECCA ADLER

Community and Innovation Manager

Rebecca is supportive, enthusiastic and extremely community focused. She loves to have fun, explore new opportunities and is empowered to encourage those around her to take a leap of faith and step forth with courage, the motto from Bialik College, where she attended school from kindergarten through to year 12.

Rebecca first joined the Australian Jewish Funders team as the LaunchPad Retreat Coordinator. Through this role, her understanding of the Jewish community has broadened, as has her network of highly motivated and inspiring individuals.

Rebecca has also been involved in the disability sector for many years and brings a wealth of knowledge, understanding and a commitment for a more inclusive society to the LaunchPad network. In her spare time, Rebecca loves exploring new walks around Victoria, believing walking isn’t only a lockdown trend. She also loves a soy latte, experiencing new restaurants and is always on the hunt for the best dumplings in town.

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LISA PILLEMER

As a Sydney native with a passion for community organising, Lisa’s background is richly diverse in outreach and community engagement. Having experienced the familial effects of mental illness first-hand, Lisa was drawn to the field of psychology and education and went on to receive both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Sydney. Her early career included roles interning at a youth crisis centre in Israel, working with students across a range of disabilities at the William Rose School, and focused on extensive outreach to Jewish students in the greater Sydney and rural NSW areas. In 2013, Lisa moved to New York City where she worked as a high school educator at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School. It was here that Lisa found a passion for inter-faith work and embedding social justice and action into educational curriculum. She is currently an MBA student specialising in Social Impact at the AGSM School of Business at the University of New South Wales. Filled with humility believing the best way to learn is through experience, Lisa has participated in the 2013 inaugural Observership Program, LaunchPad 2019 and was a 2020 Philanthropy Fellowship Fellow. In her current position as the Director of Philanthropy & Engagement at the Australian Jewish Funders, Lisa works with individuals, for-purpose organisations, corporates and the educational sector to enhance meaningful and strategic giving experiences. She resides in Sydney with her spouse and their two vivacious daughters. She enjoys traveling, listening to podcasts, and dancing to great music.

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MARNI LEVY

After completing her Undergraduate Degree in Human Resources Management in Melbourne, Marni went to live in London where she worked for a not-for-profit called PaJeS from June 2016 to November 2021, who aim to support all 120 Jewish Schools in UK in strategic development, collaboration and teaching and learning. In her time there, she worked in a variety of roles, including Personal Assistant to the Executive Director, Fundraising and Communications and more recently as Special Events and Fundraising. After six years of living in London, Marni has recently returned home to Melbourne with her husband and daughter. Marni has recently joined the AJF team in the position of Projects and Communications and is excited to be working in the community that she grew up in and feels so connected too.

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