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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EMILY NATHAN

Emily is a Board Observer for the AJF Board for 2021, part of the Observership Program. Emily is a diversity and inclusion practitioner with extensive experience in creating and implementing people, culture and engagement strategies. Emily has been at Bloomberg based in London for the last six years working across Europe, Middle East and Africa as well as leading initiatives across Asia Pacific and North America. Emily is committed to challenging organisations to think differently, ensuring the right programs are in place to inspire innovative and inclusive workplaces. Emily holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Sydney. She is an avid sportswoman and has a passion for the theatre.

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ASSAF AMBAR

Assaf joins AJF as a Board Observer for 2021. Assaf is a management consultant and works as a Principal at Boston Consulting Group. He has experience in the Technology, Media and Digital Media and Telecommunications industries and supports large companies with their growth and innovation efforts.

Assaf has held various positions, mostly in media and technology companies such as Google. Assaf holds a B.A. in Business Administration, Marketing and Information Technologies, is a marathon runner, enjoys good food and wine and is passionate about technology innovations that help improve our lives. Assaf lives with his partner and two kids in Melbourne.

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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JODI WEINBERG

Finance and Operations Director

Jodi joins the AJF team with over 10 years’ experience in corporate finance, 6 years’ experience in leadership roles in not-for-profits and 2 years’ of running her own business.

Jodi completed her Chartered Accountancy qualification at Ernst and Young in South Africa. She is passionate about helping others and created a program to support those who were unsuccessful in the qualifying examinations.

Jodi moved to Melbourne in 2011 and continued her work in assurance at Moore Stephens (formerly Nexia).  Jodi was asked to join the Young AICC committee in 2012 where she headed and implemented the first Young AICC mentoring program. She ran the program for a further 4 years and positively impacted over 250 senior executives, young professionals and university students. She was also involved in organising, facilitating and interviewing high calibre speakers at YAICC events and was a participant of the YAICC leadership program. Jodi also served on the AUJS finance committee in 2018.

Jodi’s experience in corporate finance together with her involvement in community have brought her to this role and she is excited to use her skills and contribute to society.

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TESSA ZAJAC

Director of Next Gen Initiatives

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

LaunchPad Program 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. As the new LaunchPad Manager, Rebecca is ready to take on 2021 with a bang, starting with the re-opening of the LaunchPad Hub and LaunchPad Leadership 2021.

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

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Lisa completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Sydney and is currently undertaking an MBA with a specialization in social impact at UNSW. She has held a number of roles in Jewish Education and programming in Sydney. Lisa was a participant in the inaugural JCA Observership Program and spent a number of years living in New York working at the Abraham Joshua Heschel High School. Lisa presently teaches in the HSIE and Jewish Studies department at the Emanuel School. Lisa is a past board member of NSW WIZO, focusing on helping the organisation engage young women in WIZO projects. She is currently on the steering committee of jwave, a start-up initiative seeking to engage families of students at non-Jewish schools.

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