Over the last two and half decades, Stand Up has enabled Jewish Australians of all backgrounds to respond to humanitarian disasters, provide food security to the hungry, engage with Aboriginal communities, and assist Sudanese refugees integrate into Australian society.
Originally named Keshet, Stand Up was established in 1994 as an appeal to support the survivors of the Rwandan genocide. This new organisation aimed to give expression to the Jewish ethic of active tzedakah (justice) by providing an ongoing fund for humanitarian relief.
Click here to read Stand Up Founder Dr Mark Baker’s thoughts about the creation of the organisation.
For many years, Keshet’s work was fuelled by volunteers sitting around kitchen tables, discussing and responding to social injustices, with a focus on community fundraising for local projects and international humanitarian and natural disasters.
During the first six years, Keshet established Annual Programs – including Homeless Youth (1995), Koori Education (1996) and Breaking the Isolation of the Elderly (1999) – as well as a homework club for homeless people and families in crisis at Hanover Welfare Services (2000).
After 2000, Keshet decided to focus on building deeper and longer-term community partnerships. That year, Keshet Board members also established the food rescue organisation, Melbourne City Harvest. This entity would later become FareShare, an organisation that today prepares and delivers over 2.5 million meals annually to Melbourne and Brisbane’s hungry and homeless.
In 2004 Keshet changed its name to Jewish Aid Australia (JAA), and employed its first part-time employee, Lisa Buchner (Stand Up’s Refugee Programs Director). Strong ties began to be forged with the Sudanese refugee communities in Melbourne and Sydney through the organisation’s Refugee Programs, and several Aboriginal communities through the Aboriginal Partnerships Department.
In 2009, Gary Samowitz was appointed as JAA’s first CEO, and his energy, compassion and drive has helped to grow the organisation – known since 2014 as Stand Up: Jewish Commitment to a Better World– into what it is today. Click here to watch Gary’s speech at the launch of Stand Up’s new name in 2014.
Stand Up has built a vibrant social justice education department that today delivers innovative programs for youth and young adults on a range of contemporary global issues – including Stand Up ABC (And Be Counted), a popular social justice education program for Bnei Mitzvah aged students and the Stand Up Fellowship (a 6 month personal development & social impact journey for emerging leaders aged 24 – 32).
A central vision of the organisation has always been increasing awareness within the Australian Jewish community of important social justice issues and promoting understanding between the Jewish community and other communities. We are also proud to have published 2 books (The New Australian Haggadah, and Standing Up, as well as a blog called The Well)
Stand Up has mobilized hundreds of volunteers to create a meaningful difference in disadvantaged communities. Its volunteers reflect the diversity of the Jewish community; in age, gender, skills, and religious affiliation.
Now in its 25th year, Stand Up is proud to be running 18 different social justice programs with over 150 active volunteers, supported by 14 staff in Melbourne and 5 in Sydney – all of this is made possible by over 1000 generous donors.