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As we celebrate the strength and impact of Stand Up we want to take a moment to also honour our past, our incredible partnerships, our achievements and our milestones - all possible because of the generosity of our various partners, volunteers and supporters. We don't have enough room to talk about everything we've done, but here are some key moments from the past three decades.


Originally named Keshet, Stand Up was established in 1994 by the late Mark Baker and some close friends in response to the tragic Rwandan genocide. It was the first time that an Australian Jewish organisation explicitly launched an appeal to directly support non-Jewish survivors and refugees.

The success of the Rwanda appeal inspired Keshet volunteers to create an ongoing organisation. They believed that Keshet could be a vehicle through which Australian Jews could express their Jewish identities while engaging in social justice action.

When establishing Stand Up, our aim was to create within the Australian Jewish community a recognisable organisation that could provide a collective response to important humanitarian issues in the non-Jewish world.
(Dr. Arnold Shmerling, Co-Founder of Stand Up)

1994 Founded Newspaper


The success of the Rwandan appeal inspired Keshet to raise the idea of Tikkun Olam (Repair the World) as a fundamental Jewish value. We chose to express Tikkun Olam by developing volunteer opportunities for our Jewish community through local partnerships addressing issues such as homelessness, indigenous education and support of Sudanese refugees. As a purely volunteer-based organisation, Keshet members were ‘all hands on deck’ to fundraise and coordinate project events.

The projects helped Keshet reflect on its purpose and develop a new strategic direction - to focus on developing a more select range of partnerships, to deepen relationships and create more volunteer opportunities; both short term and longer term. These partnerships were initially with Hanover Welfare Services (for homeless families) and CentaCare (for Sudanese refugee support).

1990s Step Up


This new strategic direction did not stop Keshet from continuing to innovate. Using a model developed in New York to take unused food to hungry people, Keshet established Melbourne City Harvest.

Melbourne City Harvest operated through a volunteer model that relied upon volunteers to collect unserved food from B’nei Mitzvah functions, weddings and and even hospital meals and provide it to Melbourne’s hungry through Hanover Welfare Services and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Unbeknown to Keshet, at the same time, another food rescue initiative had also started in Melbourne. Called One Umbrella, their method of supply was to create savoury pies and pastries and distribute them as ready-to-eat meals.

This presented an opportunity to merge the two complementary programs into an organisation called FareShare that today provides approximately 2 million meals a year!

Realising another opportunity to transform the food rescue and relief sector, Fareshare and Secondbite joined forces in July 2024. This merger helped enable a unified solution to provide nutritious meals for those who need it most.

Stand Up is proud to have fostered the birth that helped shape one of Australia’s most impactful food rescue organisations.

2000s Food Rescue


To make our mission more easily understood, in 2002 we changed our name from Keshet to ‘Jewish Aid Australia’.

Now as Jewish Aid Australia (JAA), Stand Up’s precursor, the focus of investing in long-term community partnerships grew. By 2004, JAA was given seed funding to employ our first staff member, Lisa Buchner. Having a day-to-day professional to help coordinate our programs and our volunteers, JAA developed strong ties with the Sudanese refugee communities.

2002-04 Rebranding


Ian Jankelowitz (Board member) and Melanie Schwartz (former Board member) created the Derech Eretz program in 2005 when Ian was working at Shalom College as the Hillel Director. The goal was to take young Jewish leaders to volunteer in remote Indigenous communities in Toomelah and Boggabilla for a week during the school holidays. Over 2 decades Derech Eretz has been sending groups to Toomelah and Boggabilla to run exciting school holidays programs for the youth. Over 300 volunteers have visited these communities on over 45 trips.

The trip is often referred to as a deeply transformational experience that is challenging yet inspiring. Many of the Jewish volunteers return feeling a deep commitment to being involved in reconciliation and Indigenous justice. The program was run for its first 4 years at Shalom College, and then moved to Stand Up in 2009.

2005 Derech Eretz


Ric Benjamin steps down after 11 years as President of JAA. He hands the reins to Danny Almagor and a new board of energetic and passionate leaders.

I see Stand Up as a transformative organisation that uses the principles of Tikkun Olam to lead and inspire. I believe we break down community stereotypes by bringing people from diverse backgrounds together as individuals to connect and share a journey of mutual respect and positive action. This action of ‘connecting societies’ is at the core of what Stand Up represents.
(Ric Benjamin, former Stand Up President)

New Leadership


Gary Samowitz was appointed as Stand Up's first CEO in July 2009. He grew the organisation quickly - inspiring a new generation of young Jews to become social justice change makers and activists. Under his leadership there was an explosion in growth of our programs and volunteer community. Gary went on to serve as CEO for more than 10 years. He was an experienced facilitator, public speaker and community leader and he brought all these skills to Stand Up as the organisation grew. He was mentored by Danny Almagor, Stand Up’s board chair, who provided great leadership and support to help Gary achieve the ambitious goals that were set.

One of Gary’s passions was informal education, so the team began building a vibrant social justice education department that continues to deliver innovative programs for youth and young adults on a range of contemporary global issues.

2009 Our First CEO


In 2009, JAA’s Lisa Buchner was recognised by the Victorian Multicultural Commission for an Award for Excellence for our Refugee Support Programs, in particular the Women's Group which held a weekly program for Sudanese and Jewish women. Workshops held included effective communication, current affairs and vocational skills.

Lisa and her army of volunteers also organised incredible school holiday programs for the Sudanese community 3 times a year - attended by approximately 300 people each time.

2009 Award For Excellence


A new program was launched in 2011, called Step Up (previously Stand Up ABC). This is an 8 week or holiday intensive program created in response to engaging Bnei mitzvah aged kids in making their year more than just about the simcha and celebrations. Through Step Up they learn how to make a difference in the world, and explore what it means to be a Jewish adult, and inspiring them to engage with and pursue social justice.

2011 Next Generation

Yorta Yorta Beyachad (YYB)

After the success of the Derech Eretz program, Stand Up began running school holiday programs in the remote community of Cummeragunja. After several years, Mount Scopus approached Stand Up to discuss creating a program for year 9 students. YYB was born which features educational workshops and a 4-day seminar for year 9 students in Cummeragunja allowing them to engage with First Nations Culture and learn directly from Elders in the community.

Yorta Yorta Beyachad


Nuba Now Campaign

Engaging Thousands of Jewish community members about Omar Al Bashir's war crimes.

What would you do? Campaign

Large scale media and marketing campaign to inject humanity and compassion back into Australia's asylum seeker conversation.

Ron Castan Humanitarian Award

This annual award was hosted 5 years in a row and acknowledged and celebrated Jewish Australians who were making a significant impact in the world.

2011 Community Engagement


Jewish Aid Australia rebranded itself and officially launched its new name, ‘Stand Up: Jewish Commitment to a Better World.’

It's not always comfortable being a leader, but if we want a better world we do need to stand up. It's a call to action, it's motivating, it's a call to our community to Stand Up and take responsibility for the world around us and it's proudly inspired by Jewish values.
(Gary Samowitz, former CEO of Stand Up)


A year-long program that inspires and trains the best social impact leaders within the Jewish community. This program ran for 6 years in a row in Sydney and Melbourne, and provided participants with the skills, knowledge and networks to be the most effective changemakers they could be.

It's like a masters in social entrepreneurship through a Jewish lens.
(Gary Samowitz, former CEO of Stand Up)

2014 Fellowship


The team at Stand Up transformed a 1500 year old Jewish text into an inspiring guide for repairing the world.

Selling over 5,000 copies, the new Australian Haggadah highlights fundamental social justice themes of slavery, poverty, freedom and redemption. It frames them in a language for modern Australia and a contemporary world, with thought-provoking commentaries by a diverse spectrum of Jewish Australians.

It's what Passover is all about, which is talking about freedom and justice, and these issues are still pertinent today and as a community we really need to stand up and make some noise about injustice wherever we see it.
(Lillian Kline, former Stand Up Development Director)

New Australian Haggadah


Over 1000 copies sold of this coffee table book, which interviewed and photographed prominent Jewish Australians who were actively working to improve the Australian society. The book was turned into a museum exhibit and was hosted by both the Sydney Jewish Museum and Jewish Museum of Australia.

2017 Standing Up Book


Launched iCan, a weekly tutoring program designed to empower Sudanese secondary students to fulfil their potential and reach their goals.

iCan was our flagship youth program. Over 40 students would come to the Stand Up office in Malvern every Sunday for tutoring and mentoring. We also ran two youth leadership retreats a year for the participants.

Everytime I go to iCan I know that I will get help with my studies and feel relieved about my workload for school.
(Randa, Year 12 student - iCan Sudanese Youth Program)

2017 iCan


Partnered with the Jewish Independent (formerly Plus61J Media) and others to deliver a day-long summit to inspire and educate the Australian community through panels, workshops and guest speakers. This became an annual summit which brought the Jewish community together annually to grapple with Social Justice issues.

2018 Summit


Under the leadership of new CEO Gid Reisner, Stand Up developed and launched their new Vision, Mission and Values as well as their Theory of Change.


Raised almost $1million to support bushfire relief on behalf of the Jewish Community in response to the devastating bushfires across NSW.

2020 Bushfire Appeal


Launched ‘Come Together’, a truth-telling conversations program inspired by the Uluru Statement from the Heart, where we bring the voices, stories, emotions and histories of First Nations people into Jewish homes and organisations.

2020 Come Together


In early 2022 Courtney Winter-Peters stepped into the role of CEO. Courtney is a formidable, dynamic leader and is passionate about social justice and empowering young Jewish people to use their skills to effect change. She is a lawyer who formerly worked in both Private Practice and the Community Legal Sector.

2022 Our New CEO


In early 2023, Stand Up proudly launched Kol Halev: The Jewish Communal campaign in support of a “Yes” vote in The Voice to Parliament referendum. Whilst the result of the referendum wasn’t what we had hoped for, Stand Up led a passionate, informative and professional national campaign, running events for over 2000 people, mobilising hundreds of volunteers and engaging thousands more people across the country in discussions about reconciliation and First Nations justice.

2020 Come Together


In the last 3 decades Stand Up (and its previous incarnations as Keshet and JAA) has enabled Jewish Australians to respond to humanitarian disasters, provide food security to the hungry, engage with First Nations communities, assist refugees to integrate into Australian society and educate the next generation of our Jewish community to understand the social justice landscape and the wider community around them.

Stand Up has had over 450 volunteers, 48 paid professional staff and since 2014 has raised over $8.2 million dollars. The organisation has made a deep and profound impact on so many people’s lives, and we can’t wait to see what the next 30 years brings. Thank you for being part of the movement of Jewish Australians who are passionately working towards creating a world we can be proud of.

2024 Celebrating 30 Years