Executive Committee

The Executive Committee of the Union for Progressive Judaism is responsible for governance and oversight of the organisation. Elections are held every two years for President, two Vice-Presidents, Honorary Treasurer, Honorary Secretary and two members at large. The President has the prerogative to appoint representatives from affiliated bodies (as specified in the constitution of the UPJ), as well as members at large for specific portfolios. The Executive Director serves on the Executive Committee ex-officio.

Current members of the Executive Committee are:

PresidentRoger Mendelson
Roger has considerable business experience to contribute to his role at the UPJ. He is the author of two published books on business. He served as president of Temple Beth Israel from 2005-2008, and as vice-chair of Progressive Judaism Victoria (formerly "The Victorian Union for Progressive Judaism") for one year. Roger believes that the Progressive Movement should strive to be accessible, welcoming and  relevant in a pro-active way. Roger is married to Sue, and the couple has three grown children.



Vice-President: Brian Samuel

Brian has been associated with the Progressive movement all his life . He is a Past President of Temple Beth Israel from 2008-2010 and President of Progressive Judaism Victoria from 2012 to current . In addition to his involvement with Progressive Judaism he is involved in a number of community organisations . He has been associated with the clothing industry for just on fifty years with expertise in marketing. He has been appointed an Ambassador for White Ribbon Australia , an organisation that campaigns to stop violence against women. He believes that Progressive Judaism brings innovation and creativity to Jewish traditions. It should provide pathways to its members and friends to enjoy an engagement with Progressive Judaism that enhances their lives through spiritual enrichment , learning and community. Brian is married to Jenny and they have two grown children and five grandchildren.

Immediate Past President: Stephen Freeman


Honorary Treasurer: Sally Castle

Honorary Secretary: Sharon Davis

Sharon is a longstanding member of the NSTE community. From 2003-2005 she was a member of the Board of Directors, including the office of Vice President. Her portfolio involved organisation of several events including a Capital Appeal Dinner, and collaboration with Emanuel Synagogue to organise a UIA Progressive Trust fundraising evening featuring Simon Tedeschi. Subsequently she headed the NSTE Community Support Group, which provides a year-round program of volunteer service including an Annual Senior Citizens' Variety Concert and charity collections. In her professional life, Sharon is a research and teaching pharmacist, and as such brings skills such as critical thinking and analysis.


Committee memberAlison Dwyer

Alison is the Immediate Past President of Beit Shalom Synagogue in Adelaide and has been serving on the board of Beit Shalom since 2006.  Alison grew up in the American reform movement in a large Jewish community in Baltimore, Maryland but was driven to become actively involved in synagogue management when joining a much smaller community.  Alison delivers an urban renewal project for the South Australian Government in one of Adelaide’s lowest socio-economic areas and will bring strong project management, strategic thinking, budgeting and governance skills to the UPJ executive.  Alison is passionate about supporting the smaller Jewish communities in our region to ensure they are able to have sustainable progressive congregations and stay connected to Judaism.

Committee member: Suzanna Helia

Suzanna Helia is the CEO of Emanuel Synagogue. With more than eighteen years' experience in executive roles in the finance and banking sector, Suzanna has a strong track record in leading successful strategic programs and teams and in transforming organisations. Suzanna is  committed to making the UPJ a model of exemplary governance and transparency, and is passionate about the UPJ's mission of supporting and developing a dynamic and engaged community of Progressive Jews in Australia and New Zealand. 



Committee member: Joel Mendelson

Joel works as a Principal Performance Analyst for the Western Australian Office of the Auditor General. He has also taught Human Resource Management, Industrial Relations and Small Business Management in all of Western Australia’s public universities for the past 10 years. Joel is currently President of Temple David Congregation, and has previously served the congregation in the roles of Assistant Treasurer and Senior Vice President. He has also served on the committee / boards of many other volunteer organisations. Joel was also active in the AUJS movement, in 2003 traveling to Israel as part of the Birthright Israel Program. Joel is passionate about ensuring the relevance of Progressive Judaism, especially younger members of the Jewish community.



Committee member: Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey was educated at Methodist Ladies College and graduated from The University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree. She was elected to the Parliament of Victoria in 1996 and re-elected in 1999, 2002 & 2006 as the Member for Caulfield. Helen retired from the Victorian Parliament in 2010. During her time in Parliament, she served as the Shadow Minister for Health for five years after serving as the Shadow Minister for Aged Care, Multicultural Affairs, Housing and Community Services. She was previously an Economics and Politics teacher, chief of Staff and senior policy adviser to the Federal Coalition, a consultant to Western Mining Corporation, Metropolitan Female Vice President, and member of the Administrative Committee for the Victorian Liberal Party. Helen has previously served on the boards of the Jewish National Fund and the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Authority. She was the recipient of the Jerusalem Prize for her contribution to the Jewish community. Helen currently chairs the board of Alfred Health, serves on the board of Temple Beth Israel and has been elected as Vice-president for Progressive Judaism Victoria. She was recently elected to the Executive of the Union for Progressive Judaism.

ARZA presidentSteve Denenberg

English born, Israel trained Social Worker, Steve moved to Sydney, Australia, with his wife and two daughters in 1986. After 17 years as CEO of Jewish Care (NSW) and head of the Federal Jewish welfare organisation, he established Plum Partnerships, providing low-cost fundraising and profile raising’ for Israeli and Australia-based not-for-profit organisations. In 2004 Steve joined Emanuel Synagogue as CEO. In 2008 he was recruited to be the Executive Director of the Union for Progressive Judaism where he worked until June 2015. He is currently the administrator for ARZA Australia and studying to become a personal fitness trainer. Steve has a Bachelor of Social Work from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and post-graduate qualifications from the University of Essex (U.K.) and the Australian Graduate School of Management.  He has volunteered for organisations including the Refugee Council of Australia, the Refugee Advice & Casework Service, the Association of Jewish Communal Professionals, ARRCC (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change), B’nai B’rith, the 2000 Olympics; ARZA and Emanuel School (as Board member, chairman and President) and was awarded the Centenary Award for services to the Jewish community, the aged, young people and people with disabilities.  

Moetzah chair: Rabbi Adi Cohen
The Rabbi of Temple David Jewish Progressive congregation in Perth, Western Australia. Born and raised in Israel, married with three boys. Former Rabbi of Brit Olam congregation in Kiryat Ono in Israel and Temple Sinai in Wellington New Zealand. A former Search and Rescue officer in the IDF. Worked for many years in formal and informal Jewish education in Israel and in the United States. Was teaching law and Jewish ethics in Israel and worked as a story teller with special ed kindergartens. Currently the chair of the Moetza (the assembly of Progressive Rabbis from Australia, New Zealand and Asia).


Netzer federal mazkira: Shira Appelboom
Growing up in a Progressive Jewish household in Melbourne, it was unsurprising that Shira completed 13 years of schooling at The King David School and celebrated her Bat Mitzvah at Kedem. She attended her first Netzer camp at the age of 3 as the daughter of the camp medic. Shira’s progressive Jewish journey continued with the Shnat Netzer program in 2013 where her enthusiasm for youth empowerment and Progressive Jewish education exposed her to the world of Progressive Jewish leadership. She is therefore very excited to fulfill the role of Federal Mazkira of Netzer in 2015. Outside of Netzer, Shira spends her time at Monash University studying a double degree of Arts and Law and volunteers at the student run vegan and vegetarian Wholefoods café at the Clayton campus. She enjoys puzzles, hiking, improving her Hebrew and reading Winnie-the-Pooh. She looks forward to the challenge of shaping the vision of Netzer Australia and being an active member of the UPJ executive.

Asia Forum Representative: Bob Cooper

WUPJ Representative: Sharene Hambur
Sharene's communal involvement began at the Leo Baeck Centre in Kew where she was a youth leader and then a member of the Board of Management. Sharene held a number of positions on the Board and was President of the congregation for three years. Subsequently Sharene went on to hold the positions of Honorary Treasurer and the President of the Victorian Union for Progressive Judaism (now Progressive Judaism Victoria). Sharene has also held a number of roles as an office bearer of the UPJ including four years as Vice-President. Sharene is currently an Executive Board Member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism representing Australasia and New Zealand and continues to be a member of the Executive of the Union for Progressive Judaism in this role. Sharene joined the Executive of Zionism Victoria as a Vice-President 5 years ago having represented Progressive Judaism on the Executive for some years and will assume the Presidency of the organisation in November 2015. She is also an office bearer of the Zionist Federation of Australia. For a number of years Sharene has been a member of the Committee of Management of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and in 2013 assumed the role of Honorary Secretary of that organisation a position she continues to hold. Sharene has a deep belief in the need for each person to give to their community to the best of their ability and she endeavours to fulfil this while balancing the roles with her role as a senior lawyer with Clayton Utz Lawyers. She has practiced in the property and development area for over 30 years and takes enormous satisfaction from seeing projects in which she is involved come to fruition. Sharene has been married to Sam for over 30 years and they have two children Michelle and Jonathan both of whom are now forging their own careers. Sharene and Sam are looking forward to lots of travel and spending time together in-between communal involvements!

Executive Officer: Jocelyn Robuck

Jocelyn’s role at the UPJ has expanded recently to provide a high level of support to the Executive and committees, lead and coordinate projects, act as point of contact for UPJ constituents and partners through the region and worldwide, as well as continue editing Gal Chadash, the UPJ’s quarterly e-newsletter, coordinating UPJ gatherings and conferences, website management and numerous other projects. 



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