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Jconnect Board

Alex IDP

ALEX ABULAFIA OAM

Chairman and Treasurer

Alex has a distinguished professional and communal background. After completing Bachelor of commerce (Merit) and Bachelor of Law degrees UNSW he has worked as a Solicitor, Investment Banker (M&A, Private Equity) both in Australia and abroad and is currently CEO of Bells Ice and an investor. He has a number of professional credentials and was admitted Solicitor Supreme Court of NSW. He has been involved in many communal organisations including President of Emanuel School, Appeal Chairman JCA, President JNF NSW, Chairman JewishCare Foundation and JewishCare Capital Appeal, Director of Montefiore and is currently Treasurer of Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce NSW. Alex was awarded an OAM in the 2018 Australia Day honours for service to the Jewish Community and business. A long term passion of his is the continuity of our Jewish Community and he has taken on the role at JConnect to help secure the future of our Community. Alex is married to Natasha with three children Joshua, Daniel and Noah all in their 20s so that the role of Jconnect is particularly relevant to him

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Anne Engelman

Vice Chairperson

Anne is married with three sons in their 20’s. She has a strong affinity to the Sydney Jewish community and has spent many years involved in communal organisations, volunteering with WIZO (Treasurer), Maccabi, Our big Kitchen (OBK), Moriah preschool (treasurer) and other roles.

Anne has been with the organisation as a volunteer connector since 2013, and as a board member since 2017.  Anne joined J Connect because it aligns with her interests in young adults within the community, Jewish connection and ultimately continuity.

As well as connecting singles though matchmaking, Anne sits on sub committees for the very successful speed dating events and Pull up a Chair Friday night dinners, all centred around bringing small groups of people together to meet in a social environment. She also collaborates with other organisations in a bid to strengthen the Jconnect brand within the community. Anne is committed to the growth and development of the organisation, and opportunities to engage the young adult community both locally and abroad.

With a background in finance, a bachelor of Commerce (Finance) at UNSW and postgraduate Graduate Certificate in Management (USyd and UNSW), Anne has worked in finance related positions in Sydney and London. She currently manages her husband’s medical practice.

She brings a wealth of practical experience in business and in the local community to the Jconnect organisation.

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Michelle Fischl

Secretary

Michelle has a Bachelor of Commerce from UNSW (Marketing). After completing her degree, she worked for 10 years both overseas and in Sydney for several Multinationals. She then joined the Toga Group in 1997 and has been involved in Marketing, Design, Project Management and Refurbishments of local and overseas hotel projects. She also leads her Company’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy which is focused on Youth Homelessness - providing shelter, food and possibilities for Youth at Risk in Sydney. Michelle has been involved in assisting many charities and fundraising appeals within the community, over the years. As the daughter of Holocaust Survivors, she has a strong Jewish Identity and feels that she was definitely a Matchmaker in her past life, with many successful matches made to date. She has a strong desire to make a difference in the Young Adult Engagement space, ensuring Jewish continuity.

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Earl Schonberger

Public Officer

Earl has a BAppSc (Comp) and is a director of companies in the IT Industry. The son of a Holocaust survivor, Earl believes Jewish continuity is critically important to our community. Together with Rabbi Mendel Kastel, he is one of the founders of Jconnect.

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SHELLEE GOURDOUN MAISTER

Shellee has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in (design and marketing) from UNSW.   She has worked in the field of public relations and marketing and has owed a successful Interior Design Company in Sydney for some 25 years.

Over the last 5 years she has become passionate and committed in the Jewish Youth Engagement space and determined to preserve Jewish continuity. 

This was consolidated by a collaboration with Moriah’s Kesher programme in early 2018 bringing Rabbi Doron Kornbluth from Israel to Australia to lead a 20 strong speaking programme in Sydney and Melbourne centred around his book, “Why Marry Jewish’.

Organised and spiritedly lead by Shellee, this resulted in her further involvement with ‘The Big Kitchen’,  Bina’s youth Kayemet Programme, brainstorming social and creative sessions for the New Hakoah space at White City, assisting with the establishment of the Physical Orshum youth space and more recently the re-invigorated JJUNCTION initiative. 

Shellee is committed to and excited by the possibilities that exist to attract and ignite a new wave of interest and engagement between our young adults via activity and interest based, organic, small group and peer-led opportunities.

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Mendel Kastel (OAM)

Founding Life Member

Rabbi Mendel Kastel has been providing Rabbinical care to the Sydney community for over 20 years. In his 15 years of service at the Great Synagogue he was responsible for youth projects and ran successful programs and social functions for young adults. He has taken a particular interest in social welfare, and has been the driving force behind various youth and welfare organisations such as Point Zero and WAYS (Waverley Youth Service). Since 2008 he has been the CEO of Jewish House. In June 2017 he was honoured with a medal of the order of Australia (OAM) in the general division for his outstanding contribution to the community through social welfare bodies and to youth services.

Rabbi Kastel launched Jconnect in 2005 and was Chairman from 2005 to November 2020.

Robert Sonnenschein

Founding Life Member

Robert Sonnenschein has a BSc (Textiles) Philadelphia and MBA (Finance) London. He is the MD of  Nettex Australia, a textile company. He is on the board of Kesser Torah College as well as being involved in many community organisations. Robert has been an active member of the Jconnect committee since 2008 and is the organisation’s international ambassador.