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Bettina Cass wins JBD President's Award – The Australian Jewish News

“I almost don’t know what to say – which those of you who know me know is very rare indeed,” said Bettina Cass on being presented with the Leslie Caplan Award at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ 2022 recent plenum, adding, “I’m quite overwhelmed and delighted.”

Vice-president David Ossip presented the award for Cass’s “outstanding” work in “promoting a safe, inclusive and cohesive community for New South Wales”, calling Cass a “leader … on issues of social justice”.

“Social justice is central to Bettina’s work,” Ossip added, citing Cass’s work in protecting children, combating poverty, promoting social inclusion, and leading cooperative projects with Indigenous organisations.

“An incredible contribution, incredible person and incredibly deserved award,” added CEO Darren Bark.

Cass’s past roles include director of the Commonwealth government’s social security review, and of the Western Sydney Health Service board; and consultant to both the Australian and NSW law reform commissions, and the OECD.

She is an emeritus professor of the University of Sydney and of UNSW.

Within the Jewish community, Cass served as chair of the JBD’s Social Justice Committee for 10 years, and has been an elected deputy of the board for over 20 years.

She was the board’s representative on the NSW Council of Christians and Jews; and chaired a child protection taskforce and national working group for the JBD and ECAJ, respectively.

Ossip detailed how Cass, in her academic roles, had “specialised in teaching and research on policies for children and families, elderly care, family caregivers, unemployment and housing”.

Cass said she was “very proud” of her work for vulnerable people.

“You’ve been … a warrior for our community … thank you for your decades of service to your community,” said Ossip.

Cass’s acceptance speech took a personal turn as she reminisced about her long friendship with her award’s namesake, the late Leslie Caplan.

Cass spoke of the “close friendship”, “countless picnics” and time shared between their two families over the years.

That the award was named after Caplan made receiving it an “added joy”, said Cass, calling the award “an honour which I will cherish forever”.

Cass also paid tribute to a “wonderful” preceding panel of speakers on the Jewish response to climate change, and their work that “brings tikkun olam to the fore”.

She also looked ahead, praising the JBD’s continued work in Indigenous social justice and the “bringing in of LGBTQI people” as “flourishing above and beyond what we did”.

Cass continues her academic work as dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sydney, also supervising PhD students at UNSW.

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