Book of Life Stories

Launch of the Adelaide Jewish Museum & Unveiling of Commemorative Plaque

Address by His Excellency Sir Eric Neal, AC, CVO, Governor of South Australia, at the Launch of the Adelaide Jewish Museum, 9th September 2001.

Mr. Allen Bolaffi, Chairman, Adelaide Jewish Museum Board of Directors; Rabbi Yossi Engel, Chief Minister; Mr. Georges Rich, President of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation; Mrs. Roslyn Sugarman, Curator; Ladies and Gentlemen:

Lady Neal and I feel honoured to have been invited to be present here today and to unveil the work of art which is such a focal point for your project. strong element of your community’s vision for recording its impact upon and place in the South Australian community.

Having listened to the earlier speakers, I realise I am preaching to the converted when I reiterate the importance of acknowledging our forbears and our heritage. It is an important part of the life and soul of all communities to recall and honour their origins, not in a divisive or excluding way, but in a spirit of celebration, understanding and appreciation, for the benefit not only of the community members but also to enlighten those outside the immediate community.

This is an exciting project because it offers the opportunity to recognise in a public and permanent way the contribution that so many Jewish people have made to the development of our country and our State.

About a year ago, I participated in a ceremony at the Adelaide Migration Museum, in which I laid a brick paver in the courtyard paving. On this brick was inscribed the names and arrival date in Adelaide of my parents. They came from England when I was a small boy and like millions of others we settled and made a new life in our adopted country. I was delighted to be able to record that arrival on one of these pavers.

There is nothing like having a physical and public point of reference for this important aspect of my personal heritage, and I am in great sympathy with the concept you have realised here in the form of the Tree of Life sculpture. This is such an imaginative way and also a permanent way for individuals and families to record the arrival of themselves and their families in South Australia. The Tree of Life is a universal symbol of vitality and persistence. I certainly would suggest to members of your community that they are likely to derive great satisfaction from dedicating a leaf with the name of their family and date of arrival in Adelaide.

Very often our recorded histories celebrate major events and the achievements of outstanding individuals. This project acknowledges that a community’s strength derives from the contributions of many people, many of them unremarkable from the perspective of the outside world, but important to their family and to their local community. This is why the oral and family history element is an important aspect of such projects. Each family history contains elements of challenge and achievement, of love and sacrifice and pride. The Book of Life will provide an opportunity for all these vital stories to be recorded. It will be a magnificent community resource.

The establishment of a Jewish Museum in Adelaide will provide the umbrella for these imaginative elements, as well as adding another major dimension as the safe and catalogued repository for a huge range of items including documents, photographs, works of art and memorabilia of all kinds. I am sure that there are many items waiting to find such a home, and such an opportunity for public display. The Museum will illuminate the heritage of the South Australian Jewish community for the benefit of its members and of others in the wider community. It is important to acknowledge that in meeting the aspirations of the Jewish community, the Museum will undoubtedly add to the cultural heritage of the whole of the Adelaide community.

I congratulate all of you who have contributed your ideas, your visions and your energy to this project, and in particular congratulate Mr Bolaffi, Chairman of the Adelaide Jewish Museum Board of Directors and his colleagues who have been responsible for putting this first stage of the exciting Museum project into effect, as well as the sponsors who have supported the vision by contributing the vital resources to enable it to proceed.

The artist, Simon Kessel is to be congratulated on his translation of an idea into aesthetic form, with the impressive result that we see today. This Tree of Life will provide a wonderful visual reference to all who enter this place of worship.

I am very pleased now to officially launch the concept of the Adelaide Jewish Museum and to dedicate the Tree Of Life artwork as the foundation of the Tree of Life Project. Lady Neal and I will now undertake the unveiling of the commemorative plaque. We wish the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation and the Adelaide Jewish Museum every success in your future endeavours.

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