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Newsletter of the Adelaide Jewish Museum – September 2004

Inspirational Stories

Over the last two months in my new role as the Curator of the Adelaide Jewish Museum, I have come to realize that I am constantly going to be exposed to experiences that are going to tweak my emotions and change my perceptions.

Some problems on the website presented me with the opportunity to go through every single entry in order to fix up some rather inappropriate looking question marks that had crept into Adelaide’s precious contributions. It seemed a really arduous task at the outset, but as I read, I became more and more engrossed.

Transported into the lives of Holocaust survivors, my understanding of the Holocaust has been transformed from an impersonal Hollywood view to a real life, totally overwhelming reality. I still find it hard to believe that there are people walking around among us who have actually lived through the terror that was the Holocaust!

As a mother, the stories of children affect me the most: A Child tearing down boards from a tall fence in order to escape and hide in a cemetery. A baby kept alive in a camp by her grandmother, who died just before the English arrived. She gave her food to the baby in order that she would survive, and she did! She lives here in Adelaide! Brave parents who had to send their beautiful children to unknown people in other countries hoping to save their lives. A four year old boy whose father disappeared just before he went into hiding with his mother, moving from town to town, from bad conditions to worse conditions, desperately hoping that they would not be given up. This boy now gives talks here in Adelaide about his experiences.

Hearing Miriam Zimmet talk about her experiences at the “March of the Living” in Poland where she revisited Auschwitz, her own mother a survivor of this awful place, I was deeply affected by so many things. I was shattered to hear the “formula” the Nazi’s had for deciding who would live and who would die on arrival at the station. If you were over 40, under 16, infirm in any way, or a mother with a baby — you were sent straight to the gas chambers. I would have been a mother with a baby and my other children are well under sixteen!

What have I learnt from the stories?

A friend asked me recently, “Why is it so important to Jewish people that their children are brought up Jewish?” I would have answered her differently years ago, but now I have come to realize that being Jewish isn’t only about religion, it is about being a “people”. This “people” have struggled to survive many times through history. Even people who live among us here in Adelaide have had to endure unspeakable things in order to survive. It seems the least that we can do is to pass on our Jewishness to our children and ensure that their struggle was worthwhile.

My friend thought for a while and then said, “I suppose if you let Judaism die out, it would be like the Holocaust happening all over again!” Yes, except this time we would have done it to ourselves!

Thank you to those brave survivors and others who have shared their stories with us. I have learnt from them as will many over the years, I am sure.

Project Abraham

I was lucky enough to attend the last Project Abraham seminar last week. I was not disappointed and learnt a lot about Islam that I did not know. I even learnt some new things about Judaism! I discovered that there are many similarities between our religions. However, I also realized that it is the fundamental differences between the two that make it so difficult to resolve the conflict in the Middle East.

I am very proud to announce that there will be an exhibition of the Project Abraham seminars starting at the Migration Museum on October 12 which I encourage you to attend.

Contact Me

I’d love to share your stories and ideas for the Museum…

Adelaide Jewish Museum

P O Box 8070

Station Arcade

Adelaide SA 5000

Telephone: 8431-7732 Fax: 8110-0900

Email: [email protected]


Yours Sincerely

Leanda Altman