Saturday, May 07, 2011

Jewish Museum

I tried visiting the Jewish Museum once before but for some reason I could not find it. Not sure why as I had no problem today. I guess I know why all of our synagogues, Jewish schools and any other Jewish institution have such high security and guards. I couldn't just walk into the museum, but had to be admitted through electronically locked doors. This really bugs me. Surely the threat level is very small, small enough to not warrant guards all over the place.

The museum was excellent but of limited interest to me. However I am quite interested in Jewish settlement in Melbourne and its history and the museum did have this special exhibition on. I especially hoped to find some information about the long gone Jewish alms houses in St Kilda Road.
They were replaced by the aged care Montefiore in perhaps the 1970s.

There were at least four older women who were volunteer guides. I listened to one of them and boy could she talk. While she was interesting, the people she was talking to looked trapped, so I avoided four offers of assistance from the volunteer ladies. They were all terribly nice of course.

I did learn of a couple of things from the exhibits that interested me though, one being the battle of the languages, Hebrew or Yiddish. I associate Yiddish with fun and humour, so that is the side I am taking.

The other was about Zionists. I don't know what the word precisely means but I have a rough idea that Zionists are pro a Jewish homeland, Israel, and non Zionists, well, I am not sure. Jewish Australians before WWII were generally anti Zionist but those who had emigrated to Australia after WWII were perhaps quite understandably pro Zionist. Australia's first Jewish Governor General, Sir Isaac Isaacs, was against Zionists.

Once home and R asked me what I did for the day and when I told him, he asked if the museum was grim. Knowing what he meant, I said no. There was minimal and mostly only in an historical context mention of WWII. For the grim stuff, there is the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Elsternwick. I'll get there one day.

The entrance to the Jewish Museum of Australia. How could I have missed it the first time I went there? I think I had the wrong street number.

From a window at the rear is a grand view of the St Kilda Synagogue. It is in a side street and although I knew roughly where it was, I had never bothered to find out exactly. Now I know.


  1. Glad you enjoyed the Jewish Museum - I was on the Acquisitions Board until the end of 2010 :) My personal favourite amongst the temporary exhibitions was the History of Carlton.

    Re the need for security - the risk is high! There have been so many episodes of neo-Nazi viciousness in Australia that no parent would allow their children to go into a Jewish school, museum, synagogue, library etc without security on the door. I don't mean murders, thankfully, but I do mean pro-Nazi slogans daubed on the walls, property burned, children in Jewish school uniforms screamed at, Jewish headstones defaced and pushed over in cemeteries etc.

  2. I ought to get myself over there one day too, it interests me, thanls Andrew xoxo

  3. Funny Hels. I took a good look at the website before I went. I added what I thought was three and two, and it seems I came up with four. Ah, that's that woman. I bow to your greater knowledge of threat and it saddens me. To the perpetrators, I would like to think you could stand before them, throw your chests out and say, this is Australia, fuck off. Is it fair of me to make a pretty natural assumption about who these anti Jewish people might be?

    Cazzie, it is a good place to visit if you don't know much about being Jewish in Australia. They have been part of Australia since you and I have been here and there are interesting stories to be heard. There are many videos to see. One with young people talking about being Jewish was especially good. It is not unlike the time I, and a bit later you, grew up with we started with christianity and ended up, well me anyway, being anti religion.

  4. I went to the Jewish museum in Sydney. I kind of remember the security being strong. I had to give them my phone which was kind of a pain. I don't know if the security is the result of paranoia or if it's truly warranted. There have been incidences of violence against Jews in recent years. But there have also been incidences of violence against other people.

  5. Interestingly Dina, Melbourne's is called the Jewish Museum of Australia, so is perhaps is bigger? Better? Higher standard? Apart from the guard and electronic front door, there were no other issues above any other museum. Thinking further, four older ladies were the only staff I saw apart from the guard. Perhaps it is something that generally troubles me rather than specifically at the museum.

  6. Don't know anything about the threat to Jews in Australia so perhaps that is a problem but as a general comment I do think we are turning ourselves into prisoners with all the security in evidence these days and frankly in most cases the true threat is very low versus the real costs. (in terms of personal liberty etc not just cash)

  7. No argument from me BDT. Police are for preventing crime, keeping the peace and following up crimes, not private for profit companies. Bu then I don't feel as my liberty has limited really.

  8. wow i used to live next door to this synagogue when i was small boy in 69-72.

  9. TB, were you aware of what it was?