50 years of AUJS Academy

August 7, 2015 by  
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Naomi Dorevitch still clearly remembers when she was just four-years old, waving goodbye as her grandmother boarded a boat that was to take her Safta to Israel. She pleaded with her father who promised that when she was finished school she could visit her Safta. So it came to be that thirteen years later, in 1964, she joined the first Academy group of students from Australia to Israel.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the AUJS Academy program that sends groups of Jewish students to Israel for 6-8 weeks each year. Robert Klein has researched the first Academy and interviewed several of the original group members including Roland Gridiger who organised the first three year’s programs.
Academy 1964

Academy 1964

The program was organised by National Union of Australian Jewish Students (NUAJS, now AUJS). 17 students from Sydney and Melbourne joined the South African and Australasian Student Academy. The program was so successful that the following year AUJS decided to organise a separate Academy specifically for Australian Jewish Students. AUJS has continued to run this program each year since then and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Meeting Ben Gurion

Meeting Ben-Gurion

Meeting Ben-Gurion

By far, the highlight for the first Academy was the opportunity to personally meet David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel. They discussed a range of topics including some robust debate with Mr Ben Gurion keen to encourage Australian students to make aliyah. One of the participants on the first Academy group was Harry Frydenberg, now a prominent surgeon and father of Assistant Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg. Photos show a young Mr Frydenberg alongside the Israeli elder statesman in Tel . The day after the group met with him, Mr. Ben Gurion left Israel for a brief visit to London to join Israel’s President to represent the country at the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill.

Academy in its 50th Year

Academy remains a fantastic way for students to spend their summer and return in time for university, or kick-start travel around the world. The AUJS Academy Onward program offers participants a wide variety of opportunities. On top of extensive touring, participants choose their own adventure during Special Interest week.

Over the last few decades, AUJS has introduced several other programs including AUJS Aviv that provides students the chance to gain a longer, more in-depth experience of Israel for five months or longer should they choose to participate in one of the extension options.

The first three Academy groups were led by Roland Gridiger, then President of Sydney University’s Jewish Students Union and were organised with the support of the Youth and Hechalutz Department of the Zionist Federation of Australia and New Zealand. Taking his third Academy, Roland met Ilana Glaser whom he later married. Indeed, over the years, many people have met their life partner on Academy. Mr Gridiger is now a prominent Sydney lawyer and a leading arts philanthropist. AUJS Academy regularly sees “second generation” participants with parents keen for their child to experience the character and community-building six-week program in Israel as they did a few decades earlier.

Memories of the first Australian Academy

Academy 1965 hiking

Academy 1965 hiking

The first Academy included lectures at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, tours of the Galil and Negev, and a period working on Kibbutz Neve Etan in the Beit She’an Valley of northern Israel.

Roland Gridiger

Roland Gridiger

Ms Dorevitch, now an estate agent in Caulfield recalls “it was a bit of a change; a girl from Mt Scopus standing in the mud and cold, picking sugar beets on a kibbutz”.

Leon Bryl, also a participant in the first Academy, recalls that back then, even getting to Israel was an effort; the Qantas flight stopped in Darwin, then Bangkok, and Tehran in Iran (still ruled by the Shah) before finally arriving in Tel Aviv. Leon specifically recalls standing in Israel in 1965 looking over the wall into the Old City of Jerusalem – “Israel at that time was like when Joseph was in Egypt; a time of hope and optimism “. He returned to Israel in 1967 to lead Academy and then chose to spend the next 20 years of his life living in Israel. Most of the members of that first Academy group returned to Israel, some for many years.

Registration for this year’s AUJS Academy and Aviv programs is now open. The dates for Academy are:  16 December 2015 to 27 January 2016 and Aviv is from 31 January to 29 June 2016. AUJS also offers a range of exciting options for participants who would like to extend their stay.

For more information on Academy and Aviv, please contact Hagar on 02 9381 4292 or at ip@aujs.com.au or visit www.aujs.com.au/programs

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