Gough remembered again

October 27, 2014 by Henry Benjamin
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Jana Vytrhlik was the curator of the Precious Legacy exhibition at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum in 1998 when it was visited by the late Gough Whitlam….

The curator recently left the Powerhouse Museum where she has worked for the last 28 years. She found this story when cleaning out her office.

Part of the exhibition

Part of the exhibition

Vytrhlik told J-Wire:  “In 1998, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney staged an important exhibition PRECIOUS LEGACY: TREASURES FROM THE JEWISH MUSEUM IN PRAGUE. It included more than 300 Judaica exhibits, rare illuminated Hebrew manuscripts, richly embroidered synagogue textiles and ceremonial silver objects originating mainly in Bohemia and Moravia, some

Gough Whitlam and Jana Vyrthlik

Gough Whitlam and Jana Vytrhlik

dating from the 16th century. The exhibition opening was scheduled for 17 December, the 4th day of Chanukah. A beautiful large candelabra was brought in on loan from the Great Synagogue, and together with Rabbi Apple officiating the lighting ceremony, it was an event highlighting the importance of the Jewish community in Sydney. The hon Bob Carr, then Premier of NSW, delivered the opening address, reflecting on his knowledge of history and paying tribute to the dramatic history and destiny of the Jewish people of former Czechoslovakia.

After the speeches, when it came to taking photographs, an elderly and distinguished gentleman surrounded by the Museum’s officials and VIPS, was included in the photo groups and then he asked for a picture with me, the Precious legacy curator. Frankly, I didn’t know who he was (as a migrant of the late 1980’s I only knew of him…). Just a minute before taking the photo, my dear friends Roman and Oskar gave me the most beautiful flowers. Mr Gough Whitlam was very quick in taking the large bouquet and presenting it to me for the photographer. Seconds later, when I realized who he was, I thought it was very funny and mischievous from him. Later, when he toured the exhibition, Mr Whitlam was very touched by the tragedy of Czech Jews, one of the oldest continuous Jewish community in Europe, and admired the extraordinary collection of historic artifacts and artworks. More than 35 000 visitors attended the exhibition over the 3 month period at the Powerhouse Museum before it toured further to Melbourne.”

Paddington-based Jana Vytrhlik worked at the Jewish Museum in Prague in the late 1970s and arrived in Australia in 1986.  She does volunteer work at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Gough Whitlam was the Prime Minister of Australia between 1972 and 1975.

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