Jewish Holocaust Centre marks 30 years
Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre has marked its 30th anniversary with a gala dinner.
Major-General Ido Nechushtan (Ret.), who served for five years as Commander of Israel’s Air Force, was guest speaker at the function held at Docklands.
In his capacity as head of the air division of Israel’s air force, Nechushtan led a delegation of 180 IDF officers to the Auschwitz – Birkenau death camp on 4 September 2003 to participate in a special commemoration ceremony. He was responsible for coordinating three Israel Air Force F15 fighter jets to fly over the death camp as a memorial salute during the commemoration.
After a video of the flyover was screened, Nechushtan, who was introduced to the 600 guests by JHC Foundation chair, Helen Mahemoff, recounted the events which led to the flyover, explaining the date, 4 September, coincides with a particular transport to Auschwitz of French Jews from the Drancy deportation centre.
Holocaust Centre president, Pauline Rockman, briefly traced the history of the Centre, established 30 years ago by a group of Melbourne Holocaust survivors, with little external financial support who, she said, had the courage, foresight and determination to create a museum, an educational institution and a commemorative place in an old dance hall located in Selwyn Street, Elsternwick, sourcing the materials themselves. ‘They were all volunteers, untrained in setting up a museum yet spurred on by their passion and determination. As the Centre grew, we expanded the premises and now occupy two adjacent buildings.
Entertainment during the evening was provided by Lior, one of Australia’s preeminent singer -songwriters and a seven- time ARIA nominee, and theSholem Aleichem College choir which sang two Yiddish songs in honour of the Holocaust survivors who have worked as guides, delivering their testimonies at the Centre.
Polish-born Halina Zylberman, Holocaust survivor guide at the JHC, spoke about the importance of her voluntary work at the Centre over 25 years.
‘It is very important that the messages we teach - the importance of respect, tolerance and human dignity – are heard by the thousands of students who come to the Centre and that these messages are passed on to the next generation’ she said.
JHC treasurer David (Doov) Cohen, who serves on the Centre executive and as treasurer of the Centre’s board, spoke as a member of the third generation. He referred to plans to expand the JHC’s facilities in order to accommodate the Centre’s phenomenal growth. This includes the increasing number of schools visiting the Centre: over 20,000 students from at least 750 schools visit the Centre for programs annually.
The evening concluded with a fundraising appeal launched by Pauline Rockman to ensure that the legacy bequeathed d by the founders of the Centre is preserved in perpetuity.