Eat Pray Nachas

January 24, 2016 by Natalie Shymko
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Sydney’s Montefiore Home Hunters Hill campus is hosting  Waverley Council’s Eat, Pray, Naches exhibition until February 21.

Jody and Lilly Somogy

Jody and Lilly Somogy

Eat, Pray, Naches is a unique project that celebrates Waverley’s Jewish community by preserving and sharing over 100 stories of its post-war immigrants and their families.  The exhibition showcases the food, rituals and joys of Jewish migrants, their courage, hardship and optimism and the naches they and their families derived from their lives in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

Influxes of Jewish migrants from Europe, Egypt, the Middle East, China, the former Soviet Union, Israel and South Africa have shaped the dynamic Jewish community in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Australia.  With its sun, surf, food and a relaxed attitude to life, the area has also played a central role in shaping the experiences of these Australians.

Eat, Pray, Naches commenced as a Waverley Council motion to create a pilot project to document the post war migration of Jewish people to the area, with a focus on first and second generation migrants and their families.  These ideas draw together important threads of the Jewish tradition as well as exploring concepts familiar for many Australians.

More than 17% of Waverley’s population identify as Jewish, making Waverley Council home to the second largest Jewish community in the country.  The name Waverley itself is drawn from the house built in 1827 by Australia’s first free Jewish settler, Barnett Levey.   Fleeing persecution and seeking safety after the Second World War, many Jews came to Waverley.

Simone Collins, Project Lead and Cultural Programs Producer at Waverley Council, and daughter of Montefiore Hunters Hill residents, Marion and Denis Havin is responsible for bringing the exhibition to the Home.

Melanie Lindenberg, Montefiore’s Director of Client and Community Relations, said, “The exhibition has given us a wonderful opportunity to discover the experiences and challenges of a multicultural Jewish community who settled in Bondi and its surrounding suburbs.  It ensures the stories live on for future generations.  It also allows our residents in the Home to experience the exhibition and identify with many of the stories.”

Jody Somogy, daughter of Randwick resident, Lilly Somogy features in the exhibition.  Jody said, “the exhibition is important to us because it is the first time that my mother’s life and our family story is validated in public.  My mother suffered terribly all her life because of what happened to her in the concentration camps.”

Jody’s parents lead a dangerous life until 1956. They escaped the Hungarian revolution at night, by foot, with one set of clothes.  “It was the refugee story,” said Jody.

Jody admits that the transition of moving to Australia was hard.  She didn’t like it for many years because of the isolation she felt whilst her parents worked.  She had to contend with a new country, a new language and puberty but she now considers Australia her home and is proud to have citizenship from both Australia and Israel.

For Jody naches means being with her mother and making up the time that she didn’t have with her for most of her life.  “Montefiore gives me the opportunity to have quality time with her.  Naches is also the feeling that I am helping other residents.  I do an audio visual program for the residents every 2 weeks for an hour to  mentally take them out of the 4 walls and open a world which they cannot access physically, whether it’s through music, travel or art.  Then there is the interaction which is an absolute naches because I get people commenting, interacting, clapping and singing along.  I get feedback that the residents love it which is a great satisfaction for me.”

The Eat, Pray, Naches exhibition was on exhibition at Montefiore Randwick before moving to Hunters Hill.


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