Burger Centre celebrates 30 years

August 26, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Sydney’s Burger Centre is approaching its 30th birthday during an international pandemic.

Born from a group of successful men coming together, they had a vision of establishing a meeting place for the older members of the community that offered more than a meal, more than a bus and grander than the existing meeting place of Wolper Cottage that was located in the grounds of Wolper Jewish Hospital.

From these discussions, the backing of prominent community members and support from the Wolper Jewish Hospital and many volunteers, the Burger Centre opened its doors in Woollahra in 1991 complete with a gift shop, hairdressing salon, library, bus and a grand piano. Thirty years later Burger Centre has grown into the heart of the seniors’ community in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and beyond and still homes the original grand piano.

“The establishment of the Burger Centre heralded the move by JewishCare away from purely migrant related issues and into the contemporary needs of the time. It was a turning point for the organisation and the whole community,” says David Lesnie, founding Board Member.

Those involved in the early days of the Burger Centre still speak of the aroma of honey cakes, cheesecakes and kugel that greeted everyone as they arrived at the Centre.  As the needs change of the community change and expanded so has the Burger Centre.

David Freeman, Karen Burger and Eva Fischl in 2007 at the Randwick opening

JewishCare’s proud history of striving for best practice and innovation remains core to its ethos today as Burger Centre continue to provide services to our much-loved community during the COVID-19 challenges with virtual Zoom programming, Call2Connect volunteer phone services and contactless supports.

“The founder’s vision has only been realised thanks to the incredible support and generosity of donors, administrators and our community over the years,” says current Centre Manager, Bronwyn Elbourne.

In fact, it was the foresight, commitment and fabled negotiations of original donors that enabled a block of land to be purchased for Burger Centre in Woollahra, where JewishCare stands today.

“There are some fascinating stories about how the then Board member, Steven Stux, managed to negotiate a very reasonable land price with the government of the day,” says Warren Hurst, JewishCare’s Community and Donor Engagement Manager (and unofficial historian).

The Board of JewishCare, which included the most prominent leaders at the time, including Rodney Rosenblum, Dr Joachim Schneeweiss and David Lesnie, was totally committed to the project and the site was secured in 1989.

Eva Fischl, Malcolm Turnbull, Da vid Freeman and David Balkin at the 2007 opening

Named after one of the major original donors, David ‘Zoli’ Burger, the Burger family remain strongly connected to the Centre today. Without the generosity of the Burger family, as well as other community members, Syd Field’s dream would never have been realised.

Opened by Norton Whitmont, the then President of JewishCare (previously the Australian Jewish Welfare Society), the Centre then flourished under the Presidency of the much loved and admired, Eva Fischl. Eva never missed an opportunity to celebrate special events and was shared a mutual love with the Burger Centre clients.

By the end of the 2000s, Burger Centre’s popularity had surged and outgrown its premises in Woollahra and JCA encouraged JewishCare and Montefiore to become joint owners of the Burger Centre moving the Centre into a custom-built facility in the Montefiore precinct in Randwick. The new centre, with an expanded and improved range of activities and facilities, opened in 2007.

Today, The Burger Centre is a vital resource that will serve the community for many years to come. With professional and friendly staff, a dedicated volunteer community and a vast array of activities, Burger Centre is perfect for people wanting to meet new people, remain active and be connected to the community, as well as for carers wanting safe and inclusive respite programs that offers purpose, enjoyment and a sense of belonging with culture and Yiddishkeit.

Its clients enjoy Russian-speaking programs, excursions, aqua exercise, art classes and taking advantage of Montefiore’s onsite Hair and Beauty Salon, Café, luxury cinema and dental clinic, plus so much more.

A spokesperson said: “We invite you to visit when lockdown is over to see our spacious, accessible and sunlit spaces and enjoy a tour of the campus. We hope to hold a community celebration post lockdown.”

Please see the website for updated information – www.burgercentre.com.au or call 02 8345 9147.


3 Responses to “Burger Centre celebrates 30 years”
  1. Charlotte Berger says:

    As a proud Jewish Melbournite, I was always envious of the Hakoah Centre in the heart of Bondi.
    I could NOT understand how or why the Sydney Jewish Community would let a facility such as this “jewel in the crown” at Bondi, with its historical and irreplaceable facilities and location, become so unloved and neglected and in the end, flogged off for its land value.
    I am still filled with incredulity and sadness, that the wealthy Jewish Community allowed this to occur, as I loved to visit this slightly anachronistic but proudly Jewish symbol of our Community’s presence and growth in Australian society.

    Unfortunately, the Melbourne Jewish Community is just as guilty, as the once-proud, sports hub that was AJAX, [now Maccabi] with its gymnasium, indoor pool, soccer and multiple tennis court facilities in the heart of St Kilda, just metres away from Temple Beth Israel (Progressives) and our now 150 y.o. St Kilda Shule (like your Central Shule) was sold off for pennies, in the era just prior to the reinvigoration of our Community by the South African emigration.
    This loss has proven to be irreplacable! Tragic!

  2. Gary Inberg says:

    Proud to be a Board Member of 15 years standing.

  3. Dr Ilan Buchman says:

    A well written and informative article. Sadly however the name of Lynn Davies, the woman behind the Centre’s successful operation was probably omitted in error and should be given special prominence.

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