Gifting a legacy to the community

September 16, 2020 by Miriam Bell
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For 93-year-old Ann Gluckman, so much these days comes down to a sense of mitzvah and giving back to the community.

That was one of the motivating factors behind the creation of her latest book, the third volume in her Identity & Involvement series on Auckland’s Jewish community.

It’s also the reason she’s now gifting the book back to the community – via the Auckland Hebrew Congregation and Beth Shalom.

Copies of the book will be offered for sale through the congregations, at a more affordable price than in book shops, and the proceeds of any sales will go to each community.

Ann says it’s a gift to the community, a gesture for Rosh Hashanah which she hopes will prove attractive to all those interested in finding out more about Auckland Jewry and even, potentially, themselves.

“To be proud of oneself one must know who one is, understand one’s identity – and that includes knowledge of heritage, community, and culture. So to provide material which assists in that was the idea, and goal, behind this book and, in fact, the whole series.”

It’s for this reason that the production of the Identity & Involvement series has been a decades-long labour of love for her.

The idea for the first book came about in 1988 when Ann was on a committee planning sesquicentennial celebrations for both the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (in 1840) and the start of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation (in 1841).

Ann Gluckman

“I suggested a book with the title ‘Identity and Involvement’ made up of essays or papers by different people,” she says. “The plan was that it would be a permanent record of some significant stages in the community growth and stories of specific people from 1840-1990.

“The theme running through that book, and then through its predecessors too, was that Jewish people in New Zealand are numerically insignificant yet from the early days of settlement they’ve made an oversized contribution to the country.”

Despite some reticence from potential contributors prior to the publication in 1990, that first book (edited by Ann) was well-received. Its success led to the second book in 1993, which Ann co-edited with her late husband Laurie.

It took another 25 years for the latest book, Auckland Jewry Past & Present, to get underway.

The AHC stalwart kept busy in the intervening years with, among other things, the production of another two books. One of those was Postcards from Tukums – A Family Detective Story, which tells the story of her mother, Augusta Klippel (nee Manoy).

But by 2018 she was itching to write something else. “I needed the stimulus. So I thought it was time to write book three. Then Deb Levy Friedler came back from overseas and agreed to help: she was a wonderful gateway to the community and it went from there.”

Much has changed in the years since the first two books, Ann says. Not only has the community itself developed and diversified, but this time when they put out a request for contributions, there was a very enthusiastic response.

“There are 139 different pieces of writing in the third book. I think it shows the heterogeneity in the hegemony of the New Zealand Jewish community. Just like any other ethnic group, we are all different, not the same.”

Additionally, contributions came from noted politicians, civil servants, dames and knights – including Ann’s son, former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman. It also features a forward from former Prime Minister John Key whose Jewish mother escaped Austria in the late 1930s.

The book was launched in February of this year with an event which attracted a stellar turnout of heavyweights. Among them were Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon, and National MPs Alfred Ngaro and Simon O’Connor.

“It was wonderful and got the book off to a great start with some good media coverage and more geared up,” Ann says. “I was on a high from all of that. But then Covid-19 hit. The magazines that were going to publish folded. And booksellers shut down for the lockdown.”

But Ann, who had a distinguished career as a ground-breaking school principal and educator and a travel writer, is not one to give up. She is keen for the book to be read and for the messages and stories in it to be absorbed, appreciated and celebrated.

And that’s why she wants to get the word out about the more affordable option of buying the book through the AHC and Beth Shalom, which will help out the community at the same time.

It’s also one of the reasons that she wants to reach out to the Australian Jewish community, which includes many ex-pat New Zealanders. She feels there is much of interest to the Australian community in the book.

Additionally, she has a strong relationship with the Australian community due to family history and ties. “My father originally immigrated to Australia, as a Pole, in 1919, and my first seven years were spent in Sydney. My first school was Abbotsleigh in Wahroonga.

“Noted Australian sculptor Robert Klippel and well-known Australian pianist Barbara Leser (nee Davis) are my relatives. We all have a great-grandfather in common and we’ve maintained those connections over the years – as do many other New Zealanders and Australians with personal connections.”

While the Jewish community in Auckland, and New Zealand, is small – particularly in comparison to other Jewish communities around the world, such as Australia’s, it has a fascinating history filled with extraordinary characters and has made a significant contribution to New Zealand.

Volume three of Ann’s Identity & Involvement series vividly portrays that. Massey University distinguished professor Paul Spoonley describes it as “one of the most compelling and comprehensive books on ethnic relations and identity in Aotearoa/New Zealand I have read”.

“It includes stories of migration and identity of a longstanding and important community – and while some are new New Zealanders, others have descended from people who came to Aotearoa before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. All have provided important contributions to the superdiverse country that we have become.”

As such, he and other notable readers and reviewers highly recommend it to all those with an interest in the history of this part of the world. Ann herself sees the book as her legacy project and hopes it reaches, and is read by, the wider Jewish community.

Read more about “Auckland Jewry into the 21st Century: Identity & Involvement Vol III” here: Celebrating Auckland’s Jewish community: https://1.org.nz/celebrating-aucklands-jewish-community/

It is possible to purchase “Auckland Jewry into the 21st Century: Identity & Involvement Vol III” via the AHC here: https://www.ahc.org.nz/ahc-shop/auckland-jewry-into-the-21st-century

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