New president for Kadimah

May 8, 2015 by Carmel Shute
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The Kadimah, Jewish Cultural Centre and National Library, has elected its second female President in its 104 years’ history.


Renata Singer

Renata Singer     Photo: Carmel Shute

Renata Singer is the first woman to hold the post since her pioneering predecessor, Rayzl Brilliant, headed the organisation in 1930.

Singer, 69, co-chair of the In One Voice Festival, a board member of the Melbourne Jewish Writers’ Festival, and active in other community organizations, is thrilled to be the taking on this role.

“It’s about time someone followed in Rayzl Brilliant’s footsteps isn’t it? When you think of the incredible contribution to Jewish life and culture made by Jewish women, there should be more of us in leadership roles. I felt that I needed to step up,” she said.

“I’m very fortunate that I’ll be working with an excellent board committed to developing our current programs. Our library holds the largest collection of Yiddish books in the southern hemisphere and we are gradually making its treasures available online to the world.”

Singer said that the these days Yiddish, the thousand-year-old language of Eastern European Jews, was only in everyday usage in communities of Orthodox Jews in Israel, the United States, Europe and Australia.

“We’re pleased that the Kadimah’s Yiddish language classes and reading groups continue to grow. The Kadimah’s concerts and cultural events sell out quickly. Among our more recent ventures is the Kadimah radio program on J-Air and supporting the publication of the Yiddish books, in Yiddish and in translation,” Singer said.

“We want the Kadimah to remain the go-to place for Yiddish but we are also broadening our role, taking on the challenge of maintaining Jewish continuity and culture in the 21st century. And we are very serious about close collaboration with nearby and like-minded institutions, like the Jewish Holocaust Centre and Sholem Aleichem College.

The Jewish Cultural Centre and National Library, Kadimah, was founded in 1911.

The Kadimah is the heart of Yiddish and Yiddishkayt in Melbourne. Originally located in Carlton, the Kadimah moved to Elsternwick in the 1960s, with the shift of the Jewish population to the south-eastern suburbs.

Singer, who emigrated from Poland in 1951 at the age of five, grew up speaking Polish and Yiddish at home. She started to study it in her fifties and is now fluent in both speaking and reading, partly because she spends some months each year in New York with her philosopher husband, Peter Singer. She otherwise lives in St Kilda.

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