Melbourne’s early Jewish migrants may not have had iPads to pass their life stories down to their children and grandchildren, but that is just one of the modern technologies being used to recount the rich and complex social history of the city’s Yiddish-speaking community in Mameloshn – How Yiddish made a Home in Melbourne to be held at the Jewish Museum of Australia.
Exhibition curator Anna Epstein worked closely with a Yiddish advisory committee – that has in its ranks Melbourne writer Arnold Zable, historian and academic Andrew Markus and Klezmer musician Freydi Mrocki – to recount and recreate the journeys and lives of Eastern European Jews who came to Melbourne prior to and following World War Two.
“Early Jewish immigrants came to Melbourne bringing with them and replicating the European culture they were used to before the war,” Epstein says. “This ranged from food to the arts. In the 1950s, the Yiddish community also set up secular institutions where they made European theatre, art, music and literature [available] to the broader public.”
The exhibition is intended to be a sensory experience, with exhibition designer Simon Castricum “lifting past imagery into a modern scene”. Soundscapes will take visitors back to the days of the early immigrants and iPads will enable visitors to engage and interact with the Yiddish language through translated literature. Asked how the idea for the exhibition came about, Epstein explained that the current generation’s fascination and curiosity for their grandparent’s lives raised the interest to “explore parts of history and culture we know we’ve lost but we’re interested to rediscover”.
Mameloshn will exhibit a diverse range of artefacts from the Jewish Museum’s collection, most of which have never been shown in public before. It will include photographs, theatre posters, Yiddish literature, music and films, providing an insight into how Melbourne’s culture has evolved into what it is today – through a Yiddish lens.
Mameloshn opens this Sunday (3 April) at the Jewish Museum of Australia with a Curator Tour and live broadcast by SBS. The exhibition runs until March 2012 at the Jewish Museum.