ALWAYS the optimist, Eddie Jaku isn’t fazed that the COVID-19 crisis means he won’t be able to celebrate his 100th birthday on Tuesday, April 14 with friends and family.
Having survived the horrors of the Holocaust and built a life in Sydney, where he is a volunteer guide at the Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM), the “happiest man on earth” chooses to look on the bright side.
“It’s not cancelled, it’s postponed,” he said. “When this is all finished, we’ll have a big party.”
Naturally, he said the secret to his longevity is, “I have always been happy with what I have.
“When you reach my age it doesn’t matter what house you live in, what car you drive, as long as I [can] say to my wife [of almost 74 years, Flore], ‘you have me and I have you,’” he said.
“Often young people have too much money, they don’t think anymore how important family is. You accept them with all their faults. We all have faults – but that’s the beauty, that we are different.”
He continued, “As I am going towards the end of my life I will use all my strength, my koyach, to make this world a better place in the way that I can and speak to as many people and tell them about what family means.”
That philosophy was one of the main themes in a TEDx talk he delivered last year in front of more than 6000 people at ICC Sydney – earning a standing ovation.
“I have never spoken to so many people in one place,” he said.
“They didn’t stop clapping, all the 6400 people stayed up and wanted to thank me for delivering the speech. It was very, very moving, very emotional.”
To mark his birthday, Jaku is asking members of the community to donate to the SJM so it can continue educating about the Holocaust.
“I have lived through a terrible time. I have seen death for five years in all the camps I have been through,” Jaku, who escaped the death march in Auschwitz where his parents were murdered, said.
“If you hadn’t been there, you can go 10 times to Auschwitz, you will never know what is Auschwitz.
“This is why I speak so much about remembrance – zachor, remember.”
He added, “It will happen again if we are not vigilant. If we don’t learn from our past we will not have a future.”
And he said he will keep doing his part. “I will speak in the museum at least … I’m available all the time when this terrible virus is finished.”
Son Michael Jaku said, “We find it quite amazing he is so well at such an advanced age. He is our hero.”
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Lesli Berger and CEO Vic Alhadeff commented, “Eddie Jaku is synonymous with the most wonderful positive spirit, despite having endured the very worst that mankind threw at him.
“Thousands of members of the wider community have been awed by Eddie’s determination to radiate goodwill in the world, and we stand in admiration of his extraordinary energy and unique contribution, not only to our community, but to our country.”
Related coverage: Eddie, a happy nominee
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Out of around 1000 nominees, Sydney Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku (pictured with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian) was one of four finalists in the running to be named 2020 NSW Senior Australian of the Year. Although he didn’t take out the coveted title, the Sydney Jewish Museum volunteer said, “Win or not win – it is not important, I have been recognised for the work I do.” ???? @saltydingomedia