Documenting Melbourne Jewish life during COVID
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Documenting Melbourne Jewish life during COVID

'Projects like these promise to help us understand how Judaism and Jewishness respond to an ever-changing world'.

Nurse Linda Gore outside the private clinic she works at in Melbourne. Photo: Peter Haskin
Nurse Linda Gore outside the private clinic she works at in Melbourne. Photo: Peter Haskin

THE Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC) has put the call out to assist with creating an archive that will document Melbourne Jewish life during COVID-19.

The project aims to collect a range of materials from individuals, families – irrespective of affiliation – and institutions that reflect the many different ways that Melbourne Jews have adapted to life under quarantine.

ACJC Associate Professor Rebecca Forgasz told The AJN she first had the idea for the project after she learned of the Journal of the Plague Year, an international initiative which is creating an archive of how COVID-19 has affected our lives.

“As a former curator and museum director, whose stock-in-trade has been using collections to tell stories, this concept immediately struck a chord with me,” she said.

Reflecting on the chagim that occurred throughout the first wave of COVID, Forgasz said, “I knew there would be amazing and creative ways that Jews would adapt to these extraordinary circumstances (as we have throughout history), and it felt essential to create a visual and documentary record of this historical moment.”

Together with ACJC colleague Associate Professor David Slucki, Forgasz established the Jewish Melbourne collection within the Journal of the Plague Year archive. As such, the ACJC is seeking photos and videos, social media posts and memes, advertisements and videos of community events from throughout the pandemic. The centre also invites individuals to submit written reflections on life in quarantine.

“For me, visual images, such as those of dinner tables for Jewish holiday celebrations set with computer screens instead of plates and cutlery, are particularly striking and speak so eloquently of the sadness and loneliness of social distancing,” added Forgasz.

Said Slucki, “More broadly, we’re interested in how Jews and Jewish institutions showed flexibility in their Jewish practices.

“Projects like these promise to help us understand how Judaism and Jewishness respond to an ever-changing world. COVID-19 has shown us that we need to be ready for whatever comes our way.”

For more information or to contribute to the project, visit covid-19archive.org/s/Australia/page/JewishMelbourne.

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