LAST week saw the end of an era for the Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC), which completed its complex move and closed its doors on its Selwyn Street, Elsternwick home – for now.
With JHC collections now safely relocated to a new premises near Caulfield Station, construction has begun to re-build the JHC, transforming it into an enhanced new Holocaust museum, education and research facility.
But the progress has not been without challenge – the advent of coronavirus forced the majority of JHC staff to go home, while a small team remained to pack precious and significant archives, art, testimonies and the library – as well as the offices and general files.
Speaking with The AJN, JHC museum director and CEO Jayne Josem reflected, “It has been an incredible experience to watch the care taken by our staff as well as conservators and specialist removalists, as they packed up our precious art and artefacts.”
Among the more difficult items to move were the intricate Treblinka model, the large David Rankin painting The Drowned and the Saved, the Pillars of Witness, and the Adela Shaw stained glass.
“This was meant to be a bustling time with many hands on deck, but COVID-19 has forced it to be a more solitary task, with great pressure on a few of us,” said Josem.
“Every day has been surreal, it is unbelievable what we achieved during the pandemic, but the survivors have truly inspired my team.
“It has been bittersweet to not be standing alongside our wonderful survivors and dedicated volunteers, farewelling this building that has served us so well for 36 years,” said Josem.
But for now, online education programs are underway until eased restrictions will allow for delivery at the new site.
Looking towards the future, Josem enthuses about the planned new building with its focus on “light and life against the shadow of the Holocaust”, ensuring the “long-term legacy of Melbourne’s survivor community”.
To view the JHC virtual museum, visit jhc.org.au.