A NEW website documenting the arrival in Australia of Jews from eastern and Arab countries has been launched by the Sephardi Association of Victoria.
Focusing on treasured objects they brought from their homelands, the site tells the tales of 12 Jewish immigrants born in Egypt, Iraq, India, Morocco, Turkey, Algeria and Singapore.
The items include Judaica, photographs and household goods that represent the culture, life and tradition of the countries they left behind.
Among the objects featured on the Our Stories site are chanukiahs, a siddur, a key chain, a wedding photo, a rug and a coffee grinder.
The launch event, hosted at the Sephardi Community Centre, saw each of the participants recall memories associated with their possessions and discuss their individual journeys to a strange new country.
The website was put together with support from RMIT, the Jewish Museum of Australia and consulting historians from the organisation Way Back When.
“This was one of the most powerful projects I have been involved in,” said Sarah Rood, principal historian at Way Back When.
“There was so much emotion and feeling associated with the objects and through the objects their story came alive, it really reached out and grabbed you. As their story unfolded, you started to feel as if you left these vibrant communities behind and journeyed with them to a new land.”
The team is now hoping to extend the website to include more stories, objects, traditional recipes and multimedia content as they continue to foster awareness of Australia’s Sephardi Jews.
Julian Silverman from RMIT, organiser of funding for the Sephardi Association said, “It is important to get the story out of our thriving Sephardi community and the richness of their history. We wanted to cherish their memories of communities that survived from coexistence and multiculturalism in Arab countries. This is just one project in many that hope to tell their story.”
Cathy Chachoua’s family left Egypt in 1970 with just one suitcase, which was one of the subjects featured. “The launch was very successful,” she said. “Now we want to bring to life our food as that represents the culture and world we left behind.”
Visit the website at www.ourstoriessephardivic.wordpress.com.
Egyptian-born Cathy Chachoua.