True Jews & Patriots Exhibition launch Jewish Museum Australia
In partnership with the Victorian Association of Jewish Ex & Servicemen & Women Australia (VAJEX Australia), the Jewish Museum of Australia is proud to present True Jews and Patriots: Australian Jews and World War One, an eye-opening exhibition featuring intriguing untold stories of Australian Jewish experiences of the Great War.
As part of the Centenary of the First World War, this exhibition investigates the contributions and legacies of Jews who enlisted. It considers the social context that motivated their participation and the devastating impact of war on the Australian Jewish community, through the stories of people who were there.
The exhibition title, True Jews & Patriots, is a direct extract from the obituary of Captain Keith M. Levi, published in the Jewish Herald on Friday 27 August 1915. It documents that, “He went forth not to destroy, but to heal, and he fell whilst in the performance of the noblest duty that man can render unto his fellow — the mitigation of suffering. Like the true Jew and patriot that he was, he gave his all to his country. He sincerely echoed the loyal sentiments which are moving the hearts of all British Jews, especially to-day.”
Curator Deborah Rechter shines a light on the remarkable participation of nineteenth century Australian Jews in Australian civil society, exemplified by the career of Australia’s highest-ranking officer, Lieutenant General Sir John Monash. A polymath, engineer, civilian soldier and Australian-born son of Jewish migrants, Monash became one of the most celebrated Allied generals of the First World War. The courage and commitment of Monash and the Australian Jewish soldiers of all ranks are commemorated through first person accounts.
Deborah Rechter says: “Australian Jews went to war to secure the freedoms and democracy they found here. They wanted to participate fully in civil society and to secure these rights for their children. We hope visitors to True Jews and Patriots recognise the remarkable history and situation of Jews in Australia.”
The exhibition features a diverse range of original objects and artefacts, including Sir John Monash’s combat boots, Oswald Benjamin’s custom made uniform, Phyllis Slutzkin’s autograph book and Algie Sander’s photographs, which speak to different aspects of the Australian Jewish experience of the War.
Curator Deborah Rechter says: “In this exhibition we hope to make sense of the Jewish community’s experience of World War One for a contemporary audience. The display responds to material in the collection and uncovered through research. It is particularly focused on the unique implications of these events for the Australian Jewish community.”
Local school children are involved in the exhibition, researching the stories of this earlier generation and responding to their investigations in creative ways, which will form part of the display. This educational program is being created alongside the Victorian Association of Jewish Ex Servicemen and Women, who are developing a multi-media database of all Australian Jewish soldiers who served in World War One.
This timely exhibition emphasises the social history of the Great War and shows how Australia’s Jewish community has been shaped by these events. It challenges perceptions about the community and is relevant to a wider audience.
For more information go to: www.jewishmuseum.com.au