Plans to expand and transform the Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM) have been boosted through a $6.5 million funding pledge by a re-elected Perrottet government, taking its total investment in the project to $10 million.
The funding will enable the SJM to create two centres in one precinct – a Sydney Holocaust Museum to share the history and testimonies of survivors, and a Centre for Contemporary Jewish Life to share the community’s culture, traditions and contributions to Australia.
Holocaust survivor Olga Horak, a founding member of the SJM, said it was difficult to put her feelings about the project into words.
“There are not enough words to explain,” Horak said.
“This is, to me, like a second home. I feel like a mother watching her child growing up and I admire that child for their success. I’ve been involved here as a survivor for the past 35 years, before this establishment, and I’m a member of the Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. I’m still trying to be active, although my years have interfered.
“It is a wonderful situation to have young people taking over from us few survivors. I’m a survivor of five camps and a death march, so I have a lot of information to give and I like to teach the young generation not to hate, because hatred caused the tragedy which happened in the 20th century and I hope that will never, ever happen again.”
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean made the funding announcement on Tuesday at the SJM and he paid special tribute to Holocaust survivors Horak, Yvonne Engelman and Paul Drexler who were in attendance.
“I want to thank you, Yvonne, Olga and Paul, for the incredible work you do in educating and inspiring the next generation to combat racism and intolerance in every form in Australia and beyond,” Kean said.
“Your leadership is incredible, you’re leaving such a powerful legacy and I want to thank you on behalf of all of us who care about tolerance and respect across our country, and indeed across the world.
“The SJM gives a voice to victims of the Holocaust and to the incredible survivors who still guide visitors through the exhibitions, and help educate and inspire thousands of school children each year. The museum is crucial to ensuring that the atrocities of the Holocaust are never repeated, and that racism and hatred have no place in Australia or anywhere else.”
Speaking to The AJN at the announcement, JBD CEO Darren Bark said support for the SJM comes as a proposed partnership between the Department of Education and the newly formed Religious Communities Advisory Council is progressed to recommend best-practice teaching of the Holocaust in all NSW schools.
“Visiting the Sydney Jewish Museum and meeting with a Holocaust survivor is critical to helping students leave school with greater respect, understanding and acceptance of their peers, and ensuring that racism and hate is not amplified and felt in broader society,” Bark said.
NSW JBD president David Ossip thanked the NSW government, and added that the announcement “will help the Sydney Jewish Museum open its doors to twice as many Australians, particularly school students, showing them where racism, hate speech and intolerance can ultimately lead”.
SJM president Greg Shand said, “The support of the government, for which the museum is enormously grateful, will contribute in a material way to creating a larger, state-of-the-art facility, and will greatly assist the museum in achieving this objective.”