Jewish Ozzies' Inter.Net
The electronic voice of the Australian Jewish Community

Letters from Jewish Australia - Arts

1. The Australian Hagaddah ISBN 0646 117947

2. The Golem - a new Australian Opera

3. Schindler's Ark and Schindler's List

The Australian Hagaddah ISBN 0646 117947

THE AUSTRALIAN HAGGADAH is the "first ever" illustrated Haggadah to be published in Australia. (There was an unillustrated one published forthe Australian armed forces during the Second World War.)

Just released, THE AUSTRALIAN HAGGADAH is a personal vision of the Exodus by Victor Majzner of Melbourne.

Whilst it follows the text of the traditional Haggadah its illustrations and format reflect the country of its origin. It is expansive both in size and expression. Too large to use during the Seder - Australia is a big country but there is probably no more space on our dining tables than yours - it will have to be relegated to the coffee table.

However it is truly a work of art. Worthy of contemplation and discussion, it is a delight to the eye. Victor Majzner has created a symbolic, universal mindscape by crossing the boundaries between European art and the landscape, animals and wildflowers of aboriginal Australia.

The first illustration is a spiralling, blue-grey, outstretched hand in a landscape of seemingly impenetrable hills. These are the Bungle Bungles of Western Australia, subtly colour changed to convey the artist's Jewish/Russian/Australian heritage and meaning.

The combination of handwritten text (the Ivrit is in script) and illustrations is both awe inspiring and joyful.

Interspersed throughout, and adding time for reflection, are ten micrographic illustrations of Australian wildflowers in Hebrew calligraphy each one part of a verse.

The Seder ends with a return to the Bungle Bungles, but this time with a vision of Israel both above and within the landscape.

THE AUSTRALIAN HAGGADAH is an expression of the spirit of Judaism which identifies with the oppressed, cares about the land and recognises the universal transcendency of G-d.

The Golem - a new Australian Opera

On the evening of October 20, precisely 20 years after the official opening of the Sydney Opera House, the Australian Opera staged the second of five performances of Larry Sitsky's new opera, The Golem.

Despite the variety of offerings, orchestral, dramatic and theatrical, it was to this performance of The Golem that a respected opera critic gave credit for "art" finally dominating the building which our government is currently trying to prove is a people's palace.

The Golem is Sitsky's sixth and biggest opera, involving 18 scenes over three acts. Based on the legend in which Rabbi Loew of Prague conjures up a creature from the mud of the River Moldau in an attempt to save his people from persecution, this Golem is, nevertheless, a unique dramatic creation. Born of suffering it experiences both suffering and love and its return to the mud is a pitiable release from its impossible task.

This "massive ritual documentary", which juxtaposes time and place, works in a surreal, dreamlike setting of the Jewish ghetto of 16th century Prague where the clock in the tower has no hands.

Horror and the faith pulse strongly through Sitsky's richly wrought score, which calls for two large and very active choruses (Jews and Christians) some 17 principals and a big orchestra. Much of the musical inspiration has been drawn from Jewish folk song and dance itraditions, from the synagogue, as well as from Christian sources; his more familiar preference for mainstream expressionism provides subtle psychological insights into character as well as dramatically amplifying the violence of the recurring mud and bloodbaths.

The production, the music, the singing, the acting and in particular the direction of Barrie Kosky, the visionary 26 year old stage director from Melbourne, received the highest critical acclaim.

The imagery of this opera could well have proved too discomforting for both the Christian faithful and the holocaust survivor. Contemporary refugees, their meagre belongings in plastic bags and pulling airport trolleys are harassed by skinheads: a tram, like a death train, keeps bringing Christians in to ship Jews out: the Jews are beset as the 10 plagues of Egypt are projected onto the backdrop of the Wailing Wall in the form of massive blow-ups of nasty looking microbes.

Unforgettable and heartrending moments abound, as for example, the paradoxically beautiful sound of the cross-cloak-and-staff dressed, Christian chorus, as they pushed forward in two threatening lines to the front of the stage while the Jewish books were being burned. My holocaust survivor friend said that just when the images were becoming too horrific he was somehow transported by the music. I am certain that he was not alone in this truly transcendental experience.

It is to be hoped that further performances worldwide will give the opportunity for many more to experience this eerily beautiful, riveting and extraordinary theatre.

iA package of the full libretto and this month's edition of Opera Australia, which features The Golem, is available by post from Opera Australia, P.O. Box R-361, Royal Exchange, SYDNEY2000 for $(Aust)14.40. Phone (02)247 2264 Fax (02)247 2269.

Schindler's Ark and Schindler's List - The Book - The Film - The Reality

You may be aware that the author of the book on which the film, Schindler's List, is based is Australian. Many of you would have read this book, Schindler's Ark, by Thomas Keneally, as it received critical acclaim via the Booker Prize in 1982.

The genesis of the book occurred in 1980, when Keneally had a chance meeting with Leopold Page in his Los Angeles leathergoods store. Leopold, formerly Poldek Pfefferberg, told him "he had the best story of the century, one he was always talking about to writers and producers who came to his store". Keneally listened with interest to how Leopold's life had been saved by working for Oskar Schindler. Back in Sydney, Keneally had direct contact with survivors who had migrated to Australia, and with their help and with material from many other survivors he fashioned his "Ark".

Thomas Keneally, who is of Irish descent, will be present at the movie premiere here in Sydney, Australia on February 7th as will British actor, Ben Kingsley. Proceeds from the $200 a ticket premiere will be shared by the Sydney Jewish Museum, and the Catholic-sponsored Matthew Talbot Hostel (for homeless men).

According to the Sun-Herald, 30.1.94, this is "The list to be on if you want to be seen at the most, ahem, politically correct party of the season is the "Schindler's List" list for the film's Feb.7 Sydney premiere. Among those shelling out $200 each to benefit Jewish and Christian charity are.." and goes on to name a string of prominent Australian politicians and Jewish Communal leaders.

The Museum's share will support the creation of a permanent education officer at the Museum which is Sydney's testimonial to those who perished in the Holocaust and to those who survived. Once the Museum has an education officer some of the workload currently handled by, the director, Alan Jacobs' secretary, will be shared and they will be more fully able to utilise their internet connection.

There will be other special benefit premieres all around Australia. The Victorian Friends of the Hebrew University will be the Melbourne hosts (only $10 for tickets thanks to their generous sponsors) while in Canberra, our national capital, proceeds from the $17 per head event will be shared between the Australian War Memorial and the Sydney Jewish Museum. Of course this will also be seen as a fund raising opportunity for many of our Jewish organisations who will be arranging group bookings.

"Steven Spielberg will not be taking any money from the film. All money received by Amblin Entertainment will be used to support Holocaust education campaigns."(S.M.H.)

The film opens for general viewing in Sydney on February 10th, 1994. The making of this film overlapped with the production of Jurassic Park by three months Spielberg states that his reason for not delaying further was "What was happening in Bosnia - it was so familiar and it was so much a part of what I thought could never possibly happen again......I think every human being owes a moral debt to the past, so that events that are happening as we sit right now, in Bosnia and with the Kurds, and just the heinousness of what could take place in the future, is at least given some serious time and attention."(J.T.A..)

It would seem then, that this is a film all of us will go to and want to discuss with our friends. So we thought it would be good, if not important, for us to share our opinions/ideas/reactions, on the film, its story and their genesis.

So, please would everyone post a FEW words giving your personal thoughts, ideas and reaction to this film and its story to JOIN.

We would also be particularly interested in hearing Schindler related stories from survivors and/or their families and friends. If you know anyone in this category please invite them to tell you their story and get their permission to post it to us.

Contributors may choose either to have their names published or not. No names/addresses will be included unless they are placed within the message. Do not sign if you wish to remain totally anonymous.

We look forward to hearing from you. Simply post your comments to with the subject line SCHINDLER

Your contributions will be edited into JOIN MOSAIC No.2, a document which will be posted out, possibly in parts, and then archived on the Jerusalem One computer.

If you raise a question which has a particularly Australian focus this could also be posted on JOIN-TALK and its discussion might also become part of the Mosaic.

Submitters to JOIN grant the editor the right to unlimited electronic distribution of their submission to other networks, and unless explicitly stated otherwise, rights are also granted for the inclusion of their submissions into print.

The moderator also has the right to make edits where submissions, in the moderator's sole opinion, shift too far from the topic under discussion.

The moderator will note whenever substantial editing has taken place.

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