IN a heartfelt gesture of appreciation, the Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM) officially launched its core education department – headed by Rebecca Kummerfeld – as the Susan Wakil AO Chair of Education at a special ceremony on May 8 in front of members of the Wakil family, museum board members, David Gonski and former NSW governor Dame Marie Bashir.
SJM CEO Norman Seligman said education is a massive component of the museum’s main activities – which sees 25,000 students visit for guided tours each year – “and the Wakil family (Susan and Isaac) have been sponsoring us in education in several ways, and tonight we are recognising that through our Chair of Education.”
The museum was the beneficiary of a $1 million endowment from the Sydney couple for its lower ground floor Anna and Mark Reznik Centre of Learning, named after Susan’s parents.
After presenting a framed photograph of the education team to relatives of the Wakils, SJM development manager Robert Schneider said “I was struck by a comment that Isaac and Susan made some time ago, that they wanted to give back to the community in appreciation of what they gained from the citizens of Sydney and Australia.
“Bear in mind, they’ve come from difficult backgrounds. In Susan’s case from Bessarabia where her father was interned and her mother died. She came to Australia with her aunt at the age of seven.” Isaac was born in Baghdad and he experienced the Farhud – the pogroms against Jews in Iraq.
“So the Wakils are no strangers to tyranny and oppression – and the museum stands for fighting and combating that through our education programs.
“Therefore it is particularly fitting to have the Chair of Education here named in Susan’s honour.”
Evelyn Khedoori, Isaac’s sister, told The AJN, “This is such a lovely gesture by the museum – a very nice thing to do.”
SJM president Gus Lehrer said the museum’s education program is large and growing.
“We show, by personal testimony and exhibits, what the consequences are of abandoning freedom and democracy and we try to inculcate a sense of personal responsibility in each of our visitors,” he said.
“We show students how they can make a difference and, overwhelmingly, this message is enthusiastically received and embraced.”
The ceremony was followed by an education panel moderated by Dr Avril Alba and featuring Chancellor of the University of NSW David Gonski, Chancellor of the University of Sydney Belinda Hutchinson and SCEGGS Darlinghurst’s headmaster Jenny Allum.