Waverley explores its Jewish heritage

WAVERLEY Council’s “Eat, Pray, Naches” program is in full swing, with Council representatives currently in the midst of conducting interviews with participants.

The aim of the project is to gather the stories and experiences of second and third generation post-war immigrants to the Waverley local government area in order to document, preserve, and celebrate the rich history of Jewish immigrants and their descendants.

By the end of this week, 28 in-depth video interviews will have been conducted with a diverse range of Jewish personalities, with a further 75 telephone interviews still to be conducted.

“Basically, we’re finding out about their migration story – their challenges, how they got here … their impressions of the area and the community, and how the community has shaped them,” Cultural Programs Manager Matt Fallon told The AJN.

“The stories of how people came to be here are diverse and quite fascinating.

“For example, someone said they walked 100 kilometres from Budapest to Austria, then they spent seven months in a labour camp and then they went on a ship.”

The “Eat, Pray, Naches” project is also looking at the role of food in Judaism and how unique cultural recipes have been passed down the generations.

As well as examining the role of prayer and Jewish traditions, Fallon said the project will introduce the concept of “naches” to a non-Jewish audience, “because this project is for everyone in the community to enjoy”.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) public affairs director Alex Ryvchin, whose family is from the former Soviet Union, was one of 10 subjects interviewed last week.

“It’s a brilliant and very worthy project,” he told The AJN. “There’s such a rich history here. And these stories, so often they’re lost or buried or disregarded, and not just by the community at large but by ourselves and our own families – we move on with our lives and we forget where we came from.”

He added, “The questions were very probing, very interesting questions that really allowed me to delve into my past, delve into my core identity, who I am and to really think about those issues.”

The output of the project will take the form of a website and an exhibition to be initially staged at Waverley Library in September.

Fallon, together with Waverley Library Public Programs Officer Simone Collins, will present a session at the upcoming Limmud-Oz about the project.


ECAJ’s Alex Ryvchin in mid-interview. Photo: Gareth Narunsky