a common community

by tobybee

“For me, being Jewish is intimately connected with Melbourne.[… When we came from Hobart] We always stayed with my grandmother (my grandfather, Aaron Patkin, died when I was six: my memories are of a large and somewhat terrifying silver-haired man). Her flat, hard in the centre of the East St Kilda/Caulfield borscht belt, was strangely foreign after the double-fronted brick and weatherboard fences of Hobart: the samovar, the heavy blue curtains between lounge and dining room, the cooking smells of gefilte fish and chopped liver. (Who more than we Jews, define themselves by cuisine?) My mother’s family and family friends would drop in and out while we were there, and I wondered at their ability to swap two or three languages unthinkingly.” (p. 196)

“I find the Jewish community in Melbourne can offer me very little, and I regret that it seems to be offering so little to Australia. A community that is as intensely self-preoccupied and insular as Melbourne Jewry has little in common with that part of the Jewish tradition that stressed its role in the world and its common community with all men.” (p. 202)

From Dennis Altman, “On Being Jewish” 1973, in Coming Out in the Seventies, Sydney: Wild & Woolley, 1979.

A big part of me feels like not much has changed…