By Miriam Bell…

It’s been a long time coming but the first stage of New Zealand’s new Jewish museum is now up and running online – and it’s just the beginning of what will be a dynamic and evolving resource.

The Jewish Lives website (www.jewishlives.nz), which shares stories from the New Zealand Jewish community’s past, present and future, went live at a well-attended and lively launch in Auckland on Monday (April 19). 

Speaking at the launch, Dame Lesley Max (pictured above speaking at the launch) said the website is a valuable resource that will strengthen the community by providing a sense of self and by remembering those who have made their lives here.

The website presents two faces, she said. “One looking into the Jewish community, and helping to build it, and the other looking outward to the wider community that we are a part of.”

That outward view is important as, in an age when conspiracy theories grow by the day, it is necessary to provide the wider community with fact-based information about Jewish people, she said.

“It’s a venture that I enthusiastically support for its ability to celebrate our past and enrich our present.”

The website represents the first stage of the broader Jewish museum project – which comes under the auspices of the Jewish Museum of New Zealand Charitable Trustto come to fruition. 

But there are other initiatives underway, notably the preservation, restoration and archiving of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation (AHC) and Chevra Kadisha historical materials.

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Trustee Roger Moses (pictured above with former Governor -General Sir Anand Satyanand at the launch) said they are thrilled to have got to the initial launch of the website which is a major step forward for the Trust. 

“Our intention is to, ultimately, make this the ‘go to’ site for all things Jewish in New Zealand, and, hopefully, beyond, so it will be locally based but globally focused.” 

To that end, much is planned for the website which remains very much a “work in progress”. That will include building up, and constantly updating, the content, as well as commissioning special projects such as ones looking at Jewish/Maori connections and New Zealand military involvement.

Another part of the plans is to collaborate with various overseas Jewish institutions and local organisations, like the Holocaust Centre, to enable people to find a whole range of relevant information via the website.

They also want to secure more funding, establish a physical presence for the museum (ideally in the new community centre in Remuera Road), and find volunteer help, especially from younger people, to ensure the project continues to thrive into the future.

But, at this stage, Moses said their hopes is that the new website helps to counter anti-semitism and racism by telling the stories of the myriad contributions of Jewish New Zealanders to New Zealand society. 

“Not only in the obvious ways, but also through those ‘ordinary’ things like military service. So it’s not an endeavour to say ‘how good we are’, but more to say we are just ordinary people living ordinary lives like any other Kiwi.”

Until now the Trust has kept their efforts “low key” but now they have something tangible to show, so they want the community to know the website is up and running, to visit it to see what it offers, and then to return often, he said. 

“Our hope is that now that people can see what we have achieved so far, and what we plan to develop, we will get ‘buy in’ from a wide range of interested parties, and people, so that we can move on… Because the ball is now well and truly rolling!”

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Attendees at the Jewish Lives website launch included the Consul Generals for Slovakia (Peter Kiely), Poland (Boguslaw Nowak) and the Czech Republic (Gregory Shanahan), former New Zealand Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand, former Mayor of Waitakere Bob Harvey, Dame Lesley Max, Sir Michael Friedlander and Professor Sir Peter Gluckman.

Entertainer Deb Fuller and The Jews Brothers band (featuring Hershal Herscher and Linn Lorkin) provided entertainment at the event.

(Pictured above: Entertainer Deb Fuller performing at the launch)

For more relevant information visit the links below: