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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Cultural Studies »

Arnold Zable on Kadimah Jewish cultural centre

Mara Moustafine and Arnold Zable.

Writer Arnold Zable tells of the development of the Kadimah Jewish cultural centre and its role as the home as "Yiddishkeit".



Date Added:

02 April 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

7.8 MB






The Kaddimah was our cultural centre. It was our bridge to a new world and it – the Kaddimah in itself, I think is a - a model for integration in a new world and it goes back to 1911. And it was first formed – it was a small organisation in Bourke Street, a small premises in Bourke Street and then it moved to Drummond Street and then it moved to its premises in Lygon Street. Now the Lygon Street premises of the Kaddimah was actually built by the community. These were guys who were working in factories by day and at night they’d come together and they’d put together their resources. And they built a building which – even if you go there today, it’s the Aeolian Hall now, it belongs to the Italian community. But even when you go there today, opposite the Melbourne general cemetery in Lygon Street, you’ll see that it actually looks like a secular synagogue in a sense, the way the architectural design.


And it opened in 1933 with a performance of Yiddish theatre and it became the home of secular Yiddish state for the next 35 years until it shifted in 1968 to its present premises behind the classic theatre in Elsternwick to that part of the – of Melbourne.


It was absolutely beautiful to come on a Saturday night and be part of that community and you could see that this is the way you make your way into a new world, because this was the island where they felt at home. And they could take their steps – first steps into the world – in fact, the Kaddimah was so attuned to the needs of immigrants that right back in the 1920s, and even further back, when it had its premises at 313 Drummond Street, it used to have English lessons. It used to have – by the 1920s, the – they were – people from the community would go down to the boats and welcome immigrants as they came in.


In the post-war years when the traumatised and the displaced started coming into Australia, they would often go straight from the boats, to a convoy of cars, that would take them to the Kaddimah in Carlton where a banquet was ready for them and the leaders would get up and make speeches about the fact that they arrived in a true democratic country and – and then they were taken from the – that banquet to a number of homes that were around – there were several in Carlton and a number around Melbourne that the welfare society had set up, where they could spend their first few months, where they got a room.


End transcript