Many wonderful, dedicated, sheferish, committed and farbrente Yiddishists have contributed to the Kadimah since its establishment in 1911, and to making Melbourne the Yiddish Jerusalem of Australia.
Yosef Orbach (1906 – 1987) was one such leading light. And on Sunday July 29, 2018 his family, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as people close to him and his family, gathered at the Kadimah to celebrate, reminisce and remember.
The event was the second instalment of The Kadimah’s new Goldene Keyt (Golden Chain) series, in which we unearth and polish the memories of the remarkable people who created and built Yiddish Melbourne. The first, held in August 2017, was a tribute to Yiddish actor, director, teacher and school principal Yankev Waislitz.
Yosef Orbach was no celebrity but he was a perzenlekhkayt, a complicated man devoted to his family, to Yiddish and to social justice. Each speaker added another layer to that complexity: unstinting community worker; loving father; Bundist; partisan who shot to kill; journalist; writer and more.
A lovely film, made by filmmaker Rebecca Albeck especially for the event and her second in the series, combined still photographs with extracts from home movies and live interviews to encapsulate and visualise Yosef Orbach.
“The event was so meaningful for our family and friends,” said Orbach’s daughter Leah Justin. “Our kids remarked on how much they learned. More importantly so did we. What a learning journey we have been on.”
Listening to his account of his partisan years, the gathering learned not only about his heroism but appreciated afresh what a terrific writer he was.
Look out for more in the Goldene Keytseries – where we remember, pay tribute to, and reconnect with the families of the extraordinary pioneers and cultural architects of Yiddish Melbourne.
You can see the short documentary below.