A year in the life of our Youth Committee

The Sydney Jewish Museum Youth Committee is made up of a diverse group of young people from all across NSW, from various public and private high schools and universities. They’re united by shared passions for social justice, learning about history and Jewish culture, and contributing to the Museum’s work in fighting hate and discrimination in Australia. 

Want to know what it’s like being part of our Youth Committee, a vibrant community of young people who are eager to make a difference? In this blog, members Kalanie, Aoife, Charlotte and Lauren explore why they joined the Committee and some of their highlights from their past year.

Youth Committee members at a meeting in 2023.

Why did you apply?

Kalanie: I applied to the Youth Committee as I love history and want to help challenge injustice in our community. I have been so honoured to learn more about Jewish culture, have the opportunity to advocate as part of the Committee for anti-discrimination, and learn the meaning of becoming a mensch! 

Lauren: I’ve always been fascinated by the past and the way we perceive it, so when my history teachers told us about the Committee, I applied in the hopes that I would learn more about it. Since joining, I’ve strengthened my belief that history must be taught and appreciated in a way that makes the world a better place.

Aoife: My history teacher cornered me in the corridor one day, to tell me about an amazing opportunity she’d found. Instantly I knew I wanted to apply for the Committee, as it is such a unique chance to reach out to the community and work with other like-minded students. 

Charlotte: I applied to join the Committee because I’ve always felt passionate about the role of historical consciousness and education in building a tolerant society. I was inspired by a school excursion with the Museum and jumped at the opportunity to personally engage with history and its communication with younger generations.

What were some of your highlights from this past year? 

The Museum’s 30th-anniversary event 

Our Youth Committee had the opportunity to attend the Museum’s milestone 30th-anniversary celebrations on 13 November 2022, which was a moving afternoon of reflection, celebration and memory.  

Attending this event and delivering a speech – together with two other committee members, Sarah and Ruby – was a highlight for Charlotte. Standing in front of an enthusiastic audience of members, patrons and staff, she spoke about the integral messages of empathy the Museum encourages, while her co-members Ruby and Sarah discussed the Museum’s power in engaging young people on Jewish and Holocaust history, and the work it’s doing to preserve and illuminate Jewish culture and heritage.

It was an honour for the Youth Committee to engage with members of the Museum’s passionate community, including those special families, volunteers and Holocaust survivors who built the Museum into what it is today.

To quote their speech from the day: “We believe that as the youth of today, it is our duty to be that voice for tomorrow, paving the way towards a future of empathy, cultural connection and engagement in past lessons.”

Crowds at the 30th birthday event, November 2022. Giselle Haber.

Rosh Hashanah event

Another highlight was the Youth Committee’s special Rosh Hashanah event on 30 September 2022, where the team ran a series of activities. This included a panel talk with President Ruby, Educator Jeff, and survivor Kitty Lowinger, as well as an opportunity to interact with the Museum’s interactive biography project, which Lauren introduced and moderated. 

Lauren explained how, when asked questions by visitors, the interactive biographies use AI to process the question and playback the best answer, allowing visitors to have a “conversation” with Holocaust survivor testimony in real time. To showcase the potential of this project in preserving testimonies for future generations, and to suit the event’s theme “New Beginnings”, the Committee displayed Eddie Jaku’s testimony. Despite some technical difficulties with the developing technology, it was an amazing addition to the day, and it was great to see the audience interacting with survivors both in person and with the interactive biographies. 

Youth HEAR Yom Hashoah collaboration 

The Youth Committee had the amazing opportunity to work with Youth Holocaust Education And Remembrance (Youth HEAR) in their event for Yom Hashoah at Moriah College in April this year.

Four representatives helped Youth HEAR as ushers to welcome over 700 attendees, including Holocaust survivors and their descendants, community members, politicians, and high school students. The theme of the service was “Stories of Hope”, emphasising the significance of hope in achieving a united future. The audience heard extremely moving accounts, both from Holocaust survivors who migrated to Australia and their descendants, which included a thought-provoking speech from Ruby, our Youth Committee President. 

As a tribute to the souls lost, candles were lit and the Hatikvah was sung in Hebrew. The evening left a deep impression on the Committee members who attended, underscoring the importance of hope and unity in overcoming the tragedies of the past and creating a brighter future. 

1.Ruby, Charlotte and Sarah at the Museum’s 30th Anniversary. 2. Aoife, Kalanie, Grace and Ruby at the Youth HEAR Yom Hashoah Event

Overall, Kalanie, Aoife, Charlotte and Lauren feel that their experiences and achievements as part of the Committee have left a deep impression on them. They are so excited for more opportunities in the future to work with the Museum and its community to promote justice, understanding and a brighter future. 

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