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ייִדיש מעלבורן YIDDISH MELBOURNE - COMMUNITY SERVICE - Yiddish at the Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies

Photo of four delegates walk out in protest against a ruling denying the use of Yiddish at Victorian Board of Deputies meetings, Australian Jewish News 1 April 1960

Four delegates walk out in protest against a ruling
denying the use of Yiddish
at Victorian Board of Deputies meetings,
Australian Jewish News 1 April 1960

The Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies, established as the Victorian Jewish Advisory Board in 1938, and since 1988 known as the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, was the "roof organisation" of the Jewish community to which most Jewish organisations were affiliated.  The Bund was not officially represented, but the Yiddish schools and Kadimah were, and through these organisations and also as a result of direct voting procedures, a number of Bundists were on the Board.  There, the "Yiddishist" group formed a strong vocal bloc when, in 1948, Mount Scopus College was established.  They ensured that Yiddish language would be offered as an elective.  In fact, few students chose to study Yiddish and the subject was withdrawn.

Delegates to the Board were entitled to make speeches in Yiddish which were translated into English by other Board members until March 1960 when the chairman, Mr Moss Davis ruled that speeches made in Yiddish by members who were fluent in English would not be translated into English.  Five members of the Board, Mr Balberyski of Carlton Hebrew Congregation, Messrs Burstin and Wilenski of the Kadimah and Bono Wiener of the Lodzer Centre and Mr Kronhill of the Yiddish schools, all walked out of the meeting in protest.  Strong opinions about the new ruling were subsequently aired in the Jewish press and at a meeting held in May 1960, Mr Davis sought to amend the motion to allow speakers to continue speaking in Yiddish and have their speech translated.  However, he noted that they would have to abide by the standing orders specifying length of time for speeches.  The amended motion was passed.  The older generation of migrants used Yiddish at the Board of Deputies in order to express themselves with greater ease, but some of the younger people who spoke English fluently used Yiddish to preserve their linguistic distinctiveness and their Eastern European ties.